R. Thurston Hopkins
Herbert Jenkins, 1935.
R. Thurston Hopkins inlcluded a chapter on Jack the Ripper entitled "Shadowing the Shadow of a Murderer" in his 1935 book, Life and Death at the Old Bailey. He provides a general overview of the case, and some discussion of Leonard Matters' Dr. Stanley theory. Of particular interest are some snippets of information he provides on Elizabeth Jackson, a putative Ripper victim in his eyes, as well as a "Mr. Moring" who Hopkins claimed was a poet who was close friends with Mary Jane Kelly. "Mr. Moring" was by Hopkins own admission a pseudonym, but Martin Fido has suggested that it may have been the poet Ernest Dowson (see Ripperana #29).
The entire contents of this chapter are reprinted below.
SHADOWING THE SHADOW OF A MURDERER
"I'm not a butcher, I'm not a Yid,
Nor yet a foreign skipper,
But I'm your own light-hearted friend,
Yours truly, Jack the Ripper."
IN 1888 Scotland Yard officers were confronted with a murder cycle which staggered London. Indeed, it may be said that the Jack the Ripper murders were the sensation of England for six months, and the events which surrounded these crimes echoed around the world. The mystery of the series of seven murders in East London which caused such alarm forty-six years ago was never solved. From first to last Scotland Yard was just as bewildered and just as much in the dark as the public.
But, first of all, who christened the phantom killer with the terrible soubriquet of Jack the Ripper ? That is a small mystery in itself. Possibly Scotland Yard gave the name to the press and public. At that time the police post-bag bulged large with hundreds of anonymous letters from all kinds of cranks and half-witted persons, who sought to criticize or hoax the officers engaged in following up the murders. The queer verse at the head of this chapter was one of the many queer documents received by the police. But it was in a letter, received by a well-known News Agency and forwarded to the Yard, that the name first appeared. The Criminal Investigation Department looked upon this letter as a " clue " and possibly a message from the actual murderer. It was written in red ink, and purported to give the details of the murders which had been committed. It was signed " Jack the Ripper." The letter was reproduced, and copies of it were fixed on the notice boards of every police station in the country, in the hope that someone would recognize the handwriting. The name, thus broadcast, " caught on " at once.
It was perhaps a fortunate thing that the handwriting of this famous letter was not identified, for it would have led to the arrest of a harmless Fleet Street journalist. This poor fellow had a breakdown and became a whimsical figure in Fleet Street, only befriended by the staffs of newspapers and printing works. He would creep about the dark courts waving his hands furiously in the air, would utter stentorian " Ha, ha, ha's," and then, meeting some pal, would button-hole him and pour into his ear all the " inner story " of the East End murders. Many old Fleet Streeters had very shrewd suspicions that this irresponsible fellow wrote the famous Jack the Ripper letter, and even Sir Melville L. Macnaghten, Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, had his eye on him. Sir Melville, writing in 1914, remarked : " In this ghastly production I have always thought I could discern the stained forefinger of the journalist-indeed, a year later, I had shrewd suspicious as to the actual author."
Some readers may think that, as the Ripper mystery was not solved, I am going outside my province in dealing with it, seeing that the case could not have any connection with the annals of Old Bailey. But as I had several long conversations with a veteran Old Bailey officer, who, before he was attached to the court, was on duty in the East End throughout the whole run of the murders, I think some account of his experiences may be of more than ordinary interest to my readers.
"Jack the Ripper " played a lone hand and carried his secret to his grave. From August 7th, x888, to July, 1889, he haunted the streets, marked down his victims and killed the silently . . . swiftly.. . He killed his victims - abandoned, depraved wrecks of women - while the sea of humanity surged in Whitechapel Road and huddled in the closely packed courts and alleys around him. It took audacity to kill a woman with a thousand and more eyes concentrated on the effort to find and bring the murderer to the gallows, and cleverness to get away. But Jack the Ripper had cleverness and a certain perverted courage. The best brains of Scotland Yard and the police force, aided by criminologists and medical experts, joined hands to trap him. Every hand was against him. He was Public Enemy No. 1 and for once the cut-throats and bullies of Spitalfields joined the police in this hunt for a criminal, Usually the crook shows a truculent sympathy for the hunted man, but Jack the Ripper had gone a little too far, and it is doubtful if the most depraved gangster in London would have sheltered him. Even Queen Victoria took quite an interest in the case, and spent much time in reading the reports in the papers. Finally she could not resist the temptation to give out some suggestions which might help in the unraveling of this mystery.
