The LEGEND OF JACK THE RIPPER is one of images and stories of the "Autumn of Terror" of 1888, when a gent, in a top
hat, long dark coat and carrying a black shiny bag, emerged from the fog, and, with a sharp knife, murdered five victims -
all of them prostitutes - mutilating the bodies of four of them on the streets of Whitechapel, in the East End of London.
One of the most infamous serial killers of all time, the murderer was never caught, his (or her) identity remains unknown,
and the infamous nickname originated in the correspondence, claiming to be from the murderer, sent to the press, police,
and individuals, and signed - JACK THE RIPPER.
The LEGEND OF JACK THE RIPPER contains myths - the origins of those parts of the legend are shown below:
"Autumn of Terror":
FACT: not used at the time of the murders
ORIGIN: as chapter title in the book The Identity of Jack the Ripper by Donald McCormack, published by Jarrold in 1959; then in title of the book Autumn of Terror. Jack the Ripper: His Crimes & Times by Tom Cullen, published by W H Allen in 1965.
gent, in a top hat, long dark coat and carrying a black shiny bag:
ORIGIN: in newspapers reports in November 1888 of description of a man seen by witnesses with Mary Jane Kelly, prior to her murder in Miller`s Court on 9 November 1888:
Daily Telegraph. 10 Nov 1888:
a young woman named Pannier, who sells roasted chestnuts at the corner of Widegate-street, a narrow thoroughfare about two minutes` walk from
the scene of the crime... is reported to have stated that shortly before noon yesterday, a man, dressed like a gentleman, said, "I suppose you have
heard about the murder in Dorset-street?"...when she replied she was aware of it, he said, "I know more about it than you"... Mrs Pannier described
this person as a man about 5ft 6in high with a black moustache, and wearing a black shiny hat and speckled trousers. He carried a black bag about
eighteen inches long and a foot deep
Illustrated Police News. 17 Nov 1888:
Mrs Pannier, a young woman who sells roasted chestnuts at the corner of Widegate-street, a narrow thoroughfare about two minutes` walk from the
scene of the murder, told a reporter a remarkable story. She says that about twelve o`clock on Friday, a man, dressed like a gentleman, came to her
and said, "I suppose you have heard about the murder in Dorset-street?" She replied that she had and the man grinned and said, "I know more about
it than you". He stared into her face and went away down Sandes-row, another narrow thoroughfare which cuts across Widegate-street. When he got
some way off, however, he looked back, as if to see whether she was watching him, and vanished. Mrs Pannier says that the man had a black moust-
ache, was about five feet six inches high, and wore a black silk hat, a black coat and speckled trousers. He carried a black shiny bag, about a foot in
depth and a foot and a half in length.
Penny Illustrated Paper. 17 Nov 1888:
< illustration on front page of gent in top hat, long dark coat, carrying a black shiny bag, with Mary Jane Kelly, about to enter her room
at 13 Miller`s Court, off Dorset Street, Whitechapel on the night of her murder.
emerged from the fog:
FACT: no fog on nights of murders, (see weather reports on Met Office website (link)
ORIGINS: first vague mention of the murders committed on foggy nights was by Sir Melville Macnaghten, former Assistant Commissioner (Crime), Metropolitan Police, in his book of his memoirs, Days Of My Life, published by Edward Arnold in 1914:
I can recall the foggy evenings and hear again the raucus cries of the newspaper boy "Another horrible murder, murder, mutilation. Whitechapel.
The first image of a murderer emerging from the fog was in The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog - a black-and-while silent film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with screenplay by Eliot Stannard, based on The Lodger, a novel by Marie Belloc, inspired by Jack the Ripper. The film was released by Gainsborough Pictures in 1926,
screenshot from The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog. 1926.
murdered five victims... mutilating the bodies of four of them:
FACT: no-one knows how many victims were attacked and/or murdered by the same person, known as Jack the Ripper. During the time of the murders, some newspapers published lists of the numbers of victims with totals running to at least nine.
Police officers, who had been involved in the investigations into the murders, later, gave their accounts, expressing different views on the number of victims [see VICTIMS].
ORIGIN: the first mention of the number of victims being limited to five was made by Melville Leslie Macnaghten (appointed Assistant Chief Constable, Metropolitan Police in June 1889, promoted to Chief Constable in 1890) in a memo of 23 Feb 1894
(now in the National Archives - Metropolitan Police files MEPO 3/140; first made known to the public in the book The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow, published by W H Allen in 1975):.
Now the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims - & 5 victims only - his murders were
(i) 31st Aug `88. Mary Ann Nichols, at Buck`s Row, who was found with her throat cut & with (slight) stomach mutilation
(ii) 8th Sept `88. Annie Chapman - Hanbury Street, throat cut, stomach & private parts badly mutilated & some of the entrails placed round the neck
(iii) 30th Sept `88. Elizabeth Stride, Berner`s Street, throat cut, but nothing in shape of mutilation attempted & on the same date
Catherine Eddowes. Mitre Square, throat cut & very bad mutilation, both of face & stomach
(iv) 9th November. Mary Jane Kelly. Miller`s Court. throat cut, and the whole body mutilated in the most ghastly manner.
Macnaghten (appointed Assistant Commissioner [Crime] in 1903, knighted in 1907, retired in 1913) re-iterated his claim of five victims in his memoirs in his book Days Of My Life, published by Edward Arnold in 1914:
Suffice it, at present, to say that the Whitechapel murderer committed five murders, and - to give the devil his due - no more,
murdered on the streets:
FACT: not all of the victims were murdered on the streets
- of the canonical five: Annie Chapman was murdered in the back yard of a house at 29 Hanbury Street, Elizabeth Stride was murdered in a yard off Berner Street, and Mary Jane Kelly was murdered in her room at 13 Miller`s Court;
- of the non-canonical victims: Martha Tabram was murdered on the stairs of George Yard Buildings, the torso of a woman was found at construction site of New Scotland Yard, the torso of Elizabeth Jackson was found in, and on the embankment of, River Thames, and the torso of a woman was found in the railway arch in Pinchin Street.
... of Whitechapel, in the East End of London:
FACT: not all of the victims were murdered in Whitechapel
- of the canonical five: Mary Ann Nichols was murdered in Buck`s Row, Bethnal Green; Annie Chapman was murdered in Hanbury Street, Spitalfields; Elizabeth Stride was murdered in Berner Street, St George`s; Catherine Eddowes was murdered in Mitre Square, Aldgate, City of London; Mary Jane Kelly was murdered at 13 Miller`s Court, Spitalfields
- of the non-canonical victims: Martha Tabram was murdered in George Yard Buildings, Spitalfields; the torso of woman was found at the construction site of New Scotland Yard, Whitehall; Rose Mylett was murdered in High Street, Poplar; the torso of Elizabeth Jackson was found in and around River Thames, with most of the parts found in Battersea; the torso of a woman was found in Pinchin Street, St George`s; Frances Coles was murdered in Swallow Gardens, Spitalfields.