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George Chapman

George Chapman (1865 - 1903)
a.k.a. Severin Antoniovich Klosowski

Born as Severin Antoniovich Klosowski in the Polish village of Nargornak on December 14, 1865 to Antonio and Emile Klosowski. His father, a carpenter, apprenticed Severin to a Senior Surgeon in Zvolen named Moshko Rappaport, whereupon he entered into a career as a surgeon from December 1880 until October 1885, after which he completed his studies in the Hospital of Praga in Warsaw. Rappaport claimed he was "diligent, or exemplary conduct, and studied with zeal the science of surgery." Another unnamed source spoke of Klosowski's "very skilful assistance to patients." Depending on your source, he either failed to become a junior surgeon (Rumbelow, Lane) or succeeded in becoming an assistant surgeon in 1886 and a qualified Junior Surgeon in 1887 (Begg et alia). There is also discrepancy concerning when he arrived in England, as Rumbelow and Lane date his arrival "sometime in 1888," while Begg et alia give the month of June 1887. The best estimate is sometime soon after February 1887, as a receipt for hospital fees paid by Klosowski in Warsaw indicate he was still there at the time. Also of importance is the discovery by Sugden of some papers, written in Russian and Polish, which documented Klosowski's early life in Poland. They are consistent until February 1887, when they end abruptly. Therefore, the best estimate is that Klosowski emigrated to London in either late February or early March of 1887.

He entered into a career as a hairdresser's assistant in either late 1887 or early 1888, working for an Abraham Radin of 70 West India Dock Road. This job soon was soon discontinued after only five months, and Koslowski is next seen running a barber shop on his own at 126 Cable Street, St. George's-in-the-East. The Post Office London Directory of 1889 lists this as his address, so it is most likely that this was his residence in the fall of 1888, during the Ripper murders.

In 1890, Klosowski took a similar job in a barber shop on the corner of Whitechapel High Street and George Yard.

This is significant, as Martha Tabram (killed August, 1888) was murdered in the George Yard buildings, which were only a few yards from this shop. Also of significance is that Klosowski was referred to by others as Ludwig Schloski. The reason for the first name is unknown, but the last name is probably the result of the incapacity of the English tongue to pronounce Klosowski.

Anyhow, Klosowski soon proved his worth, and gradually moved from assistant barber to full-fledged proprietor of the shop sometime before October 1889, when he married Lucy Baderski with the rites of a German Roman Catholic wedding. He had met her only five weeks previously at the Polish Club in St. John's Square, Clerkenwell.

Unfortunately for Klosowski, he was still legally married to his first wife, whom he had left back in Poland. She, however, seemed to have gotten wind of her husband's infidelity and moved to London in an attempt to oust Baderski. The two women appear to have cohabited for a time, until Klosowski's legal wife finally gave up and left, possibly because of the birth of her husband's and Baderksi's son in September of 1890. They moved around quite a bit, living in Cable Street, Commercial Street and Greenfield Street, respectively, until they finally emigrated to New Jersey later that year.

The exact date of their emigration is not known for sure, but the last occurence of the name in any records were in the national census of 1891, which listed them as living at 2 Tewkesbury Buildings, Whitechapel. This survey was taken in early April of that year.

It may be assumed, but without solid evidence, that it was the death of their baby boy (Wladyslaw or Wohystaw Klosowski, dead of "pneumonia asthenia" on March 3, 1891) which prompted the move, and so it would be likely that they left soon after the survey was taken, in April of 1891.

Klosowski found work in another barber's shop in Jersey City, New Jersey. The couple fought bitterly, supposedly over Klosowski's cheating heart. Soon after, he attacked Lucy with a knife, as was reported in the Daily Chronicle of March 23, 1903:

Klosowski's real wife, Lucy Klosowski, who was present in the Central Criminal Court last week, has made a startling statement as to what occurred in the New Jersey shop. She states that on one occasion, when she had had a quarrel with her husband, he held her down on the bed, and pressed his face against her mouth to keep her from screaming. At that moment a customer entered the shop immediately in front of the room, and Koslowski got up to attend him. The woman chanced to see a handle protruding from underneath the pillow. She found, to her horror, that it was a sharp and formidable knife, which she promptly hid. Later, Klosowski deliberately told her that he meant to have cut her head off, and pointed to a place in the room where he meant to have buried her. She said, 'But the neighbours would have asked where I had gone to.' 'Oh,' retorted Klosowski, calmly, 'I should simply have told them that you had gone back to New York.'

Lucy was understandably upset, and pregnant to boot, so she returned to London without her husband in February of 1892, living with her sister at 26 Scarborough Street, Whitechapel. Her second child, named Cecilia, was born on May 15th of that year. Around the first of June, Klosowski was to return, and the two reunited for a bit before ending the relationship for good.