These extraordinary crimes were all commited upon the lowest class of woman, in a squalid area of about a square mile close to Aldgate pump, and densely populated. In every instance murder was accompanied by mutilation and was Perpetrated within hearing of many people and in some cases almost under the very noses of the police.
The first was reported on August 7th, 1888 ; a second followed on August 31 ; a third on September 8 ; two in a single night on September 30 ; and the sixth on November 9. There was, further, a crime of this same type, committed on July 17th, 1889, when Alice Mackenzie was found dying with fourteen slashes on her body.
At five o'clock on the morning of August 7th the dead body of Martha Turner was found lying on a flight of stairs in George Yard Buildings. Her body had been literally cut into a pattern with some kind of sharp knife. A flue-and-cry was immediately raised, but no arrest followed. A second murder followed on August, 31st when Mary Ann Nichols was found in Bucks Row with her throat cut and her body slightly mutilated, and Scotland Yard and the newspapers became deeply concerned. The second murder was something unusual even for such a disorderly district as Whitechapel and it opened out fresh vistas of problems demanding fresh explanations.
Up to this point the police were of the opinion that one of the East End gangs were responsible. Then came the third murder at 29, Hanbury Street in the early morning of Saturday, September 8th. At this juncture the police dropped the gang theory and followed the general belief that the murderer was working lone handed. No gang, they argued, would have any interest in the killing of three miserable street walkers ; no gang would run the risk of three wildly foolish murders for the sake of carrying on a local blood-feud.
Sir Charles Warren, then the commissioner at Scotland Yard, held to the theory that Jack the Ripper was a homicidal lunatic, and was of the opinion that some little thing would trip him up and deliver him into the hands of the police. Some little thing ! It must be admitted that Sir Charles was reasonably warranted in expecting some small clue to work upon sooner or later. But the murderer was far too cunning. From first to last the messenger of death did not leave a single clue. No living soul ever came forward who could say positively that he or she had seen Jack the Ripper. Indeed, Scotland Yard had no description of the man they were looking for. The police were up against a blank wall. No single grain of information could be picked up, and the Yard were in the unhappy position of being without a single possibility towards which they could turn their efforts. All the police had to work on was the fact that the three victims had been killed by the same method and under almost identical circumstances. They had been killed within an area of a square mile by some unknown person whose methods and motives were not commonly connected with homicide in our London slums. No motive seemed to quite square with the facts presented. Robbery could not have attracted the murderer, because his victims were all destitute women. Nor could jealousy be considered as a motive, seeing that five out of the seven women were bedraggled sluts ; too old and unpleasing to provoke any rivalry on the part of the men with whom they associated.
