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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 59, May 2005. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.
The Goulston Street Graffito Debate
Howard Brown and Neil Bell

PART I: ETCHED IN BRICK

A Defense of the Goulston Street Graffiti as Evidence

Howard Brown

One of the many contentious points - and possibly one of the only clues left by the Ripper in the Whitechapel Murders - is the Goulston Street Graffiti, the GSG, found at 108-119 Wentworth Model Dwellings, by PC Alfred Long on 30 Sunday 1888, shortly after the body of a victim, Mrs Catherine Eddowes, was found several streets away in Mitre Square. PC Long, the first officer on the scene, found a piece of Mrs Eddowes’s apron immediately below a cryptic message written on the black brickwork at a height of approximately 48 inches down to perhaps 36 inches high from the ground. This chalk-written message has been the subject of many a debate both as to its relevance if written by the Ripper and as to whether it was written by Jack the Ripper at all.

Let’s look at some reasons why people don’t believe the GSG was Ripper-written.

On a couple of websites devoted to the Ripper case [JTR Forums.co.uk and Casebook.org], there exists, from what I’ve seen, a resistance to the idea that the GSG was written by the Ripper because of the following reasons:

1. The anti-GSG person has a Jewish suspect in mind and it would be very unlikely that a Jew would write a message such as the GSG. [exception to this rule: Mr David Radka and the A?R theory. He has a Jewish suspect and, unless he’s changed his mind, believes in the GSG.]

2. The anti-GSG person believes that the Ripper was an essentially illiterate suspect being who wouldn’t write the GSG, or at best, someone incapable of writing a message such as the GSG.

3. Despite not being around to see the graffiti in 1888, anti-GSG persons believe that they know better than those who were there. The whole thing doesn’t settle well with this type.

4. The efforts and actions of the police and Sir Charles Warren, albeit considerate of potential altercations, were done out of overreaction and were only safety measures - nothing more.

5. Since the second word of the 12 word phrase has had at least seven different interpretations, the sentence has been rendered entirely too obtuse to make sense of it in 2005.

6. Graffiti of this type was common and omnipresent in the East End. The GSG was just graffiti.

7. Since other clues or bits of evidence are rare as hen’s teeth in the Whitechapel Murder skein, the possibility that a written message would finally occur after 5 possible murders by the Ripper before another tangible clue was found then or in subsequent years is far-fetched.

We are respectful of these arguments, and it’s not our intention in this article to try to change anyone’s thinking. Our real intention is to look at why people don’t believe in it and why some of us do; well...maybe change a few minds, to be honest...

Let’s start with the words of a major-league Ripperologist who is either undecided or one of the anti-GSG cadre: Stewart Evans.

In his great book, co-written with Keith Skinner, Letters from Hell, Mr Evans [or possibly Mr Skinner] stated that had the Ripper simply dropped the piece of apron from Mrs Eddowes in the next entranceway, another cryptic message may well have been examined and scrutinized.

With all due respect for these scholars, the piece of apron was not left at another entranceway. The aforementioned statement in that book may be, at best, an objective dismissal of the GSG because, in the scheme of things, to these scholars among many, there’s nothing much we can do about it now. In that they’re absolutely correct.

On a message board within the past few months, Caroline Morris made the observation that had PC Long simply picked up the apron piece or given it to a superior and then in unison simply left that site without remarking on what the anti-GSG mindset claims or feels was a non-clue... then that would have been the end of it.

With gratitude to Caroline for bringing up this logical idea, aren’t we glad the Police didn’t?

Regardless of your views, here are some facts and ideas about the GSG to mull over. Hopefully, the time machine that I am working on will be completed soon, so that I may take Neil Bell back to Goulston Street to show him where he has gone wrong. It ain’t easy pointing out where my friend has gone off the track, but it’s worth it in this case. A trip to the Big Smoke would do us both good anyway.

As with almost everything Ripper-related in the Whitechapel Murders, divisions even among those who agree that the GSG is valid are evident. A majority of people in the pro-GSG camp believe that this 12 word message blames the Jews of the East End for something: job displacement, Klezmer music blasting at 2am, socialists and anarchists, foreigners speaking a foreign language, different looking; the list goes on. In any event, it’s for something that they are blamed. Recently, Mr Robert House added another explanation, which was featured in the latest Ripperologist, issue 58. I recommend purchasing a copy of that issue and reading Mr House’s fine story on Aaron Kosminski for his views.

Even the sentence construction is cause for confusion, since there are five variations:

The first, ‘The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing,’ is the one recalled by Detective Daniel Halse;

The second, ‘The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing,’ appears in Chief Inspector Swanson’s summary report;

The third, ‘The Juews are the men that will not be blamed for nothing,’ is used by PC Long in an October 11th deposition;

The fourth, ‘The Jews are the men that won’t be blamed for nothing’, is found in Sir Henry Smith’s From Constable to Commissioner, p153];

...and the fifth from Sir Robert Anderson, who gives it as: ‘The Jewes are not the men to be blamed for nothing,’ in 1910, 22 years after the crimes, which was [sorry, Sir Robert but this may be another one of your ‘definitely ascertained facts’] discussed in a daily paper. Anderson was not even in the country at the time of the Double Event. It may be worth recalling that the two eyewitnesses to the GSG, Long and Halse, along with Inspector Swanson’s recollection, are united in the fact that the letter ‘U’ is the accepted second letter, despite the two ways the word believed to be there is written: Juwes and Juews.

In fairness, it’s also worth recalling that despite two policemen writing down what they saw, they wrote something slightly different in each of their respective views!

So before we get lost in this maze of Juews and Jewes and Jews, let’s look at this chart of the 7 examples of the Second Word, one of which is in French:

1. Halse, 11 October - J u w e s

2. Long, 11 October - J u e w s

3. Doctor Hermann Adler in reply to Warren - J u e w e s

4. McWilliams [Inspector] report to Hoot - J e w e s

5. MacNaghten [from memory] - J e w s

6. Roslyn D’Onston Stephenson - J u i v e s

7. Foster’s comments regarding location of GSG - J u w s

A further division between pro-GSG-ers is the time when this graffiti was written. Some have theorized that the message was written prior to Mrs Eddowes murder and quite possibly, Mrs Stride’s murder, which of course, occurred prior to the Mitre Square tragedy on the same night. Avoiding this plausible, yet possibly more risky, concept that the Ripper had written it at an earlier hour of that Saturday, when more people, who would have definitely had an opportunity to see the fresh graffiti and would probably have responded with the knee-jerk assumption that the second word referred, though not correctly spelled, to ‘Jews’, and probably removed it [as the police did], we won’t concern ourselves with the time it was placed.