In the winter or late fall of 1893, Klosowski met a woman named Annie Chapman (not the Ripper victim) in Haddin's hairdresser shop at 5 West Green Road, South Tottenham, where he had been working as an assistant. They lived together for almost a year, but near the end of 1894, Klosowski's eye began to roam once again, and he brought home a woman to live with himself and Annie. Understandably perturbed, Annie Chapman walked out a few weeks after, pregnant. In January of February of 1895 she told Koslowski about the baby, but he offered no support whatsoever.

And so he left everything behind but her surname, which he took for his own in order to escape the tangled web of his previous affairs. He may have had a new identity, but George Chapman wasn't about to become any less a misogynist than Severin Klosowski.

Sometime after in 1895, Chapman became an assistant in William Wenzel's barber shop at 7 Church Lane, Leytonstone, lodging at the house of John Ward in Forest Road. He soon took up acquaintances with an alcoholic named Mary Spink, whose husband had left her and took her son. The two joined hands in a fake marriage (Mary forwarded the proceeeds of a 500 pound legacy to him) and began living together, leasing a barber's shop in a poor section of Hastings. It soon went sour, and they moved the shop to a more prosperous location, where their "musical shaves" became almost legendary -- Mary would play the piano while her husband serviced the customers. This provided a sizeable income for a while, and Chapman eventually purchased his own sailing boat, which he christened the "Mosquito."

The success in the business world did not transfer over to success in their relationship, and Mary became the subject of many a brutal beating. A Mrs. Annie Helsdown, who lived in the same residence, claimed to have often heard Mary crying out in the middle of the night. She also saw abrasions and bruises about her face on various occasions, and at least once noticed marks around her throat.

It was about this time, on April 3, 1897, that Chapman purchased a one ounce dose of tartar-emetic from the shop of William Davidson, a chemist in High Street. Tartar-emetic is a white powder, easily soluble in water, and contains antimony, a colorless, odorless, and almost tasteless poison whose effects were little known in the late nineteenth century. Given in large doses, antimony is likely to be regurgitated and expelled, but in smaller, timed doses it would case slow, gradual, and painful death. An interesting side-effect of the drug, however, is that it preserves the body of the deceased for many years after their death.

The musical shaves must have soon lost their notoriety, because the shop met the same fate as the previous one, and Chapman soon resorted to managing the Prince of Wales pub off City Road in Bartholomew Square.

It was there that Mrs. Sprink began uncharacteristically suffering from severe stomach pains and nausea. A Dr. J. F. Rodgers was called in to attend, but it was her husband who was by her side religiously throughout the entire affair. She finally gave out on Christmas Day of that year, the cause of death being given as phthisis, or consumption.

Questioned at Chapman's later hearing, both Elizabeth Waymark and Martha Doubleday (who both nursed Mrs. Spink) remembered the condition of their late patient. Elizabeth told the prosecutor, "I prepared the body for burial. It was a mere skeleton."

Doubleday commented on Chapman's actions immediately after the death of Mary: "He stood at her bedside, looked down at her body and said 'Polly, Polly speak!" Then he went into the next room and cried. After that he went downstairs and opened the pub."

George Chapman with wife Bessie Taylor

Not one to remain bereaved, Chapman soon hired a former restaurant manageress named Bessie Taylor to work at the pub, and a relationship soon blossomed. Another bogus marriage was entered into, and again Chapman began to abuse his "wife." According to Elizabeth Painter, Chapman "shouted and thre things at Bessie and on one occasion threatened her with a revolver."

Interestingly enough, Bessie began suffering from the same disease as her predecessor, and to avoid controversy, Chapman left the Prince of Wales and left for The Grapes in Bishop's Stortford. After an operation, her condition remained poor, and the two moved back to London.

Chapman leased the Monument Tavern in the Borough, were she grew steadily worse. She was to die, just like her predecessor, on what should have been a joyous holiday: Valentine's Day, 1901. Cause of death this time was said to have been "exhaustion from vomiting and diarrhoea."

Mrs. Painter visited her friend almost every day during her illness, and was more than once the butt of many a cold joke from George Chapman. On more than one occasion, when she would enter the house and inquire as to Bessie's health, Chapman would reply, "Your friend is dead." Painter would run upstairs, already grieving the loss, only to find her still alive in the bed. When Mrs. Painter visited on the 15th, Chapman told her that Bessie was "much about the same." To her indignation, Mrs. Painter later learned she had died the previous day.

Of interest at this time is the fact that Chapman had attempted to commit arson on the Monument Tavern, which was quickly losing its lease, around this time.

