Over time, the world has witnessed many serial killers, most of whom were caught and their identities confirmed. However, one name sets itself apart: Jack the Ripper. He was never caught, his identity remains unknown, and he badly mutilated his victims. Here are some heart-wrenching Jack the Ripper facts you probably didn’t know.
1. All His Attacks Happened around Whitechapel, England
In 1988, Whitechapel was an impoverished district in London, England. From the mid-19th century, the region had seen an influx of immigrants from Ireland and other parts of Europe, causing overpopulation. As a result, resources became scarce, and most women resorted to prostitution to cater to their needs.
Unfortunately, it is thought that these prostitutes living in slums and working around Whitechapel were Jack’s targets. He badly mutilated their bodies and left them in sexual positions as if to suggest his motives.
2. The Exact Number of Jack the Ripper Victims Is Not Known
To date, the exact number of the victims murdered by Jack the Ripper is not known. The fact that he was never caught leaves us with generic figures under the Whitechapel Murders file (the official name the police use for their investigations). However, most historians agree Jack the Ripper’s body count could be 11.
3. The Name “Jack the Ripper” Came from One of the Letters Sent to the Police
Not only was Jack the Ripper never caught, his true identity remains unclear. In fact, the name we currently use, “Jack the Ripper,” was from one of the letters titled “Dear Boss Letter,” which was sent to the authorities by someone claiming to be the perpetrator.
4. He Created a Worldwide Media Frenzy
While it’s true that there were other serial killers, Jack the Ripper was among the first to create a worldwide media frenzy. Everyone who could read knew about the killer through the papers. He remains on the lips of many more than 135 years later.
5. One of the Letters Sent to the Authorities Came with a Part of a Human Kidney
When the public and the media knew Jack the Ripper was unknown, they started sending letters to the authorities, claiming they were the one. Journalists did this to build hype around the serial killer for them to sell their papers, while the general public did so for its thrill. The police received a lot of these letters and mostly disregarded them.
However, when the police received a letter titled “From Hell,” their attention was caught by the presence of a preserved half of a human kidney. The sender claimed to be Jack the Ripper and said he had eaten the other half. Medical experts indeed identified the organ as that of a human being.
6. Jack the Ripper Is Famous for the “Canonical Five”
While the 11 or so murders attributed to Jack the Ripper are widely disputed, the Canonical Five are not; most historians agree it was the work of the infamous serial killer. The victims in this category include Annie Chapman, Mary Jane Kelly, Mary Ann Nichols, Catherine Eddowes, and Elizabeth Stride.
One of the reasons why many attribute the canonical killings to one person is the similar mutilation patterns the victims had.
7. There Was a Whitechapel Vigilance Committee
Following the terror that Jack the Ripper caused in 1988, a Whitechapel Vigilance Committee was formed in September (of the same year). The group consisted of volunteer citizens whose main goal was to patrol the streets to catch any suspicious characters. At some point, it petitioned the government to increase the reward leading to the killer’s arrest and even offered an additional £50.
8. What Happened to Jack the Ripper Is Not Clear
While Mary Jane Kelley is generally considered Jack the Ripper’s final victim, it’s unclear what happened to the culprit. The general feeling is that he was imprisoned, immigrated, died, or institutionalized.
9. Most of the Files Relating to the Whitechapel Murders Were Destroyed
Another reason why Jack the Ripper’s identity remains a mystery is because most of the files and evidence collected by the authorities were destroyed by the Blitz. The Blitz refers to the bombing of the United Kingdom by the Germans in 1940 and 1941.
10. The List of People Suspected to be Jack the Ripper Is Huge
As a result of Jack the Ripper’s murders, the police conducted house-to-house inquiries in the Whitechapel neighborhood. They collected forensic materials and other evidence for examination. From their investigations, they ended up interviewing more than 2,000 people, with more than 300 investigated. About 80 were detained, and a reward of £500 (which was a lot at the time) was offered to anyone who could identify the killer.
11. People With Surgical Knowledge Were the Biggest Suspects
Given how Jack the Ripper mutilated the bodies of his suspects, many strongly believed that the perpetrator had some surgical skills. As such, professionals such as surgeons, physicians, slaughterers, and butchers were the biggest suspects.
However, a surviving note from Henry Smith, a former Acting Commissioner of the City Police, vindicated the local butchers and slaughterers, removing them from the inquiry list.
12. Many Films and Documentaries Derive Inspiration from Jack the Ripper
Today, when filmmakers think of a horror story or documentary featuring serial killers, Jack the Ripper is one of their go-to options. So far, some of the most successful films inspired by him include Jack the Ripper (1988), Ripper Untold (2021), Murder by Decree (1979), and From Hell (2001).
13. An Investigator Claims to Have Cracked the Identity of Jack the Ripper
In an article published on July 20, 2023, an investigator claims to have cracked the identity of Jack the Ripper. Sarah Bax Horton, a relative to one of the officers actively investigating the case, claims that Hyan Hyams, a former London cigar maker, was indeed Jack the Ripper.
She claims to have compared witness accounts with medical records collected as evidence to come to this conclusion. Her theory adds to the many already available. It’s not the first time the cigar maker has been linked to the killings. At the moment, Sarah’s theory remains just that: a theory.
14. People Study Jack the Ripper to Date
To date, people still study Jack the Ripper to help solve crimes. He was among the first famous serial killers, and the fact that his identity is unknown and was never caught makes his case interesting. The study of Jack the Ripper is known as Ripperology.