Peoples Reactions To Jack The Ripper

The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 15th November, 1888, published the following intriguing article which expressed concern and bafflement at the way in which the name of Jack the Ripper had, by this time, become truly fixed in the national consciousness.

So much so that the name was cropping up left, right and centre:-


“Glancing over the list of police court cases, one cannot help being struck by the popularity which the title “Jack the Ripper” enjoys among the criminal classes.

Simple in sound and vividly suggestive in meaning, the name has at once appealed to the excited imaginations of the mob, and the awful deeds which its original bearer has committed encircle with a ghastly halo his loathsome, yet unknown personality.

The public like nicknames for those about whom they are daily thinking and speaking.

The horrible phrase which is now in everybody’s mouth meets that popular taste, and “Jack the Ripper” is likely for a long time to remain the notoriety upon whom public interest will be focussed.

He has entered into the national mind, much as did the dreadful dragons of classic times, or the even more horrible “devils,” “goblins,” and “vampires” of more recent days.

The famous Punch Cartoon that shows a knife wielding phantom drifting through the slums of London's East End.
The Punch Cartoon, The Nemesis of Neglect.


Every drunken man in the country either imagines that he himself, or somebody whom he sees, is the identical assassin after whom the wildest hue and cry of the century is abroad.

At Dumbarton, in Scotland, an inebriate tries to extract alms by the menacing announcement that he is “Jack the Ripper.”

In London another toper in a frenzy of alcoholic terror causes the arrest of an innocent gentleman by the startling declaration that the latter is none other than the much-wanted Whitechapel fiend.


A burglar plying his avocation is captured by the police, and innocently excuses himself by stating that he is looking for the murderer.

An hysterical woman frantically hammers at a door at midnight, and rouses all the neighbouring slumberers from their beds by shrieks of fear lest she be overtaken by “Jack the Ripper.”


The inhuman ghoul who haunts Whitechapel has seriously shaken the national nerve.

Far and near is the terror of him spread. If he is not caught there is no saying to what a pitch the panic may go.

Already thousands of ordinary sensible people throughout the country have been made nervous, and, as the Americans put it, “hystericky” by the appalling crimes of East London.


Should the craze be allowed to go much further, and “Jack the Ripper” continue his unhallowed work with impunity, we may yet find ourselves plunged backwards into the abysses of popular superstition.

Two hundred – or even one hundred – years ago the impenetrable mystery which surrounds the repeated and atrocious murders of Whitechapel would inevitably have led to the ignorant belief that they had been committed by no human hand.

We have been educated beyond that now-a-days, but it rests with ourselves to see that we do not slip back again.”