Murder By Gaslight

It is a common misconception about the Jack the Ripper murders that they were carried out by gas light. This, along with the images of London fogs, is a dramatic element nearly always utilised by the makers of films about case and those who make television programmes to add atmosphere.

In reality the places where the murders occurred tended to be unlit, and the area as a whole suffered from a distinct lack of lighting, a fact that aided and abetted the person responsible for the Jack the Ripper crimes to escape so effectively.

Of course, vast swathes of London were, at the time, lit by gas lamps, and, indeed, when you join us for the Jack the Ripper Tour around the East End of London you will see some of the surviving ornate gas lamp brackets that still dot the district today. They illustrate the fact that many of the main roads were well lit. The Whitechapel Road, for example, was ablaze with light at night.

But the Whitechapel Murderer, whoever he may have been, chose victims who, out of professional necessity, would have sought out the dark recesses and corners of the East End. 

Of course, by taking their clients to these deserted and dark places, where they knew they wouldn’t be interrupted by a passer by, or an inquisitive police man on his beat, the prostitutes ensured that they provided the ideal location for their killer to go about his murderous business with little fear of being noticed or interrupted.

The geography of the area then aided him with his escape as, away from the aforementioned crowded thoroughfares, a warren-like maze of unlit narrow alleyways and passageways provided him with the perfect escape route, enabling him to simply melt away in to the night.

Amazingly, some of those narrow alleyways and passage ways have survived and, although now lit, it is still possible to walk through them and picture them as they were in 1888.