On Friday night, beneath a full moon (the perfect backdrop to mine and Ruscha’s experience), we wound our way through the crooked back alleyways of Spitafields and Whitechapel, London, revisiting the spine tingling murder sites of the infamous Jack the Ripper serial killer.
The tour began at 6.30pm in Whitechapel. Trailing the atmospheric route of the unidentified serial killer – Jack the Ripper – we were transported back to 1888. Our tour guide Sara was a “Jack” expert, and both passionate and personable. Throughout the tour, Sara knowledgeably scrutinised and commented on the many disputed conspiracies and theories that have accumulated over the last 120 years – making this of one of history’s most notorious cases.
The famous man hunt began in 1888, after the discovery of a body on 31 August 1888 in London’s East End. The tour follows a location-based route of the killing spree, reverberating the fear and genuine terror felt in Victorian society in the wake of each murder.
Jack’s victim profile consisted of female prostitutes who lived in the slums of London, in and around the Whitechapel district. Attacks were distinguished by cuts of roughly 30 cm long left-to-right induced by the serial killer, as well as abdominal mutilations and the removal of internal organs – this lead to proposals that the killer possessed surgical knowledge. However, Sara clarified that this was only confirmed by one medical expert out of 5. All murders were carried out between the hours of 3.00am-6.00am, on or close to a weekend implying that Jack was unmarried, lived locally, and probably had a full time job. The mutilations became increasingly severe as the series of murders proceeded. Kelly’s murder is considered to be Ripper’s final victim with the crimes ending due to the culprits’ possible death, imprisonment or emigration.
This “Autumn of Terror” ran between the 31st of August and 9 November 1888, the linked murders of the ‘canonical five’ consisted of: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly. There will always be considerable speculation and interest surrounding the case as although Jack was not the first serial killer his case was the first to create worldwide media frenzy.
The tour was chillingly fascinating, and drew my attention to the poor living conditions and ruthlessness of the Victorian era. The identification of the killer still remains very much ambiguous due to the lack of evidence in the unreliability of contemporary accounts and surviving forensic evidence.
This 2-2.5 hour tour is thought provoking, entertaining and engaging and truly brings the investigation of the heinous crime alive. With images of “evidence” provided by the guide throughout the tour, you as an audience are able to feel more connected to the victims, locations, and police investigation, and get a better sense of how the events unfolded within the society that existed. The guide was also very knowledgeable about the surrounding area, and more than happy to point participants in the direction of facilities, good places to eat, and the nearest stations.
Tour Sites Visited:
- Widegate St
- White Row
- Flower and Dean Walk
- The Ten Bells public house
- Among many more!