Jack the Ripper, also known as the Whitechapel murderer or the Leather Apron, was one of the most notorious serial killer of all time. His vicious slaying terrified London’s east end for the better part of four months during the winter of 1888. The ripper would select his victim, generally a prostitute, lead them into an alley and strangle them. After which he would gently place them on the ground, slit their throat and proceed to mutilate them. His obvious skill with a knife and impressive knowledge of anatomy led investigators to believe he might have been a trained surgeon.
The exact number of ripper victims is unclear with numbers ranging from four to as many as twelve, but often five victims are acknowledged as being the work of jack the ripper. Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. These canonical victims have been directly attributed to Jack the ripper, resulting in the string of other murders at the time to be marked down as isolated incidents, hoaxes, or copycat slayings.
Jack the ripper was never caught. This lack of resolution has given birth to many theories regarding who he really was, some ranging from the mundane, a simple madman who got over hyped, to the extraordinary, a rogue Freemason performing secret rituals in the streets of London. Even a member of the royal family is suspected to have been the ripper. Over the years it’s become harder to differentiate actual documented evidence and the opinions put forth by the public and various researchers.
Perhaps the biggest influence on the case, it was the actions of the press that shaped the myth, turning a string of grisly crimes into one of the greatest mysteries of all time. The Whitechapel murders gave rise to tabloid journalism, sensationalized stories intended to sell papers as the primary means. News agencies would take to publishing whatever they could get their hands on in order to hype up the story, dozens of letters supposedly written by the killer surfaced during the winter of 1888, and it was from one of these letters that Jack the Ripper took his name. Most of the letters were discounted as hoaxes but some are suspected to be legitimate. The interference of the press was so extreme that there exists the possibility that each of the ripper slayings were actually unrelated events tied together in the form of a story.
With all the mishandling of evidence, individuals placing or removing it as they saw fit, the true story was lost in the muddy waters of mystery.