[Original London broadsheet following Mary Jane Kelley’s murder on 9th September 1888]
Who cares that there is yet another book, Jack the Ripper : Case Closed, (Corsair 2017), claiming to reveal the identity of London’s most famous serial killer, albeit this claimant says it was not one, but two men, working in tandem! The author has used historical fiction as his genre but claims its basis is true and returns to the foreign emigrant theses of old to find his killers and, because there are now two killers rather than one, ratchets up the victims to eleven rather than the four, five, six or possibly eight cited by established ‘Ripperologists’. He also uses an expanded time frame running from early April 1888 right through to February 1891 instead of the usual August through to November 1888.
Why am I having a brief rant about this?
It is because these very real series of terribly vicious and hideous murders created a reverberation of fear amongst all women, especially those in the East End of London where the murders took place. Women who were struggling from day-to-day to survive at a time when the female voice carried no weight whatsoever in local affairs.
Indeed, it’s true the killer did target prostitutes in London’s East-End and he did engage in horrific mutilations of his victims’s bodies centered on removing their sexual organs – but while all the gore and misogynistic sentiments have constantly remained the overriding features of this historic barbarity – with Jack the Ripper as the central attraction – little has been done to really tap into the public feelings of the moment and how there was a subtle but definite empathy for the women’s perspective and, even encouragement to fight against their curt dismissal as unworthy of too much concern in this world of extreme male violence, especially if you were a prostitute.
Here I would like to present some rare archive material from 1888 that taps into the emerging protective community spirit that showed concerns for the female population of London and their well-being.
Initially, however, we need to know that so determined were the authorities to catch ‘The Ripper’ – immunity was assured to any accomplice or partner with knowledge of the murderer. Here is the pardon notice issued by the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan police force in November 1888.
(Sir Charles Warren was the Metropolitan Police Commissioner: he resigned at the same moment this murder pardon was published)
Mary Jane Kelly is considered the final murder victim but of course at the time, she was the sixth or maybe the seventh, even the eighth, depending on who is chosen as his first victim – this has never been settled. So without any clues except he appeared to be familiar with using a knife to mutilate and dissect bodies, preferring to strangle his victims face-to-face, before carefully lying them down without causing bruising to the head, only to then cut their throats prior to mutilating their body. There were never any signs of sexual intercourse or evidence of masturbation over the body by the assailant.
It is a horrific scenario to contemplate and so it was mostly through supportive song lyrics and rhymes that women were encouraged to imagine their own scenario where they took charge of the confrontation with ‘Jack’ and executed their own attack on him.
In the lyrics that follow, the sentiment of the chorus to let the ladies mutilate Jack’s face (fizz in the song – short for fizzog i.e. face) is rousing enough but when you get to see what a certain Mrs. Potts would do to him it really turns the tables and empowers the victims to hit back, albeit in song. This is sung to the tune of a song called “Railway Train” which, as yet, I have not been able to locate – your assistance would be very welcome if you know it.
The torturous fantasies of Mrs. Potts not only includes reciprocal mutilation,thereby getting revenge for her ‘sister’ victims but forces this ‘humbug’ to gulp down an inventive boiling-hot stew comprised of all that his evil presence represents.
Another lyric, sung to the air of “Teddy 0’Neale,” manages to imbue an element of shame that England should be subjecting their women to such rampant brutality, thereby likely to encourage ‘foreigners’ to think less of us as a nation, but it is also careful to leave a hint of a generous nation willing to donate money if only we could capture this evil devil.
Criticisms of the police for failing to protect women were a common media theme, but the lyrics took these even further by castigating them as useless in not using the bloodhounds Burgho and Barnaby – a plan promoted by Warren but not followed through. Who knows – they might have been the answer?
We know of course that he – assuming it was a single he – was never caught but in the fervor of the second half of 1888 in London, the fear was tangible, the exploitation of the sexual nature of the attacks was used constantly as a perverse titillation by certain sectors of the media – no change there then – but hidden amongst all this was pathos and concern and of course humour at the plight London found herself in.
First the pathos and concern:
Now the self-deprecating humour:
Are you ready?
All together now: