Reconditis Mysteriis

Kellan C. Larson

Now this is a case that has long fascinated historians and commoners alike – the grisly mystery of Jack the Ripper. Five canonical victims, though there are suspicions that there may have even been up to eleven. Many suspects were arrested, and none found guilty. For 132 years, this case has remained unsolved despite experts from all over the world searching desperately for the elusive killer.

In 1888, Jack the Ripper killed five different women. He slit their throats and proceeded to either disembowel them, remove organs that never resurfaced or simply mutilate the body. It is largely disputed, but popular belief is that all the victims were prostitutes. The police chief at the time had three main suspects that easily could have been the Ripper, but none were confirmed. In the century that has followed more than five additional suspects had been added to the list. Many authors and investigators like to claim that they have solved the case, one of which even thought they found a conclusive DNA sample proving their theory. However, the geneticist who performed the test revealed that he had made a grave error and made the thousands of dollars that went into the project all for nothing. Now, rather than discussing the different suspects, as we cannot conclusively determine “Who Dunnit”, we shall simply go over the details of the crime scenes of the five canonical victims.

The first victim went by the name of Mary Anne Nichols. Found on August 31 at 3:40am, at the western end of a street called Bucks Row. She was laid out on her back, her throat cut and her body was disemboweled. Investigators determined that she had only been dead for thirty minutes before being found. There were no witnesses or strange men noted in the area.

Our second victim, Annie Chapmen, was found at 29 Hanbury Street by an elderly neighbor. Her throat was also cut, but this time the murderer went so far as to take her womb, which was never found. By the manner with which it was removed, it was determined that whoever had killed her had at least crude anatomical knowledge, which made it likely that the killer belonged to some sort of medical or perhaps even surgical profession.

Later that month, the central news agency of that time received the first of the Ripper letters. In this letter, the killer claimed the name Jack the Ripper, and had provided intricate details of the killing that only could have been known by someone who had seen the body. The letters that followed, though their validity is still largely questioned, continued to provide gruesome details of the murders that only a witness could have known. 

Now, back to our five Whitechapel victims, we have Elizabeth Stride. She was found on Berner street. This time, only the throat was cut, as it was believed that the man who found her may have actually been approaching as she was killed, forcing the murderer to make a hasty getaway. The state of the next victim further supports this, as well as the letter received by the press proceeding all of this.

Only 45 minutes after the discovery of Elizabeth Stride, a second body was found in Mitre Square, a block west of the first. This woman was named Catherine Eddowes. This time, her entire body was severely mutilated, including her face. Both her uterus and her left kidney were removed. Graffiti found on a wall between the murders allegedly by Jack himself suggest that he actually walked back to the area of the first murder after he committed the second, right through the crime scene full of investigators and police men. 

There were reports of a strange man in the area, and from that detectives got a rough idea of what the killer might look like. He was determined to be between 5’8 and 5’10, with a stocky build and broad shoulders. He was formally dressed, with a long dark overcoat and a top hat.

On November 9th, nearly a month later, the final canonical victim, Mary Kelley, was found in her bed at 13 Miller’s Court by her landlord’s assistant. The most gruesome of them all, her body was disemboweled and “virtually skinned down.” Police would go on to describe the killer as, “frighteningly normal, seemingly sane but capable of great horrors.”

The case of Jack the Ripper has long been, and shall continue to be, one of the greatest and most infamous unsolved serial killings in all of history.