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Lunar Influence is Balderdash

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Lunar Influence is Balderdash

Post by Karen on Mon 21 Mar 2011 - 6:16

ALL BALDERDASH.
London's Fearful "Ripper" Not a Lunatic.

So Say Boston's First Physicians.
Not Influenced by the Queen of Night.

"Mooney" People Idiots, Not Maniacs.
"Jack" Is Sane and Responsible for His Acts.

"The last and most atrocious crime of Jack the Ripper was committed on the full of the moon," said Dr. Howland to me, yesterday, "and on looking over my files of papers, I find that 10 out of his 11 butcheries have happened when the queen of night was at the full or within a day or two of that time. My idea is that Jack is a lunatic in the etymological sense of the word; that the full moon makes him a maniac and causes him to perpetrate his diabolical acts." Dr. Howland has been in active practice at the South End for nearly a quarter of a century. During that time he has been called upon to give his opinion as to the sanity of patients many times. He is well read in all the best works on medical jurisprudence, and can draw a fine line between eccentricity or crankiness on the one hand and dementia or monomania on the other. Perhaps no better man than he could be found in Boston to pass an opinion on the strange and terrible being who under the name of Jack the Ripper haunts Whitechapel, London, and makes the East side of the world's metropolis a dangerous abiding place for females who are familiar on a short acquaintance. It was for these reasons that I questioned him closely.
"I am firmly convinced," he continued, "that this fellow Jack is a man of importance and consequence. As has been stated in the papers, the style of his dissection shows that he is either an anatomist or a surgeon. Those cross-section cuts were never

Made by a Novice.

They are the work of a professional amateur. So much for the work he has performed, considered in the light of an anatomist.
Now the motive for the deeds is not so potent. A man who has been wronged or jilted by a woman may kill her out of revenge, and now and then is a case where a hatred for the sex makes a man a misogynist, but here in the first instance which has come to my knowledge where a human demon has wreaked his wrath on depraved women alone, and upon those of a comparative restricted locality in one city. To my mind it is very clear that his vengeance is aimed at the low women of Whitechapel, so I presume that his grievance, whether fancied or real, owes its origin to that place. If he is sane the demi-monde of Whitechapel have incurred his lasting wrath. If he be insane then the cause of his mania was found among the degraded females of the East Side.
"Having satisfied myself that the abandoned women of Whitechapel were the cause and object of his illegal and unnatural acts, I next considered the sanity of the being who has proved such a terror. Of course, all the evidence we have shows him to be insane. In support of this theory I have several reasons:
First, the number and frequency of his crimes.
Second, their atrocity, evincing a desire not only to slay, but to strike terror to the hearts of the survivors.
Third, his great success in avoiding detection and arrest.
It is proverbial that a madman is very cunning in carrying out his designs. They are cool, swift and collected under circumstances that would daunt the sane, and when brought face to face with a charge of crime they are the most adroit people in the world at throwing off suspicion. I have no doubt but Jack the Ripper is today the most trusted scout, or officer, perhaps, that is employed by the police of London, that he has the full confidence of Scotland Yard, and that his "clews" and suspicions are given mighty consideration in the detectives office. Should any other person than he be arrested for his acts his evidence will aid materially in getting a conviction.
"For nearly four weeks in this month he

Has the Mild Insanity

which causes him to keep his own secrets and makes him above suspicion. When the moon is full, however, the frenzy of lunacy takes him and leads him forth to add another to the roll of murders he has committed. Look up the papers and fix the dates of the Whitechapel crimes, then refer to your almanac and you will see that nearly every deed of blood has been done at the full moon, and such as have not occurred at that time have been comparatively bungling jobs, and far inferior in artistic merit to the full moon carvings done by the same person. I feel very sure that Jack is a bona fide, genuine lunatic, whose impulses to slay and mangle come to him with irresistible force every full moon, and upon whom the mania holds at all times with sufficient force to prevent him from "tipping his hand." Think over what I have told you, read up the works on insanity, and tell me what you think about the idea.
"In support of the idea that the full moon renders mild lunatics intractable, I can give you numerous cases which have come to my personal knowledge, though I am aware that the modern school of doctors scout the lunacy idea as old-fashioned and superstitious. When I was a boy I spent a large part of my time at Nantucket. One resident of that town was an old whaler, who, gossip says, went to sleep on the ship's deck and allowed the full moon to shine in his face until he became mildly insane. After that he quit the sea and busied himself in getting a living on shore. He was but slightly deranged at the time I knew him, and was permitted to walk the streets at all times without let. When the moon was full, however, and he was compelled to go out nights, he always carried an umbrella over his head to protect himself from the lunar light, and if he should go out without that protection he would be as mad as a March hare for weeks after.
On the same island was a widow whose husband had been lost at sea, and who had become insane from grief. Well, every full moon this poor woman would go out on the shore and