Despite the numerous variations of the 12-word sentence [and the two lesser heralded 11-word fabrications], it’s the content of the sentence that remains more of a mystery than its construction. One suspect, Roslyn D’Onston Stephenson, in case you were unaware, wrote to the City of London Police on 16 October, a fortnight and two days after the message was discovered, and kindly ‘explained’ to the police that they were not interpreting the second word properly. This letter, which emanated from the London Hospital where ‘Sudden Death’ was ‘recuperating’ from nervous exhaustion, would not be the only time our erudite linguist would appear on the scene to correct the ‘misinterpretation’ of the word. In the front page article, no less, of the Pall Mall Gazette of 1 December 1888, Stephenson wrote ‘The Whitechapel Demon’s Nationality: and Why He Committed the Murders’. In the article, he elaborates rather at length on the second word. One is reminded of Shakespeare’s phrase: ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much’, in reading the story. Could Stephenson have been too informative about the second word and possibly been the author himself?

We can all probably agree that Sir Charles Warren’s decision to remove the GSG upon being informed by Superintendent Arnold of the assumed syntax referring to Jews was the right one. The state of mind in the East End in the thinking of these policemen was at a critical stage. One more ‘Leather Apron’ fiasco might have been enough to turn the already simmering ‘Boiling Pot’ of the East End into an explosion of unparalleled street violence.

So let’s look back at the brief list of reasons that those who deny the relevance of the GSG have to offer - and offer our side of the story.

1. Certainly a Jew who had been schooled in London and who was not a recent arrival could have placed the message there. Most of the Jewish suspects, or, at least, the most prominent, Cohen [who I understand spoke nothing but Yiddish; correct me if I am wrong, dear editor] and Kosminski, were not the sort of persons we usually envision leaving messages, or committing crimes of this proportion. Nevertheless, we might want to leave those points as they are for another day. It’s probably safer to say that a native-born Jew could certainly write the GSG.

2. It is a matter of opinion, rather than fact, that the Ripper was illiterate or unskilled in English.

3. It is a prerogative that many people take, that the GSG isn’t that important. A common-sense assessment says that if the police went to that much trouble about it, it meant something. The police were there - and none of us was.

4. This is true. The actions of Warren and the police were justified, because they saw things differently in 1888 concerning the GSG as a potential clue. Many people lament that the GSG was not photographed. Perhaps Warren felt that by simply transcribing it down on paper, they had ‘enough’ to work with. I hope they didn’t transcribe any other clues or messages as poorly as they did in this case! It might have also been equally frustrating to us, as well as to those in 1888, to try to interpret what the message meant even with a photograph. The only guarantee is that the actual sentence construction would no more have been a mystery.

5. It’s actually irrelevant whether anyone makes or made sense of it, now or then. What’s important is that it appeared to be relevant at the time and was treated as a clue, despite the terrible transcription of the message.

6. There is no reference anywhere at any time, by any police official, journalist, or anyone else back in 1888, to corroborate the assumption that the Wentworth Building had graffiti on or within it and furthermore, on either building to the left or right of the Model Dwellings in addition, on the night of 30 September 1888; period. To say that it did is not true. In fact, it’s become somewhat etched in brick - er, stone - that there were. Certainly graffiti existed in the East End, but none of them proven to be present at the address in question.

7. No one can say for certain that any other clues weren’t overlooked, if in fact there in the first place. Graffiti at the scene of a murder isn’t a common practice. However, in this instance, the GSG was found side to side, so to speak, with a definite concrete bit of evidence: Mrs Eddowes’s apron.

The apron could have been deposited on one of the possible routes that the Ripper took from Mitre Square to Goulston Street. It wasn’t. Somehow it wound up underneath a graffiti that was freshly made at the Wentworth Model Dwellings; instead of winding up on...

1 Aldgate High Street
2 Houndsditch Street
3 New Goulston Street
4 Wentworth Street
5 Middlesex Street
6 Gravel Lane
7 Stoney Lane
8 Harrow Lane
9 Duke Street

...it wound up on Goulston Street.

En route from Mitre Square to Goulston Street, the apron was used, quite possibly, by the Ripper to clean his hands and/or knife from the carnage dealt to Mrs Eddowes. That’s understandable. However, it doesn’t take 5-10 minutes to wipe off one’s hands or knife blade, especially since pristine conditions couldn’t be expected if on the move. That’s one thing we know the Ripper was doing that night: he was definitely on the move to Goulston Street, back into the centre of Whitechapel. Considering the time from the murder to the discovery of the apron piece [approximately 70 minutes], is it stretching the imagination to say, at least, that a rat, a dog or even the wind could have blown the rag to that precise location? The Ripper could have dropped it anywhere, but he didn’t, did he? With all due respect, even the notion that the Ripper tore off the apron piece to serve in a hygienic capacity, as Mr Des McKenna postulated a few years ago, is speculation. Why wait until this point, under the freshly scribed graffiti, to relieve oneself?

The only thing we know, after all, that the apron piece was found underneath a freshly written graffiti and that the Ripper was the last human being to have had his hands on that apron piece, notwithstanding rats and dogs and pussy cats and a Phil-Hutchinson-level wind; St How’s 1, verse 1.

From the first step towards Goulston Street, the Ripper had numerous opportunities to write a message on the various buildings en route from Mitre Square. Which route he took is open to speculation; what is not speculation is that he had time to drop the apron and write the message on any of the aforementioned streets.

Here are the three reasons why I feel that the message was left on the Model Dwellings on that night and not on St Botolph’s Church, for example; otherwise, we might be discussing the St Botolphs’s Church Chalked Correspondence, or some such title as that - but we are not.

