As November, 1888, progressed, the sensation of the Whitechapel murders had, so it seems, led to all manner of cranks, crackpots and practical jokers jumping on the bandwagon and trying to use the fear generated by the atrocities to either instil fear into others, or to simply play jokes on their friends or families.
The wide circulation that had been given to the “Dear Boss” letter, had encouraged hoaxers all over the land to compose their own missives, and the authorities found themselves inundated by a veritable tsunami of “Jack the Ripper” correspondence.
On Wednesday, 28th November, 1888, Eddowes Journal and General Advertiser took a critical look at the correspondence then being received, which purported to come from the perpetrator of the crimes, and also reported on two cases in which unknown pranksters or crackpots had tried to use the murders for their own gratification:-
THE LETTER WRITING EPIDEMIC
The extent to which threatening letters are being written under the influence of the present atrocities scare can scarcely be appreciated by the general public.
I hear on very good authority that some scores of “Jack the Ripper” letters are being received almost daily by coroners, magistrates and officials connected with the higher branches of the police force.
These missives are all very carefully scrutinised and filed, but. of course, no importance is attached to them, except as illustrating the extraordinary effect produced on morbid minds by a sensation like that recently associated with the East End of London.
It is, so I am told, in a large measure owing to the letter-writing epidemic, that the authorities decided to prohibit the exposure in shop windows of anatomical models and illustrations.
THE EFFECTS OF THE RIPPER SCARE
The effect of the “Jack the Ripper scare is showing itself in various ways.
It is leading to the perpetration of all sorts of idiotic eccentricities and so-called “practical jokes,” as well as to indulgence in a semi-hysterical line of dread, the consequence of which are both peculiar and extremely inconvenient.
Two remarkable stories – both of them well authenticated – were told today.
THE MAN ON THE TRAIN
At eight o’clock on Saturday night a young lady in the Civil Service went to the Broad Street Station to catch a train, and, in the hurry of starting, was bustled into a first-class instead of a third-class compartment.
As a porter was about to shut the door, a tall, gentlemanly-looking man, who wore a silk hat and who carried a black bag, attempted to enter the carriage. The porter, however, closed the door, hurriedly, remarking, “There’s plenty of room in the next compartment.”
The gentleman took the hint, and he stepped onto the train just as it started to leave the station.
Nothing was thought of the matter by the young lady, though she was surprised soon after quitting the terminus to hear the door of the next compartment violently slammed.
A minute or so passed, and then the young lady was startled by the appearance of a thin white hand at the carriage window on the right-hand side of the train.
A face next appeared at one of the windows – pale, thin face with staring eyes and a determined mouth.
SHE WAS PETRIFIED BY FEAR
The young lady sat almost petrified with fear, but, with sudden presence of mind, she pulled up the window with a rapid movement, and held on to the leather like grim death.
The first glance convinced her that the man on the footboard was the same individual who had tried to enter the compartment before leaving Broad Street Station, and she was equally certain that he was attempting to open the door, which she frantically pulled towards her.
Just when her strength was failing and liar nerves giving way under the strain, the familiar sound of the break on the train came to her ear, and, a few moments later, the train drew up at the platform of Haggerston Station.
THE MAN HAD DISAPPEARED
Then the strange face disappeared as strangely as it had come, and the young lady on stepping to the platform, saw the mysterious individual hurry away among the crowd, and he became lost to view.
She reported the strange adventure, but, though a watch was made, the man with the black bag had disappeared.
The second of the two adventures is of a still more mysterious nature.
A VISIT FROM THE BARBER
In the north of London, a respectable girl of sixteen retired to rest the other night at about eleven o’clock, in company with her elder sister.
Nothing occurred to disturb them, but, at six o’clock the next morning, the younger girl on awakening found to her surprise and annoyance that a portion of her plaited hair had disappeared.
She accused her sister of playing a stupid trick on her, but the sister indignantly denied having done anything of the sort.
The missing portion of hair, about eight inches in length, was then found lying on the pillow, and by the side of it was a piece of paper upon which was written, apparently in a man’s handwriting, the words, “This is just to show you that I am about – The Barber.”
THE DOOR WAS LOCKED
According to their custom, the bedroom door had been locked on retiring, and, in the morning, there was no evidence of it having been tampered with during the night, as it was still locked in the morning.
The window of the bedroom, which is on the second floor, was, however, wide open.
The elder girl continues to deny all knowledge of the affair, and she appears to be even more upset about the matter than her younger sister is.
But, though enquiries have been made, no information has been obtained that is said to throw any light on the mysterious occurrence.