Why no theory is too eccentric in the hunt for the Whitechapel murderer
Perhaps nothing better reflects society’s evolving obsession with Jack the Ripper than the rise of the ‘Ripperologist’, the individual who has made it their mission to provide the ‘definitive solution’ to the murders.
Ripperologists often go to extraordinary lengths in search of originality in what is a crowded field. This has meant that practically anyone with a pulse and the merest hint of eccentricity, who lived in and around London in 1888, has come under suspicion for the crimes. However, some have been more ‘suspect’ than others.
Francis Thompson, a poet with radical religious views, has been posited as the killer because the crimes were all committed on Catholic saints’ days. This theory is hamstrung by the fact that, according to the religious calendar, most days celebrate the death of one particular Catholic martyr or another.
In 1939, the author William Stewart suggested that we should be looking for a ‘Jill the Ripper’, most likely a bloodthirsty, mad midwife. Stewart wasn’t the first person to posit this theory: Frederick Abberline, an inspector for the Met at the time of the killings, had suggested that the murderer could be a woman after a witness reported seeing a female figure leaving Mary-Jane Kelly’s residence. However, he concluded that it was more likely that the killer dressed in women’s clothes as a way of pacifying potential victims.
In 1996, the author Richard Wallace suggested that Jack the Ripper was none other than Lewis Carroll, on the basis that the world-famous novelist left anagrams in his novels confessing to the killing spree in 1888.
Of course, the poetic licence and exposure these more eccentric theories have enjoyed has only been possible because, in the case of the Jack the Ripper murders, so few hard facts exist.
Murderers most foul? The poet Francis Thompson (left) and author Lewis Carroll have both been posited as possible Jack the Rippers