When Jack the Ripper who, as I have previously noted, killed women who were always of one class and character, turned his attention to Hanbury Street, he could not have selected a more suitable spot for his operations. John Hollingshead puts accent on the dissolute life of the female population around Hanbury Street in his book, "Ragged London," written about this time. Hollingshead wrote: "The alleys around Hanbury Street are nests of thieves, filled with thick-lipped, broadfeatured, rough-haired, ragged women, and hulking, leering men, who stand in knots, tossing for pennies, or lean against the walls at the entrances of the low courts. The houses present every conceivable aspect of filth and wretchedness ; the broken windows are plastered with paper, which rises and falls when the doors of the rooms are opened ; the staircases always look upon the court, as there is seldom any street door, and they are steep, winding and covered with blocks of hard mud. The faces that peer out of the narrow windows are yellow and repulsive ; some are the faces of Jews, some of Irishwomen, and some of sickly-looking infants. The female population in these courts and alleys, as usual, forms the greatest social difficulty to be dealt with. Their husbands may be dock labourers, earning, when employed, if on the ' permanent list,' 3s. a day-if on the ' casual list ' only 2s. 6d. a day ; their children, after an education in the streets or the ragged schools, may be drafted off into match or brush factories, where juvenile labour is in much demand, but for the woman, and the grown-up daughters, although it may be necessary for them to help in maintaining the poor household, there is nothing but ill-paid needlework, which they may never have learnt. Domestic servitude in this neighbourhood; with a few exceptions, is not to be coveted, as there is little more, for the local-bred servant, than a choice of low gin-shops, or low coffeehouses. The best paid occupation appears to be prostitution, and it is a melancholy fact that a nest of bad houses in Angel Alley, supported chiefly by the farmers' men who bring the hay and straw to Whitechapel market twice a week, are the cleanest-looking dwellings in the district. The windows have tolerably neat green blinds, the doors have brass plates, and inside the houses there is comparative comfort, if not plenty. While the wretched virtuous population are starving in black holes, or creeping out in the hour of their wildest prosperity to purchase sixpennyworth of refuse meat from the stall opposite the greasy, sawdusty shambles, the inhabitants of this court of vice know little, at least for a few years, of want and suffering. If their ranks are thinned by death or diseases, there are always fresh recruits coming forward; and must be while there are as many houseless women as men, and nothing but three-penny lodging-houses, where little or no distinction is made between the sexes. I heard a child in the street - a boy about eight years of age - telling another boy what a man had given his mother as the price of her shame."
No. 29, Hanbury Street is not far from Spitalfields Market and it still looks out upon the modern world with a kind of sinister leer, as though it had imbibed so much sin and sadness that its very soul had become a ruin. Between Number 29 and the next shop there is a passage in which a stairway mounts to the upper part of the building. It will be noted that Hollingshead calls attention to the fact that there were seldom any street doors to the houses in this district, and at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders there was no door at No. 29. To-day a door has been fitted to the passage, but formerly people walked in and out of the house all hours of the day and night. This passage was also a means of approach to the paved yard at the back of the shop.
Through this passage and out into the small paved yard Annie Chapman and Jack the Ripper passed in the early morning of September 8th. At a quarter to six that morning the woman was found in the yard with her head almost severed from her body, and to use the words of a newspaper reporter, " her person mutilated in a manner too horrible for description." Edward Cadoche, who lived next door to No. 29, awoke at half-past five and heard a scuffle in the yard, followed by cries of " No, no." He listened for a few moments and heard something fall against the fence, and then there was silence. A scuffle in the street, or a backyard, was not unusual in this neighbourhood, and so Mr. Cadoche turned over and went to sleep again.
Following the uproar over the Hanbury Street murder Mr. George Bernard Shaw bobbed up in his own truculent way and rubbed everybody the wrong way. He was a budding dramatic critic at the time, and as lie was becoming famous for a much-dreaded shrewdness and surprising powers of observation, everyone expected him to deal with the Jack the Ripper murders in his usual sarcastic style. At that time it had been suggested that the murders were being committed by some insane reformer who had tried in vain to arouse public interest in the shocking conditions of the destitute poor of the East End. Shaw enlarged on the theory in a long letter to the Star. One sentence of the letter I quote as being exceedingly characteristic:
"The riots of 1886 brought in £78,00o, and a People's Palace. It remains to be seen how much these murders may prove worth to the East End in panem et circenses. Indeed, if the habits of Duchesses only admitted of their being decoyed into Whitechapel backyards, a single experiment in slaughterhouse anatomy on an aristocratic victim might fetch in a round half million and save the necessity of sacrificing four women of the people. Such is the stark-naked reality of these abominable bastard Utopias of genteel charity, in which the poor are first to be robbed, and then pauperized by way of compensation, in order that the rich man may combine the luxury of the protected thief with the unctuous selfsatisfaction of the pious philanthropist."
Meanwhile Queen Victoria was propounding her theory, and offered advice to Mr. Matthews, who was then the Home Secretary. " She fears the detective department is not so efficient as it might be. No doubt," her secretary writes, " the recent murders were committed in circumstances which made detection very difficult ; still the Queen thinks that in the small area where these horrible crimes have been perpetrated, a great number of detectives might be employed and that every possible suggestion might be carefully examined and, if practicable, followed.
The following suggestions occur to the Queen on reading the various reports on these horrible crimes :
(1) Have the cattle boats and passenger boats been examined ?
(2) Has any investigation been made as to the number of single men occupying rooms to themselves in and around the district ?
(3) The murderer's clothes must be saturated with blood and hidden somewhere. Where are they ?
(4) Is there sufficient surveillance at night ? "
" Fragmentary, but exciting," describes the kind of theories which filled the newspapers. Doctor Forbes Winslow was convinced that he had identified the criminal, who, he said, " was a religious homicidal monomaniac," and was to be seen every Sunday on the steps of St. Paul's.
He took the police into his confidence, but they treated his identification with incredulity ; on which lie published his facts in the London edition of the New York Herald. Who was the man on the steps of St. Paul's ? What became of him ? Nobody knows. When the facts appeared in the New York Herald the supposed murderer took alarm and disappeared.
The London newspapers had not yet learned the modern art of pregnant scare headings, and even when " Jack the Ripper " was the centre of world-wide concern, such papers as the News of the World and The Star were using the stock size headings for each fresh event. Then the Ripper staggered London by claiming two victims in one night, and "splash" head-lines leapt in size with every edition. One of the victims, Elizabeth Stride, was killed in a yard behind No. 40, Bearer Street, and the other, Catherine Eddowes, was found in the south-western corner of Mitre Square, shockingly mutilated, not only about the body, but about the face.
As Louis Diemshutz drove his pony and barrow in the yard at Berner Street, a man slipped out. It was after midnight, and perhaps about five minutes to one in the morning. His pony pulled up suddenly and was inclined to pull aside. . Diemshutz took his lantern, leaned down from his seat and discerned some object. Jumping down from his barrow he found the body of a woman. He stopped for one moment to steady his breath, and as he did so a horrible laugh came echoing across the night air. In that moment he guessed the truth - yes, the figure which had passed out of the yard was Jack the Ripper. When he lifted the woman's head the blood was still pouring from a deep wound in her throat.
The murderer had only just left his victim. It had been a decidedly close shave for Jack the Ripper !
Within less than half an hour Jack the Ripper had found a second demi-mondaine in the streets. Catherine Eddowes was a victim of drink, and earlier had been locked up in a cell at Bishopsgate Police Station. At i a.m. the jailer turned her out of her cell to make room for incoming prisoners and she went staggering home to Aldgate, and so fell into the clutches of Jack the Ripper.
The murder in Miller's Court is accepted by some criminologists as the last of the series. Mr. Leonard Matters, who has written a volume on this case, claims that Jack the Ripper left the country after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, and lived out the rest of his life in South America where he died of cancer. Mr. Matters's theory is that there was at the date of the murders in London a talented doctor, whom lie calls " Dr. Stanley," and that this doctor had an only son on whom he doted. The son went to the bad, contracted a deadly complaint, and died in his youth.
The father proceeded to kill and mutilate women with the intention of revenging himself on the person whom lie regarded as responsible for his son's ruin. According to Mr. Matters, he found her on November 9th, 1888, in Marie Kelly, and when he had slaughtered her, felt his work was done and fled from the country to South America.
Before Dr. Stanley died in a hospital at Buenos Aires, he sent a message to a surgeon who as a young man had studied under him in the West End of London, saying he had an important statement to make to him.
When the surgeon arrived the dying man asked :
"Have you heard of Jack the Ripper?"
The surgeon nodded.
"Well - I am he !"
A full story of the crimes and motives was given by the dying doctor, and this confession was afterwards published in the London newspapers.
