Another noted fact about the murders committed by ‘Jack the Ripper’ was the sheer volume of letters claiming to be from the man himself dispatched across all corners of Britain during that period. The exact number of letters sent to the police, press agencies, and individuals was unknown, but over 200 letters were formally recorded. These letters have been pored over, analysed, and examined in great detail. I myself have read each one. A fascinating study of language analysis of the letters was conducted in 2018 by Dr Andrea Nini, which I would recommend is worth reading.
The consensus is that they are all hoaxes. Like most things, I am never satisfied with just consensus alone. I believe the ‘From Hell’ and ‘Openshaw’ letters are from the same hand. At this point, I shall clarify that Dr Nini does not draw that conclusion from his research. I draw that conclusion. He does, however, conclude that the ‘Dear Boss’ letter and the ‘Saucy Jack’ postcard are written by the same hand. Also, a third letter that only one man has actually seen – Tom Bulling, who supposedly transcribed it.
I would be inclined to agree with the police of the time’s theory (and Dr Nini’s view) that enterprising journalists had come up with these letters. No serial killer sends letters to a press agency, who then can syndicate that letter to newspapers for money. They send letters to specific newspapers, specific law enforcement officers or specific people. History must not stop asking questions of Tom Bulling of the Central News Agency. I digress.
‘FROM HELL LETTER’ (16TH OCT 1888)
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk
The letter accompanied a small parcel. Both were delivered postmarked on 15th October. The envelope for the letter has since perished. The present whereabouts of the original letter are unknown. The small parcel contained the remains of a human kidney. Some doctors, both then and since have questioned whether it was actually human. There is enough evidence to suggest that it was. Not only that but there is also enough evidence to suggest it was from 4th victim Catherine Eddowes.
The letter itself was thought to have been written by an Irishman or someone with low intelligence. The suggestion of the writer being Irish comes from the pronunciation of certain words as they were written, such as “Sor”, “Prasarved”, and “Mishter”. I have great difficulty with this assertion. Why were not more words written in such a way? Surely on that basis, “Nise ” would be “Noice”? Or “Tother” would be “Da other”? Also, there is no pronunciation issue where words have lost the ending ‘e’, such as “knif” and “whil”. Curiously, the writer includes the silent ‘k’ in “knife”. This does not suggest low intelligence to me. It suggests someone deliberately trying to misspell and misdirect when clearly they can spell perfectly fine. It is an attempt at misdirection. I believe the writer was attempting to try and sound local, like a cockney. We see similar behaviour in the ‘Openshaw letter’ too.
‘OPENSHAW LETTER’ (29TH OCT 1888)
It would have been impossible to know the sex of a kidney on its own. However, upon close examination by Dr Thomas Openshaw, he was able to verify that it was half of a human left kidney. Eddowes was missing such an organ. Dr Frederick Gordon Brown was invited to examine it also, who invited experts in the field to offer their analysis. Dr Henry Gawen Sutton, an expert, gave his opinion that the kidney was put into spirits within hours of removal. Thereby instantly corroborating the author’s statement in the ‘From Hell Letter’. Some claim the kidney had Bright’s disease and that the renal arteries matched Eddowes’ missing kidney. These claims seem to trace back to second-hand statements by Major Smith, twenty years after the fact, and cannot be corroborated. Nonetheless, still compelling.
Old boss you was rite it was the left kidny i was goin to hoperate agin close to you ospitle just as i was going to dror mi nife along of er bloomin throte them cusses of coppers spoilt the game but i guess i wil be on the jobn soon and will send you another bit of innerds
Jack the Ripper
O have you seen the devle with his mikerscope and scalpul a-lookin at a kidney with a slide cocked up
We see once again the emergence of misspellings. Except in this letter, he spells “Kidney” correctly in the P.S section but misses the ‘e’ in the opening sentence. Not only that, we can see he spells “Pathological Curator” on the envelope perfectly. Some have suggested that he copied the address down from a newspaper. If so, why did he use joined-up writing? There is no indication in those two words that they were not each written in one stroke. He knew exactly how to spell. Although, I do believe his information for addresses was gathered from reading the press.
What to me is the most curious thing regarding this letter is the poem at the end. It bears remarkable similarity to the following:
Did you ever see de devil wid his iron handled shovel,
A-scrapin up de san’ in his ole tin pan
This discovery of this similarity was made by the late Martin Fido – an eminent academic, author and ‘Jack the Ripper’ researcher. It was found in a book called “Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro”, originally published in 1926. The author aimed to collect and collate folk songs, superstitions and voodoo beliefs of the Black communities living across the Deep South. Most of whom would have had family members in their immediate ancestry who worked the cotton fields. Another link to America. More importantly, American cotton.
READ ALL ABOUT IT!
On Monday 1st October 1888, the newspapers started to break the story of the ‘double event’ of the preceding Saturday night. Interestingly, The Daily Telegraph that morning printed a letter sent to the Editor by a Mr George Lusk – Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee.
The letter was an attack from the committee on the Home Office’s handling of a reward to capture the killer. I believe this letter caught the attention of Jack, who was most likely basking freshly in the glow of his recent ‘achievements’. Perhaps he thought it was quaint and charming that a local vigilante believed he had the smarts to catch him. To be reading this letter on this day of all days must have amused him greatly. Note that Mr Lusk’s address is also printed in the paper. Lusk received his parcel with the kidney around two weeks later.
The above appeared in the 19th October 1888 edition of The Liverpool Echo. A similar article also appeared in The Liverpool Mercury on the same day. Being a national story, it is unsurprising it made most, if not all, the local papers and the national press. All articles pretty much referred to Dr Openshaw as either being ‘Pathological Curator,’ or attached to the ‘Pathological Museum’ of London Hospital. The letter was sent 10 days after this article was published and was posted in London. Plenty of time to visit the capital on business.
Whoever wrote these letters used newspaper information for names and addresses. This means it is most likely the writer was not familiar with the individuals on a personal level. Whilst stringing the police along was fun, it was also fun to do the same with vigilantes and doctors. “Just how clever can one man be?” he must have asked himself.
He was clever enough not to be caught. However, he may not have been clever enough to avoid being the victim of murder himself less than eight months later.
JACK THE RIPPER: THREADS
Think you know Jack the Ripper? Think again.
What if ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a cotton merchant from Liverpool? What if the diary or watch, purported to be James Maybrick’s, is genuine? This gripping fictional tale is a circumstantial exploration of James Maybrick being ‘Jack’.
Using a mix of fact and fiction, actual events and characters are brought to life in this gripping story.
Did one of his family members murder him in 1889, ending the reign of terror in London’s Whitechapel?
“Jack the Ripper: Threads” is the debut novel of Jay Hartley.
A historical crime thriller that will challenge everything you thought you knew about history’s most famous unsolved serial murders.