Given that Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror lasted a relatively short period of time (31st August 1888 to 9th November 1888, if you believe in the concept of the canonical five victims); the repercussions from his murders were still being felt many, many years later.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the case is the fact that so many people, men and women alike, felt compelled to imitate the killer in ways that, whereas they were not actually homicidal, were, most certainly, extremely bizarre.
The phenomenon of the Jack the Ripper letters, were a classic manifestation of this behaviour; as were the number of people who, whether drunk, sober or severely disturbed, felt an insatiable need to claim that they were responsible for the Whitechapel Murders.
The need to imitate the ripper carried on for quite a few years after the murders had come to an end, as is evidenced by the following story that appeared in The Hull Daily Mail, on Friday the 3rd of July 1908, twenty years after the murders had taken place:-
“JACK THE RIPPER” – WHOLE TOWN TERRORISED
SCHOOL CHILDREN’S PANIC
“For some days the pretty Surrey Town of Kingston-on-Thames has been terrorised by the report that “Jack the Ripper” was about, and meant to kill some of the school children.
Something like a panic amongst the school children began to prevail when reports were received of little boys having been chased by a man with a naked bayonet.
The description given of him was that of a man with a face of many different colours.
So great became the scare that school children refused to go to school, unless accompanied by their parents, and the result was that the elementary schools found their attendances severely affected.
At last the police decided to take steps, and on Thursday they made an arrest.
Today the man arrested was brought before the magistrates.
BAYONET AND ROUGE
Police Constable Church told the Magistrates that he was on duty at the foot of Kingston Bridge when three little boys complained to him that a man had been chasing them in some gardens with a naked bayonet.
On going to the gardens he found the prisoner, a youth named Arthur Levendon, who had in his possession a sword bayonet, and four pieces of rouge.
His face was coloured red, blue and green.
A schoolboy said that he and two other boys were in the gardens when the prisoner sprang out from behind some bushes with a dagger in his hand.
His face was coloured, and he stood over the witness, brandishing a sword bayonet, and threatening him in extremely offensive terms.
Having terrified the boy, the prisoner said to him, “Well, I will let you go. But, don’t forget that I am Jack the Ripper.”
PLEADED A JOKE
The accused, who pleaded that it was all nothing more than a joke, made a remarkable excuse for his conduct.
He said that his sweetheart was always talking about “Jack the Ripper,” and he thought that he would frighten her.
The Clerk: How were you going to frighten her?
The Accused: As Jack the Ripper.
The Chairman said that it was a cruel and a heartless joke, especially at the present time when the school children of the town had the idea that “Jack the Ripper” was about.
The Bench had decided to make an example of him to stop other people repeating his appalling behaviour as, had the prisoner not been caught, it would have given colour to a baseless story.
The prisoner was fined.”