15 September 1888
Mr. Punch this week directs attention to a very serious matter which has already received consideration in the St. James Gazette. Our contemporary asks if it is not "within the bounds of probability that to the highly coloured pictorial advertisements to be seen on almost all the hoardings in London, vividly representing sensational scenes of murder, exhibited as 'the great attractions' of certain dramas, the public may be to a certain extent indebted for the horrible crimes in Whitechapel?" We think there can be very little doubt, indeed, about the effect of this kind of thing upon ill-regulated minds; and, as we hinted a few weeks ago, the time has very nearly come when some sort of supervision should be exercised over "posters" and "pictorial advertisements." If the huge gaudily-coloured bills of which complaint is so reasonably made were merely vulgar and tasteless, the artistic eye would be offended, it is true; but that would be the end of the business. Nobody would be harmed; there would be little danger of persons of weak mind being tempted to commit crimes because a picture upon a poster was out of drawing or was somewhat less refined than a fastidious criticism approved. Unluckily the offence of which Punch complains is much less venial than this. Every one who walks much about the streets of London, or of any large town, must have observed that during the last two or three years the illustrated posters on the walls have shown an increasing tendency to be grossly horrible and revolting. Theatrical advertisements sin most frequently in this direction. It is a powerful recommendation to the latest melodrama that it should contain plenty of killing; and to the end that people may be induced to pay their money to see the melodrama, it is necessary to make it perfectly clear to them that the piece contains an abundance of sudden death and reeks with gore. No more effectual means of bringing this home to the comprehension of the public has yet been discovered than the flaring poster, gaudy with prismatic colour and plentifully bespattered with blood, as red and realistic as the colour-printer can make it. No detail is spared. We have the fiendish expression of the villain’s countenance as he plunges a dagger into the bosom of the hero. The crimson stains upon the white shirt-front are very effectively managed; and when the murderer withdraws his knife, as in some of the posters, there is sure to be a significant splash of red upon the point of it. Often, too, the blood is seen trickling from the knife to the ground. Or a bullet may be the agency of murder; and then we have the picturesque flash, the dramatic uplifting of arms, the sudden ashy pallor of the victim's face some little suffused by the red glare of the discharge. Or the wicked heroine may push her perfidious lover off the rocks into the sea. It is all right so long as there is murder; and the more blood there is the better. The agonised contortions of a person who meets with a sudden and violent death, the dripping of the gore, and all the unpleasant physical details of the shambles are reproduced with the minutest fidelity. It must, we are persuaded, be quite obvious that constant doses of this kind of thing can have only one result - the degradation of those who are weak enough to be influenced by such representations. In all great communities there are certain to be a number of small-brained creatures, only half human, whose minds, muddled by bad air and bad gin, readily take fire when they are confronted with the ghastly particulars of murder. Such pictures as these produce upon them the same effect that the taste of blood produces upon the tiger. Some men - usually, no doubt, men partially destitute of intellect - at once fly into a murderous frenzy at the sight of blood. Of such was the negro Bruce, whose ghastly story Mr. W. B. Churchward has just told us with an overabundance of gory minuteness in a book ("Blackbirding in the South Pacific") which it is greatly to be hoped is wildly exaggerated. Whenever Bruce saw blood he "went mad," and performed an amount of miscellaneous killing which would have done honour to one of Mr. Rider Haggard's heroes. And if the sight of blood will have this effect, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the sight of a picture of murder and gore will have much the same influence. Indeed, it is notorious that a picture is often more seductive than reality. For our present purpose it does not matter very much whether the picture is a drawing or a description in words. The picture is the more glaring and momentarily the more shocking; but the effects of the description are perhaps more lasting. But there is this to be said of the posters; that they influence persons who never open a book and rarely read even a newspaper. It is the horrible fashion of the day to revel in blood. There is no need to put a fine point upon the matter, and that statement represents the simple fact. We find blood everywhere; at the theatre, in the three-volume novel, in books of travel, in "shilling shockers," and, not least, in the newspapers. Certain important and influential provincial newspapers seem to have deliberately set themselves to glorify the most sordid and brutal crime; and week by week their columns are gorged with accounts of crimes for which hanging is all too good. Is it, then, to be wondered at that we are just now suffering from an epidemic of murder? Surely public decency calls for the suppression of the abominable illustrated posters to which it is extremely likely that many a murder has been due. They have become more numerous and more horrible of late; so have murders. No good purpose is to be served by this bold advertisement of the details of bloodshed; while it is certain that the horrible longings of homicidal maniacs are quickened by their contemplation.- St. James's Gazette.
METROPOLITAN PAUPERISM.- The following is the census of metropolitan paupers (exclusive of lunatics in asylums and vagrants) taken on the last day of the weeks named hereunder (inhabitants in 1881, 3,815,000). Number of paupers:- First week of September, 1888, in-door, 55,163; out-door, 36,402; total, 91,965. First week of September, 1887, indoor, 53,526; out-door, 35,107; total, 88,633. First week of September, 1886, in-door, 51,650; out-door, 34,626; total, 86,276. First week of September, 1885, in-door, 51,219; out-door 34,082; total, 85,301 (excluding patients in the fever and small-pox hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylum district; the number of whom on the last day of the week was returned as 801 in 1888, 1,006 in 1887, 417 in 1886, and 599 in 1885). Vagrants relieved in the metropolis on the last day of the first week of September, 1888 :- Men, 807; women, 162; children under 15, 12; total, 984.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING ADVERTISER,
SIR,- The letter of a Huntingdonshire correspondent in your issue of to-day reminds me of a circumstance that took place under my own observation in the same and adjoining county, Beds, in either 1852 or 1853. At that time the late Duke of Manchester (Kimbolton) had in his possession several bloodhounds. Sheep had been stolen several times from outlying farms and villages. At length a farmer at Little Staughton, Beds, three miles from Kimbolton, lost a sheep, and after searching fruitlessly for four days, asked Mr. Bollard, the Duke of Manchester's keeper, if he would take over one of the hounds and try if anything could be found. Mr. Bollard, myself, and hound were in the field next morning at three o'clock. The dog, on being put on the trail, bore almost direct homeward, not by the road, but across country, and kept our horses at full speed. After running about two miles he stopped at an open drain, in which, after a search, we discovered the skin and entrails of a sheep. The dog, one being put on the trail again, ran nearly a mile on the hard road to a cottage at Stoneley, near Kimbolton, where the greater part of the sheep was found. I feel sure that, had the police been provided with a hound and a good horse, the Whitechapel murderer would have been found within six hours.- I am, Sir, yours, &c., E.P. 27, Northumberland-place, Bayswater, W., Sept. 14, 1888.
