Once the name “Jack the Ripper” had entered the public consciousness, from early October 1888 onwards, people began using it with abandonment and in all manner of circumstances.
The phenomenon of all the letters that were sent around this time – many of them bearing the signature of the dread ripper – was just one example of the way in which the extremely apt sobriquet was proving an irresistible allure to people all over the country.
The number of drunks who went about the streets claiming that they were the Whitechapel murderer and who were duly arrested – and in many cases rescued from the clutches of baying mobs – by police officers on the beat is another testimony to the allure of the moniker.
There is also evidence to suggest that several of the East End streetwalkers were using the scare, and the panic generated by it, to extort money from clients.
There were several reports of men going with prostitutes into the darker recesses of Spitalfields and Whitechapel, only to have the lady then demand money from them and threaten that, if they didn’t hand over the cash, then they would scream out and accuse the man of being Jack the Ripper.
Other women would use the name to get back at men they had fallen out with, or they might cry out that a client that they had just robbed was the ripper in order to cover their tracks and make a quick escape from the scenes of their crimes.
In an age when the majority of East End men carried pocket knives, this type of situation could quickly escalate into violence against the woman, and when, or if, the police were able to take the man into custody, it often boiled down to a case of it being his word against hers – or vice versa.
What is certain, historically speaking at least, is that the name of “Jack the Ripper” was still cropping up in East End crimes long after his murderous reign of terror had come to an end.
One such case appeared in The Illustrated Police Budget, on Saturday, 1st July, 1899:-
HE TALKED OF “JACK THE RIPPER”
“George Woodhead, giving an address in Wellington Row, Bethnal Green, was charged, on remand, before Mr. Cluer, with maliciously wounding Caroline Oliver, and stabbing her in the cheek with some sharp instrument.
The prosecutrix, who described herself as a charwoman, living at the Salvation Army shelter, Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, appeared to have been fearfully injured.
ATTACKED ON SHOREDITCH HIGH STREET
Her story was that when waiting about High Street, Shoreditch, after midnight on the 14th inst., she was accosted by the prisoner, who, she thought, was the worse for drink, and who, after some words, dragged her into a side thoroughfare, called Calvert’s Avenue.
There he behaved very violently towards her, frightening her by asking, “Have you heard of Jack the Ripper?” and adding, “I am going to serve you as he did. I’ll cut your throat.”
VERY SHOCKING CONDITION
She begged him not to hurt her, but he struck her in the face, knocked her down, kicked her about the head and body, and cut her with something sharp across the face.
He left her lying bleeding on the pavement, and she was afterwards found by Police Constable Budd, 435 G, who described her condition as “very shocking.”
ROBBED OF HIS WATCH AND CHAIN
From the description she gave of her assailant, he [the constable], when taking her to the station for medical help, communicated with other constables, and later the prisoner was brought to the station by another constable, who said the prisoner was loitering about the streets, and he admitted that he had “paid one woman” for robbing him of his watch and chain.
The prisoner denied that he was the man.
After medical evidence, the prisoner was committed for trial, but was allowed bail.”