Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack the Ripper

Ripper Letters

Hundreds of letters allegedly from the murderer were sent to the police, news agencies, and individuals associated with solving the crimes. Only three of these letters have provided lasting food for Ripper scholars. Two, in particular, which are written by the same individual, actually gave rise to the name "Jack the Ripper." Before that time, the name had not been coined.

The following letter, written in red ink, gave the notorious murderer his name. It was received by Central News on September 27, 1888 and was addressed to The Boss, Central News Office.

25 Sept: 1888

Dear Boss

The original 'Dear Boss' letter send to the Central News Agency on 27 September 1888
The original 'Dear Boss' letter
sent to the Central News Agency on 27
September 1888
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha.ha. The next job I do I shall clip. The lady's ears off and send to the Police officers just for jolly wouldn't you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work then give it out straight. My knife's so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance.

Good luck.

Yours truly

Jack the Ripper

Don't mind me giving the trade name

Then on the same letter, written horizontally was the following message:

wasn't good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it. No luck yet. They Say I'm a doctor. now ha_ha

The editor treated the letter as a hoax and did not send it to the police for a couple of days. The night after the police finally received the letter, Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes were murdered. On Monday morning following the murders, the Central News Agency received another letter postmarked October 1 in the same handwriting as the September 25 letter:

The second Jack the Ripper communication,  the 'Saucy Jacky' postcard of 1 October 1888
The second Jack the Ripper communi-
cation, the 'Saucy Jacky' postcard of 1
October 1888
I wasn't codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip. youll hear about saucy Jackys work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn't finish straight off. had not time to get ears for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.

Jack the Ripper

Police circulated the letters around and placed facsimiles of them outside every police station in case someone recognized the handwriting. Nothing came of this effort except a number of crank letters.

The third important letter was sent on October 16 to George Lusk, who was the head of the Mile End Vigilance Committee. This time the letter was sent with a portion of a human kidney. Lusk was extremely upset. One of the other committee members felt sure that it was an animal organ preserved in wine, so they took the kidney to Dr. Thomas Openshaw at the London Hospital to examine. Much was published on what Dr. Openshaw allegedly said about the kidney, which he repudiated later. All that can be certain of what Dr. Openshaw really established was that it was a human adult kidney, which was preserved in spirits rather than in formalin, such as what was used in hospitals for specimens.

The letter that accompanied the kidney was not written by the author of the two earlier letters signed Jack the Ripper.

From hell

Mr Lusk

Sor

I send you half the Kidne I took from one women 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

Signed

Catch me when

You can

Mishter Lusk

Are any of these three letters from the real murderer? Philip Sugden presents the case against the first two letters, which are signed Jack the Ripper, being genuine even though they appear to present information that only the killer might know.

First, the claim that he will send the police the victim's ears. This was never done. While it is true that Kate Eddowes' one ear lobe was severed, the killer had plenty of time, as evidenced by his extensive mutilations of her body, to cut off both her ears and send them to the police.

Secondly, the forecast of the double event has been promoted as a reason to accept the letters as genuine. However, the letter, whether it was posted from the Eastern District on Sunday night, September 31, or on Monday, October 1, was written when the entire Eastern region of the city was abuzz about the double murder. It was well known on the streets all of Sunday. So there was nothing forecast whatsoever.

Thirdly, the claim that Liz Stride squealed a bit is not proven. Only one of several witnesses heard a woman cry out. Most witnesses heard nothing at all that night.

Sir Charles Warren
Sir Charles Warren
Sir Charles Warren, who headed up the London police, shared this view. So do his modern day counterparts, John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, "It's too organized, too indicative of intelligence and rationale thought, and far too 'cutesy.' An offender of this type would never think of his actions as 'funny little games' or say that his 'knife's so nice and sharp.'"

The Lusk letter is more difficult to assess. Dr. Openshaw indicated that the kidney belonged to a person suffering from Bright's Disease which, according to testimony given by Dr. Brown, the police surgeon, apparently afflicted Kate Eddowes. The possibility remains that the letter is genuine and the kidney was the victim's, but there is no way to prove it today.

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