Jack The Ripper Mania

If, as is generally believed, but is no way certain, Mary Kelly, who was murdered on 9th November 1888, was the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims, then the murders had finished by mid-November 1888.

But that knowledge is, of course, the knowledge of hindsight, and the people of London remained on tenterhooks throughout November, ever fearful of another attack by the unknown miscreant.

The newspapers were still publishing lurid stories on the crimes well into the new year and, if the truth be known, into the next decade as well.

After all, the Whitechapel murders had, for many of the papers, led to a spike in sales whenever they carried reports on them; and they were, most certainly, not going to let a little thing like no more murders derail their gravy train.

Any happening, no matter how tenuous the link, that could be connected to the crimes was connected, and the papers had a field day reporting on all manner of misfits and madmen that appeared to be anxious to claim the mantle of being Jack the Ripper.

Consequently, it becomes noticeable when studying the press reports from the middle of November 1888 onward, that the crimes had lodged in the psyche of the capital in a way that had never happened before, and which hasn’t happened since.

What is also noticeable from the newspaper reports around this time is that the magistrates were beginning to be a lot stricter with the Jack the Ripper hoaxers who were blighting the police investigation into the crimes.


The following article, which appeared in The Star Guernsey, on Thursday November 15th 1888, gives some idea of the type of person that was making the news by attempting to have themselves believed as being the perpetrator of the Whitechapel atrocities:-


“John Avery, aged forty-three, a ticket writer, of Southwick House, Vicarage-road Willesden, was charged at the Clerkenwell Police Court, on Tuesday, with being drunk and disorderly in York-road, the previous night.

John Carvell, a private in the 11th huasars, said that on Monday night be was standing at the corner of York-street, Islington, when the prisoner came up to him, caught hold of him, and said “I’m Jack the Ripper; I’ll show you how I do all the lot.”

The witness told him to go away and not to talk nonsense; but Avery, who was intoxicated, followed him and threw his right arm round his neck.

A scuffle ensued between them, and the witness’s nose was scratched.

He soon, however, shook off the prisoner, who said, “Come have a glass of beer, and I will tell you a secret, and you can make some money.”

They accordingly went into the Duke of York public house, Caledonian-street, and there, in the bar, Avery repeated 2 or 3 times that “he was ‘Jack the Ripper.'”

The witness then thought it best to give the prisoner into custody, and accordingly dragged him outside and gave him in charge of a policeman, who was on duty near by.

It was stated by the police that the prisoner had caused them a deal of trouble, telegraphing and corresponding to find out who and what he was.

The name and address he gave were correct, and he was respectably connected.

The prisoner, in defence, said he was under the impression that he had only discussed the method by which the murderer might be discovered. He was very sorry for what had occurred.

Mr. Bros: You have done an exceedingly foolish and wicked thing. I shall send all persons who are brought before me for acting as you have done to prison without the option of a fine. You will be imprisoned for fourteen days’ with hard labour.

The prisoner: Do not send me to prison; it will ruin me. Cannot you fine me?

Mr. Bros: No, I will not; you must go to prison.

Avery was removed to the cells.


John Brinckley, forty, a porter, of Wilmington-place, Clerkenwell, was charged before Mr. Bros, at the Clerkenwell Police Court, with being drunk and disorderly in Goswell-road late on Monday night.

A police-constable proved seeing the prisoner drunk in Goswell-road, with a woman’s skirt on over his other clothes.

There were several persons round him, and he cried out, “I’m Jack the Ripper. I’m going down City-road to-night, and I’ll do another there.”

The constable took him into custody.

Brinckley, in his defence, said he did not remember putting on the skirt; some one must have put it on him for a lark.

All he said was that be would “try and find Jack the Ripper.”

He was sorry he got drunk; he had worked hard all his life at Covent-garden Market.

The gaoler said he knew the prisoner to be a hard-working man; but he often acted foolishly, and had on more than one occasion been fined at that court.

Mr. Bros sentenced the prisoner to fourteen days’ imprisonment.

The prisoner begged that a fine should be imposed, but the magistrate peremptorily refused, and Brinckley was removed to the cells.


John Newman, thirty-four, a respectable looking man, described as a fitter, of 57, Lower Kennington-lane, was charged before Mr. Slade at the Southwark Police Court on Tuesday with being drunk and disorderly in Blackman-street.

Police-constable Tilley said that early that morning he was on duty outside the Blackman-street police station, when the prisoner came up, holding a man by the collar, and said he wished to give him into custody, as he was “Jack the Ripper.”

As he (the constable) knew the gentleman to be a respectable man, who had lived for a long time in the neighbourhood, he told the prisoner to let him go, and the prisoner did so after some demur.

Prisoner was told that he had better take himself off home, and he went away, but returned a few minutes afterwards, saying he was not going away.

The witness was obliged to take him into custody and charge him.

The prisoner charged the police with ill-treating him, and he was remanded for inquiries.


George Sweeney, twenty-seven, labourer, of 20, Chiswell-street, Camberwell, was charged at the Southwark Police Court on Tuesday with being drunk and disorderly in the Borough High-street, at three o’clock on Monday afternoon.

Police-constable Robert Welsh stated that he found the prisoner in the Borough shouting that he was “Jack the Ripper.”

A crowd assembled, and became very much excited, and consequently the witness asked the prisoner to go away.

He said, “You leave us alone; I’m Jack the Ripper, and if you put your hand on me I’ll rip you up.”

He then took him into custody.

The prisoner said it was all through the toothache. He went to the hospital to have his tooth out, but was too late. He did not know that he did much wrong.

Mr. Slade said the man’s conduct was disgraceful, and fined him 20s. or fourteen days’ hard labour.


A very painful scene occurred in Marylebone Police Court on Tuesday, the hearing of a charge against Philip Gad Cornish, twenty-three, a schoolmaster, of Railing Hope School, Pontesbury, near Shrewsbury, Salop, who was said to be a lunatic wandering at large and not under proper control.

Before being brought into the court the poor fellow was heard shouting and kicking violently at the door.

When brought into court by two officers both his hands were tightly pressing the top of his head, his eyes were glaring wildly, and he generally presented a very distressing appearance.

A police-constable said he found the man in Praed-street, about five o’clock on Monday, behaving in such a way as to convince him that he was not of sound mind, so he arrested him.

There was a companion with Cornish, and from the two he learned that they had come to London to catch the Whitechapel murderer.

The witness’s evidence was frequently interrupted by the violent behaviour of Cornish, who shouted at the top of his voice, threw himself about, and stamped with his foot, and demanded that the witness, who was, he said, the son of perdition, should be made to tell the truth.

The young man who had accompanied the prisoner said he was a blacksmith.

On Monday morning Cornish asked him to accompany him from Ratling Hope to London, as he had been appointed to come up and catch “Jack the Ripper,” the author of the Whitechapel murders, for which service he was to receive a large sum of money.

The witness thought it was all right, so he left his work, and accompanied Cornish, and they arrived in London in the afternoon.

He thought Cornish was all right when they started, but he saw a change come over him while on the journey.

Mr. De Rutzen directed that the poor fellow should be taken to the workhouse in a cab, which was at once done.”


And thus the motley crew of misfits, lunatics and ne’er-do-wells who, by their actions had succeeded in injecting themselves into the Jack the Ripper scare, shuffled off into obscurity.

What their cases do illustrate for us today, is just how irresistible the allure of the Whitechapel murders was proving around the time that the crimes were being committed.

Indeed, though I hate to say it, Jack the Ripper appears to have become almost a folk hero in the minds of some of the Victorian citizens of London.