Folklore and urban legends have been part of humanity since the beginning of time. Although the tales get distorted and augmented throughout the years, there is something about a good creepy story that gives us the heeby-jeebies no matter how old it is. The best example is probably that of Jack the Ripper in London. In the mid-1800’s, 11 brutal murders took place and the story still lives in infamy today.
The year is 1888, the Whitechapel area of London’s East End is booming with immigrants and refugees from all over Europe. Conditions are poor and crime rates are at an all time high. Alcohol dependency, robbery, prostitution and other vices run rampant as overcrowding and general unrest due to the disparity between the rich and poor grow more prevalent.
Over the course of 3 years, a series of 11 unsolved murders took place; to this day, it isn’t confirmed that all were committed by one person. The five murders most likely to be linked are referred to as the “Canonical Five”. All victims’ throats were slit and, with the exception of one (Elizabeth Stride), their internal organs removed. The other six murders took place in the same area within the same time period, however the methods vary.
Though over 2000 people were interviewed regarding the murders, no one was ever convicted of the crimes. Police suspected and investigated butchers and surgeons due to the very specific mutilation of the bodies, but all of their alibis checked out. There were over 100 strong suspects during the investigation, but the authorities were never able to reach a consensus.
In 2014, over 120 years later, scientists used DNA evidence collected from one of the victim’s scarves to tie the murders to Polish immigrant, Aaron Kosminski, a barber in the East End area (details here). Kosminski passed away at age 53 in an asylum without being charged.
It’s 2015. Who cares?
Many of you are likely reading this thinking, “Yes, that’s some messed up s#%!, but who cares?” The reason the legend of Jack the Ripper is still a popular horror story today is the gruesomeness of the attacks combined with the mystery of it all. It took 126 years and serious scientific advancements to give an identity to the monster that is Jack the Ripper, with only 99% certainty Kosminski is tied to the Canonical Five.
But what about the other six?
The legend of Jack the Ripper has influenced innumerable books and movies and sparked the modern day Bogeyman, feared by children everywhere.
If you head to London, check out a Jack the Ripper tour in the East End. Many College Break tour directors offer to orchestrate a personal tour for their groups, but they can also be found easily with a bit of research. Get to London here.