It is interesting to study the newspapers for references to and stories about Jack the Ripper a few years after the Whitechapel murders had brought terror and panic to the streets of the East End of London.
One thing that soon becomes apparent is just how many people there were who were claiming that they knew the identity of Jack the Ripper and who were trying to cash in on the notoriety of the perpetrator of the 1888 murder spree.
The following story appeared in The South Wales Daily News on Monday, 27th December, 1897.
Interestingly, despite the fact that the newspaper begins the report by stating that there is not believed to be any truth in the story, it went on to publish the story in full!
It is, however, worth reading, as it gives an idea of the sort of stories that were circulating in the late 1890’s, at a time when it had become apparent that the Ripper murders had ended, but nobody knew what had become of the perpetrator who had carried out the crimes.
The article read:-
JACK THE RIPPER – A CONFESSION
“A New York paper gives what it calls a “sailor’s yarn of Jack the Ripper,” but at the same time does not attach much credence to it, the fact that the sailor borrowed money when he had finished the narration “knocking the props” from under the story.
The story was told at Charleston by a sailor named Brame, who was formerly on the Annie Speer, a Dundee boat.
“The Annie Speer,” said Brame, is a barque [a sailing ship, typically with three masts, in which the foremast and mainmast are square-rigged and the mizzenmast is rigged fore and aft].
When I was the cook the captain was named Carruthers.
JOHN ANDERSON JOINS THE CREW
Some years ago we had to make a trip from Shields in England to Iquique [a coastal city in northern Chile].
Before we left a man, who signed as John Anderson, came aboard and was to become one of us.
ACTING IN A PECULIAR MANNER
A short time after we started on the journey Anderson became sick and was taken to his bunk.
He was in no fit condition to work, and we noticed that he was acting in rather a peculiar manner.
He would slip out from his bunk and run over the deck like a wild man. He would scream and say someone was following him. He had to be watched.
GIVEN AN OPIATE TO CALM HIM
A guard was placed by him all the time, and, finally, Captain Carruthers had to give him an opiate to keep him quiet.
When we were rounding Cape Horn Anderson appeared to be getting better, but before we reached Iquique he became so violent that he was sent to a hospital immediately upon our arrival.
TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL
Not long after he left the ship I was taken ill, and I had to be sent over to the hospital, and I was placed on a bed adjoining Anderson’s.
He recognised me, but I saw he was still trying to escape from the demons he supposed to be following him.
HE CONFESSED TO BEING JACK THE RIPPER
One night, he asked me if I knew anything about the Whitechapel murders. I did not at that time, and I told him so.
By degrees, he began to tell startling bits of information about those horrible crimes, and at last he confessed that he was Jack the Ripper.
He made the same confessions to a priest.
ROBBED BY THE WHITECHAPEL WOMEN
Anderson told me that before the murders he was a sailor, and that he had been frequently robbed by the low women around the East End of London.
One day, he said, he determined to have his revenge, and began to plot a murder of one of the unfortunates whom he thought had fleeced him.
Brame says Anderson told him that his father was a surgeon and that he knew how to handle the knife pretty well.
ANDERSON THE BUTCHER
Here is the way Anderson told it to Brame:-
“I reached the Whitechapel district late one night, and met a woman, who joined me, and we went into a dark alley. There I killed her. The body was mutilated and left to lie in the cold. I escaped. No officer seemed to get on my track, and the idea came to me that it would be nice to kill a few others.
Later on, I found a confederate, who was as anxious for blood as I, and we decided to go in the butcher business with women instead of animals.
We secured a couple of butcher’s smocks, a kind of dress used around a pen, and we found this the easy way to do the killing and escape.
The smocks were the means of preventing our crime from being discovered. We were wild for blood. I was mad, and nothing would satisfy me but the sight of a bloody and mutilated body of a Whitechapel woman.
The people thought we were butchers, and they paid no attention to our bloody garments, and I have stood before the police with the blood of a victim on my clothes, and none of them were able to see that the Ripper was within their grasp.”
WENT BACK TO SEA
Anderson is supposed to have told of the horrible details, and of how he went into the country later and worked on a farm.
Afterwards, he decided to go back to the sea, and just happened to sign with the Annie Speer before she was ready to sail for Shields.
Brame says that Anderson’s confession was written and signed by the “Ripper.”
The papers were given to Brame, and Brame was shipwrecked, and the confession lost.
ACTED LIKE A CRAZY MAN
Anderson died and was buried in the little Cemetery at Iquique, and Brame was one of the mourners.
Brame says he has never told this story before, and it is doubtful if he will ever tell it again.
He wanted the reporter to whom it was given to be very particular and say that Anderson acted like a crazy man.
He probably was, as his account of how he did the killing, does not appear to hang together.”