return to normal view
 Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide 
This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.

The Lodger

In the best selling 1911 novel The Lodger, Marie Belloc Lowndes, tells the story of a retired couple, who not altogether successfully, rented out rooms in their home. Just when it seemed their venture would fail, they managed to rent an upstairs room at a higher rate than was usual, to a quite, deeply religious gentleman, who spent his days reading the bible aloud and his nights on nocturnal wanderings. The man, it was noticed, left the house late at night and did not return until the early hours of the morning, whereupon he would conduct strange experiments on the gas ring in his room. The elderly couple, through reading the newspaper accounts of a madman who was terrorising London, called the Avenger, who murded prostitutes, caused them to became suspicious of their lodger, when they noticed that his late night wanderings coincided with the occurrence of the murders. They became convinced their Lodger was the Avenger.

Mrs Belloc Lowndes apparently got the original idea for her story after she overheard a dinner guest discussing how his mother's butler and cook had once rented a room to Jack the Ripper. This story, though originally a work of fiction, introduced to the general public the scenario of the mythical lodger who turns out to be Jack the Ripper. Three movies have been made based around this story. The first, The Lodger -A Story Of The London Fog, was directed in 1926 by a young Alfred Hitchcock.

Mrs Belloc Lowndes story of the nocturnal religious fanatic, it transpires, does have some basis in fact. Lyttleton Stewart Forbes Winslow, an early theorist and expert on matters of legal sanity, contacted the police with his suspicions about a Canadian, G. Wentworth Bell Smith. Smith had taken lodgings with Mr and Mrs E Callaghan in Finsbury Square, and aroused their suspicions when he stayed out late at night, wore a different suit every day, talked and moaned to himself and claimed all prostitutes should be drowned. Mr Callaghan took these suspicions to Winslow, who in turn contacted the police. The police fully investigated Winslow's claims and found them to be without foundation. Winslow, however, for the rest of his life ,convinced himself that he had identified Jack the Ripper.

Another variation of The Lodger story was told by the painter and Ripper suspect Walter Sickert. Some years after the murders Sickert rented a room (believed to be 6 Mornington Crescent Camden) and was told by the elderly couple who owned the property that the previous occupant of the room was Jack the Ripper. He was a veterinary student, who would stay out all night, then rush out to buy the morning paper. He also, on occasions, burnt the clothes he had been wearing the previous night. When his health began to fail his mother took him home to Bournemouth, where he died three months later. Sickert wrote down the man's name, believed to be Druitt, Drewett or Hewitt, in the margin of a book, said to be Casanova's memoirs. This book was given to Albert Rutherston, though was lost during the blitz.

A further variation on the story of the lodger, who transpires to be Jack the Ripper, is the mysterious occupant of 22 Batty Street, who aroused the suspicion of his middle aged German landlady, after he left behind a bloodstained shirt, along with instructions for her to wash it, claiming he would return for it shortly. On the advice of her neighbours she contacted the police. The police took possession of the shirt and watched the house day and night, awaiting the man's return. This individual has been credited by researchers as Francis Tumblety.







« Previous Suspect Next Suspect »