In the year 1888 the streets of Whitechapel were terrorized by an unidentified serial killer who targeted prostitutes who frequented the area in London. Of eleven possible murder victims in the area , five were directly linked to Jack The Ripper. The victims who were definitely the victims of Jack The Ripper were Elizabeth Stride, Annie Chapman, Mary Ann Nicholls, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. These were concluded to be killed by the same assailant due to the M.O (Modus Operandi), which is essentially a killer's' signature.
The manner in which his victims were killed was horrific , including mutilations to the faces and bodies of the victims and the removal of internal organs, . This also lead people to speculate that the assailant must of had a surgical/medical background given the skill shown when performing this procedure.
Jack The Ripper was a term used by the media to described the serial killer after a letter was sent to Scotland Yard taking credit for the gory murders.
The infamous "Dear Boss" letter and the "From Hell" letter was the first time that anyone had gotten in direct contact with the media regarding the brutal slaying. However many people believe that these letters were a hoax written by the media to intensify public interest in the case. However when a letter arrived containing a mutilated ear, which had been mentioned in a recent letter, the police had to consider these letters genuine.
There have been over 100 different theories as to who Jack The Ripper really was. This mystery has inspired many works of fiction.
Works of fiction inspired by the Jack The Ripper murders include : From Hell a film starring Johnny Depp which explored the theory that Jack The Ripper was Prince Albert. However , as fiction often is, there is a love story involved in the Prince Albert aspect of the movie. The Prince had fallen in love with one of the victims , and had married her in secret. The movie alleges that she was murdered to hide her involvement with the Prince, as this would have brought disgrace to his family. For not only was she a commoner, she was also a whore with no Royal connections
This is a long running theory that Prince Albert was Jack The Ripper, and that his family members knew that he was responsible. The argument goes that Prince Albert was suffering from syphilis which is a Sexually Transmitted Disease that can affect the brain and this was offered as an explanation as to why a member of the Royal family would commit such terrible crimes.
The Prince would of have been trained exceptionally well and this would have explained the amount of precision involved in The Ripper's murders.
However , as with all good theories, there are reasons to argue against this. For example Prince Albert was abroad when some of the murders took place. This would now be considered a strong alibi and an investigation into his responsibility of the murders would be discontinued.
The allegations against the Prince only surfaced in the 1950's also, and many theorists argue against this possibility.
However even after the 1888 murders, investigators today are still trying to unravel the mystery of Jack The Ripper's identity.
So Who Was Jack The Ripper?
Recently the television channel History started showing a program titled " An American Ripper In London" which aires on a Tuesday evening 9pm (U.K) in which investigators re-examine the evidence with a fresh perspective on who Jack The Ripper was.
The man in the photo above is Jeff Mudgett, the Great-Great Grandson of H.H Holmes- America's biggest serial killer.
H.H Holmes was America's first real serial killer and was responsible for the deaths of at least 9 confirmed victims, although he claimed up to 27 however it is believed that he could be responsible for 200+ deaths due to his infamous Murder Castle.
However recent investigations have lead Jeff Mudgett to believe that his Great-Great Grandfather could have been Jack The Ripper himself.
Together with ex CIA analyst Amaryllis Fox , Jeff has started to look at the evidence surrounding the Whitechapel Murders , trying to find out whether Jack The Ripper was in fact H.H Holmes.
Some of the evidence they have looked at has been quite persuasive in arguing that Jack The Ripper was H.H Holmes.
There first line of investigation was to discover whether H.H Holmes was in London at the time of the murders. They looked at ship manifests and discovered that H.H Holmes was in London at the time of the killings and once H.H Holmes had left London the murders stopped. This is a very good piece of evidence by itself, however not conclusive enough.
There is also the fact that H.H Holmes was also a qualified doctor, which fits in with the belief that Jack The Ripper had medical/surgical training. Although , this is circumstantial evidence it is still worth considering into the profile of who Jack The Ripper was.
The next thing that Jeff and Amaryllis did was send the infamous "Dear Boss" letter to a handwriting expert to compare H.H Holmes' writing to the letter. The team had known examples of H.H Holmes' writing to compare with the "Dear Boss" letter. And although the study revealed that the letter was most likely to have been written by an American, the handwriting was not an exact match. There were some aspects of the letter that matched exactly and other parts that didn't. This left the expert no option other than to say this letter was not specifically conclusive that H.H Holmes did or did not write the letter.