While no one can even today, after over 116 years, decipher the message without a degree of conjecture, perhaps we can understand the reason why the message was placed where it was, or rather, selected to be at that spot. The first reason is the easiest: the rain. It rained that Saturday night in the East End. Theoretically, even with more available time to write a message on the side of any building in Mitre Square, the chances that the Ripper could have found a dry wall or writing surface to leave the message upon may not have existed. Chalk does not apply to wet surfaces, as you undoubtedly know. Evidently, he either knew this, attempted a wall-writing, or had planned the GSG for another location. In any event, the rain was more likely than not a factor in the Ripper’s selection of another site for the message.

The second reason is the distance from Mitre Square to a secure spot sufficiently remote from the murder spot to write the message. The Ripper could have placed a message and left the apron along with it at any of the other traveled streets which were closer to Mitre Square than Goulston Street was. There had to be one surface available along the way for him to write upon, the rain notwithstanding, such as the inside of another doorway, possibly up on Houndsditch Street. The Ripper, in my opinion, decided to go this extra distance for the extra time it would afford him to construct his message in a legible hand, with the rain possibly contributing to his decision. Halse mentions the legibility of the graffiti. Few graffiti or messages throughout history, if any, have ever had someone discuss the condition of a message as Halse did.

At the Wentworth Building, the Ripper’s neatly constructed message took 30 to 45 seconds to put together. An old article in Ripperologist that I put together discusses the mechanics of writing three or four different messages. The longest to perform, a legible and easily understood message, took 30-45 seconds on several attempts on my part. The second word, a persistent point of confusion in the graffiti, could still be misunderstood even after I had told people what I had just written. I feel strongly that the subsequent differences of opinion by the police in their transcription occurred precisely because it was the easiest word to misread. The police on the spot were as prone to making mistakes as anyone else and when faced with the task of transcription, simply made a mistake that people in the 21st Century still do. In addition, the two eyewitnesses with their slight differences in spelling probably make the other variations irrelevant. The others, like Anderson and Smith, were based on what the reporters or editors of their newspaper articles and memoirs wrote down. We don?t know for certain if it was a mistaken spelling by the editors or reporters and overlooked by Anderson and Smith either... or if it was as they thought they remembered it in the final analysis. The GSG was not the central idea of either Anderson’s article or Smith’s memoirs, which may have been a reason why it wasn’t treated with the focus being done here and in other debates about it.

I estimate that the Ripper had at least 115 feet of space/distance from any other persons to complete the graffiti without being detected. That’s how far someone can walk at a moderate pace in 45 seconds... at least.

So that’s another reason why I believe the Ripper went to write the GSG as far away from Mitre Square as he did... the distance from murder site to freedom to write. The third reason is the illumination.

In April 2005, a question as to the available, non-ambient lighting was answered on a message board by Mr Robert Clack and ‘Mephisto’, as well as by Mr Frank Van Oploo. There was a source of light that shone on the set of 5 buildings that comprise the Wentworth Building ‘complex’. This light was on the corner of New Goulston Street.

I suspect that the lights were in operation on the night in question. Nowhere have I seen any mention as to the absence of lighting that night and in particular, around 3am when PC Long came across the apron piece. Lights are ‘supposed’ to be working on city streets and the only time we notice them is when they are not. The photo that Mr Clack provided and Mr Mephisto’s and Mr Van Oploo’s comments on them have been most helpful in this matter.

It appears that these lights provided sufficient illumination to write graffiti on the inside of the building. We know that it rained earlier, around the time of another murder [Stride’s, over in Berner Street]. It may therefore have been cloudy, so cloudy that any ambient moonlight that was possibly present was how the Ripper was able to see what he was writing on the wall. Of course, he may also have been carrying a box of matches.

A further speculation is that the message was left here, irrespective of lighting or distance, because the building housed a lot of Jews and the message is assumed to say ‘Jews’ in its unusual and varied spellings. This may be true also. I’m not sure if there were any other buildings that were predominantly Jewish en route from Mitre Square, but there may well have been. Nevertheless, it’s as ‘good’ a reason to think that it was placed at the Wentworth as any.

Let’s look at the photo opposite and allow me to explain the likely positioning of the message. It was probably placed to the right of the central column, on the black façade. My reasoning is that, had anyone come up upon the writer while he was writing it, he could have scurried up the stairwell unseen. With his back to the street, he would have placed himself in a risky position from three directions: not only visible by someone coming south from Wentworth or anyone coming north from the direction of Whitechapel High Street, but also from New Goulston Street behind him. A bit risky, even for a risk-taking killer. Not to forget that it had rained previously that night and the front of the buildings all along Goulston Street was probably too wet or wet enough to discourage wall-writing.

Like many Ripperologists, I believe that the intentional deposit of the apron was an act of ‘connectivity’, similar to the removal of a piece of the shirt of a victim, a cab driver, by the American Zodiac Killer of the 1960s-1970s. In that case, the killer sent the piece of shirt to the press to verify that he had killed the unfortunate cab driver.

In conclusion, allow me to summarize:

1. Location: Selected primarily because of rain on surrounding buildings in Mitre Square which prevented an easier association of intended message and disposal of apron; or of distance: if the rain wasn’t the reason, then distance from the murder in Mitre Square to a site that was dry was; or of lighting: lights on Goulston Street and the corner of New Goulston Street that did supply illumination for the 108-119 address and, possibly, ambient moonlight.

2. Condition: Halse was a witness to the GSG. To me, he is the best witness that was there due to one important factor. Of all the people who had the opportunity to assess the GSG, he and he alone mentions its ‘freshness’ and, not to forget, its size. Exactly what is ‘fresh’ in regard to graffiti? Remember the rain that had fallen that night; not only would any other graffiti that might have been around been affected, but the description of ‘fresh’ is not how an average graffiti or one irrelevant would be described. ‘Fresh’ is current, newly placed, not oxidizing from light, not smeared from shoulders or knees or by hands in an attempt to erase it. Halse is, to my mind, the most observant of the witnesses known to have seen the GSG and, to me, the only ‘expert’ on the GSG, if that title can be given to any of the police present that night.

