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Post by Karen on Fri 3 Jun 2011 - 10:15


The Spectator's political articles are upon subjects which were temporarily interesting to people at home, but are not very brilliant reading for us out here. Therefore we may pass them by and proceed to the paper on "Invisibility." The writer opens by saying "we should like to know precisely what people mean when they talk about invisibility?" Journalists and reporters were then saying that the Whitechapel murderer disappeared as if he had the gift of invisibility, or that he comes and goes as if he had eaten fernseed and were able to be invisible at will and so on in the penny sensational style. The Spectator doubts if they know what they mean, and guesses that impalpable rather than invisible is that which they intend. The word "invisible" implies that the man continues to be, yet is not; but the greater part of mankind use the word as meaning that which is but cannot be seen by the eyes. This is the sense of the description of the disciples whose "eyes were holden." The writer then says: -

We all know that in certain moods and under certain circumstances, we can see without seeing; and this occasionally with the strange addition that, although we have not "seen," in the sense of becoming percipient, we are yet aware that we have seen in some more exclusively material method. The phenomenon must happen constantly in a very extreme way in the case of some somnambulists, the eyes being wide open, and the retina therefore receiving everything, yet there being, properly speaking, no sight. The second operator, whose aid is indispensable, is temporarily locked up. All things are seen, and yet they are in the truest sense "invisible." The phenomena of somnambulism have been produced, in certain conditions supposed to be "hysterical," by one will acting on another, and there is, therefore, no difficulty in believing that a stronger will, a higher intelligence - higher, we mean, in the scale of power - could suspend perception in a whole crowd.
In an escape like that of the Whitechapel miscreant, even if he passed - as he may have done - straight through a considerable crowd, there is nothing extraordinary or in the least transcending the regular circumstances of every day life. It seems to us remarkable because we know what he is; but no one in the crowd could know. No one in it probably even saw him. We do not really see one-tenth of the people we pass in the street even if we look at them, because the second operation necessary to true seeing is not performed. The intelligence is uninterested, and remains passive, and there is no sight. If nothing called attention to him, the Whitechapel murderer would in a crowd or a well-frequented street be as invisible as if he possessed the prerogative of which the story-tellers have dreamed. Those who met him would see him as little as if they were sleep-walking. To secure that immunity from the operation of intelligence, however, the man must have given no provocation to the intelligence to wake up, - that is, he must either have presented no peculiarity distinguishing him from the crowd, or he must have presented some one peculiarity which prevented thought, when afterwards excited, from fixing upon him in connection with a crime.

Source: The North China Herald and S.C. and C. Gazette, January 4, 1889, Page 5

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

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