In the past 110 years, the name "Jack the Ripper" has become synonymous with evil and misogyny, eliciting images of foggy nights and gas-lit streets in the minds of millions worldwide. The mass media and entertainment industries are largely responsible for the popularity of the subject, but they are also to blame for many of the myths and misconceptions which have crept in among the facts of the case. Sloppy research performed by those motivated by personal dreams of fame and greed has only added to the mire. Though this situation has recently been aided by the valiant efforts of a handful of diligent researchers, the myths persist, the lies are repeated, and the facts of the case remain hidden beneath a cloud of confusion. It is our hope that the information provided by Casebook: Jack the Ripper will help scatter this cloud and, perhaps, finally allow a glimpse into that most elusive aspect of the mystery: the truth.
Can we ever hope to discover the identity of a man whose crimes were committed over a century ago? It seems unlikely, and yet most of what we know about the case has only been unearthed in the past thirty years. The Ripper's victims remained faceless until the 1960s, when their mortuary photographs were finally rediscovered... indeed, even more photographs have been unearthed in the past decade. Perhaps most promising is the discovery of the Littlechild letter in the early 1990s, revealing for the first time in over a century the name of one of Scotland Yard's top suspects. If current trends are anything to go by, there is much more to discover in the coming millenium.
Most importantly, however, we must remember that the whole of this fantastic mystery revolves around the deaths of five women whose lives were as precious and as ephemeral as our own: Mary Ann Nichols, devoted daughter and mother of five; Annie Chapman, who struggled through a chronic disease of the lungs and brain; Elizabeth Stride, a Swedish immigrant who once ran a successful coffee shop with her husband; Catherine Eddowes, mother of three, and Mary Kelly, barely twenty-six, already a widow. They were mothers, sisters and daughters, all — women whose lives, pitiful as they may have been, did not justify their destruction. Do not ignore their humanity, as the Ripper did, but embrace it. Only then can you truly appreciate the tragedy of the case. Only then can you understand why the search must continue.
Stephen P. Ryder, Editor
Casebook: Jack the Ripper