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Whitechapel: The Thug's Paradise

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Whitechapel: The Thug's Paradise

Post by Karen on Mon 23 Dec 2013 - 17:44

Selected Miscellany.
THE THUG'S PARADISE.

[A reporter for the New York Sun made a tour of inspection through the notorious Whitechapel district of London during the hours of night and he furnished his paper with a graphic description of the terrible sights he there saw.]

We were given to understand upon broaching the subject of a tour through Whitechapel at night under the guidance of a police officer, that such a trip could only be arranged with much difficulty and corresponding expense; that the Commissioners had given positive orders to the department under no circumstances to escort strangers
into that district, and that for a member of the force to violate this rule would render him liable to immediate dismissal if his offence were discovered.
However, our informant knew a man whose wife's brother had a friend who was distantly related in a business way to Scotland Yard, and it was possible that by the use of diplomacy and finesse this friend might be able to induce an officer to take the risk for a proper consideration. The friend succeeded, and an appointment was made for 9 o'clock
Saturday night.
The friend was alone when he met him at a station of the underground railroad at the hour appointed, and he informed us that our guide awaited us in Whitechapel, and, moreover, that he was a very famous member of the Criminal Investigation Department.
When the friend mentioned the name we were aware that we had fallen into good hands, since Inspector Harris - I may as well call him Harris, as I am ready to swear if necessary that there is no such person - was the one man of all the department who ought to know Whitechapel best, having been born and reared within its confines, and having taken
a very prominent part in the non-detection of that distinguished recluse, Jack the Ripper.
Emerging from the underground at the Aldgate station, we came out upon Whitechapel road. This road thoroughfare runs from Aldgate High street to Mile End, and cannot fail to remind a New Yorker of the Bowery. Like the Bowery, it is brilliantly lighted all night; likewise there is a saloon on every corner, and it is the pleasure ground of pickpockets, thieves,
prostitutes, and criminals of all ages, degrees, and previous condition of penal servitude.
Like the Bowery, too, it is a dirty channel between dirtier slums, and, like the Bowery, it is livelier by night than by day. At this hour both sidewalks and the pavement swarmed with passengers whose personnel included the lesser of London with the dregs of two continents and twoscore nations. The majority of the great throng, of course, was English, but in it savage-
faced Lascars and Malays in sailors' blouses; unkempt, swarthy Turks in native costume; ragged, picturesque, and various fakirs of Cathay; Arabs with dirty red fezes about their greasy heads, and various other breeds of Asiatics mingled with the lowest order of Poles, Russians, Germans, Swedes, Italians, Spaniards, Alsatians, Frenchmen; and undoubtedly the human
product of every parallel that circles this great globe.
Men and women were thronging into the public houses; dirty children sported in the gutters; ruffianly boys played pranks upon each other and the passersby; and slatternly young girls, with depraved faces, strolled along the sidewalks in groups, exchanging coarse jests with the half-drunken men who gathered before the groggery doors.
We had not advanced a hundred steps up Whitechapel road when we found a little group gathered about an old man in the garb of a laborer, whose head was bleeding from a cut, while a tattered woman of the street wiped away the blood with a dirty handkerchief. He had been struck by a stone, thrown by he knew not whom; and a couple of London policemen looked on
smiling while he endeavored to recover his scattered senses.
"Pockets! Pockets! Look out for your pockets! All thieves here!" called one of the officers upon seeing strangers in the crowd.
A score of hard faces were turned upon us, but not one in the throng seemed to resent the policeman's reflection upon its collective character. They were thieves, and they admitted it; but that is no disgrace in Whitechapel, only an inconvenience if one is caught.
Scarcely had we crossed the street after this episode when another sidewalk gathering fell apart, and a girl not more than sixteen or seventeen years of age lurched out of it and reeled up against the wall of the nearest building, while a shout of laughter went up from the men and women about her.
She was so drunk that she could scarcely move or speak; and as she staggered along, groping blindly against the wall, the pedestrians turned laughingly away. The policemen, who were scattered thickly along the sidewalk, paid no attention to her, and the friend, who was used to such spectacles, informed us that if they took every drunken woman into custody they found in
Whitechapel on a Saturday night they would find little time to do anything else.
It is something that impresses all Americans in London - the number of drunken women one sees in the streets. This is probably due to the circumstance that women stand up and drink at all the London bars with the same freedom as the men.
Indeed, on almost any afternoon or evening in any of the lower-class bars - and there are scarcely any high-class ones, except in the hotels, the theatres, and the swellest restaurants - one will find as many women as men gathered before the counter. One sees, even in Pall Mall and Piccadilly in mid-afternoon, drunken women who stagger along unmolested by the policemen.
We saw more drunken women than drunken men during our tour that night in Whitechapel.
Inspector Harris, when we found him, sat comfortably upon a stool before the bar of the historic Red Lion tavern, at the corner of Commercial road, exchanging compliments with a pretty barmaid after London's own manner. The Red Lion is historic because as a legend in red letters upon the wall reads: "Here Dick Turpin shot Tom King," and a gaudily colored picture represents
the hero of Hounslow Heath in the act.
From a crystal chalice upon the polished mahogany bar there smiled upon the inspector a modicum of Irish whiskey, and when the friend whispered in his ear that we were the combination he was to chaperone that night, he cordially invited us to join him in the consumption of similar nourishment.
