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The Midnight Monster

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The Midnight Monster

Post by Karen on Fri 6 Jul 2012 - 13:36


The "Midnight Monster" Lured His Victim to a Dark Alley and With a Few Thrusts of His Knife Added Another Chapter to a Criminal History Which Gripped London With Terror.
By Peter Levins.

One of the oddest things about the most fearsome monster in the history of the English-speaking world is that he never became known by anything more definite or identifiable than a nickname.
His true name, or even so much as an alias, never could be discovered. No one - except his pitiable victims - ever caught more than a fleeting glimpse of him.
Yet in his reign of terror he took the most audacious chances. He killed all but the last of his victims in public places, shielded only by the dark of night. And he obviously took immense delight in taunting the authorities and daring them to catch him.
The nickname given him and by which he and he alone is known in the record's of man's inhumanity was "Jack the Ripper."
The scene was London's East End, a region of drab, dimly-lighted courts and alleys. Time, the summer of 1888.
At 4:14 a.m., Aug. 31, the body of a girl was found lying face up across a gutter in Buck's Row, Whitechapel. Compared to later victims, nothing much had been done to her except that her throat had been cut and her body mutilated. She was soon identified as Mary Ann Nicholls, a wayward woman who lived in a common lodging house in Thrawl St., Spitalfields.
Miss Nicholls' unsavory status in the social order did not cause the police to bother much about the case. They observed that the killer apparently possessed "a rough anatomical knowledge," and that the knife slashes indicated a left-handed person. Death had occurred about 30 minutes before the body was discovered.
Several suspects were quizzed and released.
"When a young woman takes to such a life," an official said, "she must expect such a fate to overtake her. Very likely some man she cheated, or some sweetheart whose sensibilities she outraged, was responsible for her untimely end."
Then, a week later, another woman of the streets named Annie Chapman came to an untimely end. She was found dead in Hanbury St., Whitechapel, her head all but severed from her body, which bore numerous knife cuts. One part of her body could not be found.
Laid out in a neat row at her feet were two brass rings from her fingers and some coins and trinkets from her purse.
No one near by had heard a sound; the woman must have been dead before she knew what hit her. And again it seemed that the assailant possessed some anatomical knowledge, and that he had wielded his long knife with his left hand.
London's East End began to grow afraid.

Now followed two weeks of suspense in Whitechapel and the East End. Then a letter arrived at police headquarters. It read in part:

"Dear Boss:

"I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they won't fix me just yet....I love my work and want to start again....You will soon hear of me and my funny little games.....
"The next job I do I shall clip the ears off, and send to police officers, just for jolly, wouldn't you?"

At 11:30 the night of Sept. 30, Matthew Packer was in his fruit shop on Berner St. A man and woman approached the aperture through which he served his customers. The man asked - Packer said that he spoke in "gruff" tones - for half a pound of grapes. Packer did not see the man's face because it remained in the shadows, but he recognized the woman as Elizabeth Stride, better known in the neighborhood as "Long Liz."
Packer weighed out the grapes, put them in a bag, and handed it over to the woman. They moved off.
At 11:50, a truckman drove his cart into the yard in front of the International Workmen's Club only a few steps from Packer's fruit store. As he did so, his horse shied, but the driver paid no particular attention. Could have been a cat or a dog or a rat scampering through the darkness.
Then the truckman jumped from his cart - and all but landed on the body of Elizabeth Stride.
She had been dead only a few minutes.
Again it had been a lightning swift attack. Death claimed her while she still clutched the bunch of grapes in one hand and some sweetmeats in the other.
It was decided that the killer had been interrupted, that he had not been able to complete what he intended to do. What the horse had shied at, apparently, had been the Ripper himself as he started up and darted away.
It was also decided that the interruption infuriated him.
Within an hour, he lured Catherine Eddowes into an alley. And not being frightened off this time, he mutilated the body, then tore off part of the woman's apron, wiped his knife and hands on it, and left.

