Monday, August 13, 2012


I ask you.  IS THERE ANY AREA OF INQUIRY MORE PROFOUNDLY DISCORDIAN THAN THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS?  The book pictured above, copyrighted 1998, International Standard Book Number 1568362579, is a GREAT example of just how it all works when you seek a final answer to a baffling question.  You dig, and you ponder, and you admire the nuggets of truth you find, but then it all slips through your fingers and leaves you pounding your head on the floor, sobbing, "WHY DID I EVEN ASK?"


>> The authors start with a letter written by J.G. Littlechild, a retired policeman who worked on the Ripper case when the blood, so to speak, was still fresh.  The letter supposedly quashes the theory you've heard so many times, that M.J. Druitt was the Ripper and the police knew it all along, quietly dropping their investigation when Druitt was found dead in the Thames with his pockets full of stones.  Littlechild never uses the name "Druitt" in the letter, only says that he never heard of a Dr. D. in connection with the Ripper crimes. He might have been responding to an inquiry about a Dr. Donaldson or Davidson, for all we know.  But "Druitt" unquestionably starts with D.

>> The letter goes on to thumbnail the story of a strong suspect the police were following, a Dr. Francis Tumbelty -- the subject of this book.  And what a strange ranger Tumblety was.  He would have made a good biographical subject even if he were never suspected of any crime.

>> The authors describe Tumblety as a man who made enormous sums of money posing as a doctor.  They never say it in so many words, but this may be their idea of an answer to the statements in the press that the Whitechapel murderer must be a doctor because of his anatomical knowledge.  (But COME ON -- have you seen the photos of what he did to Cathy Eddowes and Mary Kelly?  He sawed them open from gut to gullet and cut their noses off.  I could do that myself.)  That doesn't say anything about whether or not Tumblety did it.  But it is the sort of 'surgery' you would expect out of a guy who sold patent medicines out of the back of a wagon.

>> The nature of the crimes, I have to say, squares rather badly with the statements -- made repeatedly in the book by people who knew him personally -- that Tumblety was a physical coward who never confronted anyone in his life. 

Of course, that could describe any serial killer.  Nobody ever suspects a thing.  But, officer, my husband would NEVER--!

>> One glaring omission in this book is the fact that Tumblety, who lived most of his life in the USA with a stint in Canada, seems never to have killed anyone there, or if he did it was only due to malpractice.  Was it the London fog that got to him or what?  Giving his patients phony medicines is not even in the same ballpark as gutting someone in an alley and taking the uterus home as a souvenir.

>> This brings us to the larger questions around the uterus theft.  Tumblety is known to have had quite a collection of pickled human innards, including a selection of what the authors call "the female uterus" (to distinguish them from Tumblety's male uterus collection, I guess).  Now THAT would be worthy of a true serial killer -- keeping a real, pickled Whitechapel uterus on display as an example of what happens to fallen women, and chuckling quietly to oneself as the dinner guests admire it.  It's right up there with the BTK killer installing home security systems for a living.  AND THE AUTHORS NEVER EVEN SPECULATE ABOUT IT! 

(Why does nobody ever ask, or try to answer, what Saucy Jack did with those purloined giblets?  If Tumblety was the killer, and they clearly think he was, here is our answer, and nobody even mentions it.  Unbelievable.)

>> The authors describe Tumblety as an attention-sucking freak.  He normally dressed in the flashiest outfits anyone had ever seen, often including an enormous captain's hat with a plume on it, loud stripes combined with patent-leather boots, a sweeping cape and huge, brightly-polished spurs.  He wore a big, black walrus moustache that reached from here to there.  He went everywhere with a lackey dressed in an outfit that seemed to be stitched together from all the flags of the world, plus two loyal greyhounds.  WOULD YOU NOTICE THIS GUY CARRYING A KNIFE THROUGH THE STREETS OF LONDON AT TWO A.M.? 

(This is exactly the same problem I have with the Prince Eddy theory, too. With all the witnesses who described the stocky blonde sailor with the neckerchief or the glowering redhead with the medical bag last seen with this or that victim, would not one of them have said "he looked just like the Duke Of Clarence"?)

