Author: Howard Jackson

Howard Jackson was born in Merseyside in 1948. He still lives there and has spent most of his life in Liverpool, although he has also lived in London, Nottingham, Glasgow and Preston. He reads, watches movies, listens to music (a lot), supports Liverpool Football Club and climbs hills in the Lake District and Yorkshire. Though not a keen fan of travelling he has toured extensively around Brazil and the Southern States of America. These journeys were a consequence of an interest in Brazilian history and the music of the American South.

JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ – HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

NINE – JACK THE RIPPER TOURS

 

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The great mystery is not the unknown identity of Jack the Ripper but how the various tours manage to avoid collisions.   The name Jack The Ripper Tour was claimed by the first company to organise tours.  They updated the name to The Original Jack The Ripper Tour.  The curious can now choose from The Jack the Ripper Mystery Tour, The Jack the Ripper Walk, The Jack The Ripper Museum, which also provides a tour to complement a visit to the museum, Ripping Yarns, Ripper Vision, which has added sound effects and projected images on buildings, The Jack the Ripper Tour Bus, and more.  Author and Jack the Ripper expert John Bennett makes the tour most nights on behalf of The Original Jack The Ripper Tour. Bennett likes to finish his tour on the spot in Mitre Court where fourth victim Catherine Eddowes was slain. Most of the time, though, he has to take whatever available space there is in Mitre Court because most of the tour operators prefer to finish at the scene where Eddowes was slain.  Audiences like to show their appreciation by clapping the presentations.  The applause is steady and continuous.

Advancing the slaying of Mary Jane Kelly ahead of the murders of third and fourth victims Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes makes sense. Juggling the chronology avoids dragging people back and forth across the East End, and the tour operators can climax their presentations with what may or may not have been the greatest achievement of Jack the Ripper, the famous double event.  The word ‘may’ is important because many Ripper experts now believe that the murder of third victim Liz Stride was not a Ripper victim. Stride had her throat cut but there was no mutilation.   Those who like to insist Jack the Ripper was responsible for the canonical five believe that Jack was interrupted in his slaying of Stride and, because his desires were not satisfied, he searched and found Eddowes. Yet Eddowes was discovered forty-five minutes after Stride. Three quarters of an hour would have been sufficient time for the Ripper to travel a few streets and slay someone but he would have had to be quick. The timing allocated to a double murder assumes that the body of Eddowes was found almost immediately after the murder.

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Most operators provide alternative accounts and leave it up to the paying customers to decide for themselves. On the tour I attended, author John Bennett finished the tour by discussing the possible identity of Jack The Ripper.   Bennett had a shortlist of ten names and asked his audience to shout out numbers between one and ten. In that way he talked about five possible suspects but reminded his audience that so far writers and theorists have identified 300 names.   Within that list there are some good stories and, coincidentally, five people that members of the police believed to be Jack the Ripper.

The cost of the tours is usually somewhere around £10, and they last between an hour and a half and two hours.  The importance of London as a tourist destination helps the tour operators to make money.   The tours help visitors to London fill in the time with something other than eating and drinking but, as well as tourists, there are those who are just curious, and amongst these there are plenty of fresh faced young men and women. Tours that between them collect a hundred people a night are obliged to have a cross section of the population.   There is the added bonus of being able to ask questions.   And a tour and hearing the tale face to face from an expert takes less effort than reading a book. But neither a tour nor the books written by Bennett can include all the information he has obtained through research and that is shared with other enthusiasts.  Some of these tourists will also become obsessed with the legend of Jack the Ripper.

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The Original Jack The Ripper Tour begins at Aldgate East Underground Station in Whitechapel High Street. Those on the tour have the option of following the presenter back to the Station but the group I was in separated where Catherine Eddowes was murdered and found something else to do with the rest of the night. There is a park near the Underground Station. Those who have prospects and faith in their ambition walk through the park without stopping. The less fortunate spend time in the park talking, eating take away food, drinking alcohol and passing time.  The park has a few giant tree stumps and half a dozen boulders.   The East End has changed since the murders in 1888 but this park has never promised the sense of well being that is found in the green spaces around Bloomsbury.   Photographs of how the East End used to look are handed out by the tour operators.   Some of the tenement buildings remain but none of the murder sites are recognisable as the places where the murders were committed.

The trip to the East End, though, is worth the effort. Dorset Street may have a brand new building that transforms it into something remote from its history but it is possible to pinpoint 35 Dorset Street and imagine the doss house once used by the victims of the Ripper. There are two 18th Century buildings across the road from where the doss house used to be. The public house The Ten Bells sells Jack the Ripper souvenirs but also has a loyal local clientele that appreciates the comfortable interior and enjoys the draught beers. Upstairs is a gin bar. That and the traditional furnishings feel like homage to the tough lives of the past. The evidence is sketchy but the likelihood is that most of the victims of the Ripper would have visited The Ten Bells at some point in their lives.  Some, perhaps all, would have regarded it as their local pub. Annie Chapman was rumoured to have drunk in The Ten Bells during the night of her murder. Mary Jane Kelly is supposed to have solicited on the corner outside the pub.