That same night, apparently within a few minutes of this atrocity, an excited crowd began to collect on nearby Goulston St. Policemen rushing to the spot saw people pointing in terror toward a wall.
At the base of the wall lay the smeared fragment of an apron.
On Oct. 1, a card arrived at police headquarters. It read:
"I wasn't coddling, dear old Boss, when I gave you the tip. You'll hear about Saucy Jack's work tomorrow. Double event this time. Number one squealed a bit. Couldn't finish straight off. Had not time to get ears off for the police. Thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.


Stark terror now gripped the Entire East End. Women moved through the streets in groups, shying away from every solitary man they passed. Meanwhile the newspapers bitterly criticized the authorities and called for more determined efforts to track down the "midnight monster."
Numerous schemes were tried. Plainclothes men some dressed and painted to simulate the Ripper's favorite type of victim, coursed through the East End.
A house to house search got under way.
In the midst of this activity and turmoil, on the night of Friday, Nov. 9, the archfiend achieved what he probably considered his masterpiece.
His subject this time was Jeanette Kelly, the only one of the women who possessed youth and beauty. She had lived in a place called Miller's court with a man named Barnett, and he had shared in her earnings. Then there had been a quarrel, he had taken leave of her, and she had remained in the same quarters.
Some time during the evening she was heard singing, whether to herself or to a visitor - or to her murderer - could not be determined. No one heard any screams, or sounds of violence, or sounds of flight. No one heard anything until the morning, when a man came to collect the rent and looked into Jeanette Kelly's room.
Then what they heard was the rent collector screaming the ghastly news.

Some chroniclers of this case have written that the scene was "indescribable." The fact is that the scene was describable; the writers must have meant "unprintable."
A police official, one of the first persons to enter the room, wrote later that it was as though a demon had been let loose in there. "The operator must have been at least two hours at his hellish job," he stated. "A fire was burning low in the room, but neither candles nor gas was there.
"The madman made a bonfire of some old newspapers, and of his victim's clothes, and by the dim irreligious light, a scene was enacted which nothing witnesses by Dante, in his visit to the infernal regions, could have surpassed."

Before this fiendish piece of savagery, only the East End had shown panic. Now it swept the entire city. What could prevent the fiend from shifting his operations from the East End? If he should decide to discontinue his horrors in a region so thoroughly policed in the emergency that had arisen, would it not be logical to suppose that he would strike somewhere else?
Scotland Yard bent its head against the storm of criticism, and Commissioner Warren resigned.
The city held its breath.
But now it was as if the Ripper had launched a war of nerves. Days passed, weeks passed, and months, and there was no fresh atrocity.
What had happened to him? Why had he quit? Had he killed himself? Had he left the country? Or could it have been that something straightened out in his twisted brain, and he had become normal again?
If the latter were the case, then he might be a Jeckyll-Hyde, liable at any moment to plunge into new evils.

