The True History Of Jack The Ripper

Between Saturday the 15th of July, 1905 and Saturday 17th February, 1906, The Illustrated Police News treated its readers to a series, written by Guy Logan, which was titled “The True History of Jack the Ripper.”

The first instalment began with the following bold statement:-

“The inner history of the unspeakable crimes associated with the murder-name of “Jack the Ripper” is known to very few. The relatives of that monumental criminal are still, many of them, in the land of the living, and I am consequently precluded from giving the exact name of the monster who haunted London’s East-end in 1888. In all particulars except that – and the place of the maniac’s original confinement – this account of the Whitechapel Horrors is absolutely true.”

From that point on the journal treated its readers to a weekly update, each instalment appearing beneath a suitably dramatic header board which proclaimed its “true history” mantra week after week.

A hand holding a knife beneath which is the headline "The True History of Jack the Ripper."
The True History of Jack The Ripper. From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 15th July, 1905. Copyright, The British Library Board.

NOT A PARTICULARLY GRIPPING STORY

Now, to be perfectly honest, in my opinion there is nothing like a gripping crime story to get the synapses bouncing together in excited unison, and Guy Logan’s gruesome tale is, it must be said, nothing like a gripping crime story!

However, it does have the distinction of being one of the earliest – if not the earliest – work of fiction that is based on the Jack the Ripper crimes.

THE ESCAPE FROM THE ASYLUM

I don’t want to spoil the work for anyone who might wish to read it, so I will just say that it begins with the story’s protagonist, Mortemer Slade, escaping from a private asylum in 1887, having murdered an attendant.

And there I will end any spoilers, other than to reproduce the illustration that accompanied this first instalment.

The murder of the doctor at the privater asylum.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 15th July, 1905. Copyright, The British Library Board.

RARELY SEEN ILLUSTRATIONS

However the story is of interest – or should I rephrase that and say that I found it of interest – on account of a number of illustrations of the Jack the Ripper murders that have not been reproduced in books and magazines as much as the illustrations that graced the pages of The Illustrated Police News in the wake of the original murder spree, between August and November, 1888.

Because these illustrations have been reproduced so rarely since they first appeared in 1905, I thought it might be a nice idea to bring some of them together for the purposes of a blog.

So, without further ado, enjoy some of the illustrations that accompanied Guy Logan’s 1905 tome about the Whitechapel Murders.

THE MURDER OF MARTHA TURNER

It would be two weeks after Mortemer Slade made his first appearance before Guy Logan set his pen to presenting readers with details of one of the Whitechapel Murders, namely the murder of Martha Turner (or Tabram).

The instalment of the 29th July, 1905 opened with the following paragraph:-

“The evening papers of August 7, 1888, announced the perpetration of a very horrible crime in the East-end of London. The morning papers of the day following supplied other and fuller details and greatly augmented the interest taken in a murder which promised to be exciting to the last degree. It was a mysterious case, and your average Londoner – or his provincial brother, for that matter – is a lover of mystery. Here was a sensational crime after his own heart, and he revelled in the gruesome details.”

This instalment was accompanied by the following illustration that showed the discovery of the body of Martha Tabram.

Finding the body of Martha Turner.
From The Illustrated Police News, 29th July, 1905. Copyright, the British Library Board.

THE MURDER OF MARY NICHOLS

On Saturday 26th August, 1888, Logan turned his attention to the murder of Mary Nichols, providing his readers with the following description of the atrocity:-

“…Mrs. Nicholls hurried along, and speedily found herself in Buck’s Row. There was a stable-yard there, used in connection with Essex Wharf, a dark, lonesome spot, well-known to the woman and those of her class.

It was here, in this remote, solitary, and ill-lighted spot, that Mortemer Slade, closely muffled up and inscrutable as ever, awaited her.

He stood in a dark recess near the stable.

It was a sombre sort of night, great banks of clouds obscuring a pale and watery moon.

The wind blew freshly from the river, and it was chilly for the time of year. He grasped her by the arm as she, not seeing him in the shadow of the wall, was about to hurry by.”

The two then have a conversation at the end of which Logan details the final moments in the life of Mary Nichols:-

“He handed her a flask of spirits.

“There! Drink your fill,” he said. “We never know when the end is to come.”

She drank deeply.

The clocks struck one.

“Come this way a little into the shadows,” said the woman. “The slop will be round in a few minutes.”

She tightened the handkerchief at her throat, and the gesture caught Slade’s attention.