3. Content: The GSG’s message remains buried with its author; end of story. All else, from the two attempts by Roslyn D’Onston Stephenson to anyone else’s ideas, are conjectures for now. It remains to be seen if other similar graffiti are written in syntax such as this one was. We’ve all heard the various theories of a child possibly being behind this graffiti, or a miscreant midget, or an anti-Semite with the sand to go to the Wentworth Model Dwellings and leave a message such as this [while having to crouch to get that last line in there]. If so, then when? If it was a fresh message and had been left on the outside of the Wentworth, it would have been duly noted if at all decipherable. With the rain, the graffiti would have been obliterated to some degree if on the outside of the building. While inside, and since it was in a position to be seen... it is highly unlikely that the message would have remained for long. No one would tolerate a message that appeared to denigrate the inhabitants, regardless of ethnicity, of a dwelling and allow it to remain for long. And since it was considered ‘fresh’, this flies back into the faces of those who feel it was there before that night. A graffiti such as this, with its assumed ‘Jewish’ reference, didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being left undisturbed, if not completely eradicated by the Jewish inhabitants. It’s within reason to believe that any Jew who lived at the Model Dwellings would have seen the inference of ‘Jew’ in this message.

4. Perception: It takes a large degree of cynicism to dismiss the police efforts that September night. Something made them feel or rationalize that the GSG was a legitimate clue. We that say no do so to either be objective in the extreme or out of the previously mentioned pre-conceived notion that ‘our’ suspect didn’t have it in him to leave a message. None of us was there; the police were. Halse is so sharp that he doesn’t make a ‘ballpark’ assessment of ‘one inch’ to the actual height of the lettering of the GSG. He states ‘3/4ths’ of an inch, the way an eye trained to notice detail does. He refers to it as ‘fresh’; again, not the way a graffiti-as-clue is usually referred to. His evident interest in the GSG, all the while NOT mentioning any other graffiti present is telling. None was mentioned.

5. Connectivity: The odds against someone or something else besides Jack the Ripper’s being responsible for leaving the large piece of apron torn from Mrs Eddowes’s apron are astronomical and somewhat amusing. We have heard of large rats dragging it from another spot to that spot, of dogs, of the wind [highly unlikely, as wet objects don?t move that well when displaced to an already wet ground] or that it was a random I Ching rag-toss that coincided with the graffiti’s location.

6. Comparability: The idea or belief that other graffiti were present at the Wentworth, or on any of the five buildings, or specifically near the GSG, is unproven. The idea that the GSG’s syntax is not unusual is specious and has never been shown in duplication in any other graffiti by anyone intent on disproving its authenticity. So Neil, put that in your clay pipe and smoke it!

Acknowledgements

To all those who have discussed and kept the GSG debate alive and whom I couldn’t possibly list.

Sources

Begg, Paul: private correspondence; Bell, Neil, Jack by Gaslight?, Ripperologist #58, March 2005; Clack, Robert: photographic evidence of lighting and posts on the Casebook Message Boards; Egan, Richard W: photograph of the Wentworth Buildings; Evans, Stewart and Keith Skinner: Letters from Hell, page 24; House, Robert: Aaron Kosminski Reconsidered, Ripperologist #58, March 2005; Mephisto: comments on lighting at Goulston Street on the Casebook Message Boards; Morris, Caroline: post on the Casebook Message Boards; Radka, David: A?R Theory; Van Oploo, Frank: post on the Casebook Message Boards.


PART II: POSITIONING

Just some reasons why the Goulston Street Writing should not be used as evidence

Neil Bell

‘That’s the key to graffiti… the positioning’. Ah, the philosophy of Banksy! For those who may not know, Banksy is an artist. A graffiti artist. A graffiti artist whose work has been shown in exhibitions. Everyone (well, those of you who live in the Bristol and London areas certainly) has seen a Banksy, most without realising it - yet very few have seen the man himself. This is mainly because writing graffiti is illegal. He ghosts in, does his work and ghosts out again. Unnoticed until his deed is detected. Sounds familiar?

Bansky’s works include Policemen walking poodles, elderly Beefeaters in their Tower garb spray-painting the word ‘anarchy’ and Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta in their famous Pulp Fiction pose (except that in the Banksy version they are both holding bananas instead of guns), but what Banksy is really famous for is his stencils. Perhaps his most famous, or infamous, work is his stencils of Jewish women at Belsen (shown at his exhibition only), each daubed with fluorescent pink lipstick. Banksy was inspired by an entry in the diary of the Colonel who liberated Bergen-Belsen. He mentioned that his soldiers had liberated the women-only camp and that a box of supplies turned up containing 400 sticks of lipstick. The Colonel went ballistic: ‘Why are they sending me lipstick?’ he raged. Still, not wanting to see anything go to waste, he issued out the lipstick. And the women put it on. They also did their hair. It gave them will. A seemingly insignificant item became a powerful instrument in their fight to regain dignity. Yet they say graffiti is mindless.

Now let’s get to the real topic here: the Goulston Street chalk writing, known to most as the Goulston Street Graffito.

There’s no direct link between the writing in the Wentworth Dwellings and the apron and, therefore, no direct link with the murder of Catherine Eddowes. It’s that simple. What? You want more than that? You need a reason and then some? Ok, will do. I guess the best place to start is the beginning.

Graffiti is the plural of the Italian word ‘Graffito’, meaning ‘scratch’, and has been with us in various forms since prehistoric times. Britain’s oldest known daub is about 12,000-years old. It’s the picture of an Ibex. Unfortunately, this graffiti has been covered by, wait for it, yep you are right, graffiti, circa 1940! From the walls of the Roman Coliseum to the Tomb of Tutankhamen, from Hadrian’s Wall to the ruins of Carthage, graffito is everywhere. And graffiti comes in various guises, from pictures to riddles to political statements to racist outburst to jokes to personal statements to art. The list is endless. I bet all of you reading this have at some stage committed some picture or scrawl to a wall or school desk. Basically, graffiti is nothing new and, like taxes, will be with us ‘till the very end.

