Jack the Ripper was one of the most notorious serial killers in history. In 1888, the Ripper was suspected of brutally killing at least five women in and around the Whitechapel district in the East End of London. The Ripper killings were the focus of an intensive police investigation and garnered enormous attention from the public and media, but the case went unsolved, and the identity of the Ripper remains a subject of widespread debate over a century later. So who was Jack the Ripper? Was he one of the contemporaneous suspects, or one revealed by historical and scientific research? Was he even a man - or, for that matter, was he real at all?
No single person was Jack the RipperShow moreShow less
Differences between the Ripper murders suggest that they were the work of multiple people, not a lone killer.
Violence against women in London's East End was widespread in 1888, not an anomalous event requiring a mysterious serial killer to explain it. Police and the contemporaneous media linked the 1888 murders of Emma Smith and Martha Tabram to the killings that would later become known as the canonical murders of Jack the Ripper. Smith survived the attack on her for several days afterwards and was able to testify that she had been assaulted by multiple men, and Tabram had been attacked with two different weapons, suggesting two killers.
Without the media hysteria precipitated by the murders of Smith and Tabram, it is unlikely the dissimilar cases now known as the Ripper murders would have been firmly linked. The assumption that Jack the Ripper was a single serial killer makes little sense once the context of the time and place of the Ripper case is considered.