Playing At Jack The Ripper

One of the oddities about the  Whitechapel murders, or, should I say, one of the oddities as far as I am concerned, is the way in which, by mid-Otober, 1888, the perpetrator of the atrocities had become a sort of folk hero to many people.

There are numerous newspaper reports about men who appeared in court when, either through drunkenness, madness, or simple maliciousness, they had threatened women claiming to be Jack the Ripper.

The York Herald, on Tuesday, 9th October, 1888, featured a brief article about one such imitator:-


At Brierley Hill Police Court, yesterday, Alfred Pearson, moulder, was charged with stopping Thomas Plant and his sweetheart in a dark lane ard threatening them as “Jack the Ripper,” and with brandishing a long knife before them.

The young woman was driven into hysterics.

Pearson was bound over to keep the peace.

At Govan, Glasgow, yesterday, Michael Devine who described himself as “Jack the Ripper,” the second, was fined three guineas for knocking a married woman down and brandishing a knife over her.


The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, in its edition of Thursday, 11th October, 1888, published details of the antics of another imitator:-

A respectably dressed young man, named Stephen Rorke, was charged at Manchester, today, with annoying and threatening a woman at twelve o’clock last night.

The woman was accosted by the prisoner on her way home, and on refusing to comply with his wishes, he said he was “Jack the Ripper,” and threatened her.

A man approached, and the prisoner was given into custody.

The police stated that great terror existed among women, and the streets were almost clear at night.

The prisoner was remanded.


Yet another appeared in The Star of Gwent on Friday, 12th October 1888:-

It is reported that a young lady, very respectably connected, residing with her parents in Cardiff, has just received a letter, written by a young man with whom she was formerly acquainted; and who has evidently been rendered unsound in mind by reading the accounts of the Whitechapel murders, threatening to do for her the same as “Jack the Ripper” had done for the others.

He tells her that he is on the watch, at that he will catch her some night when she little thinks of it.


Finally, The South Wales Echo, on Saturday, 23rd October, 1888, published details of another disturning case, albeit this time the perpetrator himself didn’t claim to be Jack the Ripper:-

At the Littledean police court, yesterday James Leadbeater, a labourer of Cinderford, was brought up in custody charged with unlawfully and indecently assaulting and ill-treating Catherine Abberly, wife of William Abberly, a labourer, of Lydbrook Hill, on the 23rd October.

When the case came on the charge was reduced to that of robbery from the person.


The prosecutrix, an old woman, said the prisoner came to her house at three o’clock in the afternoon. She was sitting in the kitchen. The prisoner handed her a letter, but as she could not read it she gave it back to him and asked what it contained.

The prisoner then explained that it was an appeal for relief, as he was bad off.

He had up till then stood at the door, but advancing to the table he placed his head near to her, and said, as he was very deaf, she must speak into his ear.

He had a pipe in his mouth, which he proceeded to light at the fire.

Turning towards her, he took her round the waist. She screamed as loud as she could. He tried to put his hand into her pocket, but she prevented him.

She got the man out, closed the gate, came in, and shut the door.


The prisoner stood outside, and in a minute came back into the house and seized her again.

She exclaimed, “Good God, it’s Jack the Ripper. He’ll kill me.”

He then behaved in a grossly indecent manner towards her.

She succeeded in preventing the prisoner from effecting his purpose.

Being baffled in every way, he let her go, and left the house.

The prisoner had nothing to say in answer to the charge, and the bench committed him for trial at the next quarter session.