George Chapman with wife Maud Marsh

Mrs. Chapman III was soon to be found in a woman named Maud Marsh, who was hired as a barmaid for the Monument Tavern in August of 1901. Again, a bogus marriage was performed. But after only a year, Chapman grew tired of Maud and turned his attention to a Florence Rayner, who refused his requests to leave for America with him. When Rayner insisted, "No, you have your wife downstairs," Chapman snapped his fingers and said "Oh, I'd give her that, and she would be no more Mrs. Chapman."

And like his other two victims, Chapman beat Maud without abandon. Maud confided in her sister on a tramride down Streatham Hill one day, warning her: "You don't know what he is."

And so she began suffering strange symptoms similar to those of her predecessors. Mrs. Marsh noticed how eagerly her daughter's lover insisted on preparing her medicine and called in an independent doctor to examine her. This frightened Chapman into giving her a tremendous dose of the poison, and Maud was to succumb to it the next day, October 22, 1902. The doctor refused to issue a death certificate, and when traces of arsenic and 7.24 grains antimony were found in Maud's stomach, bowels, liver, kidneys, and brain in the post mortem, Chapman's days of wife-poisoning were ended for good. (It turns out that it was the antimony which killed her -- the arsenic was only there as an impurity in the antimony). He was arrested by Inspector Godley on October 25th, upon which it was discovered that Severin Klosowski and George Chapman were one in the same.

The bodies of his two previous "wives" were exhumed in November and December of 1902. Bessie's corpse had a mouldy growth upon it but was otherwise fresh, while Mary (having been buried five years) was remarkably well preserved. As Elizabeth Waymark said, "She looked as if she had only been buried about nine months.. The face was perfect." Large amounts of metallic antimony were found in the bodies of both women.

Chapman was charged with the murders of Maud Marsh, Mary Spink, and Bessie Taylor, but although evidence was submitted on all three, he was convicted only of Maud's death on March 20, 1903. The jury took only eleven minutes to come to a decision of guilty.

Chapman said nothing after his incarceration in way of a confession; in fact, he continued to protest his innocence for the rest of his life. He was restless and irritable, but above all he was quiet. After his appeal was disregarded by the Home Secretary he was put on suicide watch.

Chapman was hanged at Wandsworth prison on April 7th, 1903.

Here is where Chapman's story ends and Abberline's begins. Once Godley had arrested Chapman, Abberline is said to have remarked to him, "You've got Jack the Ripper at last!" Although there is reason to believe this remark was actually made when Chapman was convicted and not arrested (Sugden), the fact remains that Abberline held strong suspicions toward this man. From there on, George Chapman has been a serious Ripper suspect. But why did Abberline pick Chapman?

His statement is quoted in the Pall Mall Gazette:

I have been so struck with the remarkable coincidences in the two series of murders that I have not been able to think of anything else for several days past -- not, in fact, since the Attorney-General made his opening statement at the recent trial, and traced the antecedents of Chapman before he came to this country in 1888. Since then the idea has taken full possession of me, and everything fits in and dovetails so well that I cannot help feeling that this is the man we struggled so hard to capture fifteen years ago...

As I say, there are a score of things which make one believe that Chapman is the man; and you must understand that we have never believed all those stories about Jack the Ripper being dead, or that he was a lunatic, or anything of that kind. For instance, the date of the arrival in England coincides with the beginning of the series of murders in Whitechapel; there is a coincidence also in the fact that the murders ceased in London when Chapman went to America, while similar murders began to be perpetrated in America after he landed there. The fact that he studied medicine and surgery in Russia before he came over here is well established, and it is curious to note that the first series of murders was the work of an expert surgeon, while the recent poisoning cases were proved to be done by a man with more than an elementary knowledge of medicine. The story told by Chapman's wife of the attempt to murder her with a long knife while in America is not to be ignored.

Other striking similarities arise among the personal characteristics of Chapman and those most believe the Ripper must have had. Chapman had a regular job, as did the Ripper (since the murders all occured on weekends). Chapman was single and free of family responsibility, as was the Ripper (to allow for his being out at all hours of the night). Lucy Baderski even goes so far as to say that her previous husband was in the habit of staying out into the early hours of the morning.

Furthermore, Chapman had an outrageous sexual drive, if his many affairs and relationships are any guide to go by (The Ripper was a sexual serial murderer). He was also a misogynist (as the Ripper must have been), having beaten at least four of his lovers and killed three. Perhaps most importantly, however, Chapman was a known multicide. This should not be taken lightly, as there were many men who fit the description of the Ripper in 1888, but few who known to actually be able to commit murder, and even fewer known to be able to commit serial murder.

