Edmund Lester Pearson
An American true-crime writer, Edmund Lester Pearson authored More Studies in Murder in 1936 as a continuation of his popular 1924 release, Studies in Murder. Both offer brief summations of famous historical homicides.
Eight pages of More Studies in Murder are devoted to the Ripper crimes, discussing the murders of the five canonical victims as well as the "Dr. Stanley," Dr. Neil Cream, and George Chapman theories. He offers no conclusion as to the identity of the killer.
More Studies in Murder was Edmund Lester Pearson's last book; he died the year following its publication.
I. JACK THE RIPPER
A QUEER thing about the most celebrated murderer in the world: nobody knows his name. To the questions, who was lie? how many people did he kill? why did he kill them? what happened to him in the end? only one answer can be given.
And it is that we do not know.
It sounds grotesque, but there is no certain legal evidence as to the murderer's sex. Man or woman-we have no positive knowledge.
Someone, probably a newspaper writer, invented the killer's notorious nickname: Jack the Ripper. In the black hours before dawn, he hideously slaughtered at least five forlorn women. People still remember, with shuddering horror, those foggy autumn days and nights in London, and the bellowing newsboys:
"Another horrible murder! Murder! Mutilation!! Murder!"
Jack the Ripper is a perpetual topic of interest, forever coming up in the newspapers. The stolen child, Charley Ross, is always good for an item in the American press, but the fame of the Ripper is international. Wedekind put him in a play. Most readers of fiction know that somber novel The Lodger, by Marie Belloc-Lowndes, which Lord Haldane is said to have reread every year. Probably he did this because the novelist regarded murder as a dignified subject, and surrounded it with terror, instead of treating it as a trivial puzzle.
No one who writes about the Ripper agrees entirely with anyone else. For their failure to catch the murderer, the London police were bitterly and unfairly attacked. England was shocked by the mere existence of such a monster, so the London journalists, with patriotic impulse, seized every pretext to attribute Jack the Ripper to some other country.
The number of murders committed, and the length of time the murderer was at work, vary in each account. Conservative writers say the five crimes began with the killing of Mary Ann Nicholls, on the night of August 31, 1888, and ended nine weeks later, with the frightful slaughter of Mary Jeanette Kelly.
The victims were street-walkers, of the most degraded class. At first, the murders took place outdoors: it was easy for a man to lure one of these destitute women into an alley or court of the kind then so plentiful in the London slums. There, in the dark shadows, he would cut her throat with a knife, and indulge his mania for other mutilations of the body, which increased as the murders went on.
Nicholls was found lying across the gutter. She had been slashed with a long-handled knife, wielded by a person with "a rough anatomical knowledge," since he attacked all the vital parts. No part of the body, however, was missing.
A week later, Annie Chapman was found in a backyard, with her head nearly cut off. More than a dozen persons, within earshot, had heard nothing. Jack the Ripper had carried out further mutilations, so that "a certain organ," as the papers described it, had been abstracted. He had taken two brass rings from her fingers, a few coppers and trinkets from her pocket, and carefully laid them in a row at her feet.
The next victim was a local celebrity known as Long Liz. Her real name was Elizabeth Stride. The Ripper was interrupted in his work by a man who drove a pony cart into the yard. The pony shied as he entered the yard - probably at Jack the Ripper, who was in a dark corner behind the gate. When the driver of the cart jumped down and lifted the woman's head, the blood was still pouring from her throat.
This interruption annoyed the Ripper, so that he went forth and, within an hour, lured Catherine Eddowes into a lonely alley. Here, he was able to proceed at leisure. After the throat-cutting, he extracted the, left kidney, and "another organ" - presumably an ovary - nicked the lower eyelids of the dead woman, tore off part of her apron, and wiped his hands and knife on it.
Jeanette Kelly was the only one killed indoors; she was also the only one possessed of youth and any pretense to good looks. She lived with a man named Barnet in a squalid place called Miller's Court. Mr. Barnet had approved her conduct, as that of a prostitute who was "straight and decent." But she had tried his patience, departing from the paths of straightness and decency, and bringing home, to sleep with her, "an immoral woman." So the puritanical Barnet had left her to her sins.
On the night of her death, Kelly had been heard, by someone in the house, singing "Sweet Violets." At what time she admitted her murderer is not known, but the crime was undiscovered until the next morning, when people looked into her room through the window. A Scotland Yard official, Sir Melville Macnaghten, an old Etonian, and therefore not given to overstatement, says:
"The operator must have been at least two hours over his hellish job. A fire was burning low in the room, but neither candles nor gas were there. The madman made a bonfire of some old newspapers, and of his victim's clothes, and by this dim irreligious light, a scene was enacted which nothing witnessed by Dante, in his visit to the infernal regions, could have surpassed."
Her naked body, or what remained of it, was lying on the bed. The murderer had cut her throat, opened the body, and removed most of the internal organs, which he distributed here and there about the room. He had also cut off her nose and ears. In this case, however, he had carried away with him no part of the body, which damages the theory that these crimes were committed for the purpose of collecting anatomical specimens.
The Ripper took many chances, and always slipped through the hands of the police. Many persons were detained; the papers talked about a Polish Jew, an American sailor, a Russian doctor, and anyone, so long as he did not "remain an Englishman." Someone with "a knowledge of surgery," or someone else with "a houseful of big knives" was always under suspicion.
Mr. Leonard Matters, a journalist, has investigated the facts with great patience and intelligence, adventuring afterwards into what appears to be sheer fiction, with a story about "the satanic Dr. Stanley." This diabolical physician is supposed to have died in Buenos Aires, making a "deathbed confession" that he was Jack the Ripper.