Also as part of their investigation, Amaryllis and Jeff had a sketch artist draw a composite sketch of Jack The Ripper from thirteen eye witness accounts of Jack The Ripper's appearance. The person they consulted was Paloma Galzi.
Paloma Galzi then took the information supplied by the eye witness accounts and came up with a composite sketch. The above photo is of Paloma's sketch (on the left) and a known photograph of H.H Holmes. The resemblance is quite strong. This was an almost match in physical appearance that , when it was revealed, Jeff Mudgett claimed that
“If you took this composite to a judge, he’d issue a warrant,”
This was an invigorating piece of evidence for the case and helped breathe new excitement into the investigation, despite the handwriting not being an exact match.
With the trail in London being inconclusive but enough to keep investigating, the team returned to the U.S in the hopes that evidence of H.H Holmes' crimes could be found. The photo above shows a Post Office that sits on the site where the infamous Murder Castle stood. There is a large part of the original Murder Castle intact beneath this Post Office.
Studies were done to to test whether H.H Holmes' incinerator at the Murder Castle could have destroyed all the remains of his victims.
Amaryllis Fox spoke to some experts in incineration to discuss whether the materials at the time would have allowed for all remains to be destroyed.
They concluded that , given the materials H.H Holmes had to work with , he could not of disposed/ burned all of his victims remains. This was a promising lead for the team.
However , once this was established Jeff Mudgett went to the Post Office to discuss excavating the grounds in the hope of discovering some evidence. The Post Office rejected their request and would not allow for any excavating to take place on the grounds of public safety and interest. This was a promising lead that the team had to abandon.
This was a devastating blow for the team, as there was a good chance of recovering some very good evidence. However undeterred , the team started to look at other murders around the U.S and whether these could be linked to H.H Holmes also. They discovered that H.H Holmes often travelled around the U.S and that many times people often "vanished" when H .H Holmes was in the area.
This was evident when the team discovered that, specifically in New York people, had gone missing when H.H Holmes was visiting. However H.H Holmes was not suspected in these disappearances.
The team then discovered that H.H Holmes owned a cement factory that ran along the Chicago River. This gave the team a whole new area to investigate, given that a serial killer would have to dispose of his victims, it is not a stretch to contemplate that H.H Holmes encased some of his victims in concrete and disposed of them in the Chicago River.
Amaryllis Fox and Jeff Mudgett, again, went to speak to an expert on decomposition when remains are encased in concrete.
The expert then revealed that given the lack of oxygen and an almost anti-bacterial nature of concrete that it would be highly likely that remains could be discoverable should the exist.
They put a pig carcass into cement and left it for for a fortnight. Then they went back and opened up the concrete to reveal very little decomposition. This means that despite Holmes' crimes taking place over 125 years ago, if there were victims encased in concrete there would be a good chance of recovering that evidence.
Being able to see the level of decomposition that had taken place in that time, Amaryllis Fox felt confident that evidence from Holmes' era could have survived if it had been disposed of in this manner.
Amaryllis and Jeff then sought the advice of underwater recovery specialists , as to how best identify whether anything had been deposited into the River.
The expert then explained that if something were to be deposited into the river, then there would be divots in the silt. This would indicate that a fairly heavy object had been deposited there.
Armed with this information Amaryllis and Jeff took the next step of hiring experts to look at the bottom of the Chicago River to see if there were in fact andy divots to indicate that they should investigate this avenue further.
With the help of the underwater recovery team they were able to see the bottom of the Chicago River, and clear divots in the area that H.H Holmes had his cement factory. This is a new avenue of investigation for the team. If they are able to recover any evidence or remains and link it to H.H Holmes then they could compare this M.O with that of the Rippers.
There are already similarities between the two killers such as asphyxiation of the victim, before mutilation. Some of the investigators at the time even compared the way Holmes had mutilated a victim to that of the Jack The Ripper's brutality.
The investigation into whether or not H.H Holmes could have been Jack The Ripper has been very official and thorough. There has been comprehensive study and research into this investigation and I personally think that there is a lot of compelling evidence that H.H Holmes was Jack The Ripper.
With series continuing on the History channel on a Tuesday evening at 9pm ( U.K time) I look forward to seeing any other evidence they manage to examine.
The next step of their investigation is to dredge the area in the hopes of recovering some evidence which can then be fully investigated, and hopefully a definitive answer can be made as to whether H.H Holmes was , in fact , Jack The Ripper.