The Inspector was a man of medium stature, slight but powerful figure, gray hair, and some fifty years, but as young and active as any officer of half his age. He proved to be a man of unusual intelligence too, who thought and read; and yet he was without that solemn dignity and pompous dogmatism that marks most superior officers of police here even more than in New York.
"Now tell me just what you want to see," said Inspector Harris, after he had taken us mysteriously in a corner.
I told him that we wanted to see all the horrors of Whitechapel, the natives' dens, the underground lodging houses, and all that sort of thing that we had read about.
"That you have read about in Dickens?" inquired the Inspector.
"Yes."
"Ah!" he said, "that's all done away with now. It's against the law for people to live in cellars, and if we knew where there were any thieves' dens we'd go and clean them out. However, I can show you the lodging houses and the places where the murders were committed and some curious things that you won't find outside of Whitechapel."
The first "curious thing" we were shown was the pistol with which it was alleged Dick Turpin shot Tom King, which the barmaid produced from the strong box of the Red Lion.
An inebriated subject who was leaning against the bar begged to be permitted to look at the pistol when we were through examining it; and, the weapon being handed to him, he amused himself by thrusting the barrel in a gas jet and then playfully snapping the lock at the barmaid, calling upon her for a drink or her life.
The barmaid paid no more attention to this demonstration than if she had never read of didn't-know-it-was-loaded fool, though, after all, it would have taken a vivid imagination to conjure any danger from Dick Turpin's antiquated firearm.
When we came out into the street the inspector and the friend entered into a discussion as to whether we had better go next to the scene of the castle alley murder or to see Bismark's autograph. This choice offered wide scope for individual preference, and we were anxious to know how the signature of the Chancellor of the German empire came to be in Whitechapel.
The inspector informed us that the Queen's bread was baked in Whitechapel, and that on one occasion a member of the royal family of Germany, being sick at Windsor, the baker, a German, named Damm, had baked loaves of most delicate and perfect bread for said royal personage and set it with a note of condolence, and it was to this note that Bismark had replied, the bread
having it appears, assimilated easily and pleasantly with the gastric juices of the Hohenzollern.
It was decided to visit the scenes of the murders first, and, as they would bring us around near the bakery, to drop in and see the Chancellor's autograph after witnessing the other horrors.
Crossing Whitechapel road again, the inspector led the way to the narrow door only a few yards from the Aldgate station of the underground railway. It led into a black passage not wide enough for two men to walk abreast.
This passage brought us out into an alley perhaps twenty feet wide, the right hand side of which was lined with wagons that had been brought in from the street at the other end. There was a sidewalk on the left hand side, and two street lamps were burning. Warehouses rose on both sides of the alley, but there were small tenement houses at the end. The Inspector stopped half way down.
"This is where the woman who was killed last July was found," he said. "That night both sides of the alley were lined with wagons. The woman was lying with her head on the curbstone and her feet up toward the building.
A policeman had passed the place only fifteen or twenty minutes before the body was found, about 1 o'clock in the morning, and the policeman who found her had stopped to eat some luncheon just at the other end of the alley.
"He brought his luncheon down to the place where he found her and left it there," added Mr. Harris, facetiously. "The body was a horrible sight," he concluded with disgust; as he mentally recalled the scene. "I didn't eat anything for two days afterward."
Going out at the other end of the alley and traversing a narrow street we came into a broad thoroughfare, crowded with small children and half-grown boys and girls, where a large business was being done from the shop windows in the smaller species of fish, scores of men and women were standing before these stalls buying halfpenny's worth of shrimps, wnelks, or herrings, which were eaten
on the spot; a hand organ was playing, and half a dozen shabby girls waltzed to the music; Jewish matrons; greasy by the testimony of two of the five senses, were talking at the shop doors; and, as everywhere in Whitechapel and the other slums of London, old and broken-down hags were trotting feebly about the sidewalks, or sitting huddled up and shivering in the doorways, the happier among
them drunk.
No more pitiful spectacle can be imagined than these wretched animal wrecks - beings that once were human now sunken lower than the vilest beasts, the divine imprint long since seared from mind and soul.
Gray hair that in other circumstances might have been venerable, but now more dishonored and dishonorable than in sinful youth, straggling from under tattered bonnets, or more often uncovered to the November winds; bodies rent and sore with the most fearful of maladies; faces utterly bereft of human expression, toothless mouths, and eyes bleared and glazed; scant and bedraggled, vermin-infested
clothing that scarcely holds together; bare feet, or boots broken and showing the lack of stockings, as torn shirts betray the lack of underclothing!
The picture is not overdrawn. Little wonder that these hideous creatures would barter any hope they might have of eternal happiness in the future for liquor or any drug that will give a few moments' surcease of the present misery and pain that rack their poor battered frames.
There is no refuge or asylum for them; their only home is the street. Pariahs among outcasts, they would degrade an almshouse and disgrace a prison!
"There used to be a shed down there," said the inspector pointing into an alley, "where these old women slept at night. It was piled up with lumber and old barrels. Well, I was hunting a thief down here one night, and he got off around there, so that we had to search that shed. I give you my word there were seventy-eight of those women in there. There was only room for about ten of them to lie down, and