Whether he ever struck again never could be established. In mid-July, 1889, a woman, never identified, was murdered in Castle alley, Whitechapel, and terror again gripped the city, for her wounds resembled those the Ripper inflicted. But no one, including Scotland Yard, could answer the all-absorbing question.
Though he ceased his activities - at least in England - the dread "midnight monster" lived on in legends and nightmares. He became, in the years that followed, a symbol of evil.
There remains to be discussed a collection of theories.
First, why did he kill? And why did he select only one type of woman?
One would have had to know the man to say whether the impulse to kill - to kill anyone of the opposite sex - came ahead of his urge to kill wayward women.
One suggestion advanced was that he had ruined his health through his association with such women, and that as the resultant insanity took possession of him he acquired a homicidal grudge against all women of that class.
On the other hand it was pointed out that women of the streets were by far the most readily available of victims. He had merely to respond to their painted smiles, and they were doomed. He needed no private retreat; any dark alley sufficed.
As for his identity, there have been many theories.
Some students of the case held that he must have been a demented doctor. At one time or another it was suggested that he was a Pole, Russian, an American sailor. (English were loath to believe that he might have been a fellow countryman.)
There was much speculation about the language of his communications with the police. The use of the word "boss" suggested an American; but what of "just for jolly"? It was unlikely that an American would use that phrase.
At one time it was believed that Dr. Thomas Neill Cream all but confessed the Whitechapel crimes on the gallows. Cream, who was strictly a poisoner, although his victims were all of the same calling as the Rippers, mounted the scaffold several years after "Saucy Jack" retired. It was reported that as the hangman placed his hand on the lever, Cream uttered the words:
"I am Jack the _________"
But the noose intervened.
Cream might have said the words, but they would not have been the truth. He had been in America - and doing no good, either - at the time of the Whitechapel outrages.
Apart from this, it might be pointed out that mass murderers usually follow their own individual patterns. A poisoner remains a poisoner, a strangler a strangler, and a throat-cutter sticks to his knife.
One day in 1902, Inspector Godley of Scotland Yard took into custody, on a charge of murder, a London innkeeper who called himself George Chapman.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but when Godley arrived at headquarters with his prisoner, a fellow officer, who had worked with him for years on the Whitechapel mystery, greeted him with the exclamation:
"We've got Jack the Ripper at last!"
An examination of Chapman's background and activities showed that perhaps they did have the fellow, at that.
Chapman's real name was Severin Antoniovich Klosowski. Born in Nargorak, Poland, in 1865, he had been apprenticed at 15 to a surgeon in Zvolen. He had quit at 21, enlisted in the Russian army and served 18 months, then he made his way to London, where he became a barber.
He had lived in London at the time the Ripper played his "funny little games," later resided for several years in the United States. According to the evidence assembled by Scotland Yard, he assumed his new name upon his return to London in 1897, and presently began poisoning women.
He killed Mary Spink in December, 1897, Bessie Taylor in 1901 and Maud March several months later. It was for the March murder that he was convicted and hanged.
Historians of the Jack the Ripper case have cited these parallels:
1. The Whitechapel murders began in 1888, and that was the year Chapman arrived in London and settled in Whitechapel.
2. The Ripper apparently had some knowledge of surgery, and Chapman undoubtedly did.
3. Someone had caught a glimpse of the Ripper while he was in the company of Jeanette Kelly. This person was reported to have stated that he seemed about 34, medium height, of a dark complexion, with a dark mustache turned up at the ends. Chapman's appearance tallied with this.
4. The Ripper murders were committed in the middle of the night. According to a woman who had lived with Chapman during that period, he had often been out until 3 and 4 in the morning.
English writers have also declared that while Chapman was in America murders similar to those perpetrated by the Ripper were committed "in the vicinity of Jersey City." Apparently they drew on their imaginations. The only case resembling the Whitechapel killings was the murder of a woman with the curious name of "Old Shakespeare," in a waterfront hotel, in April, 1891.
New York papers immediately cried, "Has Jack the Ripper arrived?"
However, an Algerian known as Frenchy was convicted of this crime, then ruled insane. After 10 years he was deported.

Chapman at least had the opportunity, and perhaps the mentality, to be Jack the Ripper. But two details would seem to indicate otherwise.
First, if the messages the London police received were authentic - and the police picked them out as such from hundreds of other letters received - then Chapman simply could not have written them. The handwriting, spelling and grammar were far superior to anything he could have achieved.
Then again we have the matter of pattern. It is very difficult to believe that a creature who stalked women of the streets, and then killed them in one sudden swift attack, could have later been content to commit murder with poison.
Whoever he was, whatever his fate, Jack the Ripper has remained a continual source of interest all over the world. And a source, too, of numerous pieces of fiction.
Frank Wedekind, German poet and playwright, fashioned a play out of the case. The most celebrated work in which the Ripper plays the leading role is Marie Belloc-Lowndes' novel, "The Lodger."

Next week Peter Levins will tell another story from the Album of Famous Mysteries.

Source: The American Weekly, May 2, 1918

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

Posts : 4907

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