So why, when a piece of wall writing is discovered in the entrance to a tenement building in the East end of London during September 1888, do we assume its creator is the most notorious serial killer of all time? Before getting into reasons why, let’s have a look at the series of events prior to its discovery. At 1.45am on Sunday, 30 September 1888, Catherine Eddowes’s body was found in Mitre Square, Aldgate. It would appear, from the signature wounds, that this murder was committed by the same person (later to be known as Jack the Ripper) who earlier in 1888 had killed two other women - maybe more. This murder is also linked with another murder committed only minutes before and less than a mile away in St George’s-in-the-East. Two murders within the same square mile. Both victims with their throats slit, both within 45 minutes in time and a 15-minute stroll of each other.

The Wentworth Model Dwellings in Goulston Street were largely inhabited by Jews. Since they were in a Jewish neighbourhood, next to a Jewish market, this is hardly surprising. At 2.20am, PC Alfred Long walked on his beat along Goulston Street. This street is located at around 516.7 yards (472.4 meters) from Mitre Square in short walking distance. It is only a few minutes’ walk away. If Jack left Eddowes’s body at 1.44am, he would have reached the spot by 1.47am, 1.49am if he dawdled. Long stated that during this visit the stairwell to 108-119 Wentworth Dwellings was clear. DC Daniel Halse (who was in the Aldgate area), having heard of the murder in Mitre Square, had also reached the same entrance in Goulston Street by 2.20am in a vain attempt to catch the perpetrator by stop-searching suspicious persons. He stated that he saw nothing in Goulston Street. That’s not to say nothing was there. Halse, as mentioned, was in pursuit of a killer. He would not be looking out for rubbish, debris or rags on the ground. He certainly wouldn’t have been checking every piece of wall writing as he went. Both officers stated that they were in Goulston Street at the same time; surely they would have noted each other’s presence. They did not. That said, and to be fair to them men, their times were an approximation. They both moved on from that spot; Long continued on his beat and Halse returned to Mitre Square. Long returned to the stairwell 35 minutes later, at 2.55am. It was then that he noticed a piece of blooded apron in the stairwell and some chalked writing above this apron. He stated at the inquest that he ‘had not noticed the wall before. He noticed the apron first, and then the words on the wall. One corner of the apron was wet with blood. His light was on at the time’. It was later realised that the apron belonged to Catherine Eddowes, whose body had been found just over an hour earlier. When the apron was found the writing above it was linked with the crime – and so has remained ever since.

The general consensus on the construction of the writing is ‘The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing’. The actual wording and its order still are debated today. People state differing variations and one particular word, Juwes, is variously spelt Jewes, Jeuwes, Jeuws, Juewes, Juews and so on. To me it is simple. The word ‘Juwes’ is a cockney phonetic spelling for Jews. The double negative is another East End trait also. Basically, the Jews are the men that will be blamed for something. Now that something may verge from employment issues to social issues to an indirect blame for the demise of these women. To be honest, though, I see either an anti-Semitic agitator or a defiant statement. The former is understandable when you put it into context with the immigration issues of that period. There had been rumours circulating throughout Whitechapel, and fuelled by the press, that the killer was of foreign appearance, a euphemism for a Jewish-looking person. Racial tensions were high, high enough for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Warren (in whose area Goulston Street was situated) to order the removal of the writing before the break of day out of fear of riots.

Earlier in the night, Elizabeth Stride had been murdered only a few miles away in St-George’s-in-the-East. A witness was later to describe how he saw an attack on a female in almost the same spot Stride’s body was found 15 minutes later. This witness (Schwartz) stated he heard the attacker call out the word ‘Lipski’ (the name of a man who had killed a woman in the same area a year earlier). After some investigating, the police, or rather Abberline, in his report of 1 November 1888, concluded that ‘Lipski’ was a derogatory word aimed at Jews and in this case possibly aimed at the witness himself, who was of strong Jewish appearance. It would seem that Judæophobia was rife.

Now would a piece of anti-Semitic writing last long on a building occupied mostly by Jews? First you have to ask if it could be seen and, if so, could it be understood? My own honest opinion is that it wouldn’t have lasted long, but the possibility that it was written that Saturday during daylight hours and survived till Long found it should not be dismissed out of hand. Another question is who could be bothered to do this act of removal? Again, a possibility that apathy played a part is not too far-fetched. Also to be considered is the fact that Whitechapel, like any inner city area then and now, had a fair amount of graffiti. To state that the writing found in the stairwell was a one-off for the area is erroneous. To state that, since no other piece of writing was reported, this chalked writing was unusual is a valid point; my response to that, however, is that there is no report stating this. Nothing exists which says that the writing was indeed the only piece of writing found throughout the whole building. Basically, I can use the same argument as a counter argument.

Jewes, Jeuwes, Juwes, Jeuws, Juewes, Juews, will not, shall not, was not, could not... all varying interpretations of this wall writing, and that’s the major problem with this statement. It’s ambiguous, too ambiguous. It could mean anything. It doesn’t mention Eddowes or the apron. Even Bill Heirens conveniently left a body in the apartment where he scrawled ‘For heaven’s sake catch me before I kill more’ and the Zodiac killer stated quite clearly who he was, what he did and what he was going to do in letters to the press, police and even a lawyer. He sent letters that contained swatches of the shirt he took from one unfortunate victim, Paul Stine, combined with information only the killer could know. This combination is lacking with the Goulston street writing. The Zodiac killer also wrote on the car door of another victim. Actually it was a couple, of whom the male survived whilst, unfortunately, the female died. The Zodiac killer wrote on the car door the date, which weapon he used to commit the crime and his ‘score’. The Bind, Torture and Kill (BTK) murderer gave information in his writings that only the police knew as verification of his communications. These killers we know for certain communicated with the authorities and mentioned their crimes. My point is that these murderers left those with whom they were communicating in no doubt whatsoever who they were and what they did. They linked the evidence directly by providing physical evidence, and tying this evidence with the communication by mentioning their crimes. In the case of the Goulston Street writing, this is not the case. Now, if Jack wanted to talk, don’t you think he would have proved beyond doubt that he was the one responsible? So why didn’t he make that simple link? A comment about the apron, or about the victim, or any other victim, or something?