the others were wedged in between barrels or squatting on top of the lumber, and some of them asleep on their feet, leaning over boxes. The authorities have boarded up the shed now, but it was against my ideas. The women didn't do any harm there, and it was some sort of a shelter for them at least."
Turning into a side street we stopped before a stairway, over which a dim lamp, bearing the words "Victoria Home," was hung. Inspector Harris paused before this place and said:
"Every one of the Whitechapel murders has been committed within a radius of which this "Home" is almost the exact centre. The "Victoria Home" was formerly a charitable institution. Now it is a cheap lodging house, and it is mostly frequented by men who have seen better days - broken-down gentlemen, lawyers, officers, clergymen, and merchants.
I'll wager there's many a queer history and many a romantic one hidden in that old building now. But what I started out to say was that when the Ripper is run down I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he'd turn out to be an occupant of that same Victoria Home."
"What is your theory about the Whitchapel murders?" I asked.
"I believe," said the inspector, "that the murderer is a man driven crazy by misfortune, with which a woman has had a great deal to do.
Every murder has been committed just after the public houses close. Now, I believe that he gets to drinking in the public houses and the fury comes upon him while he is in liquor. Then he goes out and murders somebody.
I've often seen men sitting alone, morose and sullen, in a public house with a glass before them, and said to myself: "Ah, my fine fellow, I wonder if you're the Ripper!" I've had many of them shadowed, too; but Jack hasn't materialized yet."
"How do you account for the murderer being able to escape the police after such a crime, when he must be covered with blood?" I asked the inspector next.
"He isn't covered with blood," responded Mr. Harris, with a degree of impatience. "Every women he has killed has had her throat cut, and he allows the blood to run out of their bodies before he carves them up.
All the bodies have been found with the head lower than the trunk, and he has cut all their throats from behind. After the blood has run out of a body there will be no spurts when a cut is made.
The Ripper may get a little blood on his hands, but that won't show to a policeman at night. Why, I may have blood on my hands now and you don't know it. Neither do I know if there is blood on yours. We're laughed at for not catching the Whitechapel murderer, but wait until you see the places where the murders were committed, and tell me what you think about it."
As the inspector spoke we turned from Commercial into Dorset street, and, after proceeding a few yards up that thoroughfare he led us into a narrow passage between two squalid tenement houses. At the end of this passage, just before the courtyard was reached, Mr. Harris rapped upon a door.
"Who's there?" growled a gruff voice from the interior, while two or three women appeared from the court and shrilly commented upon the "impudence" of men calling themselves rousing up poor people at that hour of the night, as if they didn't have no rights in their own homes.
The inspector's response was to rap again more sharply than before and to say:
"Come, come, now, hurry up! Open the door!"
The door was opened a crack and the gruff voice began. "Who the _____" and, upon recognizing the visitor, underwent a most remarkable change. "Oh, beggin' your pardon, Mr. Inspector," said a small, servile voice. "Excuse me fer keepin' you waitin'. I hain't got me clothes on."
"Well, get 'em on, and be lively."
Presently the door opened wide, and we entered a room about 10 by 12 feet, that was lighted by a tin lantern. A bed, a chair, and a washbasin were all the furniture. The occupant of the room was a short, stout, middle-aged man, with closely cropped hair and a bad face wreathed in most hypocritical smiles, caused by his delight at a visit from his friend the inspector. He wore the garb of a laborer.
"This is the place," said Mr. Harris, "where Mary Jane Kelly was murdered last November. She was one who was sliced all to pieces, you may remember, and distributed about the furniture. Well, she was murdered on that bed, and that great stain on the wall is her blood."
The bed, from which our host had just arisen and that was tumbled up as he had left it, was close against the wall and the pillow rested against the broad rusty brown stain the inspector had indicated.
"There's more of it under the bed; see!" said the occupant of the room, eagerly; and, taking up the lantern he got down on his hands and knees and showed us another stain half the size of the bed blanket, on the floor.
"Where's Kate?" asked the inspector, "she used to live with Mary Kelly before she was killed," he explained to us.
Kate's name was shouted from the door and transferred from one voice to another through the court yard. Presently a young woman entered the room out of breath from running, Kate was not a bad-looking woman. She was less than thirty, she had good eyes, luxurious hair, and as handsome set of teeth as one often sees.
She sat down on the edge of the bed and volubly assured us that she was the identical person who had lived there with the murdered woman. They had paid half a crown per week rent, and after Miss Kelly's tragic demise, Kate said that she was forced to the outrageous extremity of paying that extortionate amount by herself.
"That was until he came to live with me. Now he pays half," she concluded, indicating the man we had roused from slumber; and acknowledging the relations that existed between them in a most matter-of-fact way.
We went out and left the short-haired man to turn out his light and get back into bed against the ghastly blood stain. The woman escorted us to the street, where we presented her with a shilling or two, at the inspector's suggestion, just as the man's voice, now gruff again, was heard to call her name.
"Kate! Kate!" she repeated impatiently. "It's always 'Kate!' What'll you do when you ain't got no 'Kate'?" she added coquettishly bestowing a smile upon inspector Harris.
"And those people are actually compelled to live in that room with that fearful blood stain on the wall?" I asked the inspector, as we walked away. "Can't they have it painted out or papered over?"
"Bless you," returned our guide, "that stain pays their rent. Why, that woman Kate made application to have the room back while the police were in possession after the murder, and she's made a good bit of money exhibiting it since."
It was evident that Kate possessed reasonably strong nerves.
