Jack the Ripper – Fact and Fiction Down the Decades

Jack the Ripper – Fact and Fiction Down the Decades

The shocking series of murders that took place around London’s East End in 1888 have continued to fascinate and horrify people down the decades and up until the present day.

Known as the “Jack the Ripper” murders, involving at least 5 women, they were characterised by extreme ferocity and dreadful knife mutilations. The nature of the wounds has led some to believe that the murderer had some degree of anatomical knowledge or perhaps was an abattoir worker.

The fact that the identity of the murderer was never discovered has led to innumerable speculations about his nature and identity, and a tremendous number of conspiracy theories have been spawned.

However some of the actual facts and more commonly accepted conjectures include:

  1. The East End area where the murders were committed was notorious for poverty, violence and crime.
  2. Eleven murders were committed around the general area during 1888 and 1891. However the police believed that only five of these were committed by the same man – dubbed Jack the Ripper.
  3. All five were occasional prostitutes who operated in the streets of the area.
  4. Queen Victoria reportedly believed that the murderer was a butcher or cattle drover.
  5. The name ‘Jack the Ripper’ originated in a letter purportedly from the killer written in 1888. However many believed that a reporter coined the name to increase newspaper circulation.
  6. The murders took place at weekends or in the early morning – leading to the belief that he was holding down a conventional 9 to 5 type job.
  7. A doctor who performed an autopsy on one of the victims declared that the Ripper was likely left-handed.
  8. The way he mutilated the corpses indicated that he may have had some medical-level knowledge of the human anatomy.
  9. Psychologists believe that the Ripper likely had some type of sexual dysfunction and hated women as a result.
  10. The murders ceased after November 1888.

Interest in the murders has continued through to modern times, spawning large numbers of “Ripperologists’ – people who continue to study all aspects of the murders – with the faint hope of someday identifying the killer.


Image: A newspaper broadsheet published in September 1888, soon after the murder of one of “the Rippers” victims. He is referred to as “Leather Apron” in this article, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.