In the latter part of 1888, a deadly figure roamed the shadowy and foggy back-streets of Whitechapel, London, England by night, violently slaughtering prostitutes, and provoking terror throughout the entire capital. He quickly became – and still remains to this very day - the world’s most notorious serial-killer. He was, in case you haven’t by now guessed, Jack the Ripper. But, what makes the Ripper so infamous, more than a century after his terrible crimes were committed, is that his identity still remains a mystery. And everyone loves a mystery. So, who might Jack have been? The theories are almost endless. Indeed, no less than thirty potential suspects have been identified. They include a powerful Freemason, a surgeon, a doctor, a poet, and even a member of the British Royal Family. What follows is a list of those individuals that have had more fingers pointed at them than any others. Without doubt, the most controversial theory for whom, exactly, Jack the Ripper might have been, is that he was a member of the British Royal Family, specifically Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence. It was a theory that first surfaced in the early 1960s, specifically in the pages of a book by French author, Philippe Julian. In the 1967 English language version, Julian wrote:
“Before he died, poor Clarence was a great anxiety to his family. He was quite characterless and would soon have fallen a prey to some intriguer or group of roués, of which his regiment was full. They indulged in every form of debauchery, and on one occasion the police discovered the Duke in a maison de recontre of a particularly equivocal nature during a raid. The young man’s evil reputation soon spread. The rumor gained ground that he was Jack the Ripper.” Additional rumors suggested that Albert had caught syphilis from a London prostitute and, in a deranged state of mind caused by the increasing effects of his condition, roamed the Whitechapel district of London in search of prostitutes, upon who he could take out his rage and revenge. Nothing concrete, however, has surfaced – so far, at least - to suggest the prince was Jack. That hasn’t stopped the theory from thriving, however.
A variation on the theory that the Duke of Clarence was Jack the Ripper is that he was not the killer, but was connected to him in a roundabout fashion. The Duke, theorists suggest, secretly married a woman who was a Catholic. This was too much for Queen Victoria, and so a dark plan was put into place. Sir William Withey Gull, the 1st Baronet of Brook Street, and a noted physician and Freemason, took on the grim task of killing the friends of the young woman in question who knew of the secret marriage. Gull, then, trying to protect the Royals from scandal, was the man behind the Ripper legend. And to ensure that the killings were not traceable back to the highest levels of the British Royal Family, the legend of the serial-killer, Jack the Ripper, was created as a convenient cover and diversion. Maybe. As early as the 1890s, American newspapers were reporting on the rumor that Jack was actually a prominent figure in London medicine, one who, according to the man’s wife, had displayed violent characteristics at the height of the killings. Supposedly, the story got back to the man’s co-workers. They quickly visited the family home and found a number of undisclosed items that strongly suggested the man was indeed Jack the Ripper. He was reportedly hospitalized for his own good and died soon after. Perhaps of some significance, Gull – who famously coined the term anorexia nervosa - died in 1890, and just two years after the Ripper murders took place.
In 1970, the late English physician, Thomas Edmund Alexander Stowell, stated that Gull was not the Ripper, but was the killer’s doctor. Although Stowell did not come straight to the point and name Jack, his words and description of the man make it clear that he was talking about the Duke of Clarence. Six years later, in 1976, the Gull theory was advanced at length in the pages of Stephen Knight’s book, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. Knight’s book was lauded at the time, but the story he told – of Gull, of a huge Masonic conspiracy, and of terrible murders that were linked to the British monarchy – has since been denounced, even by leading figures in the Jack the Ripper research community. John Hamill, of the Freemasons’ United Grand Lodge of England, said: “The Stephen Knight thesis is based upon the claim that the main protagonists, the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, Sir Charles Warren, Sir James Anderson and Sir William Gull were all high-ranking Freemasons. Knight knew his claim to be false for, in 1973, I received a phone call from him in the Library, in which he asked for confirmation of their membership. After a lengthy search I informed him that only Sir Charles Warren had been a Freemason. Regrettably, he chose to ignore this answer as it ruined his story.”
One person that often pops up in Ripper research is John Pizer, an admittedly unsavory Polish- Jew who worked in Whitechapel as a boot-maker, and who was known locally as “Leather Apron.” Strongly suspected of having assaulted a number of prostitutes in the area, and with a conviction for stabbing already on record, Pizer was arrested by Police Sergeant William Thicke in September 1888 – perhaps with much justification, it might be argued. Unfortunately for Thicke, Pizer had alibis for two of the murders. One of them was one hundred percent cast-iron. At the time of Jack the Ripper’s second killing, Pizer was speaking with none other than a police-officer. The two of them were watching a huge fire, as it engulfed the London Docks. Nevertheless, the investigation of Pizer continued, something which revealed there had been bad blood between Pizer and Thicke for years. Despite having the perfect alibi, elements of the London press openly named him as Jack the Ripper. Pizer had his revenge, however: a bit of legal wrangling ensured monetary compensation for the controversial boot-maker. And, in a strange bit of irony that no doubt pleased Pizer – and as British Home Office papers of 1889 reveal – Sergeant Thicke was himself once accused of being the Ripper.
A doctor who specialized in abortions (which, for the numerous prostitutes of Whitechapel in the late-1800s, would have been many) Thomas Cream was someone that often surfaces in those domains in which Ripper investigators dwell. In 1881, Cream was jailed for poisoning in Illinois, USA. On his release in 1891, however, he moved to London, where his murders continued. He was hung by the neck at Newgate Prison in 1892. Legend says that Cream was literally halfway through admitting to be the Ripper when the rope snapped his neck, although it’s a claim that has yet to be vindicated. There is a problem here: Cream was in jail in the United States in 1888, the year in which the Ripper murders occurred. Or was he? Some Ripper-researchers suggest Cream bribed his way out of his U.S. prison years earlier and was secretly replaced by a lookalike. Was it all too good to be true? As with just about every suspect in the Ripper affair, the jury remains steadfastly out. On New Year’s Eve, 1888, the body of Montague John Druitt was hauled out of the River Thames. A barrister, one who also doubled as an assistant, school-master, and someone who was born in Dorsett, England, Druitt was suspected by Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten of being Jack the Ripper. Macnaghten was no fool: he rose to the position of Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police.
It is a fact that mental illness ran through the Druitt family: both his mother and grandmother were deranged souls. There was also talk that Druitt had taken his life for fear that word might get out that he was homosexual. That the Ripper murders ceased after Druitt’s suicide only served to amplify the theory that he was the killer. For example, in his 1906 book, The Mysteries of Modern London, poet and novelist George Robert Sims wrote that the Ripper had avoided the gallows by throwing himself into the Thames just after the Ripper murders ended – which is exactly what Druitt did. A near-identical statement was made by Sir John Moylan, the Home Office’s Under-Secretary of State. If Druitt was Jack the Ripper, then he took with him to the grave the secrets of his homicidal, double-life. William Henry Bury, originally from London’s East End, might be considered the ideal candidate for Jack the Ripper. Shortly after the horrific murders occurred, he moved to live in the city of Dundee, Scotland. It was while living there that Bury killed his wife, Ellen. Notably, Ellen was a former prostitute and was the victim of vicious cuts to her stomach. That Jack the Ripper solely targeted prostitutes and took a great deal of glee in slicing and dicing his victims did not pass by unnoticed.
Bury freely admitted to having killed his wife. And, after having done so he was quickly found guilty of her murder and soon thereafter hanged for his crime. Interestingly, the hangman himself, a character named James Berry, told just about anyone who cared to ask about Bury that he, Bury, was Jack the Ripper. Had Bury made a secret confession to the man who ended his life? It’s difficult to say for sure, but Berry was sufficiently sure in his own mind. He told the story in 1927, in the pages of Thomson’s Weekly News. One of the biggest problems facing the police in the Ripper affair was that the killer always acted in an elusive fashion. But one man claimed to have actually got a good look at him; as in up close and personal. That man was George Hutchinson, a laborer. Hutchinson’s story revolved around the life and death of Jack the Ripper’s final victim, Mary Kelly.
