Taken For A Murderer

That they were arrested on suspicion of being the Whitechapel murderer, appears to have been a tale that several visitors to London liked to tell the folks back home when they returned from a visit to London around the time of the Jack the Ripper crimes.

One person who claimed that this had happened to him was Boston lawyer John N. Wakefield, a man who enjoyed taking vacations that were, to say the least, a little on the unusual side!

A sketch of Lawyer Wakefield.
Lawyer Wakefield In His Usual Attire.


Whether Wakefield ever was arrested on suspicion of having been the perpetrator of the East End murders is now almost impossible to ascertain.

It was certainly the case that several Americans were reported as having been taken in for questioning by the London police; and, it must be said his story does have the ring of truth about it, up to the point, that is, when he made the claim that, on his release, the police were so eager to make amends that they held a banquet for him!

But, then again, perhaps that is just the cynic in me coming to the fore.

Nonetheless, the story that he told a representative of The Boston Globe, and which was published on Sunday, November 1st, 1891, was an intriguing one:-


Woman Pointed a Pistol at Lawyer Wakefield.
In London He Was Arrested as Jack the Ripper.
Original Vacations Got Boston Attorney in Trouble.

However persons may differ as to the methods of passing a summer vacation, credit must be given John N. Wakefield, one of Boston’s well-known lawyers, for passing a vacation of striking originality.

“I believe in roughing it,” said Mr. Wakefield to a Globe man.

One of the accompanying pictures will illustrate better than words what Mr. Wakefield means by “roughing it.”

In other words, it is a picture of him as he was last summer when arrested as the escaped murderer, McArthur.

Wakefield dressed in his old clothes.
Dressed In His Old Clothes.


“I usually pass a month or so on an island in Smith’s pond, an outlet of Lake Lake Winnipesaukee, free of care, personally and otherwise,” continued Lawyer Wakefield.

“I wear a rough-and-ready costume, such as you see in this picture, and that worldly cares may also be forgotten as far as possible, take every precaution to be isolated from business and civilization generally.

The only parts of my anatomy that I wash are my hands, and then only before meals. The shirt I wear is a stranger to buttons, and, for three years, just as strange to soap and water. In a word, that shirt is washed but once in every four years, its next ablution being fixed to take place at the close of my next vacation.”


“A day or so after McArthur escaped last summer, and of course I knew nothing of it, as I don’t even allow newspapers to come to me, I took a row of five or six miles up the lake.

A thunder, shower coming on suddenly, I was obliged to pull in to the shore, a matter which I was not long in putting into execution.

I landed in a very woody piece of land, and, feeling the lonesomeness of the situation, I pushed forward in a quest of some human habitation. I had not gone far before I struck an
old, well-worn shanty, but, as it proved to be tenantless my halt was brief.

A short distance farther on I came unexpectedly upon a farm house and, forgetting my uninviting appearance, asked for food and shelter.

The young woman who came to the door coolly but determinedly received me at the point of an old army revolver with the salutation:- “You are McArthur, I guess.”

Of course, I knew nothing of the murderer’s escape, and, in fact, failed to note the full import of her remarks until Sheriff Hobbs of Wolfboro quietly dropped in upon the scene.

The sheriff I had met before, a circumstance which, in connection with some credential papers I had upon my person, resulted in sparing me the ignominy of being carried prison.”


“Speaking of arrests” added Mr. Wakefield as he lit a fresh cigar, “reminds me, of two years ago, when I was arrested in London as Jack the Ripper. I was doing the continent at the time, and I had just reached London on the night of one of those foul murders.

I read of it in the newspapers, and, having a desire to visit Whitechapel, arranged my plans accordingly.

I knew that to visit such a place at night in my ordinary garb was to invite robbery, possibly even murder, so I procured an old suit of clothes from one of the lumpers about the Inns of Court.


Attiring myself in this costume I wended my way to the district, and, without more ado, I proceeded to look over the place.

After a while, I noticed that my every movement was watched with suspicion; in fact, I later discovered that a policeman had been upon my track from the moment I struck the Whitechapel line until I had been arrested.

Well, just as I had about concluded to go back to the hotel, I was put under arrest, and I was escorted with more force than pomp to the Leman Street police station.

I displayed a number of letters and credentials from friends in Boston, and, after a time, I managed to convince the police authorities that they had made a mistake.

To prove their sincerity, also to win my forgiveness of the detention, all hands participated in a banquet immediately after my release from custody as Jack the Ripper.”