>> I don't especially picture Tumblety sneaking off into an alcove to silently butcher some poor drunken woman, then vanishing like a ghost.  It just wouldn't be this guy's style.  For crying out loud, he published an autobiography that went on and on about how jealous people were of him and how misunderstood and persecuted he was.  Would a guy like this be able to keep his mouth shut about multiple murders? 

(But soft -- Tumblety and Clarence had THE SAME DAMNED MOUSTACHE.  Maybe we're onto something after all...)

>> Ah, the gay factor.  Tumblety was supposedly gay, based on his oft-stated loathing for women and his arrest for gross indecency with other men in what may have been a male brothel, when he was staying in London.  Let's review the names of gay serial killers we can think of:  Des Nilsen.  John Gacy.  Jeff Dahmer.  Bill Bonin.  John Joubert.  Randy Kraft.  Were they out disembowelling women?  No, they were not.  Now for a few men known to have disembowelled a woman here and there:  Peter Sutcliffe.  "Silly Eddie" Gein.  Nicolai Dzumagaliev.  Sean Gillis.  Ed Kemper.  Stefan Svitek.  Oh, bother...none of them were gay!  What can we make of that?

>> The fact that Tumblety is known never to have even invited a woman to a dinner party fits nicely with the gay thing.  Some gay men are very misogynistic and that means staying AWAY from women, not getting up under their clothes and taking off their noses.

>> They go on and on about this guy's wealth and the fact that he always stayed in the fanciest digs he could find.  You know, the Presidential Suite of the Grand Poobah Hotel, that kind of place.  Then why do they then claim that when he got to London he stayed in a single room in a shabby neighborhood?  Did he even have his trusty greyhounds?  What became of the guy in the flag costume during this period of his life? 

>> In the best Ripperologist tradition, the authors connect Tumblety not only to the Whitechapel murders but to the Lincoln assassination.  BECAUSE JACK THE RIPPER IS CAPABLE OF ANYTHING! They start out by saying he was involved in Lincoln's death, then describe that crime in rather unnecessary detail, then plunge on to the mist-shrouded streets of London without ever bothering to make clear why they thought Tumblety had anything to do with it at all.  So why tell us all that stuff?

>> They also fail to explain why a Canadian would conspire against Lincoln in the first place, then move on the London to disembowel a few ageing drunks. 

>> Their idea is that Tumblety fled London to disembowel more women in South America.  What caught my eye is that Trevor Marriott, the author of THIS book...

...says EXACTLY the same thing, claiming that some identical crimes were committed south of the border and that he was able to trace a ship or two docked in London at the time of the Ripper crimes that then went on to the next murder sites.  Marriott feels, based on numerous eyewitness statements that the last man seen with a victim looked like a sailor...well, he thinks the guy was a sailor.  Gainey and Evans prefer to think it was a wealthy passenger with patent-leather boots and a big plume on his hat.  I SUPPOSE EITHER IS POSSIBLE.

>> With that said, Gainey and Evans did a good job of debunking some other theories about who might have been the Ripper.  I especially liked it when they were able to show that one of the suspects, Aaron Kosminski, probably never existed.  They also frankly admitted defeat in ever knowing much about all the suspects, because according to Peter Begg in THIS book...

...there were 130 suspects altogether.  One hundred and thirty!

(Here's my own personal head-scratcher:  If Aaron Kosminski never really existed, could he not have been the outgrowth of a radical misunderstanding of the facts around Severin Koslowski, who went by George Chapman and who according to the police did actually exist?  That has nothing to do with anything.  I'm just asking.)

(But I ask you this, as well:  why does everyone want to believe Jack the Ripper has to be a guy with money?  James Maybrick, Prince Eddy, Francis Tumblety, Walter Sickert, Sir William, money everywhere.  MAYBE HE WAS JUST A POOR CRAZY SLOB WITH A KNIFE.)

The authors of Jack the Ripper:  First American Serial Killer sum up by saying they have found the identity of the real killer.  They make this statement after failing to make the connection between their suspect and even one victim.  (Not even Abe Lincoln.)  They can show that he was in London at the time, but they can't even clearly connect him to the story of the lodger who asked his landlady to wash out a shirt with bloody cuffs, which they then take as solid proof that Tumblety is the Whitechapel killer.  The police mention him as a suspect, but that probably described everyone in London for a few weeks.  OK, you got me thinking, but the last laugh here goes to Eris.  It was a fun read, all right, but you guys proved nothing.