Now let’s move on to the stairwell itself and try to find the exact positioning of the writing. The Dwellings are located at the northern end of Goulston Street, on the eastern side, at the junction of Wentworth Street. The doorway itself was the second entrance from Wentworth Street junction. As you walk in, stairs leading upwards were situated on the right hand wall (southern), just a few paces inside. This wall had a dado which was painted black from the floor to four feet above the floor. Above this black dado the wall was painted white. It would seem from inquest testimony and official reports that the apron was found on the floor somewhere between the entrance and the beginning of the stairs. As mentioned, the stairs were situated on the right hand (southern) side, and it would seem logical to suppose that the apron was found on this side (right/southern) of the stairwell. Above the apron was the message. So again, just to clarify, it would seem logical to suppose that the writing would have sat on the same side. The exact location is debatable. In a report to the Home Secretary, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren stated that the writing was on the doorjamb and could have been seen by the passing public. This is the only clarified placement for the writing we have on official documents. However, Halse stated that in his earlier passing at 2.20am he didn’t see the apron or writing. He said at the inquest that ‘At twenty minutes past two o’clock I passed over the spot where the piece of apron was found, but did not notice anything then. I should not necessarily have seen the piece of apron’. This would indicate that the apron, and therefore the writing, could not have been seen by the public. Halse’s last line, ‘I should not necessarily have seen the piece of apron’ most likely means that he walked by the entrance and did not see the apron because it was inside the stairwell (please remember that at 2.20am Halse would not have been specifically looking for an apron piece or any messages). This is a contradiction of Warren’s view, who stated that ‘The writing was on the jamb of the open archway or doorway visible to anybody in the street’. My personal view was that the location could still be the jamb, except facing inwards, towards the stairs. An ideal place to catch the attention of anyone leaving the dwellings. I pushed this idea to Stewart Evans, who was quite clear and correct in his view that Warren ‘was not stupid and was covering a specific point. It is this statement that most clearly positions the writing and is unequivocal’. Stewart also pointed out to me that Superintendent Arnold (who was at the scene and had ordered for a bucket and sponge to be ready for the removal of the message) reported that ‘...it (the writing) was in such a position that it would have been rubbed by the shoulders of persons passing in and out of the Building’. ‘This’, Stewart mentions, ‘clearly sets the writing at shoulder height and for the writing to actually be rubbed by someone entering or leaving. It was far more likely to be on the “jamb” as described by Warren rather than the recessed inner wall where their shoulders would not rub’. It seems that Arnold’s statement supports Warren’s view on the positioning of the writing and, since no other official report mentions the position of the message in relation to the building, this must be the accepted as the position of the chalked message.

The top half of the wall was washed with white paint. It would have seemed logical to leave a message on the ready made-blackboard that was the black painted bottom half of the wall. Simply because, what is the point of leaving a message that cannot be seen? So, to suggest that the placing of the writing very low on the wall, just above the apron, is proof that Eddowes’s killer wrote the message is now not so convincing.

Other issues that must be considered are simple yet important. In Mitre Square it is argued that it was too dark for Jack to have seen during his mutilation of Eddowes. Obviously this is erroneous, as we know that Eddowes was not moved after death to a brighter spot and then moved back again. Jack accordingly did manage to do this awful act in the darkest spot in the square; in other words, he could see. There must have been enough ambient light to commit the crime, as Dr Sequeira stated. However, the stairwell where the graffito was found was very dark, far darker than Eddowes’s murder scene. It had been a rainy, overcast night. Cloud cover was at 100% and, though the rain had stopped by the time of Eddowes’s murder, cloud cover would have been around 50%. There was a moon, but it was a weak one, and the buildings opposite the dwellings entrance were - and still are, high. Therefore the spot where the graffito was written was at 1.47am, 2.20am and 2.55am a dark spot. In fact, Whitechapel as a whole was a very dark and dangerous place. Don’t just take my word for it; read the following article, written some six days after the discovery of the writing. It’s an excellent description of the Whitechapel area at night in 1888.

Daily News
United Kingdom
5 October 1888

STREET LIGHTING IN THE EAST END

“Resolved, that this Board regards with horror and alarm the several atrocious murders recently perpetrated within the district of Whitechapel and its vicinity, and calls upon Sir Charles Warren so to regulate and strengthen the police force in the neighbourhood as to guard against any repetition of such atrocities.”

“Go to,” adroitly replies Sir Charles Warren. “Look to your lamps. The purlieus about Whitechapel are very imperfectly lighted, and the darkness is an important assistant to crime.” There can be no doubt in the mind of anybody who knows the purlieus of Whitechapel that the Commissioner has fairly scored one against the Whitechapel District Board of Works. “You are decidedly of opinion, then,” was a question addressed to Chief Inspector West, “that if your division were generally better lighted it would tend materially to render many forms of crime more difficult and the capture of criminals more easy?” “Most certainly,” was the ready rejoinder. “Look even at this Commercial street. It has always appeared to me to be very insufficiently lighted - a broad and important thoroughfare like this. It is none too brilliant now. Lying just off it there are some of the lowest of lodging houses, and you can see how easy it must be for rough characters to snatch from the persons passing along and rush off into their dens in the darkness with very little chance of their being identified or followed. But wait until the few shops are closed, and the public house lights are put out, and see then how wretchedly the street is lighted, and what opportunities there are for all sorts of mischief to go on.”