Wait For the Coming

of her husband, and never gives up the quest until daylight. She did regularly summer and winter, until she died, some 20 years after her loss. Like the whaler just mentioned she was not a noisy maniac.
"I could tell you dozens of instances among my patients where the moon has affected their mental stability, but I think I have said enough to demonstrate my idea."
Among the physicians at the Danvers asylum little credit was given to the "lunacy" idea, whether it was applied to Jack or anyone else.
"People may be moonstruck," said one, "but when it comes to pure dementia or monomania, experience shows that the moon has little to do with the condition of the patients. It is an old superstition which the investigations of modern science do not bear out. I am not prepared to say that the moon has no influence upon the minds of those who are insane, but if it does then its character and intensity are so variable that medical skill has been unable to give any data for accurate classification. Occasionally we find instances where aberration seems to be directly traceable to the full moon. Observing the symptoms closely all of our fine spun theories fall to the ground. If Jack the Ripper be insane, and his mania is affected by the moon, as the reports from London would indicate, then his malady is as much an exception to the rule as his deeds are paradoxical in the annals of crime."
"The people who go "mooning" around are as a rule idiots and not maniacs," answered another physician. "Jack is not a fool. His deeds prove that conclusively. He may be insane, but "there is method in his madness." I should sooner think he was a depraved fiend, and entirely responsible for his acts. Crime is held by the best authorities to be one form of insanity. In this light Jack is demented. Still, we must draw the line somewhere, and if I had to deal with

The Terror of London

I should send him to the scaffold instead of to an asylum."
Nearly similar opinions were held at the McLean Asylum. The current popular belief that the moon was responsible for the extreme deeds of lunatics, so called, was largely a fallacy. Isolated cases were found where the lunar influence seemed to control the acts of patients, but as yet no one could classify or adjust the alleged control. It was better to deal with facts than suppositions. The treatment of dementia and milder forms of mania was now reduced to a science. The idea that insane people were "possessed of devils" or "luney" were both false, and had to yield to the facts which inquiry into mental disturbance had developed.
A leading doctor at the West End looked more favourably upon the lunacy solution to the crimes. He did not think the moon was the first cause of Jack's idiosyncrasies, but having the mania present, he believed that a full moon acted as a spur to the commission of the deeds.
"I am convinced," he said, "that a full moon adds greatly to the danger which attends a person sick with typhus or typhoid fever. When a patient of mine is taken with one of these fevers on the decrease of the moon I have less trouble in checking its progress than when the moon is growing or near full, and my chances of saving a patient are greatly increased when the moon is waning.
"You naturally ask why this is so. I can tell you easily how I account for it. When I was a boy I lived in the country, away up in Vermont, where we used to make a great deal of maple sugar. Even then I noticed that the sap flowed more freely on the full moon than when a small crescent was the only sign we had of a satellite. If a full moon will cause a high course of tides and a copious flow of sap, I see no reason why it will not send

More Blood to the Brain.

Now a congested brain is one of insanity's great causes. Here you are then: Full moon, more blood in the head; congestion, general derangement of ideas, insanity and so on. What does THE GLOBE think?"
Two or three days' reading in the libraries of Boston convinced me that a lunatic was so only in name, and that his disease was not due to the moon any more than to one of the fixed stars. To be sure there were many cases of alleged "lunacy" on record, but all might be due to other causes, while there were still more instances where people were manifestly insane, and yet who had no susceptibility to the lunar power.
I talked with 20 or 30 physicians on the subject of Jack's lunacy, and from them I select the following opinions. Of course, all the doctors did not pretend to know for certain, but simply stated the result of their personal observations, combined with what they had heard at the medical lectures and what they had read in the journals and standard text books.
"It may be true. If so, I wonder what kind of a fellow Jack would be on the planet Jupiter, which has four moons. He would make short work of depopulating the jovial Whitechapel."
"As yet the theory needs proof. Planetary power save in the line of gravitation has taken a back seat. Astrology cannot be revived. A few impostors still try to keep it up and impose upon the credulity of the ignorant. But it must go. Chemistry has taken the place of alchemy, astronomy of astrology, and insanity of lunacy. We deal now with what we know. Guesswork is no longer popular."
"If I believed in the lunar hypothesis and were a woman of Whitechapel I would wear a moonstone, and thus counteract the malign power. It is tiresome to hear people talk about the moon. I wish Jack the Ripper were up there keeping company with the man in the moon. If I had him I would hang him and send him "beyond the stars" as Tennyson puts it."
"It is all balderdash. If I thought the moon caused lunacy I would go insane myself."
"Jack and not the moon is responsible for the crimes."
"Nonsense." GILL FORD.

Source: The Boston Sunday Globe, Sunday September 22, 1889, Page 24


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Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"
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