The latest report that another murderous attempt had been made by the monomaniac whose repeated butcheries have horrified London, in spite of every effort of the police, proves to be unfounded, but the false alarm is even more expressive of the panic which has possessed the minds of the people. It is feared, with some reason, that the mental atmosphere of London, and even of all England, may become so charged with morbid excitement on this subject that weak heads will be turned and a fiendish fanaticism become epidemic, manifesting itself in a desire to follow in the footsteps of the unknown slayer of Whitechapel outcasts. There have not been wanting indications of this danger. Within the past month numerous cases have been reported to the metropolitan police of men threatening women with such treatment as Annie Chapman received. Scarcely less revolting than these threats are the practical jokes in which brutal fellows have indulged by personating the murderer, and which in one instance lately reported, caused a woman to die in convulsions resulting from fright. But the most sickening proof of the apprehended peril was furnished by a letter which the police authorities at Tunbridge Wells received not long ago, signed "Another Whitechapel Murderer," and purporting to be written by a boy. It was found that the author of the letter was a lad of 16 years, who, as he confessed, with the aid of an accomplice of his own age had actually committed a murder which had before remained an impenetrable mystery.
The latest developments in the Whitechapel problem will doubtless, as soon as the panic subsides to some extent, serve to call additional attention to a matter about which much, but not nearly enough, has been said by the leaders of English opinion during the past few weeks. We refer to the conditions existing in the East End of London which afford opportunity for such crimes has have been recorded. Whoever would study this subject must begin by giving attention to the sort of hives in which the populace swarms throughout that whole region. The buildings are, for the most part, old, dilapidated, miserable in their appointments, destitute of sanitary arrangements, facing on narrow streets, flanked by crooked, dark alleyways, and noisome courtyards. They are inhabited by human creatures crowded together in such excess [as to] make privacy, health, or decency out of the question. Tenants and lodgers are constantly driven out of doors for failure to pay the rent demanded for their wretched accommodations. Different families sometimes huddle together in the same apartments, although strangers to each other. Poverty is universal, pitiful and seemingly hopeless. Theft, beggary and vice are so common as to excite only languid interest. To a great extent the dwellers in Whitechapel are so absorbed in the unending struggle to maintain physical existence that their sensibilities are blunted and their perception even of sights and sounds is rendered dull.
It is evident that no field more inviting than this to such a savage as the original murderer is supposed to be can enter into the imagination. All the conditions, material and moral, are provided for the accomplishment of unlimited slaughter and the enjoyment of unmolested security. "Deep searching of hearts, humiliation of spirit, and sorrowful reflections over the causes which make these unspeakable atrocities possible," are the solemn words with which the London Times of November 10 concluded a leading editorial on the tragedy of the day before. "So tens of thousands of us live now in the greatest city of the world," sorrowfully remarks the Daily News.
It may be that the divine providence, which is evermore bringing forth good out of evil, will cause to spring up, from the unparalleled horror with which the Whitechapel murders have inspired the public mind of London, a determination to cleanse that loathsome ulcer upon the body politic. Possibly multitudes who have neither known nor cared how other multitudes of their fellow creatures lived, will care now that they cannot help knowing. The bishop of Bedford has set on foot a movement to establish in Whitechapel an institution to be called the "Home and Refuge." Lady Kinnaird is using her great social influence in the West End to interest women of wealth and rank to do something for the material and moral improvement of society in the East End. Too much cannot be done, and it cannot be done too soon.