The Whitechapel Horror

By the 13th of November, 1888, the full horror of what the murderer had done to Mary Kelly in her room in Miller’s Court was circulating in the newspapers.

As word spread about the horror of the crime, journalists struggled to understand what his motive for such a dreadful and brutal crime could be.

Meanwhile, the public reaction appears to have changed in the wake of this latest Whitechapel murder, and – as the following article, which appeared in The Buchan Observer and East Aberdeenshire Advertiser on Tuesday, 13th November, 1888 – makes clear, Jack the Ripper was rapidly becoming a sort of fiendish folk hero:-


“The recrudescence of crime in the East End of London has almost pushed aside all other topics of conversation.

Another woman has been slain, and has, it seems, been even more horribly mutilated than were the women who were killed at the end of September.

Eastward of St Paul’s the excitement is at fever heat; but, although the region of Spitalfields is literally overrun with police and detectives, the authorities of Scotland Yard are without a clue.

A view along Dorset Street.
Dorset Street, Spitalfields, where the murder of Mary Kell had occurred on 9th November, 1888.


The crime this time is so horrible that an impression has arisen that the murderer must be some maniac who has endeavoured to outstrip the ghastly achievements of the so-called “Jack the Ripper.”

In the former cases the murderer killed his victims in the street, but it may be that he has found the watchfulness in the streets too close to be evaded, and has, therefore, adopted his new tactics.

If this be the case the fact only shows how resolute he is in the pursuance of his murderous work.

He is carrying on a war with one unfortunate class and that war is relentless.


It is almost impossible to conceive that such monsters in human form exist in this the nineteenth century, but unfortunately the conception is too true. Had such stories been told in ancient books they would almost have been received with incredulity.

The murderer is apparently thoroughly acquainted with the district in which he pursues his butchery. He keeps a watch on the police and knows exactly when and where he can strike with the least risk.


Many stories are afloat, but, as a rule they are without foundation.

It is generally supposed that the work is that of one man and the idea fastens more readily on public opinion from the fact that it is difficult to imagine that there can be more than one fiend stalking about and dealing death with the utmost impunity.


Great excitement was caused on Sunday evening, when a man with a blackened face publicly declared himself to be “Jack the Ripper,” and it was with the greatest difficulty that the police, assisted by some civilians, managed to save him from being “lynched” by the infuriated crowd.

It remains to be seen whether anything will come out of the arrest, but it appears that the police attach some importance to it as the man’s appearance answers to the police description of the party “wanted.”


It is rather a curious fact that “Jack the Ripper” has become a sort of fiendish hero in the Whitechapel district. If he wished to get himself talked about he has certainly succeeded.

“Jack the Ripper back from his holidays” is a cry which raised a laugh when uttered by newspaper boys among the crowd waiting for the Lord Mayor’s show.


Several girls of a degraded class might actually have been heard in Whitechapel on Sunday night singing a “flash” song in his praise. His infamy is recorded both in prose and verse.

“All about Jack the Ripper,” shouts one pedlar, while another hawks “The truth about the Whitechapel murders.”


Sir Charles Warren has complained of the criticism of the police as hindering them in the tracing of criminals, and there certainly was ground for the complaint, but it now appears that Sir Charles has done more than complained and has thrown up the whole matter in disgust.

A photo of the 1888 Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren


No doubt this step has been taken after mature deliberation but it bears with grave significance that the Chief Commissioner sees no hope of obtaining a clue.

The problem is one of terrible interest and the sooner a solution is found to it the better for all concerned.”