According to Hutchinson’s somewhat unlikely claim made to the police, at around 2.00 a.m., just a few hours before Kelly’s death, he had seen her with a suspicious-looking character. As Kelly and Hutchinson crossed paths, and as the former walked towards Thrawl Street, she was approached by a man. It was a man, wearing a hat, who was determined to ensure that Hutchinson didn’t get a good look at his face. Oddly, Hutchinson then contradicted himself by asserting that the man was in his mid-thirties, wore a long coat, had a “stern” look on his face and sported a thin moustache, slightly curled at the ends. Allegedly somewhat concerned for Kelly’s safety, Hutchinson decided to keep careful watch on Kelly’s rented room, to where she took the man, and where she was violently torn to pieces only hours later. Despite hanging around for a while, Hutchinson never saw Kelly or the man leave the room. The astonishingly detailed nature of Hutchinson’s report led some in London’s police force to wonder if he, himself, was the Ripper, trying to cover his tracks by providing a detailed, false description of the killer. Between April and October 1888, Joseph “Danny” Barnett was in a relationship with Jack’s final victim, Mary Kelly. At the time, Barnett was working at Billingsgate Fish Market. And with money coming in, there was no more need for Mary to walk the streets. Unfortunately, when, in October, Barnett lost his job, Kelly had to return to selling herself for pennies. And, after a violent quarrel, the two split up. Nevertheless, Barnett – after the initial drama had calmed down – continued to give Mary money, when he had some to spare.
As a result, intriguing theories have been suggested concerning Barnett’s possible role as Jack the Ripper. First, there is the scenario of Barnett killing Kelly’s prostitute friends as a means to scare Kelly out of earning her living on the streets of London. Although, it must be said, this is taking persuasion to its absolute extreme. A second theory suggests that during their violent argument, Barnett killed Mary – whether by accident or design is unknown. But, to try and avoid suspicions that he was the killer, Barnett chose to hideously mutilate her body in a fashion befitting the Ripper, as a means to camouflage his own actions. Since the Ripper was on everyone’s minds, Barnett would fall under the radar; if the story is true, of course. One of the strangest stories concerning the identity of Jack the Ripper revolves around a man named Alexander Pedachenko, a Russian doctor. It’s a story that has conspiratorial overtones to it, since Pedachenko, as well as being a doctor, was a member of the Okhrana. It was, essentially, a “secret police” unit, one that was focused on fighting terrorists and revolutionary types. The story that links Pedachenko to Jack the Ripper’s murderous spree in Whitehall sounds unlikely, but is nonetheless thought-provoking. Supposedly, Pedachenko, working secretly with two colleagues, went on homicidal rampages around London’s East End.
According to the strange and controversial story, Pedachenko embarked on the mad killing-spree with one specific goal in mind. It was his plan to try and make the finest minds of Scotland Yard look foolish and lacking in credibility - due to the fact that they were unable to solve the crimes. That the story was supposed to have surfaced from Rasputin - the famous healer, mystic, and “Mad Monk” that had an unrelenting hold on the Russian Royal Family - only made matters even more controversial. In 1889, just one year after Jack the Ripper brought overwhelming fear to Whitechapel, a man named Francis Thompson penned a short story titled The End Crowns the Work. It told of a poet who sacrificed young women to ancient gods, as a means to ensure he became successful in his career in the field of poetry. Thompson was a keen poet himself, one who also spent time living in the very heart of Whitechapel. For a while, he had to resort to sleeping on the streets of the district, when his planned career as a full-time poet spectacularly collapsed around him. In addition, Thompson studied for six years to be a surgeon. It was training that, of course, made Thompson very familiar with both human anatomy and knives.
