Strange Coincidences

In this article I want to tell you about a strange coincidence that I stumbled upon whilst researching an article on the murder of the first of Jack the Ripper’s so-called “canonical five” victims – Mary Anne, “Polly,” Nichols.


Just for the record, can I state that I am not a conspiracy theory nut!

I do not – never have, and never will – subscribe to the ridiculous notion that a member of the Royal family was responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders, not out of any sense of royalist outrage, but simply because the facts don’t back up the story!

I think that the Royal physician, Sir William Gull, was a thoroughly decent chap, and that Johnny Depp and Michael Caine should hang their heads in shame for having declared him guilty of the Whitechapel murders in their respective films on the case.

As for the British Government and the Freemasons being behind the whole sorry saga of the East End atrocities; well, just don’t get me started on what an utter load of nonsense and codswallop that long since discredited theory is.


But, every so often, I come across a story that makes me sit up – or at least become a little more alert – and take notice, as I think to myself, now that is an incredible coincidence.


Recently, I was researching for an article on the murder of Mary Nichols, which took place in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, on the 31st of August, 1888.

In the course of ploughing through some of the 19th century Victorian newspapers, I came across an article, that appeared in several of them, and which made me think – now that’s a weird coincidence.

Indeed, I was so struck by the sheer coincidence of what I had read that I phoned up my good friends John Bennett and Adam Wood to ask their opinions of it.

They agreed with me that it was, to say the least, slightly strange and more than a little intriguing.

Illustrated Police News articles shoing the murder of Mary Nichols.
The Report on the Murder of Mary Nichols


On Friday the 7th of September, 1888, The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser carried the following report on the previous day’s funeral and burial of Mary Nichols:-


“The time at which the cortege was to start was kept secret, and a ruse was resorted to in order to get the body out of the mortuary, where it has lain since the day of the murder.

A pair-horsed closed hearse was observed making its way down Hanbury Street and the crowds, which numbered some thousands made way for it to go along Old Montague Street; but, instead of so doing, it passed on into the Whitechapel Road and, doubling back, reached the mortuary by the back gate, which is situated in Chapman’s-court.

No person was near, other than the undertaker and his men, when the coffin, which bore a plate with the inscription:- “Mary Ann Nichols, Aged 42, died August 31, 1888″, was removed to the hearse, and driven off to Hanbury Street, there to await the mourners….”


The article, which was evidently generated by a press agency, appeared in several other newspapers across the country in the days, and weeks, that followed the funeral.

The report in the South Wales Echo.
From The South Wales Echo, 7th September 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Have you spotted the coincidence yet?

On first reading the article, I thought that the coincidence contained therein might have been one of the press errors that are so prominent in the Jack the Ripper case.

Had a journalist simply got his facts jumbled up when he wrote the article?

But, it soon became apparent, when I double checked the date of the article, that this wasn’t the case, as it had been published on the 7th of September 1888.

So, what was the coincidence?

Well, within 24 hours of the article appearing, the Whitechapel murderer had struck again, and had claimed another victim.

That victim’s name was Annie Chapman, and her body was found in the backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street.

In other words, the body of the first victim, Mary Nichols, was removed from the mortuary, via the back entrance, which was in Chapman’s-court, and was then taken to Hanbury Street, from whence the cortège set out for its journey to the City of London Cemetery.

And, two days later, Annie Chapman was murdered in the backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street.

Illustrations showing the finding of the body of Annie Chapman.
From The Illustrated Police News, 22nd September 1888.


Like I say, I don’t do conspiracies, and I, most certainly, don’t believe in spooky premonitions.

Nonetheless, as coincidences go, I think that that is a pretty big one.

Don’t you agree?