But this explanation does not account for three other murders of the same description. On December 21st, 1888, Maude Millet was murdered in Clarke's Yard, High Street, Poplar; On June 4th, 1888, the mutilated body of Elizabeth Jackson, aged twenty-four, Was taken from the Thames, and on July 17th, 1889, Alice M'Kenzie was found dead in Castle Alley, Wentworth Road, with a deep stab in her neck.
In the murder of June 4th, which was commonly called the " Thames mystery," a scar on the wrist led to the identification of the remains as being those of one, Elizabeth Jackson, an unfortunate, who bad resided a few weeks before at a common lodging-house in Turks Row, Chelsea. Portions of this woman's body had been sewn up in an old ulster coat and thrown into the Thames. Other remains were found in districts as far apart as Battersea Park and Limehouse. The head of the woman never cane to light.
Scotland Yard officers (who were doing their best to smother any mention of the East End murders) scoffed at the idea that Elizabeth Jackson was a victim of Jack the Ripper, but as the murderer was never discovered, one cannot help connecting this crime with the Whitechapel killer. The woman was probably done to death somewhere on enclosed premises, and as it is likely that this type of woman would have drifted to the East End sooner or later, it is quite possible that she came within the reach of the swift knife of Jack the Ripper. A working stone-mason, who, some weeks before, had been living with Jackson, was traced to Devonshire and there detained, but he fully satisfied the police as to his whereabouts at the time of the murder, and was discharged.
It looks as if the disarticulation of Jackson's body was the work of Jack the Ripper. The process must have occupied many hours, and when completed, the murderer must have taken many journeys before he finally disposed of his last ghastly burden. Obviously, too, the cunning of Jack the Ripper was needed at this time to " get away with " such a crime. No mere amateur could have escaped arrest with the whole police intelligence of the metropolis concentrated on this type of murder.
One small point in the case of Elizabeth Jackson suggests that the murderer may have been a member of the medical profession. One of the last portions of the body which turned up was enveloped in a piece of medicated gauze similar to that used by students engaged on surgical cases.
The Old Bailey officer whom I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter supplied me with the following details of the Miller's Court murder
" I was at the scene of the murder a few hours after the body was found. The victim of this atrocity was Mary Jane Kelly, a young girl who, in contrast with the other lost creatures on whom the murderer worked his fiendish will, was attractive and smartly dressed. It is said that her real name was Marie Jeanette Kelly, and that she was of mixed Irish and French descent - a compound which would lead one to expect a girl of dash and temperament. She had certainly seen better days, for, from several sources, I learnt that she could speak both French and English, and her voice was a cultured one. A full report on the inquest appears in the News of the World, November 18th, 1888. Here we learn that Jane Kelly lived for some time at a ' gay house ' in the West End of London, and previously she had lived in France.
" Mary Jane Kelly was different also in that she had a little hovel of her own-No. 13, Miller's Court. Other lost souls of this district had to be content with a doss in a common lodging-house. On Friday, November 9th, 1888, she was found lying on her bed at No. 13 - dead. Her throat was cut, and her body had been mutilated."
Was Doctor Stanley responsible for the death of Mary Kelly ?
After the murder myths began to cluster round this unhappy creature and possibly these myths were founded on grains of truth. If there is any truth in the story that Dr. Stanley's son died a wreck as the consequence of his fascination for this girl when she was living in the West End, it accounts for some of the mystery which surrounded her at the time of the murder. But of this we are sure : in 1888 Mary Kelly was flitting about the vile courts of Whitechapel, seemingly a lost creature, a girl-ghost strayed amongst the haunts of harridans. Pale, tragic, emaciated, in clothes which had a distinctive smartness, she walked about in search of someone with whom to talk-a chance dweller in those vile slums who possessed some semblance of education. Somtimes in a tavern she would find a fellow exile ; a human derelict who had seen better days, and her face would light up with a singular and penetrating sweetness that for a moment made one forget her dreadful profession.
