Nothing Is Certain

The one certainty about Jack the Ripper is that nothing is certain, of that we can be certain! The truth is that, since we don’t have the faintest idea who Jack the Ripper was, then we really know nothing about him, and what we do know, or, at least, what we think we know, is in reality nothing more than idle supposition.

Thus, the true ripperologist will take nothing at face value and will question everything.

And, if the truth be known, that is exactly as it should be.


Take, for example the number of victims that Jack the Ripper had. Was it five? Was it six?  Or was it, as is often stated, as few as four or as many as eight.

We don’t know and we now probably will never know.

Which suspect is most likely to have been the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders? All of them and none of them is the accurate answer to that question, because, again, we don’t know.


In fact, the only thing we can put hands on heart and state without fear of contradiction or correction is that the first name of the perpetrator of the 1888 East end atrocities almost certainly wasn’t Jack.

But, then again, since we don’t know who he or she was, we can’t even say that with certainty. Indeed his name could have been Jack, or it could, just as easily, have been Harold, or Sid, or Fred, or George, or Aaron.

A top hatted figure by some gas-lamps.
The Popular Image of Jack The Ripper.


The point is that once you let your mind head off down that warren of a rabbit hole that is Jack the Ripper research, you’d better be prepared for endless confusion and frustration.

However,  when we start looking at the case it us imperative that we take nothing at face value.

Just because a self-ordained expert many years ago declared something  to be an established fact doesn’t actually make it an established fact.


Take, for example, the oft quoted concept of the “canonical five.”

There were , in fact, eleven Whitechapel murders. So, if only five of these were the work of Jack the Ripper, then who carried out the other six?

Did several serial killers suddenly emerge in the East end of London between 1888 and 1891? Did those serial killers then all stop murdering as suddenly and mysteriously as they had begun?


The truth is, the idea of there being five victims and five victims only was established in 1894 by Melville Macnaghten, and he only believed that that was the case because his favoured suspect Montague John Druitt commuted suicide shortly after the death of Mary Kelly.

So, if the latter murders were carried out by the same hand, then that would disqualify him as a suspect.

Macnaghten, it should remembered  was not actually in the police at the time of the five murders that took place between Friday, August 31st, 1888 and Friday, 9th November, 1888.

It should also be pointed out that much of what he said about his chosen suspect was actually wrong, so the veracity of what he had to say is certainly open to question.

And yet his musings on the case and his certainty about the number of victims has formed the bedrock of Ripper studies evet since.

An image of Sir Meville Macnaghten
Sir Melville Macnaghten


I’m not saying that he was a liar – indeed, he seems to have been a decent, fine and upstanding officer – I am just saying that, just because he said something from an official perspective, we shouldn’t take it as gospel truth.

Indeed, if anyone is to solve the mystery after all these years, the person who does so will do so by coming at the case with no preconceptions.

They will come at it with original thought, and they will, just as all students of the Whitechapel murders should do, have questioned everything to arrive at their definitive answer to the question that has perplexed people since 1888.

But, then again, it wont be long before their solution is cast onto the heap of other discarded theories.

It really is a confusing and frustrating case.

But, it is also an extremely fascinating one as well!