I suppose the greatest problem with the real Jack the Ripper story is that the ending is so unsatisfying.
A poet of the age predicted, "They've captured Leather Apron now, if guilty you'll agree; he'll have to meet a murderer's doom, and hang upon a tree" But the murderer was never identified, never tried, never publicly punished, never danced at the end of a rope. But then, that is the horror of real murder. The victim cannot be recovered, nor can the victim's loved-ones be made whole. The horror of a real murder usually dies only when the killer, and those who loved the victim, die.
Not so with Jack the Ripper. His horror has so far survived 130 years after his last victim bled out in a dark and dirty corner of the dark and dirty Whitechapel. Part of the reason for the longevity of his horror is the photo (above) taken in the tiny sad room at 13 Miller's Court, Dorset Street.
Part of the reason is that the newspapers sold 1 million additional papers a day during the “Autumn of Terror”: - August, September, October and November of 1888.
And part of the reason is that the historical-fictional Jack the Ripper has proved too profitable to let him die. But the police in 1888 were dealing with a real killer.
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (above, front center), one the smartest officers in Whitechapel, reminded readers of his memoir what the police knew by middle of September. “The perpetrator,” he wrote, “...was in the habit of using a certain public-house, and of remaining there until closing time...all of the victims were all of the same class... and living within a quarter of a mile of each other; all were murdered within half a mile area; all were killed in the same manner...he (the killer) lived in the district.” So the police - well at least those below the management level - were not fools. They knew who they were looking for. But finding him was not their top priority.
After the Hanbury Street murder of Annie Chapman on 8 September, Whitechapel and Spitafield were flooded with uniformed Constables and plain clothes Detectives, even employing the Whitechapel Vigilantes. As Commissioner Sir Charles Warren had said in his petulant self defense written in September and published in the November Murray’s Magazine, “...the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime...” And that was what the police concentrated on – preventing the killer from killing again. And they did.
For 14 days – Friday, 15 September, to Friday, 28 September – Kosminski found the police foiling his searches for another victim, until he was forced outside his hunting grounds to Aldegate, where the public/police net was thinner.
There, in the early hours of Sunday, 30 September, he murdered Catherine Eddowes in Mitre Square. But even then Warren's plan worked.
The police were able to focus on Aaron Kosminski, living with his brother just down the block on Goulston Street (above) from where the Eddowes bloody apron was found. Then, during all of October, the “tails” which Chief Inspector Donald Swanson pinned on Kosminski kept him from claiming another victim -
...at least until 8 November when Kosminski was able to isolate Mary Kelly in her room – earlier in the evening, before the pubs had closed. And even then he did not kill until closer to dawn, when Kelly's singing, as reported by a neighbor, finally stopped.
The police never had solid evidence to arrest Aaron Kosminski. But Aaron Kosminski was still alive and no longer killing. Why? First there was Abraham, Aaron's older brother. Living with the first paternal role model Aaron had known since his father's death in 1874 would have been a stabilizing influence.
And second, whoever the Ripper was, he was insane but he wasn't nuts. He did not want to get caught. He had always retained enough control to avoid witnesses and the police, to delay his gratification until the he was certain of his own safety. And by January or February of 1889, with no further killings, the police tails of Aaron Kosminski must have been superseded by more pressing matters.
And third, accepting Special Agent Douglas' profile, the Ripper was extremely passive until the assault. He needed the prostitute to initiate contact. He needed alcohol to lower his own inhibitions. And he needed the victim to be unconscious or dead before he could show the knife and penetrate her with it. This speaks of a man so repressed he might stand in the rain rather than asking to come inside. He was a paranoid schizophrenic but a high functioning one, as was proven by his arrest on a Saturday in December of 1889 for walking an unmuzzled dog in Cheapside.
Charles Dickens called Cheapside (above) “...the busiest thoroughfare in the world...Here the two great arteries of Oxford Street...the Strand and Fleet Street from the west...Bishopsgate and Leadenhall from the east....Moorgate on the north and King William Street on the south, are all united...” The Cheapside Street market had been in existence for hundreds of years, but during Victorian times, says Dickens, it was “...almost monopolized by men's shops: hosiers and shirt makers, tailors and tobacconists, and above all by jewelers.”