" I well remember entering the room in Miller's Court after the murder," said the Old Bailey officer when lie recalled the crime. " The fury of the murderer, as you will have noticed by his scale of mutilations, increased on every occasion, and his appetite for revolting knife work became sharpened with each indulgence. The mutilations were positively fiendish. Various organs had been used to decorate the cheap ornaments on the mantelshelf, and parts of the body were found hanging from nails on the wall. The police doctor told me that the operator must have taken all night over his hellish job. As there was no lamp, gas or candles in the room the operator had made a bonfire of old newspapers and his victim's clothes, and, by the dint, frightful incandescence, he had managed to enact a scene which even in the East End of London--then the home of horrors-had never been equalled for its ghoulish indecencies."
Sir Melville Macnaghten, who joined Scotland Yard soon after this date, was quite convinced that Jack the Ripper committed suicide after tile Miller's Court murder. He remarked : " There can be no doubt that in the room at Miller's Court the madman found ample scope for the opportunities he had all along been seeking, and the probability is that, after his awful glut on this occasion, his brain gave way altogether and he committed suicide ; otherwise the murders would not have ceased."
One of Mary Kelly's friends was a poor devil-driven poet who often haunted the taverns around the East End. I will call him " Mr. Moring," but of course that was not his real name. Moring would often walk about all night and I had many long talks with him as together we paced the gloomy courts and alleys. Of externals Moring was utterly heedless. He wore a blue pea-jacket, baggy trousers (much like the modern Oxford bags) and pointed button boots. His collar was, I distinctly remember, tied together with a bow of wide black moire ribbon, and like his boots, seemed to be crumpled into folds of sympathetic irregularity. He was what the Victorians called a ne'er-do-well, and a decadent. He had black, lank hair and moustache, and the long, dark face of the typical bard. It was said that his father -a prosperous tradesman in the East End-had disowned him because he had become a drug addict. Occasionally he returned home and begged money from his parents, and on his return to old haunts lie would enjoy a short period of luxury and sartorial rehabilitation. Moring, who knew every opium den in the East End, although at that time they were not counted in with the sights of London, often gave himself up to long spells of opium smoking.
Many of the drinking dens of London were open all night during those days, and I can still see Moring sitting at a tavern table, surrounded by a villainous company as lie lectured on the merits of opium. " Alcohol for fools ; opium for poets, was a phrase which recurred constantly in his talk. " To-morrow one dies," was his motto, and he would sometimes add " and who cares-will it stop the traffic on London Bridge ? "
In looking up this case in an old newspaper published at the time, I read that a man named George Hutchinson carne up with a statement the day after the inquest on Mary Kelly. " At 2 a.m., on Friday," he said, " I met Mary Kelly in Commercial Street. I knew her well. She asked the to lend her sixpence, but I refused. There was a man at the corner of Thrawl Street, and Kelly went up and spoke to him. They walked down Dorset Street, and I saw them standing outside Miller's Court. The man was about thirty-five years of age, five feet six inches high, of a dark complexion, with a dark moustache. He wore a long, black coat with astrachan collar, spats with pearl buttons over button boots."
After reading the above statement I looked back on my memories of the wandering poet and curiously enough that description fitted him down to the ground! But I could not connect a man of such extraordinary gentleness committing such a dreadful series of outrages."
It was afterwards stated that the Lambeth murderer, Neill Cream, whose malefactions are given a special chapter in this book, was the real Jack the Ripper. This arose from the fact that the hangman, about to hurl Cream into eternity, imagined he heard him say " I am Jack the Ripper ! "
But there are two good reasons why this story cannot be accepted. The first is that Neill Cream was a drug fiend, a careless blunderer, and a vain fool who was lucky to be at liberty for a week after his first murder in London. As a matter of fact, he had been fixed up with a gang of Chicago crooks in 1880, but they found him such a dangerous fool that he was told to make himself scarce before he brought trouble on the head of every member.
The second reason is that during the whole period covered by the Ripper's crimes, Neill Cream was in prison on the other side of the Atlantic. He arrived in London after his release on October 1st, 1891.