By September, 1889, the name “Jack the Ripper” had, most certainly, caught the public imagination, despite the fact that the police were no nearer to catching the perpetrator of the atrocities than they had been the previous autumn.
Throughout the month of September, reports were coming in from all over the country – and all over Europe, for that matter – concerning murders that were similar to those carried out by the Whitechapel murderer, and dubious characters who had either been arrested on suspicion of having been the perpetrator, or who were mistaken for the killer by agitated mobs, and who then had to be rescued by the intervention of the local police.
“JACK THE RIPPER” DRAMATISED
However, in early September, 1889, the story that many newspapers were anxious to cover was the fact that the French had staged a dramatisation of the crime in Paris.
The Luton Reporter was one of several newspapers that carried the story on Saturday, 7th September, 1889:-
“A melodrama by MM. Xavier Bertrand and Louise Clairian, entitled “Jack the Ripper,” has been produced at the Chateau d’Eau Theatre in Paris.
The piece is divided into seven tableaux.
Apart from the ghastly interest surrounding the central figure, which was betrayed with dramatic vigour by M. Dalmy, there was nothing in the plot which has not been repeatedly put upon the Transpontine boards.
The leading passion of “Jack the Ripper” in this Instance was vengeance wreaked upon women who had betrayed his accomplices, Jack himself being the chief of a band of robbers.
A story of a lost child interwoven with the dread succession of murderous incidents, and in the end Jack is killed by an amateur detective named Robinson.
The piece was not well put on the stage, and the pictures of London life were coarse and incorrect reproductions of Cruikshank’s prints.
The acting was fair, Mdlie. Elise Dugueret being particularly successful in delineating a drunken woman with power and delicacy.”
You can read a full account of the production in this article.
IMITATOR OF “JACK THE RIPPER” HORRIBLE AFFAIR
By the middle of the month, as the following story, which appeared in The Liverpool Echo, Wednesday 18th September, 1889 illustrates, other murders across Europe were being compared to the “Ripper” crimes of the previous year:-
“A disciple of the mysterious murderer who calls himself “Jack the Ripper” has just been condemned to penal servitude for life at the Aveyron Assizes.
He is a person named Oulie, formerly employed as a skilled workman in the shops of the Steel Company of France.
Oulie made the acquaintance of a woman in the town, whom he seized one night in her room and literally butchered her, mutilating her body.
Oulie fled, but the neighbours had been aroused by the woman’s piercing shrieks, and five gendarmes started in pursuit of the fugitive.
Oulie jumped into a pond with the intention of drowning himself, but the instinct of self-preservation obtained the upper hand, and emerging from his cold bath he gave himself up to the gendarmes.
At the Assizes, the murderer defended himself with remarkable coolness and skill, arguing that the woman had ruined him for life, and that therefore he had a right to revenge.”
IMPERSONATING JACK THE RIPPER
Meanwhile unsavoury characters, who were only too happy to try and use the infamy of the Whitechapel fiend for their own personal gain, were still on the loose, as is evidenced by the following article, which appeared in The Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, on Thursday, 19th September, 1889:-
“At the Frome Police-court on Monday, before Mr. J. Tanner and Capt. A. H. Tucker, C.C., John Smith, a rough looking tramp, was charged with begging and making use of threats.
It was proved that, on Friday morning, the prisoner called at the house Mrs. Sheppard, 32, Fromefield, and wanted to sell the servant a book. She refused to buy the book or help him in any way.
He put his foot against the door, and said that he would insist on seeing the master or the mistress.
The servant said he could not, when he said, “No wonder Jack the Ripper is after you; I am Jack the Ripper, and I will kill you.”
She slammed the door in his face and watched him through the window.
He went and leaned against a wall opposite the house, swore very badly, and said he would kill the girl, even if he had to wait a year.
He took a knife from his waist and drew it across his throat, to show her how he intended to serve her.
Information was subsequently given to the police, and P.S. Mason arrested the prisoner at the Workhouse.
The bench thought it was a very bad case, and sent the prisoner to gaol for twenty-one days with hard labour.”
ALLEGED “JACK THE RIPPER” IN FIFESHIRE
Another common phenomenon, which was frequently reported in the newspapers, was that of strangers to various town and villages actually being mistaken for the Whitechapel murderer, and then followed by local citizens who were determined to mete out summary justice.
The Dundee Courier carried the story of one such incident in its edition of Saturday, September 21st, 1889.
Just to explain one of the terms used in the article, the town of Kirkcaldy, in Scotland, has long had the nickname of, “Lang Toun” (Long Town), on account of its formerly exceptionally long High Street, which, at one stage, stretched for an incredible 4 miles (6.4 Km).
The article read:-
“On Thursday evening, the inhabitants of the Lang Toun were thrown into a state of great excitement when it became known that an alleged “Jack the Ripper” had been in Kirkcaldy.
It seems that while a gentleman, a stranger to the town, was taking a walk along the High Street he was surrounded by a crowd of excited people, who declared that he was none else than the perpetrator of the recent outrages in London.