A trifle further up Dorset street the occupants of two tenement houses that faced each other across the narrow roadway were gathered on their respective sidewalks enjoying an agreeable Saturday evening diversion.
Two girls, neither of them yet twenty years of age, and both under the influence of liquor were dicussing a question of heredity and comparative morals on the pavement. Both were bare-headed, the sleeves of both were rolled up to their elbows, and their language would have staggered an Avenue A car driver. But, though they made the most ferocious threats against each other involving mutual consumption of personal
livers with reciprocal execration and evisceration, though they shook their fists within minute fractions of inches of each other's noses and bellowed into each other's ears details of domestic history discreditable to their respective families and immediate relatives, they refrained from blows with the self-control of Parisians.
We stopped at a cheap lodging house in Dorset street before we reached the pugilist's, and the inspector called out the manager thereof.
"Take these men in and show 'em the place," he said, and, turning, to us, he added, "I won't go in. The whole house would bolt for fear I'd come to arrest them."
"I'll show you the place," said the friend.
My other companion excused himself from entering without the inspector, on the ground that he was a married man with a family, and the friend and I went in together. We entered first a large barren room, dimly lighted by dingy kerosene lamps, and surrounded inside by board benches, upon which were loafing several unkempt Whitechapel savages, with short pipes in their mouths.
One of these men arose as we came in and knocked the ashes out of his pipe on the edge of the bench, carefully putting that comforter away in the pocket of a greasy waistcoat. This done he slouched up to our conductor and inquired what in the ensanguined place of eternal punishment we were doing there.
"Only a couple o' gents as wants to see the house, Billy," responded the host mildly.
"A-goin' to take lodgin's, eh?" inquired Billy, with a sneer.
"In course not," replied the landlord. "What's the matter Billy? Does you object to me a-makin' of a 'arf crown a-showin' the place to the gents? Business be'nt so good. Billy, that I can throw away a 'arf crown."
"What I objects to," retorted Billy suddenly raising his voice and glancing toward the others on the benches, "is 'onest man a being" made a bloody, bloomink show of! Wot am I a bloody, bloomink show for?" he bellowed. "Did I pay for me bloody, bloomink lodgin's or didn't I?
Am I a bloody, bloomink tattoed girl, or a bledink, bloomink fat woman a-writin' me ortograph with me feet? P'raps if 'onest men got their deserts I'd be wearin' as good close as them two gents what thinks they're better'n we are. D'ye think ye're any better'n we are?" he asked in an agressive tone, suddenly turning to the friend.
During the progress of this harangue the other lodgers had gathered about the spokesman and were regarding us with no great favor, but the friend, a thick-set and burly gentleman, was in no manner disturbed by the menace implied in the question.
He ferociously responded that he did consider himself a blankety blanked sight better not only than the speaker, but than any blanked occupant of that particular lodging house, and that if there was any person or persons there who doubted the statement or his sincerity he would take unusual pleasure in wiping up the floor with him or them, collectively or individually. Then turning to me, he said:
"Come on; we'll go up stairs and look at the rooms."
The language and demeanor of the friend had its due effect. There were a few muttered curses, but no attempt was made to slaughter us or to prevent our departure.
The lodging house was much like the ten and fifteen cent hotels in the Bowery, and the price was sixpence per night per bed. The beds were empty, however, and Billy, the landlord, told us that his guests seldom retired until after the public houses were closed at half-past 12 o'clock.
The war of words was still progressing before the tenement houses with no perceptible dimunition in the enthusiasm of vigor of either side and no nearer an approach to personal violence when we had finished our inspection of the lodging house.
We now wended our way through another series of black alleys and dirty streets toward the spot whence the bright spirit of Annie Chapman fled, at the instigation of Jack the Ripper during the early morning of Sept. 8, 1888.
The inspector stopped before a cat-meat shop in Hanbury street, and beckoned one George, proprietor thereof, to come forth. George was a splendid type - from a strictly ethnographical point of view - of the lower order of Jews. He was a greasy and weazened little man with lips like those of a negro and a nose so utterly out of proportion to his other features as well as his stature as to prove his descent from a race of giants.
His hair which strayed out from under his cap, was of the coarseness of hemp and it curled slightly like the frayed end of a rope.
Being bidden to show us the scene of the murder, George produced a candle and led us through a dark hallway that led from the street to a yard behind the cat-meat shop. A pair of steps led down from the back door into this yard, and George unctiously informed us that all that was mortal of Miss Chapman was found between the steps and the fence, horribly mutilated.
"How were the police going to stop that I'd like to know?" inquired Inspector Harris with an aggrieved air."
"An officer has no business to come into a house unless he's called, and the Ripper made so much noise over the murder of that woman that another woman who was in that second-floor room with the window open didn't know anything about it until the body was discovered.
The woman that was killed knew that this was a secluded place, and she brought her murderer in here. The same way at the place we were before where the woman was killed in her own room.
My men had no right to go in off the street. Then how were they to blame because they didn't find the Ripper at work?"
We next visited George Yard where the first murder of the series was committed, April 3, 1888. A "model tenement," a handsome brick structure with balconies running clear around it at each floor and broad steps mounting between the buildings, rose before us. A dozen dirty boys and girls, from ten to fifteen years of age, were gathered at the foot of one of these flights of stairs, and these children made an immediate descent
