Jack the Ripper is the most famous serial killer of all time. For over a century, scholars have searched for his true identity. But were they searching for the wrong type of person? Was Jack the Ripper really…Jill the Ripper?
Who was Jack the Ripper?
The true extent of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree remains unknown. However, historians generally agree he (or she) killed at least five prostitutes starting in 1888.
“From April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891, eleven women were murdered in Whitechapel and subsequently connected in the police docket as the Whitechapel murders. Most, if not all of these women, are believed to have been prostitutes. A majority of experts attribute five of those murders, the so-called “canonical five,” to a single killer. They shared several common features including ‘deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations.‘” ~ David Meyer, Who was Jack the Ripper?
Was Jack the Ripper really Jill the Ripper?
There are more than 100 theories on Jack the Ripper’s identity. Now, an author named John Morris has added his own theory to the mix. In his book, Jack the Ripper: Hand of a Woman, Morris argues that Jack the Ripper was a woman named Lizzie Williams. She was the wife of royal physician (and suspect) John Williams.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that the Ripper was a woman. But because everyone believes that the murderer was a man, all the evidence that points to a woman has always been ignored.” ~ John Morris
As for evidence, it seems three of the victims had their wombs removed so Morris believes Lizzie Williams was motivated to kill because she couldn’t have children. Also, none of the women were sexually assaulted. In addition, pieces of an unidentified woman’s clothing were found near some of the victims. Finally, one of the victims, a woman named Mary Kelly, may have been having an affair with Lizzie’s husband.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
It should be noted that many writers claim Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame believed Jack the Ripper was actually Jill the Ripper. As far as I can tell, the earliest reference for this claim comes from Tom Cullen’s 1965 book, When London Walked in Terror. However, Cullen’s source was not Sir Arthur himself, but rather his son Adrian Conan Doyle. And as for Sir Arthur’s support of the Jill the Ripper theory, well, I’ll let you read his son’s words for yourself…
“More than thirty years having passed, it is difficult to recall his views in detail on the Ripper case. However, I do remember that he considered it likely that the man had a rough knowledge of surgery and probably clothed himself as a woman to avoid undue attention by the police and to approach his victims without arousing suspicion on their part.” ~ Adrian Conan Doyle
So, the idea that Sir Arthur believed in Jill the Ripper appears to be just an urban legend. Truth be told, I think the evidence for a Jill the Ripper is exceedingly weak. And Morris’s research doesn’t change my opinion. At the end of the day, I continue to think there’s one reason no one ever found Jack the Ripper…he didn’t actually exist.
“There are plenty of other feasible suspects out there. In addition, a reexamination of the evidence suggests that the “canonical five” murders may have actually been committed by multiple people. In other words, it’s entirely possible that Jack the Ripper was not a real person at all…he may have been nothing more than an invention of the media.” ~ David Meyer, Who was Jack the Ripper?
Interesting that there may not have been a Ripper at all! What’s your source for that? I’d like to read more.
My choice for most likely Jack the Ripper suspect is Francis Tumblety, a crackpot doctor who hated women and kept a collection of uteri that he showed his guests.
I often wonder if RTR was female. If there were women being murdered, and not a one off event, other women (including the Toms), would be wary of strange men for a while. A woman would pose no threat and be able to get up close and personal, gaining trust. Interesting theories out there, but no one will ever know the truth, (except the characters in my novel of course ;0))
From what I read, the prostitutes in that neighborhood were so poor they had to work every night even though they knew a murderer was on the loose.
I wish I could draw on just one source, but I don’t think a definitive book on the subject exists yet. I suppose that’s because most researchers start off assuming Jack the Ripper was a real person. They examine the murders as a set rather than as individual cases and I think that tends to influence their eventual conclusions.
That being said, it seems clear more than one killer was at work in the 11 Whitechapel murders. And Stewart Evans among others has done a good job stripping away the certainty surrounding the so-called Canonical Five.
Another book that comes to mind is Jack the Ripper: Case Closed. Ripperologists hate it as they are wont to do but it has some interesting ideas on the media’s involvement in the case. If I think of any others, I’ll let you know!