Taken by surprise at this unceremonious reception, and fearing the worst, he made tracks along the High Street, and was followed by the crowd, which had gradually increased.
On arriving at the top of Tolbooth Street, he went into the Police Station for protection.
By this time, the whole of the street in front of the Police Office was packed, rumours being circulated that he had given himself up and had confessed.
The people hung about for some time, and it was fully half-past nine before the refugee made good his escape.
The explanation of the matter is that the gentleman, a commercial traveller, had arrived in the town that afternoon and had taken up his abode at one of the hotels, and was in the act taking an evening stroll when he was rudely accosted.
It is stated that he had a very long beard, and that it was set down as a false one, this being taken as indicating that he was Jack the Ripper.”
ARREST OF A SUPPOSED “JACK THE RIPPER” IN BURNLEY
The Burnley Express, on Wednesday, 25th September, 1889, carried the following report on another “suspicious” character whom the police had arrested:-
“From information received,” as the police officer’s story generally goes when the witness box, the Burnley Borough Police Force, or rather certain members thereof, early on Sunday morning took into custody a man whom they appear to have been led to believe was “Jack the Ripper,” of unenviable notoriety.
It would seem that some few days ago a man, apparently of the tramping class, arrived in the town, and put up at the lodging place connected or associated with the Bay Horse Hotel.
He gave out that he was a law stationer, but would appear to have been in favour of the healing process instead of the work of engrossing deeds, conveyances, and the like.
He made enquiries as to the names and addresses of several of the leading medical men in the town, and is said to have waited on several of them with a view of obtaining, if possible, employment as a kind of assistant.
Remarks which he let drop led to the police authorities being apprised of the man’s personality and whereabouts, and under the suspicion that he might be the individual whom the London police have so long vainly endeavoured to capture, it was decided to take him into custody for the purpose of enquiries if for nothing else.
Accordingly, about two o’clock on Sunday morning the Chief Constable (Mr. Harrop), Inspector Teale, Detective Sergeant Anderson, and Mr. Chadwick, surgeon, visited the Bay Horse lodging-house, and having gained admittance, after rousing from his slumbers William Bannister, the “deputy,” the law-stationer was identified by Mr. Chadwick as the man who was deemed to be a suspicious character, and he was marched off to the police station.
Here he was questioned, his belongings examined, and a general scrutiny made of him, but after about an hour detention – without any formal charge being made against him – the man was permitted to return to his lodgings.
Policemen were, however, appointed off to watch his proceedings, and on being informed by the “deputy” when he left the lodging-house he was shadowed for a time by the officers, who, however, in the end, ceased their vigil, it being apparent that the man was not the much desired “Ripper.”
The suspected man was some 40 years of age, paralysed in the right arm, and not of a very pleasant appearance.
The police appear to think that they had good grounds for arresting him, but, after their enquiries, they are satisfied that he is not the wanted man.
Practically speaking, however, no information can be obtained from the police respecting the matter.”
I CAN’T FIND JACK THE RIPPER
Meanwhile, the fact that the police had been unable to catch the perpetrator of the murders was drawing scorn from continental newspapers, including, as The South Wales Echo reported, on Wednesday 25th September, 1889, the Belgium media:-
“The Independence Belge waxes facetious at the expense of the British Association meeting in Newcastle.
It says that the English are a wonderful people.
They have found out the exact date at which the world was created, they have discovered the exact date at which it will come to an end, they have reduced the soul to a given quantity, they have discovered the germ of melancholia, they have found out how to convert Thames mud into butter, they have discovered the cipher used by Pharaoh in his billet-doux – but they can’t find Jack the Ripper.”
A GERMAN “JACK THE RIPPER”
Finally, on Saturday, 28th September, 1889, The Yarmouth Mercury, reported on a murder that had taken place in Germany and which bore certain similarities to the Ripper murders, albeit, in this case, as the article makes clear, a suspect was, almost instantly, taken in to custody:-
“Two dastardly murders, that only differ in detail from the Jack the Ripper type, were perpetrated in an outlying district of Berlin at the end of last week.
A woman, aged thirty-five, living in the neighbourhood apart from her husband, occupied with her aged mother, who was stone deaf, and a son aged seven years, an apartment consisting of two rooms and a kitchen.
One of these rooms was let to a butcher and tailor.
The latter, who has since been arrested, is strongly suspected of having murdered the two women in order to obtain possession of some £20, which represented the savings of the younger female.
With the butcher’s hatchet, the murderer completely smashed the back part of the skull of one of the victims, whilst he almost severed the head of the other woman from her body with a butcher’s knife.
If, as is supposed, the arrested tailor is the brutal perpetrator of the crime, it is clear that he had carefully premeditated it.
To more than one person he had said that he was going away, but that when he was gone they would find something in the deceased’s apartment.
Immediately after the deed was supposed to have been committed, the man who has been arrested was seen in neighbouring pot-house with a well-stored purse from which he was able to pay the landlady a debt he had incurred of five shillings.
The only actual witness of the crime was a dog, which does not appear to have barked or uttered any sound to alarm the neighbours, but on the police entering the room, it was found whining under the bed.”