upon us.
"Here ye are, gents! I'll show ye the place!" "Come along o' me, gents! I live in the same house!" they shouted.
The Inspector led us up the stairs and the children followed. An angle in the second flight, four stairs high, left an open space six feet in extent between that ascent and the flight that led in the opposite direction. The Inspector and one of our infantile guides had a discussion as to which stairs the body was found upon that culminated when Mr. Harris declared that he ought to know as he committed the murder himself.
"The body was found on these stairs," said the Inspector, indicating the left ascent. "Of course, my men have no business to come up here unless they're sent for. Why, the morning of the murder a man that lives in this tenement came home about 3 o'clock and stumbled over the body as he went upstairs. He thought it was only somebody drunk that had tumbled down there, and went to bed without thinking anything more about it.
The first man that came down at daylight in the morning found her lying there. But of course, the police ought to have caught the murderer at it!" he added, in a tone of deep injury.
We visited the scenes of the other murders in Buck's row, Berner street, Back Church lane, and Mitre square, at all of which places the Inspector proved that the police were to be blamed for not having detected the murderer, and then Mr. Harris suggested that we visit Ratcliffe highway.
Ratcliffe highway! The name awakened some recollections, of course! It was the place of another series of murders immortalized by De Quincey in the postscript to his famous essay on "Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." It was there that the demon Williamson, a thousand times more dangerous than Jack the Ripper, in that the former spared neither young nor old but bent his energies to the complete extermination of every
household he visited, laid the scenes of his crimes. I asked the inspector if he knew the house where those crimes were committed, now more than three-quarters of a century ago. Mr. Harris knew one house, the one that was inhabited by the Marr family, where father, mother, baby, and serving lad were killed while the servant girl was gone for oysters at midnight. It was No. 29, and I at once recognized the building and the street described
by De Quincey, and, as it happened, the hour was just about that on which, so many years ago, Marr sent his servant out for the wherewithall for the supper that was never eaten, and, as on that occasion, it was a "Saturday night." To quote De Quincey:
"In this humble quarter of London, whatever the night happened to be, light or dark, quiet or stormy all the shops were kept open on Saturday night until 12 o'clock at the least, and many for half an hour longer. There was no rigorous and pedantic Jewish superstition about the exact limits of Sunday."
Strangely enough there has been scarcely any change in the locality in the seventy-nine years that have passed since that Saturday night in December, 1812, when the tragedy occurred that shook England to its centre. The house was the same in which Marr and his family were murdered and, as at that time the ground floor is given up to a hosier's shop, through the name "T. Truran," instead of Marr, is over the window. There is the same door
against which poor Mary leaned, and through which she heard the breathing of the lurking murderer upon her return from her errand, and there is the house next door from the window of the brave pawnbroker leaped with his iron poker when the alarm was given.
Inspector Harris did not know any more than De Quincey did where the house was in which the Williamson family was murdered; but he was acquainted with another interesting circumstance connected with the Williams murders. Williams, as De Quincey relates, committed suicide.
"He was buried," the Inspector said, as all suicides were at the time, at a crossroad, with a stake driven through his heart. That cross-road is now the corner of Cable and Commercial streets, and when they were digging up the street a year or two ago to put down gas pipe the workmen found his skeleton, and the man that keeps the public house on the corner has got the skull there on exhibition. The Marr family are all buried in one grave in the
cemetery just a little way up the street. Come up to the public house and I'll show you Williams's skull."
We went to the corner of Cable and Commercial streets, and Williams's skull was brought, in its glass case, from the centre table of the publican's parlor and duly admired. Then the inspector led us to a small building at the end of Ratcliff Highway, where there was sounds of revelry. This, he told us, was almost the last of London dance halls. We entered an ordinary public house and ascended a flight of stairs, where was a dancing floor much
like a hundred of the east side "ballrooms" of New York. The dancers were a pretty rough lot, and their favorite method of waltzing was what is known in the Bowery as "spieling" - that is they seized each other by the shoulders at arm's length, and looking each other straight in the eyes whirled round and round without reversing until they were too dizzy to continue. There was a bar at one end of the room. While we were looking on at the tersichoreans
the proprietor of the place came up hastily and whispered something in the friend's car, who at once responded, "Certainly," and straightaway asked a much-battered damsel to dance. When the music stopped the friend suggested that we clear out, and upon reaching the sidewalk, he told us that the proprietor had begged him to dance with somebody to avert a row, as the gentlemen and ladies were threatening to "do" their visitors, not liking to be a show
for people who considered themselves too good to join in the merrymaking. The participation of one of our party in the dance had, it seemed, been accepted as a guarantee of proper respect.
Just after we reached the sidewalk a drunken sailor, who had been "fired" out of the dance hall, alighted upon the top of his head beside us, and began to bleed and swear copiously. The fond recollections the scene recalled of far-away Hester street and Mr. Billy McGlory was almost enough to make a New York reporter shed tears. Had it not been for the vicissitudes suffered by the h's in the sailor's profanity I could have shut my eyes and fancied myself
in the Fourth ward.
Inspector Harris had not yet exhausted the varied resources of Whitechapel.