Still, Abberline did admit there was one problem with Chapman's being the Ripper:

One discrepancy only have I noted, and this is that the people who alleged that they saw Jack the Ripper at one time or another, state that he was a man about thirty-five or forty years of age. They, however, state that they only saw his back, and it is easy to misjudge age from a back view.

This is true, but no witness made the Ripper out to be as young as Chapman was in 1888 (twenty-three years old). The youngest estimates were by PC Smith (28) and Schwartz and Lawende (30). Yet, Lucy's brother and sister all claimed that Chapman's appearance changed very little the entire time they knew him. If we take this at face value, then perhaps it would be possible for Chapman to have looked a bit older than his age.

Regardless, what should we make about the vast difference in M.O.s between a cold, calculating wife-poisoner and a brutish mutilator of prostitutes? Abberline's answer to that question was also printed in the Pall Mall Gazette:

As to the question of the dissimilarity of character in the crimes which one hears so much about, I cannot see why one man should not have done both, provided he had the professional knowledge, and this is admitted in Chapman's case. A man who could watch his wives being slowly tortures to death by poison, as he did, was capable of anything; and the fact that he should have attempted, in such a cold-blooded manner, to murder his first wife with a knife in New Jersey, makes one more inclined to believe in the theory that he was mixed up in the two series of crimes... Indeed, if the theory be accepted that a man who takes life on a wholesale scale never ceases his accursed habit until he is either arrested or dies, there is much to be said for Chapman's consistency. You see, incentive changes; but the fiendishness is not eradicated. The victims too, you will notice, continue to be women; but they are of different classes, and obviously call for different methods of despatch.

Ex-Superintendant Arthur Neil, who also believed in the Chapman theory, was even less precise in his answer to the same question:

Why he took to poisoning his women victims on his second visit to this country can only be ascribed to his diabolical cunning, or some insane idea or urge to satisfy his inordinate vanity.

Admittedly, we can not expect either Abberline or Neil to have had the knowledge we now have today concerning M.O.s and serial offenders. Although many still contend that M.O.s rarely change, especially so drastically as from a violent mutilation to a non-physical and calculating poisoning, John Douglas of the American F.B.I. disagrees:

Some criminologists and behavioural scientists have written that perpetrators maintain their modus operandi, adn that this is what links so-called signature crimes. This conclusion is incorrect. Subjects will change their modus operandi as they gain experience. This is learned behaviour.

Still other quesitons must arise, such as Chapman's capability to actually converse in the English language in the fall of 1888, having just emigrated to London only a year previously. Many witnesses claim to have heard him conversing with the victims, some even going so far as to say the Ripper conversed in an "educated manner." Would a Polish immigrant, after having lived no more than a year in London, be able to sustain such conversation?

Finally we come to the subject of the "similar murders committed in America" referred to by Abberline and others as evidence for Chapman's being the Ripper. Actually, there was only one similar murder, that of an elderly prostitute named Carrie Brown, or "Old Shakespeare" for her affinity for quoting the author when drunk. She was murdered in a common lodging house in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 24, 1891, first strangled and then savagely mutilated.

Mary Miniter, assistant housekeeper at the lodging house, saw the man with whom she entered and described him as:

Apparently about thirty-two years old, five feet eight inches in height, of slim build, with a long, sharp nose and a heavy moustache of light colour. He was clad in a dark-brown cutaway coat and black trousers, and wore an old black derby hat, the crown of which was much dented. He was evidently a foreigner, and possibly a German.

The description is far from perfect, but it does hark back somewhat toward Chapman. But the important question here is timing -- was Chapman even in Jersey City at the time of the murder?

On April 5, 1891 the English census was taken, and Chapman was listed as still living in Tewkesbury Buildings, Whitechapel. There are no more listings for Chapman until when he returns to England a year later. Unfortunately, there are no records of Chapman's being in Jersey City before April 24th. The only assumption that can be made is, again, that it was the death of their son in March that prompted Chapman and Baderski to move to America. Therefore it would logically be as soon as possible after his death on March 3rd, and after the census register of April 5. That leaves nineteen days for Chapman to pick up and move out, settle into Jersey City, and murder Carrie Brown. It would be a tight fit, but not entirely impossible.

So what is the verdict? Chapman was a misogynist with medical skill and American experience, with a foreign look similar to those of witness descriptions. He resided in the immediate area of the murders throughout the Autumn of Terror, and the London murders ceased once he moved to America, where another was killed in a similar fashion. Everything fits except for his M.O.. The question to ask here is whether or not a savage mutilator can, in a way, reform himself to being a calculating poisoner seven years later.


George Chapman
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