In fact, says Dickens, “The stranger will be particularly struck with the absence of women...in Cheapside (above)...there is scarcely a woman to be seen to every hundred men.” It would appear an odd place for a homicidal maniac with a particular hatred for women to be walking his dog, muzzled or unmuzzled.
Having been arrested, the 23 year old Aaron Kosminski made a competent presentation in court. He argued that since he did not own the dog he was not responsible for muzzling it. Like arguing a parking ticket in court, logic was of course no help But when the magistrate found him guilty and assessed a 10 shilling fine, Aaron was quick enough to argue that it was the Jewish sabbath, and his faith forbid him from handling money. He presented a normal enough image that he was allowed to go free, returning on Monday to pay the fine. As Scientific American pointed out in September 2014, “...very few serial killers suffer from any mental illness to such a debilitating extent that they are considered to be insane by the criminal justice system.”
So this was the man who convinced Mary Jane Kelly to open her door to him, convinced Annie Chapman to go to the back yard with him, and convinced Martha Tabram to lead him off the already dark George Yard, through the narrow passage to the courtyard behind the buildings, and then up the unlighted stairs. Her trip to her own death may have been the longest of all the victims, requiring the greatest confidence that the man who was about to murder her, posed no threat whatsoever.
Seven months later, on Saturday, 12 July, 1890, this same man was meekly led by his brother-in-law to the Mile End Workhouse (above), where he was described as having been “insane for the last two years.” It must have been hard for a Jew to turn their own blood relative over to the charity of Christians, but Arron was hearing voices, had stopped washing and refused food from any person's hand because he feared being poisoned, preferring to eat discards from the gutter. Aaron was granted admission. However 3 days later, either because the doctors suspected he was malingering, or because he fooled them, his brother Abraham took him home again.
It was not to last. On 4 February of 1891 the police brought him back to the Workhouse. The same issues were mentioned – not working, not washing and eating from the gutter – but this time the police said he had threatened his sister Martha with a knife. His family did not challenge his admission, and 3 days later, on 7 February, 1891 he was transferred to the Jewish wing of the infamous long corridors of the Colony Hatch Asylum for the “pauper insane” in Barnet, North London (above). The paperwork justification for transfer has not survived the century, but we do know Aaron Kosminski arrived with both hands tied behind his back.
Colony Hatch adhered to the Victorian belief that all problems are better with organization – from morning calisthenics to regimented meals. The 2,000 patients were also expected to work, in the tailor shop, the garden or just washing floors. Since most of the patients came from the East End the asylum had a kosher kitchen and a Yiddish interpreter. The records at Coolny Hatch have survived and they detail Aaron's 3 year transgression from “apathetic” to "Incoherent, at times excited and violent." The staff noted, “He declares that he is guided and...controlled by an instinct that informs his mind, he says that he knows the movements of all mankind, he refuses food from others because he is told to do so, and he eats out of the gutter for the same reason”
Eventually the violence became predominant, and Aaron's last stop was the complex of buildings at the Levesden Asylum For Imbeciles in Abbots Langley, 20 miles northwest of London (above).
Aaron survived here for a quarter of a century, having spent most of his life institutionalized. The staff noted, "Patient does not know his age or how long he has been here."
Aaron Kosminski died of a gangrene infection at the age of 54 years, on Monday, 24 March, 1919. At the time of his death he weighed just 96 pounds. But he lived longer than any of his victims.
Kosminski even out-lived his would-be nemesis, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (above). After retiring from the Metropolitan Police in 1896, with over 50 awards and commendations, including being named a Druid of Distinction, Reid moved to Hampton-on-Sea, atop the chalk cliffs of England's east coast. Here he became an English eccentric.
He renamed his home “Reid's Ranch”, and painted the outside walls with castle battlements and cannon aimed at the ocean. He opened a stand in his garden shed (above), from which he sold postcards – mostly featuring himself - and lemon-aide and wrote crank letters to the local newspaper. He died at the age of 61, on 5 December, 1917, the same year he finally married.
Thus I end my version of the story of Jack the Ripper – just another human being, more unhappy and violent than most, but just another human being.