“Take that off,” he demanded.

“Why?” she asked curiously.

“My fancy is your law,” he said, “take it off.”

She removed the gaudy trifle and stuffed it in the pocket of her gown. Her throat was bare.

Slade smiled…”

An illustration of Slade with Mary Nichols.
From The illustrated Police News, Saturday 26th August, 1905, Copyright the British Library Board.

THE MURDER OF ANNIE CHAPMAN

It was on Saturday 14th October, 1905, that Guy Logan got round to presenting the circumstances behind the murder of Annie Chapman.

“She lay, as the others had lain, upon her back, the eyes wide open and staring with awful sightless gaze towards the heavens.

The throat was cut with such appalling force that the murderer, thinking he had severed the head from the body, had tied a handkerchief about it to keep it on.

The abdomen had been completely ripped open, the heart and the viscera had been neatly arranged by the victim’s side, and the entrails were wantonly strewn around.

What words can paint such hideous facts as these?”

The body of Annie Chapman in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street,
From The Illustrated Police news, Saturday 14th October, 1905. Copyright, The British Library Board.

TWO MURDERS IN A NIGHT

On the 23rd December, 1905, Guy Logan’s “true history” of the Jack the Ripper crimes arrived at the night of the 30th September, 1888, the night of the double murder.

Chapter 23 of the saga opened as follows:-

“We left Mortemer Slade, afraid to venture by train, tramping to London. He left the Kentish town about eight o’clock on a Saturday night, preparing to set out when it was-quite dark and little chance existed of his being followed.

A market-cart, laden with fruit and vegetables, overtook him when he had walked some nine miles on the silent and abandoned road, and he bargained for a lift to town.

The vehicle brought him some miles nearer to his destination, and before the public-homes closed he found himself in the crowded streets of the East-end.

Let us see what hideous things this arch-fiend accomplished there…”

The story then went into a long, and flowery, description of the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.

Unfortunately, because only one illustration was included with each instalment, The Illustrated Police News chose not to provide an image of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, providing an image of the murder of Elizabeth Stride only.

An illustration of the finding of the body of Elizabeth Stride.
From The Illustrated Police News, 23rd December, 1905. Copyright, The British Library Board.

THE MURDER OF MARY KELLY

On Saturday 26th January, 1906, Guy Logan’s narrative arrived at the night of the 9th November, 1888, and the murder of Mary Kelly.

Interestingly, he chose to have Jack the Ripper – who Mary is expecting and who is referred to as Mary Kelly’s “toff”  – actually sit down to supper prior to carrying out what would be his most gruesome murder of all:-

“Mary Jane set forth, on the dirty table, the remains of a very small joint of cold beef, some bread, pickles, and cheese, and a bottle containing brandy.

“It’s not what you’re used to, lovey,” she said, “I knows that. But if you’re tired and hungry a bit of bite and sup will do you good.”

He drew the clumsy chair to the table, and, after a long draught of raw spirits, swallowed a few mouthfuls of food, Mary Jane watching him the while well pleased.

Poor, weak, depraved Mary Jane. He might have spared you, you who had not betrayed the secret of his visits, had harboured him, and given him food and drink. You, whose wretched room came to him as a haven of refuge, a sanctuary for the time being.

Could he not spare you an awful death and your body the frightful indignities he had inflicted upon your sisters in poverty, vice, and misfortune?

Of all the Jack the Ripper murders, this, committed in the victim’s own room, was the most cruel and the most cowardly.

The horrors the fiend wreaked upon the corpse of the woman who had sheltered him are of nameless atrocity and cannot be described.”

Jack the Ripper at the table with Mary Kelly looking on.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 27th January, 1906. Copyright, The British Library Board.

MAY THE WORLD BE FREE

The final instalment of the story appeared on Saturday 17th February, 1906 and, not wishing to spoil the ending, I will just say that Mortemer Slade most certainly does get his just comeuppance.

And, with Slade now dead (oops, hope I didn’t spoil it for you) all that remains is for Guy Logan to wrap his story up with the following statement:-

“Slade, and those crimes, mostly occurring in the “Far East” of London, have been generally attributed to the fiend who will always be designated “Jack the Ripper.”

But they were merely fraudulent imitations of the real and genuine article.

The Whitechapel demon died when Mortemer Slade went to his long account.

May the world be free for the future of all such wretches as semi-sane and as dangerous as he!”

Amen to that!