Why did the Whitechapel murders attract so much attention in 1888?
The Ripper murders attracted lots of attention in 1888, causing widespread panic and conspiracy. I am going to discuss the Ripper victims, what Jack the Ripper actually did to his victims, the press and the Victorians obsession with the macabre.
-Jack the Ripper murdered 5 woman, they were all prostitutes. Their names were Polly Nicholls, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly. The 1st 4 victims were all in their late 40s, but the last woman was only 25. They all had their throat slashed, by a knife believed to be one inch wide and six inches long.
Polly Nicholls was stabbed in the abdomen, the incisions were deep and caused by a long bladed knife. Annie Chapman had her stomach cut open, and her small intestines were lying above her right shoulder, but still attached. There was lots of blood. Some of the stomach was above the left shoulder. Elizabeth Stride was the only woman whose body was not mutilated. After he slashed her throat he was disturbed so had no chance to begin the mutilations. Catherine Eddowes body was discovered less than an hour after Elizabeth Stride. It was believed he murdered her because his attack on Elizabeth Stride was disturbed. Her throat was cut, her stomach ripped up and her bowels sticking out. The last murder was by far the most gruesome. Mary Kelly’s abdomen and thighs were cut off and her internal organs removed. Her breasts were also cut off, and her arms and face hacked at. Her heart was missing.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Jack the Rippers modus operandi was only established several years after the actual murders. Jack would be facing his victims. As she lifted her skirt, he would grab her by the throat while her hands were occupied. He strangled her until she was unconscious or dead. There was no bruising on the victims back, which shows he lowered her to the ground instead of dropping them or throwing them. He then slashed their throats. Stains showed the blood flowed next to or under the neck of the victims. Doing this, not much blood got on the killer. If the victim had died when she had been strangled, there would be less blood. He then made his mutilations. Most surgeons who examined the bodies believed the killer to have at least some anatomical knowledge. He managed to remove the sexual organs of one victim with one stroke of his knife. He also removed a kidney from the front of the victim rather than the side, meaning the surrounding organs weren’t damaged. He would have most likely had experience using a knife because of managing to do what he did in the dark and keeping a look out for people.
The brutal and sexual nature of the murder would have intrigued the public, especially since those targeted were prostitutes and were members of London’s lower class. They could be described easily as ‘colourful characters’. Even back in the Victorian times, violence and sex sold newspapers, and the Victorians were fascinated by the methods Jack used to murder his victims. Because of the Victorians like of gruesome things, and the brutality of the murders, more papers were sold as more people were interested in the killings. The press created panic with their publications. They used graphic descriptions, which scared the public. For those who couldn’t read, they printed detailed, bias pictures of the murders. The way in which they drew the murderer, giving him certain features, made him look of a certain race or occupation. They drew him to look Jewish, or wearing a doctors apron. Because of newspaper reports, people complained to the Government about the fact the killer was on the loose stirring up the panic even more. Forced to show the public they were making an effect to catch the murderer, they continuously and unnecessarily transferred experienced officers, which slowed down the case, because every time a new officer came he had to get the facts again. When sent a letter that was possibly from the murderer, they failed to pass it on for a while, and with the coming of the railway, came national newspaper. Meaning, more people got to hear and get information on the murders.
The letters themselves caused a massive stir. It was extremely rare for a murderer to write letters about his crimes. The fact he boasted about his killings increased the interest more. The letters were printed in newspapers, letting the public see the character of the murderer. They had never come across, and were fascinated by, a person who could commit such horrific crimes and then brag about his actions.
The Victorians loved the strange and out of the ordinary, and before the time of the Ripper murders, freak shows were outlawed. They had previously been a source of amusement for them, and so when they were banned, they needed a new source of odd things. When the Ripper murders occurred, the Victorians were given something new to ogle at. What grasped the publics attention, was the pure nature of his crimes, his modus operandi shows this
The Ripper letters gave Victorians more details about the attacks and gave Jack a personality, so they could imagine what kind of person he was. In the letters, he boasted about the murders, and was viewed as crazy.
The longer the killer wasn’t caught, the more Victorians lived in fear and panic. The murders were brutal and bloody, but the sexual nature that appeared to be there must have added an edge to the fear. The fact he only attacked prostitutes would have escalated this panic, as people would wonder why he only attacked them. People began speculating and adding their own two-bit about whom the murderer might be, as the police were evidently struggling. As the time went on and the murderer wasn’t caught, speculation would have grown about whom he was which caused great racial discrimination in the East End.