THE PIMLICO MYSTERY.- Inspector Webber, A division, attended before the magistrate at Westminster Police Court yesterday, and stated that the police, on Thursday night, found and took home the girl Emma Potter, who was reported missing by the mother, who had expressed the fear that the girl's disappearance might be associated with the discovery of a mutilated limb in the Thames at Pimlico.
The police at the Commercial-street police-station have made another arrest in connexion with the recent murders, and the prisoner is detained at the station. It appears that among the numerous statements and descriptions of suspected persons are several tallying with that of the man in custody, but beyond this the police know nothing against him. His apprehension was of a singular character. Throughout yesterday his movements are stated to have created suspicion, but it was not until last night he was handed over to a uniform constable doing duty in the neighbourhood of Flower and Dean-street on suspicion. On his arrival at the police-station at Commercial-street, the detective officers and Mr. Abberline were communicated with, and an investigation was at once commenced concerning him. On being searched a most extraordinary accumulation of articles was discovered upon him. Amongst other things to be seen arrayed conspicuously beside the suspect was a heap of rags, comprising pieces of dress fabrics, old and dirty linen, two or three handkerchiefs, a comparatively clean white one, and a white one with a red-spotted border; two small tin boxes, a small cardboard-box, a small leather strap, which might serve as a garter, strings, and one solitary spring onion. Two purses, such as are usually carried by females, and somewhat worn, were also found amongst the man's "effects." The person to whom this curious assortment belonged is slightly built, about 5ft. 7in. or 5ft. 8 in. in height, and, as may be imagined, dressed in very shabby attire. He has a very careworn appearance. Covering a head of hair inclined somewhat to be sandy, with beard and moustache to match, he wore a cloth skull cap, which did not improve his miserable appearance. Suspicion is the sole motive for the man's temporary detention, for the police, although making every possible inquiry about him, do not believe his apprehension to be of any importance.
Regarding the man Pigott, who was captured at Gravesend, nothing whatever has been discovered by the detectives which can in any way identify him with the crime or crimes, and his release, at all events from the custody of the police is expected shortly.
In connexion with the arrest of a lunatic at Holloway on Thursday, it appears that the man has been missing from his friends for some time. The detectives have been very active in prosecuting their inquiries concerning him. He is at present confined in the asylum at Grove-road, Bow. All inquiries have failed to elicit anything as to the whereabouts of the missing pensioner who was acquainted with the woman Chapman.
On the question of the hour at which the crime was committed, about which there was a difference between the evidence of the man Richardson and the opinion of Dr. Phillips, Mr. Cadoche, who lives in the next house to No. 29, Hanbury-street, has repeated a statement which he made last Saturday, and which appears to have an important bearing on the matter. He says that he went to the back of his premises at half-past five a.m., and as he passed the wooden partition he heard a woman say "No, no." On returning he heard a scuffle, and then some one fell heavily against the fence. He heard no cry for help, and so he went into his house. Inquiry reveals the fact that some of the four murdered women were known to one another, but there is great reluctance amongst the women of the locality to give information, partly because of the shame at making public the life they are living, and also for fear of being subjected to rough usage. A rumour was prevalent yesterday that inquiries are being made by detectives at Maidstone with a view to the identification of the handwriting on an envelope found near the body, but we are informed that the report is unfounded.
A statement, which is probably of some importance, has been made to a reporter by a woman named Lloyd, living in Heath-street, Commercial-road. While standing outside a neighbour's door, about half-past ten o'clock on Monday night, she heard her daughter, who was sitting on the doorstep, scream, and, on looking round, saw a man walk hurriedly away. The daughter states that the man peered into her face, and she perceived a large knife at his side. A woman living opposite stated that a similar incident took place outside her house. The man was short in stature, and had a sandy beard, and wore a cloth cap. The woman drew the attention of some men who were passing to the strange man, and they pursued him some distance until he turned up a bye street, when, after assuming a threatening attitude, he managed to escape.
The funeral of Annie Chapman took place early yesterday morning. The utmost secrecy was observed in the arrangements, and none but the undertaker, the police, and the relatives of the deceased knew anything about it. Shortly after seven o'clock a hearse drew up outside the mortuary in Montagu-street and the body was quickly removed. At nine o'clock a start was made for Manor Park Cemetary, the place selected by the friends of the deceased for the interment, but no coaches followed, as it was desired that public attention should not be attracted. The relatives met the body at the cemetary, and the service was duly performed in the ordinary manner. The remains of the deceased were enclosed in a black covered elm coffin, which bore the words, "Annie Chapman, died September 8, 1888, aged 48 years."