|A Ripper Notes Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripper Notes. Ripper Notes is the only American Ripper periodical available on the market, and has quickly grown into one of the more substantial offerings in the genre. For more information, view our Ripper Notes page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripper Notes for permission to reprint this article.|
Dan Norder is the Executive Editor of Ripper Notes.
Imagine you are a detective investigating a series of prostitute murders. Journalists have been covering the crimes quite extensively, and you have been hard pressed, for a variety of reasons, to keep details about the killings secret from the public. When another woman turns up dead, how would you determine if she is a victim of the same killer's twisted psychological urge to murder and mutilate or the result of some equally sick individual who read about earlier cases in the news and is trying to copy them?
Your first idea might be to look for any noteworthy details about the most recent killing that match the features of the previous murders that have not become publicly known. That would definitely be a logical approach to take, and detectives who find themselves in similar situations usually follow it. But let's say that you are unlucky enough to be investigating cases which have had most every detail - including the method of attack, the size and location of all the wounds, and everything else done to the bodies after wards - well publicized far and wide thanks to a coroner who demanded they be revealed during the inquests and newspapers that decided sales were more important than keeping the information quiet. What other aspects might be worth examining? Well, if you could not prevent the facts from becoming public knowledge in the first place, you could look at information that was published about the crimes that was not accurate. If a new murder is committed and contains features that match the details given in widely reported but false news accounts, then you would know that something rather extraordinary is happening. This is exactly what appears to have occurred with the Jack the Ripper crimes. Although few people have ever commented upon them, there are actually quite a few disturbing similarities between the mistakes that local newspapers published about the Whitechapel murders and what actually happened in the subsequent killings. Specific actions demonstrated in the deaths of Mary Jane Kelly, Catherine Eddowes and Annie Chapman had already been credited to the killer in press reports before they happened.