Looking up this main thoroughfare it is impossible to deny that there is much force in what the officer says, and turning into the minor streets and lanes in the neighbourhood the opportunities afforded by the murky condition of the streets for the perpetration of crimes of violence are very apparent. Put out the public house lamps at twelve o’clock, and shut up one or two little shops, and you have - for instance, in Fleur de Lys street - a dismal little lane suggestive of almost anything bad. Obscure thoroughfares like Elder street, Quaker street, Blossom street are all of them open to the same criticism, and a very little exploration will convince anybody that that in most of them there are deeper depths of gloom, affording really startling facilities for vice and crime. “Look here, sir,” said an anxious and despondent woman to the officer who was looking round one of these murky lanes last evening. “We may all be murdered here any night. This door’s open all night long. People may get down in the cellar or out in the back yard, or up the staircases, and none of us can prevent ‘em.” The house passage widened out into a sort of washhouse, and behind this was a very nasty yard, all in utter darkness. The District Board of Works saw, and reasonably enough of course, that they cannot be held responsible for this. It is the landlord’s affair. But as a matter of notorious fact, in all the poorer quarters of London, the landlords do not look to the security of their tenement passages and back yards, and cannot be made to do so. And it is a fact which certainly seems to afford a strong reason why at least the actual streets should be well lighted. In many cases, however, not only is the lighting of the streets very insufficient either for comfort or security, but yards for which the authorities are certainly responsible are entirely neglected. Take as an illustration of this Pope’s Head court in Quaker street. It opens from the street by a public passage, and the yard itself is in utter darkness. The lodgers in an adjacent public house have a way to it by a back gate. Seen at any rate by night it has the appearance of a place specially planned for deeds of crime and vice; and the unfortunate people who have to grope their way to their rooms through the dirt and darkness are loud in their complaints. “Been here six years,” said a rough looking occupant of a room in the court, “and never had no key, and never had the front door locked. Look at that staircase leading up to that place there - anybody may get up them, and do just what they like. I have begged the landlord to give us a lock on the door, and a key. But not he; he takes no notice of us, and don’t care a curse whether we gets murdered or not.” The lighting and cleansing at least of this court seem to be the work of the District Board, and the circumstances under which this nasty little retreat was found - quite incidentally in the course of an inspection of the street - certainly suggested the probability that many others of a similar character might have been found by further search in the same neighbourhood. Some of the courts and streets inspected in this poor neighbourhood are very fairly lighted, but every here and there one was found in which apparently the greatest economy of lamp lighting had been practised, in consideration of the fact that the flaring lights of public houses sufficiently supplemented the street lamps up till midnight. After midnight, however, such streets are terribly gloomy. Let any one go down Spital street, for instance, after twelve o’clock at night and say whether throat cutting and “snatching” and general vice are not suggested by the murky darkness of the locality. From there go on to Buxton street and thence into Code street - not only wretchedly lighted, but ankle deep in mud, by the way. These are in the immediate neighbourhood of Hanbury street, which is itself for the most part very poorly lighted. In this street, it will be remembered, it has already been shown that large numbers of the houses are let out tenements, and the street doors and passages are open all night long. The terror of many of the people at the time that murder was found out in one of these houses was intense. Said one woman, “There are unlocked cellars down under these houses, and the yards are all open, and we may any of us be murdered in our beds.” Last night as a small party of inspectors moved about the neighbourhood there were abundant indications that this terror had by no means subsided. Again and again appeal was made that something should be done for their greater safety, and the general anxiety and sense of insecurity must unquestionably have been greatly intensified by the unsatisfactory lighting in the streets. “When this public house is shut up,” said the police inspector, “how could I possibly make out anything going on a few yards off.” The lamps, it may be, are not too far apart, but they are feeble flickerings wholly behind the times.

Now it must not be supposed that we are singling out the Whitechapel district for especial censure. Much of the evil character of Whitechapel as a region of slums and filth and squalor is purely a matter of tradition. It may have been true of it a generation ago, but it is true no longer, as regards by far the greater part of the district at least. In lighting and cleansing and general management Whitechapel is at least on an equality with localities in the south and north, and even in many parts of the west. But there are 70,000 people here, and among them a police sergeant observed last night that he had in the district assigned to him no less than 6,000 residents in common lodging houses. Of course they will include a serious proportion of the criminal and cadger class, and lighting and patrolling that might be sufficient elsewhere may very well be wholly insufficient among a population like this. Having regard to the character of the population, Sir Charles Warren says unequivocally that the neighbourhood is imperfectly lighted, and that the darkness is an important assistant to crime. The District Board of Works will we understand shortly have the Commissioner’s letter under consideration, and the reply they may be expected to make is that they do not increase their lamps for precisely the same reason that Sir Charles Warren does not increase the number of his men. Lamps, like policemen, cost money, and the lighting of Whitechapel cannot be rendered more brilliant without a serious addition to the rates. Roughly speaking, every street lamp represents a hundred pounds capitalised. That is to say, the annual maintenance of a lamp costs about the interest of £100, and altogether the lighting of the entire district costs in round figures £5,000 a year. It is a good round sum no doubt but if it is really true that an increase of light would tend decidedly to the suppression of crime it seems very probable that the addition of even another £5,000 and the doubling of the light would be a good investment. But a good deal less then this would effect a great improvement in the safety and comfort of thousands of people, and very much the same may be said of many other large districts of London. At no very distant date it may be science and public spirit may combine to banish darkness altogether. Science, indeed, is quite ready to undertake the business offhand, and to pour over any section of London such a blaze of light that slums and passages and back yards can no longer give shelter to deeds of darkness. But funds, alas, are not yet forthcoming. As yet we prefer to spend our money in providing plunder for thieves, and in maintaining them when we have caught them in spite of all the difficulties of darkness. No doubt we shall be wiser some day, but an intelligent comprehension of these matters is like the revolution of electric lighting - a matter of slow and gradual progress.”

Anyone notice Inspector West’s comments? No? Let me refresh your memory:

“When this public house is shut up,” said the police inspector, “how could I possibly make out anything going on a few yards off. The lamps, it may be, are not too far apart, but they are feeble flickerings wholly behind the times.”
It seems that even though situated close together, the lamps are so inadequate that the Inspector struggled to see anything yards away; and I don’t see any reason to suspect that Goulston Street was any different either.

Surveyor Foster marks a lamp on his map of Goulston Street at 20 feet away (6.667 yards or 6.096 metres for our metric chums) from the dwellings entrance, northwards (toward Wentworth Street end) and on the same side as the dwellings. There is a second lamp situated on the corner of New Goulston Street to the south of the dwellings. This lamp would have no bearing on the writing. Because of its position south of the entrance and because the writing was written on the southern (right hand as you view the photo) wall, light given (if indeed it could have reached that far) would have hit the northern wall (left) only. f any lamp was to give the author lighting aid then it would have been the lamp Foster marked to the north. This is the reason why I suspect Foster added the lamp to the map.