"Do you want to see a real hero, just like the ones the novelists make?" he asked. "Well, what do you say to finding in a Whitechapel public house a Chevalier of the Legion of Honer, decorated by five governments?"
He informed us that this hero was the Chevalier Constance Von Hoydonck, who, fifteen years ago, brought the English sailing vessel Lennae into the port of Rochefort, France, after she had been taken by mutineers and the captain first and second mates killed. Von Hoydonck, then twenty-one years of age, was steward of the Lennae, which sailed from some port in Holland with a crew entirely Greek, with the exception of a Dutch cabin boy and the steward,
a Belgian. Two days out the officers were murdered at night, and Von Hoydonck, who understood navigation, was ordered to take the vessel to Greece, and the leader of the mutiny stood over him and made him explain her course by the chart. In spite of this supervision the steward managed to fool the murderers, and for ten days he cruised up and down the coast of France, out of sight of land, while the mutineers fondly imagined they were sailing straight to
Greece. During these ten days Von Hoydonck had managed to throw overboard thirty-six sealed bottles containing appeals in French and English for assistance. Twice during these ten days the brave young steward held the entire crew at bay with a revolver to save the life of the cabin boy. At the expiration of ten days he made sail for Rochefort, telling the sailors they were arriving at Cadiz, in Spain. Already some of his messages in the bottles had been
picked up, and though a dozen of the mutineers escaped in a boat, the steward and cabin boy were taken off under the guns of a French man-of-war and the others captured. The Greeks who reached land were also taken a few days later, and most of them ornamented a gallows.
We found the Chevalier Von Hoydonck presiding over the destinies of the White Hart Hotel in High street, a man whose appearance any other chevalier might envy. He stood six foot two, erect, broad shouldered, and deep-chested. The shape of his head was notably good, the features clean cut, the eyes brilliant, and the mouth firm. He looked every inch the hero that he was, and his distinguished manner and courteous reserve reminded me of Prince Florizel
of Bohemia, who conducted the famous tobacco shop in "The Dynamiter." Upon being pressed by the Inspector, he consented to tell the tale of the mutiny, but his brief outline of the tragedy, hurrying over the details of his personal action in the matter gave a very poor idea of the real event as I read it in the narratives from various London newspapers of fifteen years ago that had been pasted in the Chevalier's scrap book. Von Hoydonck's medals were more eloquent.
He had in a little glass case decorations from the courts of France, England, Holland, Belgium, and Greece, all inscribed in recognition of his heroism.
It is interesting to note that the Dutch boy, for saving whose life Von Hoydonck received the Hollandish gold medal, is now serving a term in an English prison for robbery, after committing several petty crimes for which he was forgiven.
We visited the place where the Queen's bread was baked, and saw Bismark's autograph, after leaving the White Hart; and, coming up Leman street, witness another street row. Before a corner groggery a girl of not more than twenty years or thereabouts lay flat on her back in the gutter. A woman with a very young baby in her arms stood on the sidewalk in altercation with the saloon keeper, and two policemen looked on smiling.
"You would come into me own place an' beat me, would yer" the publican was saying as we came up. "Well, I've known you too long, an' the perlice knows you too well! Git away from me place!
He seized her and pushed her into the rapidly gathering crowd, and the policemen laughingly held her back from him as he turned to re-enter his place of business. Upon inquiry we learned that the woman had roused his wrath by demanding at his bar a tuppeny's worth of gin, placing on the counter at the same time, as evidence of good faith, what seemed to be two pennies, but was found, after the liquor had been consumed, to be one coin of that denomination on top
of a half-penny. The girl in the gutter was a mere coincidence, having evidently lost her equilibrium in a careless moment, without considering that she was in a condition of too advanced inebriety to regain it unaided. No one in the crowd heeded her while there was any chance of a fight between the gentleman of the groggery and the fair deceiver, but that happy chance having passed, a few amusement-seekers gathered around the prostrate one. She gazed stupidly about
for a few moments, and then said, in a voice that was touchingly pitiful and even sweet:
"Won't somebody help me up?"
The friend stepped in again in an emergency and raised her to her feet, and she staggered away as the gathering dispersed, the two policemen paying no attention to her.
Night having already driven his car a great deal more than half way around you purple heaven - to employ a figure of the late Anacreon - we started back toward Aldgate station. The side streets were now for the most part deserted, but every few houses we found men and women asleep in the doorways, or lying on the narrow curbstones in the alleys. We passed a little girl carrying a steaming pitcher, and the Inspector said:
"Bet you can't tell what's in that jug!"
Considering that the child was working the belated growler I hazarded that the vessel contained hot grog.
"No," said Mr. Harris. "Hot water. There's a hot-water shop just down the street where they sell it two-pence a jug. You see people that can't afford a fire can pay for a jug of hot water to make tea, or warm cold victuals."
Whitechapel road was still flowing its variegated human stream as we crossed. A sailor, so drunk that he was virtually carried by two women whom he clasped about their necks, was being taken to some vile den, probably to be robbed; troops of women of every degree of wretchedness, destitution, and misery were accosting men as low as themselves as they passed in the street; a blind beggar felt his way homeward, tapping on the sidewalk before him with his stick and waiting
at the cross-walks until some kind-hearted murderer, thief, or prostitute should help him over; a man in the uniform of the Salvation Army offered tracts and an occasional remark to the passers-by, accepting patiently the curses and abuse he received more often than civil attention, and coarse and ribald drunken songs and laughter in which there was no merriment rose above the din of the street.