Ripper theorists have suggested that Thompson’s story – of young girls and sacrificial rites – might very well have been based upon Thompson’s own, warped and deranged attempts to achieve literary success by killing – and, in his crazed mind, sacrificing – London’s East End prostitutes. Interestingly, while down and destitute in London, Thompson actually lived with a prostitute for a short period. She was a prostitute who, soon thereafter, disappeared. Beyond any shadow of doubt, the most important development in decades - maybe even ever – in the saga of Jack the Ripper surfaced in September 2014. It all revolved around a man named Aaron Kosminski. Born in 1865, in the Polish town of Klodawa, Kosminski moved to England with his family in the 1880s, at the age of sixteen. There are several notable things about Kosminksi: (a) he lived in Whitechapel when the Ripper murders occurred; (b) he suffered from acute mental illness, and was placed in an insane asylum; and (c) the police had suspected him of being Jack the Ripper. He was plagued – night and day – by voices in his head, he had a fear of eating food prepared by anyone but himself, and had an even bigger terror of bathing. Due to his psychological state, Kosminski spent time in two institutions: Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum and Leavesden Asylum, the latter being the place where he died, at the age of fifty-three, chiefly of the effects of severe malnutrition provoked by anorexia.
In terms of the Jack the Ripper connections, in 1894, Sir Melville Macnaghten, who, at the time, was the Assistant Chief Constable of the London Metropolitan Police, recorded in a memo that Kosminski was considered a suspect. Far more telling, Macnaghten described Kosminski as someone who had a “great hatred of women,” and who had “strong homicidal tendencies.” In September 2014, Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper revealed the results of a mitochondrial DNA analysis, which demonstrated the presence of Kosminski’s semen on a shawl owned by one of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes. Critics, however, have pointed out that the shawl was “in the same room” as two of Eddowes’ descendents in 2007, something which could have contaminated the shawl with the DNA then, rather than back in 1888.
That is all well and good, but then there is the matter of the semen. Writer Tom Head noted: “Finding Kosminski’s mtDNA in a semen stain on the shawl is much more impressive, and is much harder to explain. Contrary to Ripperologist Richard Cobb’s claim that the stain could be explained by Kosminski’s history with prostitutes in the area, the likelihood that Kosminski’s mtDNA just happened to end up on a shawl that had already been described as an artifact of the murder scene seems prohibitively remote to me.” It was thanks to Russell Edwards, the author of the book, Naming Jack the Ripper, that the shawl surfaced: he purchased it at an auction, which ultimately led it to be tested for DNA evidence. Edwards says: “I’ve got the only piece of forensic evidence in the whole history of the case. I’ve spent fourteen years working on it, and we have definitively solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was. Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now – we have unmasked him.”
Now, we come to the wildest theory of all: that Jack the Ripper was a Tulpa. And for those who don't know what Tulpas are, I'll tell you. Let's have a look at them. The phenomenon of the Tulpa has its origins in the ancient teachings of Buddhism and is a Tibetan term that roughly translates into English as “manifestation.” It’s a highly appropriate piece of terminology for the Slenderman. In essence, it is the process by which the human mind can allegedly bring some degree of alternative, physical existence to an entity that is created solely within the depths of the imagination - and from within the dream state, too. In other words, and as incredible as it may sound, each and every one of us may well possess the ability to give “life” to certain “things” that don’t exist in the same way that we do. That may very well extend to the Slenderman phenomenon, too. And to Jack the Ripper. As amazing as this may all sound, there is a dark and danger-filled downside to creating a Tulpa-style thought-form. All too often they have a disturbing habit of running riot and turning against their creators. They become not just troublesome, but deeply manipulative, highly deceptive, and extremely dangerous. Sometimes even close to deadly. It’s a case of being extremely careful of what you wish and yearn for.
And, it's wrong when people say that it always takes a long time to create a Tulpa. Take, for example, the Slenderman: it grew from the imagination to the world of the 2000s in a strikingly quick fashion. Jack the Ripper vanished as quickly as he appeared. He was mysteriously elusive. No-one could catch him. The large numbers of people who thought about Jack may have caused the creation of multiple rippers in London. Put all of that together and you have a perfect example of a dangerous Tulpa.