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The name The Ten Bells is derived from Christchurch, which is on the other side of the road and once had ten bells that chimed.   Christchurch is an impressive building. It has a sharp gothic steeple that even today feels contemptuous of urban life and concerns.   The classical pillars are an extra weight on what is a compressed square base. Christchurch combines baroque style and puritanism. The building feels defiant and, considering what has happened near its borders, it needs to be.

Nicholas Hawksmoor lived in the 18th Century and was the architect who designed Christchurch. He designed six London churches. All are distinct and have memorable but gloomy facades. Ian Sinclair in his 1975 poem Lud Heat imagined that Hawksmoor located the churches across London to make a pentangle star that was supposed to connect the geometry of London and its institutions.  A few people have taken this notion seriously and argued that Hawksmoor had mystical ambition that had nothing to do with Christianity.  Peter Ackroyd played with the idea in his novel Hawksmoor and he emphasised the importance of the pentangle star as an occult symbol whilst also attributing serial killing to his architect.   Ackroyd changed the name of his architect to Nicholas Dyer to remind readers that his book was fiction. The life and ambition of architect Hawksmoor may have contained nothing more than the dedication of a pious craftsman yet there is a thrill to be experienced in standing between The Ten Bells and Christchurch and acknowledging the dark history that links these two buildings.

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The other spot worth lingering around is the archway where Jack the Ripper left a piece of the blood stained apron of Catherine Eddowes.  The archway is now a fish and chip shop.  The original building and tenements remain. In 1888 the building was occupied by poor Jewish immigrants. Close to the apron the police discovered writing on the wall that said, ‘The Juwes are the ones who will not be blamed for nothing.’   This supposed clue has inspired conspiracy theories, novels and books. But standing opposite an East End fish and chip shop and looking at a tenement building that was once overcrowded with the poor, I was convinced the writing was nothing more than protest from a neglected and strained community.   On the street the history is mundane but powerful.

The East End has changed and, like everywhere else in London, it has been gentrified, but some tenements and terraced streets remain.   A far from mundane experience is to stare down an ordinary street and see immediately behind the shabby buildings the concrete and glass of The Shard and the other skyscrapers of the City. They obliterate the sky and make the East End feel like a condemned cul-de-sac. The skyscrapers are like alien back projection from a surreal film.

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Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

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JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ – HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

EIGHT – THE LIFE OF ANNIE CHAPMAN

 

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There is a photograph of Annie Chapman when she was something other than the victim of the murderous assault by Jack the Ripper. Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly were not so fortunate. The only available photographs of Eddowes and Kelly show them naked and with half of their bodies removed.   Annie Chapman was photographed in 1869, the year of her wedding and nineteen years before she was slaughtered.  In the photograph she poses with her husband John Chapman. The five foot tall Annie is seated and appears to be timid, wary and obedient, almost like a child. Her full Victorian dress hides her chair. Her face has neat but unremarkable features. Later her face, neck and jaw became swollen because of her addiction to alcohol. The husband John leans an elbow on the wooden cabinet at his side. One hand is in his coat pocket, and his left leg is bent. The husband looks raffish and jaunty, which is either his intention or that of the photographer. Annie is the respectable wife. In the picture she is 28 years old. In her right hand she holds a bulky book. The couple are posing as a bourgeois couple might. John and Annie are trying to look like their betters.

Annie Chapman was the illegitimate child of George Smith and Ruth Chapman. George was a soldier or guardsman, and the couple married after the birth of their daughter Annie.   Ruth Chapman had a relative called John Chapman, and in 1869 Annie married him.  John has been described as a maternal relative of Annie.   Most of us assume this means a cousin. John worked as a coachman and domestic servant and had enough of a reputation to be employed by Sir Francis Tress Barry the Conservative MP for Windsor.   Annie and John lived above the stables. In the movie Sabrina by Billy Wilder the idea was made modern. Audrey Hepburn and her father lived above the garage.

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At some point Annie became an alcoholic. No explanation has been given as to why this happened. It may have been a consequence of giving birth to three children, her life with John, grievance over the lives of the people in the mansion the other side of the stables or just a nature and personality that needed relief and escape. There is no doubt that the alcohol reduced Annie Chapman. She was arrested by police in Windsor for being drunk and disorderly but not charged. In 1888, after Annie Chapman had been murdered and mutilated and deserved some sympathy, the main concern of the Windsor and Eton Gazette was the offended sensibility of the Conservative MP who had once employed Annie Chapman. ‘Her dissolute habits made it imperatively necessary that she should reside elsewhere than on the gentleman’s grounds.’  The sentence sounds like a final sigh of relief.

