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The Medical News
October 13, 1888



It has been a source of no little surprise to the writer that, considering the universal attention and numerous conjectures raised by these dreadful series of crimes, no clear idea of the character or purpose of the perpetrator seems to have been obtained. While one writer conjectures that the murderer may be a woman, another see here but a general lesson, and exemplification of the well-recognized law that filth will breed filth, and this is but the natural consequence of the pestilential moral atmosphere in which the inhabitants of a part of London are reared, and in their turn raise their children. To the writer the probabilities in the case seem to point overwhelmingly to the mainspring of sexual perversity, which, in aggravated form, seeks to gratify its morbid desires by vicimizing women of the same class, who have at one time been the source of gratification of the normal instinct. Instances of this kind are not rare in literature, and the instinct to victimize the object of the passion is shown in a scale of progressive crime, from the simpler forms in which the sexual pervert finds it necessary to bite, or scratch, or stick pins into the woman to excite his desire, or to cut or injure in such a way as to draw blood, all the way up to those frightful cases of fiendish barbarity, in which the life of the victim is demanded as a sacrifice to secure the full enjoyment of the sexual act. The writer has thus been from the very first reading of the peculiar nature of the Whitechapel crimes, fully in accord with the views of Dr. Mills, expressed in the Philadelphia Press of October 3d.

The great liability to error on the part of the officers of the law, in the investigation of such cases as the present, lies in the fact that they are misled in their effort to appreciate the motive, and invariably attribute it to an ordinary criminal instinct. Such, however, is not the case, and it is as impossible for a sound healthy man to conceive the nature of the impulse which impels the paederest, or other sexual pervert, as it would be to conceive a new color.

The following examples serve to illustrate the peculiarity the instinct exhibits in these cases of adopting and ahering to one particular mode of expression as well as several grades in the criminality.

Tarnowski quotes from Eulenberg (Vierteljahresschr. f. gerichtl. Med., 1878, Bd. 28, S. 61) a curious case, which is but a type of a large number exactly similar in character. Cases in which the sexual instinct is roused by white objects, more particularly the white underclothes of women. The victim of the passion steals these, and retires to his room white garment for the purpose of pollution. Sometimes he will wear the wash for awhile.

Brierre de Boismont (Gazette Med. July 21, 1849, Tarnowski) cites a case, a type of another class, in which the victim of the appetite seeks to gratify his passion by violating the corpse of young females recently died, which he accomplished in more that one instance, by heavy bribes to the watchers. Another case of violation of the dead was one in which a soldier escaped periodically from his garrison, and dug up recently buried corpses, and with great frenzy tore them open and pulled out the entrails and there polluted himself.

The case of the Marshal of France, Gilles de Rayes [sic] (S. Jacob, Curiosites de l'histoire de France. Causes celebre. Paris, 1859) is well known, and has a more direct bearing on the horrible instance under consideration. He was condemned to be burnt to death, in the time of Charles the Seventh, for the violation and murder of more than eight hundred children in the course of eight years. He had lived in retirement in his castles in Bretagne, where he had practised the most frightful cruelties upon children of both sexes. He had first been brought to a desire to commit his crimes by readin Suetonius's description of the orgies of the Emperor Tiberius, Caracalla, and others. He was in the habit of burning the bodies of the children, keeping the prettier heads as momentoes. "I enjoyed," says the Marshal in his defence, "in this practice the most indescribable pleasure." He confessed to the King that he had left court on account of this irresponsible desire to violate children, and his fear that he would be guilty of carrying out his practices upon the heir apparent.

The conjecture of the writer seems to be supported in the instance before us by a variety of circumstances. A desire to murder without any apparent motive, a desire which practises its cruelties invariably upon women, and that of a certain class; added to this the mutilation of the genitals of the corpse, and, in at least on instance, the peculiar practice of slitting open the belly and drawing out the entrails. In addition to this it is of importance to note the periodic outbreak of the crime, in some measure corresponding to the time necessary to recuperation [sic] from violent sexual exhaustion.

It would be of importance to search the corpses, when freshly found, for evidence of violation of this kind, although such is not necessary to establish the truth of the supposition. Sexual perverts of this character never begin by the commission of crimes of such frightful atrocity, but yielding to impulses to do slight injury to their victims, find, as time goes on, that it is necessary to practise greater and greater cruelties, to arouse their desires and gratify passion, until a stage like the present is reached. Such has with probability been the history of the present murderer.

Aside from the truth of falsity of these views, the lesson is a valuable one. Such cases have repeatedly occurred, and the tendencies which produce them are, not only in Europe, but even in our own midst, rife to-day. While much that has been previously written on this subject has served more to gratify the fancy of the curious, Tarnowski has shown that there is a definite law pervading the whole, producing the more or less frequent appearance of these monsters, as definite as the law of gravity. The victims of the disease are not confined by any means to the debauched lower classes, but circulate in every social circle. They are mostly children of psycopathic [sic] parents, of drunkards, and men who have sowed their wild oats in their youth, who vainly imagine that with their resolution to reform and marriage, all evil consequences are left behind them. Such men either generate women who have no sexual instinct at all, or boys who become masturbators or seek by paederesty or some other abnormal way to gratify their unchaste feelings. They are wretched, nervous, excitable children of a depraved parent. Excess of wealth and excessive poverty breed such diseases. Men who have no need to work, seek pleasure in excesses in which one vies with another to outstrip him in crime. Men who cannot find work they seek, are driven likewise to excesses to drown despair. What more can the guardians of public health and morals do at present than vigorously stamp upon every appearance of such crimes however slight in their beginning, and elicit a full, free, and healthy discussion of this whole subject by medical men?

Assoc. Prof. Obst. Univ of Penna.