Source: Door County Advocate, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Saturday June 6, 1891

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Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
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Re: Whitechapel: The Thug's Paradise

Post by Karen on Mon 21 Apr 2014 - 15:50

WHITECHAPEL SCENES.
The Domain of Jack the Ripper Teeming With Thugs and Crime.

A Dark and Loathsome Refuge for London's Great Criminals - Forbidding Buildings on All Sides.

New York Herald: Come and take a trip through the domains of Jack the Ripper. Through the dark and noisome lanes of Whitechapel, pregnant with crime and teeming with thugs and thieves. We will take a detective along. It is a very necessary precaution.
It should be explained for the benefit of those not familiar with the geography of London, that the Whitechapel district is a colony of thieves, situated nearly north of the Tower of London on the Thames. A few blocks down the river are the famous London docks. Many of the lower classes of men employed along the river and the

NUMEROUS WATER THIEVES

of the wharves live up in Whitechapel. A hundred years ago, in the time of George III, Whitechapel road was just outside the walls of London - a sort of suburb for the poorer classes, who had little money to pay for rent. Now it is in the center of a vast and populous district, with well paved streets and alleys (thanks to modern improvements) cutting the district in every direction with horse
railways and principal streets which in olden times were the king's highways. Vast warehouses, private and bonded, and manufacturing establishments rise darkly and silently in the night on the borders of these slums.
Then there are big breweries, hospitals, cemeteries, almshouses and other institutions not far away. A surprising feature of the neighborhood is that well-lighted streets with tramways and bus lines are but a few squares away from where these murders are committed. The Whitechapel district may be likened to certain localities in the country where

DARK AND GLOOMY

swamps, filled with pestilential vapors, lie between the great highways. A visitor walking up Whitechapel road would little dream of the horrible dens within a stone's throw of the brilliantly lighted shops. Only the policemen on duty there recognize the flashily dressed men and women who hurry along the pavements as the worst type of London thieves and murderers. Their restless eyes and scarred faces
long haunt one after he takes a second look into their villainous countenances.
It was but a few minutes after the detective turned off the Aldgate road that we found ourselves in a dark crevice-like lane, with the darkest and most forbidding