During my research for my article in Ripperologist No 58, I spoke to a Gas Lamp enthusiast, Mr Marrack. He stated that all Gas lamps were different and shone differently. He told me that a good Gas lamp gave out the lighting equivalent of a refrigerator lamp. Though reluctant to give a set distance, and after some considerable pushing, he stated that he would expect the distance to peter out at around 14 feet (4.667 yards or 4.267 meters). Like I say, these were the good lamps. Whitechapel, as one of the poorest districts in the country, let alone London, had very poor and ill maintained Gas Lamps. Going on these calculations (after all, what else have we to go on?), the spot where the writing was found would have been in darkness. Remember PC Long? He stated that during the 2.55am search he had his lamp on, but ‘had not noticed the wall before. He noticed the apron first, and then the words on the wall. One corner of the apron was wet with blood. His light was on at the time’. This also backs up the idea that the stairwell was a very dark spot. The question to be asked now is, could Catherine Eddowes’s killer crouch in a dark stairwell (dark enough for PC Long to have his lamp on) and write in ‘good round schoolboy hand’, in letters 3/4 inch high and on individual brick, these infamous words?

Yes, I know I wasn’t there, and I know I cannot state that as fact. However, given the evidence provided at the inquest, the research of contemporary evidence, research into serial killers, research into social conditions and correspondence with knowledgeable persons on the subject of Jack and Gas lamps, it is my opinion that the Goulston Street Wall Writing is unlikely to have been written by the murderer of Catherine Eddowes.

A few pointers that should be considered when weighing up the idea that Eddowes’s murderer wrote the chalked writing are:

That graffiti and wall writing was common, especially in that area.

Anti–Semitic writing would not have been unusual in the Goulston Street area of Whitechapel.

Also, that anti–Semitic feelings were high and the misplaced idea that the murderer was Jewish was common. A blame culture had evolved and the idea that some people wanted to ‘voice’ their anger is not an improbable one.

The idea that anti-Semitic graffito would be erased immediately is a valid one. However it is an assumed, not an ascertained fact. Apathy or misunderstanding of the writing’s meaning may have resulted in the writing not being erased straight away. It could have been there for many hours and possibly a day or two.

The ambiguity of the written message results in numerous interpretations. There is nothing in the actual wording that refers to any victim or murder weapon. This is unlike many communications with other serial killers.

The positioning of the writing just above the apron is not an indication that the two are linked. The simple fact that chalk would show only on the black painted bottom half of the wall, as opposed to the white painted top half, is obvious. My view was that the two items were inside the entrance, on the jamb, facing the stairs. An ideal spot for someone to get a message across to the Jewish inhabitants of this tenement; an ideal spot for it to be seen. However, it must be pointed out that the only location given for the writing in an official document (Warren’s report to Henry Matthews, Home Secretary) is on the doorjamb. Therefore, this position must be the supposed position of the writing.

The idea that Eddowes’s killer hid just inside the stairwell entrance and dropped the apron right next to the writing is plausible – at least, not beyond possibility. It would have been an ideal location for the killer to clean himself up. Especially when taking point 6 (position of the writing) into consideration, the coincidence is there… and not too far fetched. The entrance provides adequate shelter and seclusion. Not too close to the murder scene, yet not too far either. Putting it simply, it’s the ideal spot for a killer to pause briefly.

The lighting situation makes it very difficult to complete the writing in ‘good round schoolboy hand’. Gas lighting gave poor illumination, as the fact that Long had his lamp on indicates. Basically, going on the evidence and research information I have, I conclude that the writing, in ‘good round schoolboy hand’ and on individual bricks, as the Honourable Mr Brown believes, could not have been written at night and therefore could not have been written after the murder of Catherine Eddowes. Therefore, any connection made between these two items, the apron and the writing, is purely conjecture and speculation.

The above is just a brief summary of the reasons why there is no certainty that the Goulston Street writing was the work of Jack the Ripper. I’m sure there are plenty other reasons I’ve missed. Suffice to say that it’s impossible and nigh on negligent to say that the writing and the apron (and ultimately the murder of Eddowes) are linked. On its own, the writing is nothing. The link with the apron is circumstantial at best. At the end of the day, the only reason the writing and the apron are linked is because of positioning. Apparently, that’s the key to graffiti; graffiti only, I may add.

Sources

Begg, Paul: Private Correspondence; Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History; Jack the Ripper: The Facts; Catherine Eddowes Inquest Papers: Statements from Inquest by DC Daniel Halse and PC Alfred Long; Clack, Robert– Private Correspondence; Douglas, John: Mindhunter.com; Edwards, Ivor: Jack the Ripper’s Black Magic Rituals; Evans, Stewart– Private Correspondence; Evans, Stewart & Keith Skinner : The Ultimate Sourcebook; PRO pack: Copy of map supplied at the Eddowes inquest by City Surveyor Fredrick Foster; Letters From Hell; Marrack, Alex– Private Correspondence; Norris, Joel: Serial Killers; Pegg, Jennifer– Private Correspondence; Sugden, Philip: The Complete History of Jack the Ripper; The Daily News, 5 October 1888; The Godfrey Edition – Ordnance Survey map of Whitechapel, Spitalfields & Bank 1894; Warren, Sir Charles (Metropolitan Police Commissioner): Report to the Home Secretary, dated 6 November 1888; Yost, David: Dissertation: Matthew Packer - Final Thoughts , Casebook Jack the Ripper.


Related pages:
  Goulston Street
       Dissertations: A Curious Find in Goulston Street 
       Dissertations: A Piece of Apron, Some Chalk Graffiti and a Lost Hour 
       Dissertations: Off the Wall 
       Victorian London: Goulston Street 
  Graffito
       Dissertations: Jacob the Ripper? 
       Dissertations: Stephen White, Amos Simpson and Eddowes' Shawl 
       Official Documents: Warren's Report to the Home Secretary - 6 November 1888 
       Press Reports: City Press - 17 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 17 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 8 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Illustrated Police News - 20 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 08 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 1 December 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 6 December 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 15 October 1888 
       Ripper Letters: Ripper Letters