17 May 1895
How His Identity was First Made Known.
EXPERIENCE OF A CLAIRVOYANT.
He Fixed the Crimes on a London Physician, who is now in an Asylum.
The story recently told by Dr. Howard, a well known London physician, to William Greer Harrison of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, in regard to the fate of Jack the Ripper, unseals the lips of a gentleman in this city, who is enabled to give a full account of that exhaustive search by the London detectives, which, at the conclusion of a year's unremitting labor, resulted in fixing the identity of the infamous Whitechapel murderer beyond the shadow of a doubt.
The Dr. Howard referred to was one of a dozen London physicians who sat as a court of medical inquiry or a commission in lunacy upon their brother physician, for at last it was definitely proved that the dreaded "Jack the Ripper" was no less a person than a physician living in the West End of London. When it was absolutely proved beyond peradventure that the physician in question was the murderer, and his insanity fully established by a commission de lunatico inquirendo, all parties having knowledge of the facts were sworn to secrecy.
Up to the time of Dr. Howard's disclosure this oath had been rigidly adhered to. A London clubman now in Chicago, who is acquainted with Dr. Howard, is of the opinion that being in a foreign country and, perhaps, under the influence of wine, Dr. Howard has permitted his tongue to wag too freely.
The guilty physician had a passion for inflicting pain upon animals of every sort. He had scarcely been married a month before his wife discovered this mania. In testifying before the commission she gave the following extraordinary evidence:
"One night we were sitting in the drawing room quite late. I rose to go to bed. When I arrived upstairs I remembered I had left my watch upon the drawing room mantelpiece. As I approached the drawing room I heard the sounds of a cat mewing piteously. Looking through the door I was horrified to see my husband holding the cat over the flame of a moderator lamp. I was too frightened to do anything but retreat upstairs. I discovered later that he had spent the whole night burning the cat to death.
"It was quite possible for me, as I studied him closely, to tell when these moods were coming on. On such occasions some apparently trivial act would put me on my guard. In his normal moods he was an excellent husband and father and one of the gentlest and most tractable of men."
Robert James Lees is the gentleman to whom the unfortunates of East End of London owe their present immunity from attacks of the Ripper. Lees is at present the proprietor of a novel institution for the higher education of working men at Peckham, a suburb of London, and resides 26 the Gardens, Peckham Rye, London, southeast.
In his early years Mr. Lees developed extraordinary clairvoyant power which enabled him to discover, as with the eyes of the seer, things hidden from the comprehension of ordinary men born without this singular gift, and at the time of the first three murders by the Ripper, Lees was in the height of his clairvoyant powers. One day he was writing in his study, when he became convinced that the Ripper was about to commit another murder. The whole scene arose before him. He seemed to see a man and a woman walking down the length of Mean street. He followed them in his mind's eye, and saw them enter a narrow court. He saw the man cut the woman's throat, and gash the lifeless body horribly with a large knife.
So impressed was he by the vision that he at once went to Scotland Yard and detailed the whole matter to the detectives. By way of humoring one whom they considered a harmless lunatic, the sergeant on duty took down the name of the place where Lees said the crime would be committed and also noted that the clock in a mythical public house had pointed to 12:40 o'clock at the moment when the Ripper and his victim had entered the court.
At 11:30 o'clock the following night a woman entered a public house facing the court in question. She was quite under the influence of liquor and the barkeeper refused to serve her. She left the place and was seen by another witness to enter the court again at 12:30 o'clock in company with a man dressed in a dark suit and carrying a light overcoat upon his arm. This was in evidence given before the deputy coroner, who held the inquest on the body of the woman, who had been found in the very spot described by Lees, "with her throat but from ear to ear, and otherwise indecently and horribly mutilated" - to quote from the Coroner's records.
Lees himself was indescribably shocked when he learned of the murder next day, and removed with his family to the Continent. While he was abroad the Ripper committed four more murders, but Lees had no visions regarding them. Later Lees returned to London, and one day while riding in an omnibus he experienced a renewal of his strange sensations.
The omnibus ascended Nottinghill, stopping at the top, where a man entered. Lees at once experienced a singular sensation. Looking up he perceived that the new passenger was a man of medium size, dressed in a dark suit of Scotch tweed, over which he wore a light overcoat. He had a soft felt hat on his head. Over a year had elapsed since Lees' clairvoyant vision, but the picture of the murderer had been indelibly impressed upon his mind. To his wife he remarked earnestly, "That is Jack the Ripper."
His wife laughed and told him not to be foolish. "I am not mistaken," replied Lees. "I feel it." The 'bus turning into Oxford street at Marble Arch, the man in the light overcoat got out. Lees followed the man down Park Lane. On reaching Apsley House the man jumped into a cab and was driven rapidly down Piccadilly.
That night Lees again received premonitions that the "Ripper" was about to commit another murder and hastened to Scotland Yard. The head inspector listened with a smile of incredulity until Lees told of the victim's ears being severed from her head.
At this the officer drew a postal card from his desk and laid it before his visitor. The card, written in red ink, bore the marks of two bloody fingers.
The card read as follows:
"Tomorrow night I shall again take my revenge, claiming from the class of women who have made themselves most obnoxious to me my ninth victim.
Jack the Ripper.
P.S. To prove that I am really Jack the Ripper I will cut the ears off the ninth victim."
At these words Lees fainted dead away. So impressed was the Inspector that all that day he concentrated his energies upon the problem of how to cover Whitechapel district. By dusk the next day 3,000 constables in citizens' clothes and 1,500 detectives disguised as mechanics were patrolling the courts and alleys of Whitechapel.
Notwithstanding these precautions, Jack the Ripper penetrated the cordon, slew his victim and made his escape. One ear was completely severed from her body and the other was hanging from her head by a mere shred. Lees again removed to the Continent.
Shortly after that Lees returned to England, where he made the acquaintance of Roland B. Shaw, a mining stockbroker of New York, and Fred C. Beckwith of Broadhead, Wis., who was then the financial promoter of an American syndicate in London. The three gentlemen were dining one day in the Criterion when Lees suddenly exclaimed: "Great God! Jack the Ripper has committed another murder!" Shaw looked at his watch and found it was 7:49 o'clock. At 8:10 o'clock a policeman discovered the body of a woman in Crown Court with her throat cut from ear to ear, and her body bearing all the marks of the Ripper's handiwork.
After an earnest appeal from the Inspector, Lees consented to try and track the Ripper, much in the same way as a bloodhound pursues a criminal. All that night Lees traversed swiftly the streets of London. The inspector and his aids followed a few feet behind. At last, at 4 o'clock in the morning, the human bloodhound halted at the gates of a West End mansion. Pointing to an upper chamber where a faint light gleamed, he said: "There is the murderer you are looking for."
"It is impossible," returned the Inspector. "That is the residence of one of the most celebrated physicians in the West End; but, if you will describe to me the interior of the doctor's hall, I will arrest him."
Lees gave a description without hesitation. At 7 o'clock they entered the house and found the room just as described and learned that the doctor was still in bed.
After the examination referred to above, the Ripper was removed to a private insane asylum in Islington, and he is now the most intractable and dangerous madman confined in that establishment.
In order to account for the disappearance of the doctor from society a sham death and burial were gone through, and an empty coffin, which now reposes in the family vault at Kensal Green, is supposed to contain the mortal remains of the great West End physician, whose untimely death all London mourned. At the asylum the Ripper is simply known as Thomas Mason, alias No. 124.