There’s a strange trope in time-traveling stories or other stories featuring immortals. You always end up with the villain being at one point the real Jack the Ripper. Writing this made me think about the fact that the famous killer is also like Watergate, his name became used as a reference point to name those who followed.
All of this just to arrive at the question I probably knew the answer to some years ago, but clearly forgot since:
How Did Jack The Ripper Get His Name?
The fact that Jack the Ripper is still unidentified today only serves to increase his already enormous notoriety for the killings he committed in 1888. He committed acts in which he murdered five women–Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly –on the streets of London’s East End; nevertheless, despite his notoriety, it is not known for certain why he is known as “Jack the Ripper.”
That said, we know how he got this name:
The Central News Agency received a letter in September 1888 which was written in red ink and boasted of the Ripper’s exploits. The document was signed “Jack the Ripper” at the end.
A second delivery to the Central News Agency occurred in October, but this time it was a postcard. Once more, the Ripper signed this note, but it wasn’t until it actually came that the authorities paid attention.
“Jack the Ripper” was one of his names. He was also famously called “The Whitechapel Murderer”–the most logical name for him, I must say. Apparently, some called him “Leather Apron.”
As you may have guessed, the name that stuck was the one from the letters. Initially, the police believed it was a hoax when the letters were sent to the Central News Agency until they noticed that the writer made reference to the first letter in the second letter. At that point, they got convinced that the ominous mail may have actually been sent by the murderer after noticing some parallels.
That’s when they decide to make the letters public, a decision made in an effort to obtain further information. There was so little to go on, the police hoped to gather clues and, by doing that, as Jack the Ripper signed both the letter and the postcard with this name, the moniker became widely popular.
The tactic didn’t pay as the police got drowned under an insane amount of letters addressed to the ripper, instead of useful information that could have led to an arrest.
So, Who was Jack the Ripper?
That’s the question! New DNA evidence seemed to link the murders to some new suspect, but I like the idea that we don’t really know. Once or twice a decade, there’s a new book or article declaring that Jack the Ripper was someone else. It’s a tragic story, but a great unsolved mystery. It inspired a lot of artists (I’ll recommend reading From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell or watching the miniseries featuring Michael Caine, I quite like them).