Annie and John Chapman had separated in 1880 and eight years before she was killed. John remained in Windsor, and the children, two daughters and a son, received a good education.  It appears that John Chapman was valued by his employer.  The son was disabled but received beneficial medical treatment. Before Annie drifted to Spitalfields in London she wandered for a few weeks around Windsor as a tramp and lived out in the open. Although John had care of the children, he paid ten shillings a week to Annie.   When the payments began has not been specified. The husband may have waited until his wife was settled in Spitalfields. Ten shillings has been estimated as being about half of the wages of John Chapman. Presumably, John would have lived rent-free above the stables and have been fed by the family cook.   Nevertheless, the payment was substantial and it indicates that he had real sympathy for his wife. Unfortunately for Annie, the money from her husband stopped in 1886 when John died. His death was attributed to cirrhosis of the liver, ascites and dropsy.   Perhaps it was John that introduced Annie to alcohol.   A letter to Reverend John Patterson may or may not mean something.   It refers to a sister that was ‘married and in a good position’ and who ‘over and over again signed the pledge and tried to keep it.’ The letter mentions Annie Chapman by name, stresses the struggle against addiction and claims that husband John died of a broken heart.

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In London, Annie earned money doing crochet work and selling flowers.  She also tried different men. She lived with a sieve maker who was known as Jack Sievey but they separated in 1887. By then Chapman had acquired the nickname Dark Annie Sievey.   Her next relationship with a building labourer called Ted Stanley was more casual. Chapman and Stanley spent weekends together and lodged at the different houses in Spitalfields. Opinion is divided about whether Annie worked as a prostitute. Her close friend Amelia Farmer said that Annie was not ‘very particular what she did to earn a living and at times used to remain out late at night.’   According to Amelia Farmer and others, most of the drinking done by Chapman was confined to Saturdays. The majority of the comments about Chapman were made after she died and they may have been generous.   The sympathetic said Annie was industrious, clever and respectable and did not use bad language. The prostitution may have been restricted to Saturdays after her money had been spent on rum and she needed a bed in the lodging house.

Despite the kind words about her character, Annie had a violent encounter on the 1st of September.  Because that day was a Saturday, Annie had been drinking.   The fight between Annie and Liza Cooper occurred in the Britannia pub, which was on the corner of Dorset Street. Annie also used the nearby lodging house at number 35.   Annie was drinking with Ted Stanley the building labourer. Liza had a companion who was known as Harry the Hawker.  There are alternative accounts about what happened between them. It has been suggested that the fight was over a bar of soap that had been borrowed in the lodging house at Dorset Street but not returned.   In another account Annie is supposed to have caught Liza trying to palm a two-shilling piece and switch it for a penny. Either way Liza Cooper responded with violence. Liza Cooper was a tough character and she had capable fists. A month after the fight with Annie she was bound over for assaulting Thomas Wilne on Clerkenwell Road.   The day after the fight, Annie showed her black eye and bruised chest to Amelia Farmer. On the third of September, two days after the fight had occurred, Annie met Amelia again and complained of feeling unwell.   Apart from the debilitating injuries inflicted by Liza Cooper, Annie had a chronic disease of the lungs and brain of which she was unaware. Short of money, Annie said she would go to the casual ward for a couple of days. The casual ward was the part of the workhouse reserved for vagrants and was known as the spike. The nickname was not affectionate. Farmer gave Annie two pence for tea and some food. Annie stayed, and perhaps rested, at the casual ward until Friday the 7th of September.

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In the early hours of Saturday, Chapman arrived at the common lodging house at 35 Dorset Street. Although Chapman had not stayed there the previous week, she had been staying at the lodging house during the previous four months. Annie had no money for a bed that night but the deputy of the lodging house Timothy Donovan reported that she was in the kitchen until around two o’clock in the morning.   There are different accounts, and Donovan either let Annie stay in the kitchen until the early hours or he discovered her there.   Whatever happened between Chapman and Donovan, at some point the deputy of the lodging house asked Chapman for the four pence needed to pay for a bed. Annie Chapman left the lodging house but said she would return with the money. Chapman either intended to find a customer who wanted sex or was intending to sleep on the streets and her remarks were nothing but bravado. She was followed outside by night watchman John Evans who saw Annie walk into Little Paternoster Row, head towards Brushfield Street and then Christ Church. Evans was the last person to see Annie Chapman alive.

She was discovered in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street.   Her throat was cut, and the body mutilated.  In the mortuary Amelia Farmer identified her friend. The progress of the chronic lung and brain disease had been halted by premature death.  During the examination of the victim, Dr George Bagster Phillip smelled the contents of her stomach. He concluded that there was no alcohol in her stomach. The man who was responsible for the death of Annie Chapman when she was 47 years old became known as Jack the Ripper. The identity of this man who ended her life remains unknown.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.