More Ponderings – September 1889

In September, 1888, Dr Forbes Winslow was being quoted extensively in the newspapers concerning the various theories he was putting forward about the type of person that the Whitechapel murderer might be, as well as concerning his possible motivation for committing his atrocities.


Winslow was also claiming that he had been handed a pair of boots by a man who had told him that they belonged to a former lodger of his who he believed may well have been Jack the Ripper.

Dr. Forbes Winslow had also given several newspaper interviews in which he had shown the boots to reporters, one of whom had gone so far as to try them on and had found them to be “quite noiseless.”

An illustration of Jack the Ripper's boots.
Jack The Ripper’s Boots. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The police, however, were not in the least bit convinced by Forbes Winslow’s theorising, and several newspapers sided with the police view and published articles poting out some of the flaws in the good doctor’s ponderings.

On Monday, 23rd September, 1889, The South Wales Echo, republished an article that had appeared in the previous days Sunday Times, which not only reported that the police totally disbelieved Winslow’s ideas, but also put forward some of the other theories that were, at the time, in circulation as to what type of person the Whitechapel murderer might be.


The article read:-

“With reference to the startling and sensational statements that have appeared of late with regard to the mysterious crimes at Whitechapel, it may be as well (says the Sunday Times) for the public to know that the stories are entirely discredited by the police, and, while it is not, of course, impossible that some private individual may be the recipient of special intelligence which the authorities have not been able to avail themselves of, it is at any rate a reasonable conclusion that but little which an outsider might pick up would escape the machinery for collecting infoimation which the police can command.


Whether Dr Forbes Winslow will be able to produce a creature of flesh and blood to stand in the rubber-soled and noiseless shoes which he exhibited to a confiding reporter, and which he declared to be the veritable foot-gear adopted by “Jack the Ripper” for the purpose of his bloodthirsty expedition, remains to be seen.

In the absence of further information on the subject, we must rest upon the assurance of the police detectives – that they know nothing whatever of Dr Forbes Winslow’s boots, or of their hypothetical wearer.


In the presence of such an impenetrable veil of mystery as that in which the Whitechapel murders are enshrouded, theorising might be indulged in to an indefinite extent, but the opinions of several eminent medical authorities, whom the writer has recently interviewed, narrow down the list of theories to two.


Of these, one is a popular theory, and has already been sufficiently spoken of.

It is to the effect that the murderer is a lunatic with a recurrent dominant passion or hallucination.

It may be simply a passion for blood which seizes him, and convenience which induces him to select for his victims women of the unfortunate class, or it may be a hallucination which leads him to believe that he is conferring a benefit upon mankind in general, and performing a duty in thus disposing of these unfortunate creatures.


The other theory is one which has been advanced by perhaps the most eminent specialist in mental diseases in England, whose name the writer is not permitted to publish.

He leans to the belief that “Jack the Ripper” is an epileptic patient, one suffering from a peculiar form of epilepsy.

It is a form of the disease from which, as is well known in medical circles, the first Napoleon suffered, and the person so afflicted is liable to the attacks after excitation of the passions.”