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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

SIX – INSPECTOR ABBERLINE

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It sounds like the name of a branded product created to appeal to women, perhaps a perfumed soap meant to suggest romance and sunshine.  Inspector Abberline was far less complicated and had nowhere near the amount of sex appeal of Johnny Deep.   In the fanciful movie From Hell the actor portrayed the Inspector as a moody opium addict.   The film had other absurd notions. But even if we resist the Jack the Ripper investigation as romantic mystery, bashful Inspector Abberline still had two relationships with women that would have been useful as plots for movies.

In the tradition of a fine Hollywood weepie his first wife Martha Mackness died eight weeks after their marriage.  Martha was twenty-five years old but no match for a lung infection that became tuberculosis.  Bette Davis would have been great as Martha. Davis would have stammered and died after a couple of poignant blinks. George Marshall is the obvious choice for Abberline. The English actor would have hidden refined grief behind his famous stiff upper lip. It gets better because Marshall and Abberline both limped. Marshall carried an artificial leg, and Abberline had a serious varicose vein in his left leg below the knee.

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The biographers believe that Abberline coped with grief by focussing on work and that his obsessive application resulted in promotion to sergeant two years after being recruited by the Metropolitan Police.   His attitude also helped. Frederick Abberline was unusual. He was an honest policeman who had the unusual idea that crimes should be reported and criminals prosecuted.  The other London policemen liked to dismiss burglaries as disturbances and to report thefts as lost property. Despite his zeal Abberline was reluctant to arrest women for crimes he regarded as petty. The policeman who grew up in a quiet Dorset village had a reputation for being shy with the opposite sex but perhaps because of what happened to Martha he was sensitive to the suffering of women and able to recognise victims.  He would make an effort to research the lives of women and understand their plight.

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The shyness of Abberline was also an important element in the second romantic episode in his life.   Abberline met Emma Beaument in the foyer of a London theatre. She dropped her ticket on the floor, and the off-duty detective picked it up. In protective mood he accompanied Emma into the theatre, and they sat together to watch the show. Not much was said and when the show finished they separated.  Outside the theatre , though, Abberline witnessed a thief robbing the purse of Emma.  Abberline chased the man, arrested him and returned the purse to Emma Beaument. They married and stayed together until Abberline died at the age of 86. Emma died three months after the death of her husband. The romantic tale, though, should not be mistaken for a weepie.   The tragedy of old age happened well after this movie finished.  A story of accident, coincidence, mishap, stumbles and love belongs in a heart-warming comedy.

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Fred Abberline was born in Dorset in a village called Blandford on the 8th January 1843. Almost a hundred years later someone else with another interesting name would be born on the same day. Elvis Presley arrived in 1935 and before he became the King of Rock and Roll he drove a truck. Fred Abberline worked as an apprentice clockmaker before he left Dorset to join the police and later become involved with the notorious chart-topping murderer Jack the Ripper. As an apprentice clockmaker, Abberline walked three miles each way to his place of work. The journeys extended the time away from home. The working day of Abberline in Blandford lasted from five in the morning to ten at night. Abberline was not as pretty as either the rock and roll king or the film star who pretended that the detective was an addict of opium. The height and build of Abberline have been described as medium, and at the time of the Ripper murders his dark brown hair was thinning. Abberline, though, had a square serious face that looked good under a Victorian Derby hat.   The one half decent photograph that exists of the detective reveals a man who would have been acceptable as one of the farmworkers in the 60s movie version of Far From The Madding Crowd.  Yet the white shepherd smock, staff and battered straw hat would have reduced him.

Abberline was wise to move to London. As a detective, he wore a suit. His appearance may have helped him to establish contacts in Whitechapel.  Liverpudlians like to talk about honorary Scousers, people born outside the City but who settle and share sympathies.   Abberline was an honorary East Ender. He developed friendships, and his rural Dorset accent slipped towards Cockney.   In Whitechapel his face was recognisable and his manner was something that felt familiar to the locals in every sense. Abberline was not in charge of the Ripper investigation.   Chief Inspector Donald Swanson was responsible for the enquiry but he was based in Scotland Yard managing his superiors and the media. Abberline was based in Whitechapel searching for witnesses amongst the people he knew and understood.

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He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1863 when he was twenty years old. Two years later he was promoted to Sergeant. Fifteen years after joining the Metropolitan Police he attained the rank of Inspector. There was some subsequent progress because he became a detective and was transferred to Scotland Yard where he became a Chief Inspector. Four years after being replaced on the Ripper investigation by Inspector Henry Moore, Abberline left the police. Moore continued to investigate the murders for another seven years after the final Ripper murder but his team was much smaller, a token force.   In subsequent interviews Abberline referred to 16,000 papers being examined or produced as a result of police enquiries into the Ripper crimes. ‘Theories,’ said Abberline, ‘we were lost almost in theories, there were so many of them.’

When Severin Klosowski was put on trial in 1903 for poisoning his three wives, Abberline speculated that perhaps Klosowski was Jack the Ripper. But by then Abberline was just another amateur expert. His conviction about Klosowski faded with time. When journalist and dramatist George R Sims alleged later that the police knew the identity of the Ripper, there was a response from Abberline. ‘You can state most categorically that Scotland Yard is really no wiser on the subject than it was fifteen years ago.’

 

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A year after he left the Ripper investigation, Abberline had a role in the Cleveland Street scandal. The police arrested a telegraph boy for theft but the boy explained that he was being paid as a prostitute in a brothel in Cleveland Street and that was why he had fifteen shillings in his pocket. The other prostitutes in the brothel were also telegraph boys. The boy who was arrested named names, and Abberline went to serve a warrant to Charles Hammond who ran the brothel and eighteen-year-old Henry Newlove who was the telegraph boy that recruited other boys. The brothel had aristocratic customers.   Prince Albert Victor was rumoured to call at Cleveland Street. In the following century he was also suspected of being Jack the Ripper. The latter rumour is nonsense, and there are doubts about the former.  Prince Albert appears to have been anything but useful, and some of the rumours are maybe true but there are so many they contradict each other.

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Neither Hammond nor the aristocratic customers were prosecuted. The boy prostitutes received what were considered to be light sentences. The radical newspaper, the North London Press, was suspicious about what had happened in court.   In the scandal that followed there were trials and litigation. Reputations and possibly honour were at stake. It all became very complicated.  Abberline was disappointed that the warrants he served had little effect, and it may or may not have been a factor in him resigning from the police three years later. He worked as a private enquiry agent for Pinkerton and six years after joining the Agency he was put in charge of the entire European operations. His record in the Pinkerton Agency indicates not only that Abberline continued to be inspired by detective work and crime but he also had a capacity for administration. The man had authority, and it was not restricted to the forgotten of Whitechapel.

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He retired at the age of 61. In the next 25 years two people who had been obliged to once visit the theatre alone settled in Bournemouth and shared their lives, leisure and comfort.   Today he would have exploited his celebrity and even at the end of the 19th Century he could have used the murders to assemble a fortune. He did not. Neither Fred nor Emma left much money but it does no harm to think he had a code that gave him self-respect. Fred and Emma were buried in an unmarked grave but in 2007 there was a campaign for the grave to be marked. A local stonemason donated a headstone.   The building in Holdenhurst Road Bournemouth where Fred and Emma lived and died has a blue plaque. It remembers a Detective nowhere near as famous as the villain he pursued. Holdenhurst Road now has a Tesco Express store.

 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.