The "deathbed confession" bears about the same relation to the facts of criminology as the exploits of Peter Rabbit and Jerry Muskrat do to zoology.
Four years after the Ripper murders, a Dr. Neill Cream was hanged in London for poisoning four women. As he stood upon the drop, so runs the alluring tale, he started to speak. The executioner's hand was on the lever. The doctor said:
"I am Jack the -----"
But, at this moment, the lever was pulled and the body shot down.
Unfortunately, one of those tiresome devotees to truth looked into Dr. Cream's history and found that he was in prison in Illinois, throughout the period of the Ripper murders. That wise and humane Governor of Illinois who commuted Cream's life-sentence - with the result that the convict went out and committed four more murders - had not yet performed his beneficent act of clemency. And a man cannot cut women's throats in London if he is behind the bars in Joliet-no matter how "sinister" he may be.
Now, in our own time, comes a distinguished investigator of crime, Mr. H. L. Adam, with something better than guesses and gossip. He has made public a number of interesting parallels between the career of Jack the Ripper and a known man.
One day, shortly after King Edward had ascended the throne, Inspector Godley of Scotland Yard arrested a London innkeeper-a man who called himself George Chapman. This publican had a dark and ferocious mustache, and a career which marched the mustache. He was wanted for murder by poison.
Inspector Godley and Inspector Abberline had spent months and years in the pursuit of Jack the (tipper, and although that case was thought to be closed, Abberline now greeted his assistant with the words:
"You've got Jack the Ripper at last!"
For the moment, however, they were engaged in uncovering the series of offenses which Chapman had committed under his own name-no, not his own name, for that, as they soon learned, was Severin Klosowski. This man had been born in Poland. He came to London, at the age of twenty-three, and worked as a barber. He married a girl from his own country, and after a time went with her to America. He tried barbering in Jersey City, but in about a year they returned to London.
He spent the next ten years as a barber, as shopkeeper, and finally as tavern-keeper. What concerned the police were his "marriages" with Annie Chapman (whose last name he assumed), with Mrs. Shadrach Spink, with Bessie Taylor and with Maud Marsh. Curiously enough, one of the Ripper victims was also named Annie Chapman. These ladies were profitable to him, either because he took over their savings, or because he made them work as barmaids. At least three of them died, painfully and mysteriously, by poison. Finally, the doctors began to think something might be wrong, so Chapman was put on trial for the murder of Miss Marsh. He wrote complaining that he was being "unjustly criticised and falsly Represented," and added that he was "an American orphend of good family" - which he certainly was not. Let us consider what Chapman had in common with Jack the Ripper.
1. It is pretty well established that Jack the Ripper had a knowledge of anatomy, and some degree of surgical skill. Chapman had been assistant surgeon in a Polish hospital.
z. The Ripper murders began in 1888, in the Whitechapel district. That was the year of Chapman's arrival in London, and the place of his residence. His wife of that period was still living at the time of his arrest for the later murders - the poisonings. She remembered the Ripper murders, and told the detectives that at that time her husband was often out until 3 or 4 in the morning - for what purpose, she did not know.
3. The messages received by the police, and supposed to be from the Ripper, contained "Americanisms," as well as certain bits of gruesome humor. Chapman was addicted to both. In comment on this it may be said that the "Americanisms" (in the opinion of the London journalists) were the use of the word "boss" - he began his letters "Dear Boss"; and other phrases like "just for jolly" as in "next time I shall clip the lady's ears off and send to the police just for jolly." To one officer he sent part of a human kidney, remarking that he had fried and eaten the other part.
4. The Ripper murders ceased in London in 1891 and '92. Chapman was then in America, where similar murders took place "in the locality of Jersey City."
5. The only reliable description of the Ripper came from someone who saw Kelly in company with the creature who probably murdered her. It was of a man thirty-four or thirty-five years old, five feet six inches tall, of a dark completion, with a dark mustache turned up at the ends. This is a good description of Chapman, who always looked older than his years.
Of these points, the only one which I believe fails altogether, is that of the letters and their "Americanisms." London journalists are not on sure grounds when they discuss American slang. But whether the messages received at the time came from the Ripper, or not (and it is now pretty generally agreed that they did not), they were surely not written by Chapman. One of them was reproduced in the Daily Telegraph. Handwriting, spelling and grammar are all beyond the powers of that grotesque Polander, as exhibited in his authentic epistles.
As to the Ripper murders in America, they have passed into the creed of the English writers. After a number of attempts, I have found only one which resembles the Whitechapel crimes. The slaying of a wretched woman, "Old Shakespeare," in a water-front hotel in New York, in April, 1891, was greeted by New York papers with the query: "Has Jack the Ripper arrived?" For this crime an Algerian, called "Frenchy," was convicted. He was found insane, but after ten years was released, and sent back to Europe or Africa. As to Chapman, it can only be said that he was living in Jersey City at the time.
The other parallels between Chapman and the Ripper remain unshaken. The one great likeness between them is that they were both addicted to the secret, senseless and cruel murder of unoffending women. The great difference between them is in their methods. Would the monster who raged through Whitechapel, with his great knife, like a Malay running amuck, afterwards content himself with stealthy poisonings? The probable answer is no; and this difference between the Ripper and Chapman seems to me practically destructive of the theory that they were the same.
Whatever your decision as to Chapman's identity with the Ripper, it is academic. The murder of Miss Marsh was sufficient, and upon Chapman has been executed the utmost penalty of the law.