BUILDINGS OF THE SLUMS

rising on every side of us. The streets are as well paved as Broadway in New York, but some of them are not more than five feet wide, and then we entered this Petticoat lane of history, celebrated among thieves from Cheyenne to Australia, all the world seemed cut off. A feeling of unutterable loathing and horror came over one as he caught sight of the scenes within the tenements. The lane is the headquarters of the most
dangerous thieves in Europe. Every class and nation is represented. Low Jews, Gentiles, convicts and prison birds of all descriptions swarm the place like vermin. "As a Saturday night scene, the region of Petticoat has no equal on the globe," said the detective. At every few steps were the passage-ways leading out of the lane like tunnels in a mine. No cave could be gloomier or more forbidding. As we walked up

THE LONG BLACK ALLEY,

called Petticoat lane, one of the government officials said to me, "You see Dickens did not exaggerate." People unfamiliar with these districts think Dickens drew his characters from imagination. The man was right; the Smikes and Oliver Twist, the Fagins and the Dick Swivellers were as thick as flies. An ordinary American child would live about three days in such a place, yet there were hundreds of children hardly able to toddle, that
darted in and out of the passages like rats. They were the little thieves, soon to become the big thieves of London. The atmosphere was thick and fetid, the fog hung over the alleys like lead, and the few scattering jets of gas burning along the lane, were hardly visible ten steps away.
Turning out of a lane through a dark passage into a little area, and standing beside a small addition back of the other houses, and pointing to the boarded windows, the detective said: "In there is where

MURDER NUMBER SEVEN

was committed." This is Miller's court. While we were looking at the place and wondering which way the assassin ran after he had killed the poor woman, little yellow-haired children came dancing into the area, and listened with a curious boldness, as if we were about to open a box of valuables and there would be a chance for them to steal.
In Osborne street, where the first of all the murders was committed, and the victim unknown, the white chapel which stands in the very middle of the Whitechapel road, is almost in sight. A walk of a few steps from the horrible place leads one to the open thoroughfare where the jingling bells of the horse cars are heard and the chimes of Whitechapel ring out on the night air as they do in Christian lands where thieves and murderers are not so near civilization.
We next came to the celebrated

FRYING PAN TAVERN

which is the rendezvous of dissolute characters of the lowest type. We entered the little room where only "first-class" customers are served. In spite of the detective's efforts, a couple of young thieves got into the room and proceeded to order "bitter" for two, apparently as an excuse to be on hand should there be a chance to steal a watch or cut a throat.
A sign on the wall ran to this effect:

Customers are respectfully informed that parlor prices are charged in this department.

The woman behind the bar was very civil, and the place was as neat as many a saloon in America, but the people who occupied the benches were a study for a painter of outlaws. Here, as elsewhere, were women and girls - brazen, leathery-cheeked creatures, with bright, suspicious eyes, quick movements, hoarse voices and gibbering laugh. The detective informed us it was

A DANGEROUS PLACE,

and that two policemen were always kept near the door. On Saturday night everybody is home and the beggars come in to divide up their spoils and to hold their weekly revels. Then the big British officers are very careful about getting mixed up in the rows. Many a time the policemen, he said, had been thrown down and kicked unmercifully by the crowd, who would yell, "You have got him down now, give it to him until he can't squaal."
"They don't know what mercy is," said an outside officer, coming up while we were talking. From the time we entered the street and while we were in the tavern, tough looking characters were on the watch like sentinels, on each side of the door, hoping to get

A CHANCE TO RAID US,

or steal something should a fight occur. When strangers come around the thieves and receivers of stolen goods swarm from the holes in the walls like wolves from their dens, and a man is as helpless among them as a child is in the jaws of a crocodile."
The detective took us into one of the typical lodging houses of the Whitechapel district. The scene was revolting. Little signs wreathed with holly, laurel and ivy were over the door, bearing the inscriptions, "Peace to All Nations," "A Hearty Welcome." Also the additional intelligence that "This is a noted house for double and single beds." Here was democracy and no nihilism. Thieves, garrotters, beggars, receivers of stolen goods, safe burglars, kidnappers and the vilest
of the London slums were encamped like gypsies. They sat on the floor or leaned over the table, with pots of beer and glasses of spirits between them,

SINGING SONGS AND BLASPHEMING,

as they did in Hogarth's time, when they rattled their dice on the stones of the churchyard.
A word from the detective secured permission to go through the home. The character of it may be imagined when it is stated that the price of a single bed is but a penny or two, and that two persons - the lowest of all God's creation - may drink, shout and blaspheme all night for only twopence. Little children, with pale faces, scarcely old enough to lisp the name of mother, lay in dark corners on vermin-covered beds, with withered hags, who drank beer and sang snatches of song,
half awake and half drunken, apparently in a stupor, and as we passed through the long alleyways between the bunks they stretched out their shaking hands and bawled piteously for a penny to help the poor darling. We looked into other chambers that were empty, where a dozen cots, covered with dirty rags, were awaiting the return of some assassin to lie down and drink and riot in the early Sabbath morning. The boys and girls of these dens were as bright as crickets and the detective said
they could pick a pocket more artistically than the old ones.

Source: The Yakima Herald, North Yakima, Washington Territory, Thursday August 8, 1889, Page 1

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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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