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Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper was a British serial killer active in London during the late 1800's. He is widely considered the world's first and most infamous modern serial killer, mainly because he was never caught or even identified.


"Jack" as he called himself, was active in the Whitechapel district of London, England during the late 1800s. Whitechapel itself was known as a Red Light District of the city; meaning that it was a haven for prostitutes, drug addicts, and gangsters. The London Metropolitan Police estimated that there were 1,200 active prostitutes at any given time, every one of them a potential target of a serial killer.

Involved chiefly in the investigation were inspector Frederick Abberline and Medical Examiner Thomes Bond. They were unsuccessful in capturing or even identifying the Ripper.


There have been many theories concerning the identity of The Ripper, mostly involving royal figures, prominent businessmen, and even a female Jewish immigrant. These include, but are not limited to:

  • George Chapman:
    • Real name was Seweryn Klosowski
    • Barber
    • Had fatally poisoned three women
  • David Cohen:
    • A Jewish cobbler
  • Aaron Kosminski:
    • A Polish Jewish butcher
    • Was put in an insane asylum in 1891, after the killings ended
    • Was supposedly linked to the Ripper crimes in September 2014 through DNA evidence extracted from a shawl found near Catherine Eddowes[1]
  • Montague John Druitt:
    • A schoolmaster and barrister
    • Committed suicide after the death of Mary Jane Kelly
  • Prince Edward Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale:
    • The grandson of Queen Victoria
    • Heir to the throne
  • Walter Sickert:
    • A German-born painter
    • Believed to be the Ripper due to his painting of the "Ripper's Room"
  • John Pizer:
    • A Jewish cobbler
  • James Maybrick:
    • Alleged himself to be the author of the "diary of Jack the Ripper"
  • Unnamed female, a.k.a. "Jill the Ripper":
    • A widely-speculated theory
    • The lead inspector on the Ripper case, Frederick Abberline, was the first of the investigating officers to suggest that Jack may in fact be a Jill
    • Mary Pearcey:
      • Believed to be "Jill the Ripper" by a many
      • Convicted of the murder of her husband's former lover and baby
      • Was hanged in 1889
  • Doctor William Gull:
    • Physician to Queen Victoria and the British royal family
  • Carl Feigenbaum:
    • German merchant sailor
    • Was convicted of an unrelated murder and executed in New York in 1894
  • Lewis Carroll:
    • Author of Alice in Wonderland
    • Has been proposed on a suspect based on possible anagrams in his work
    • The theory is not taken seriously
  • An unidentified American serial killer (dubbed the Servant Girl Annihilator) has been suggested by some as being connected to the Ripper.

Modus Operandi


The Ripper's "From Hell" letter, in which he included a part of a kidney taken from a victim.

The Ripper targeted Caucasian female prostitutes in the Whitechapel area. He killed them by slashing their throats, proceeding to eviscerate them when they were dead. Because bruises older than the cuts were found on the necks of many of the canonical victims, it has been suspected that the Ripper strangled his victims into submission with his bare hands before slashing them. The murders would always occur on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, within the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. He would often take an organ or two as a trophy and once sent half of a kidney to George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, as proof of his identity (the accompanying letter claimed that the killer had eaten the other half). It is reported that the body of Mary Jane Kelly was so grotesquely slaughtered that she was unrecognizable. Her body was also posed with the legs parted, as was another victim.


"I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled."

In the book The Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, there was a profile of Jack the Ripper made by Douglas and Roy Hazelwood. According to them, the Ripper was a disorganized, paranoid killer. He would have been a white male in his late 20s to early 30s who was raised in a household marked by a passive or absent father and a dominant mother who may also have been promiscuous and/or an alcoholic. He later became an introverted, antisocial loner who set fires and tortured animals as an outlet for his anger. At the time of the murders, he would have been calm, quiet, and inconspicuous.

If he had a job, he would have chosen one in which he could pursue his interests, such as a morgue worker, butcher, mortician's assistant, low-ranking hospital staff, etc., since the way the Ripper cut out organs from his victims suggests some anatomical knowledge. The times of the murders indicate that he would have had days off on certain weekends and holidays and could come and go from his home as he pleased without anyone noticing. He was also probably neither married nor involved in any committed relationship, the majority of his association with women having most likely been prostitutes.

He may have had some physical defect that made him feel inadequate or unattractive. Because of a negative self-image, he displayed paranoid traits and carried one or more knives for self-defense purposes. Prior to the murders, he may have visited pubs and drunk in order to relieve himself of some tension. He may also have been seen wandering on the streets looking for potential victims. It is possible that he was at one point interviewed or questioned by the police.


All of the following were attacked in and around the Whitechapel district area

The "Canonical Five"

The five victims confirmed to have been murdered by the Ripper

  • 1888:
    • August 31, Buck's Row: Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols, 42 (throat was slashed twice; her lower abdomen was cut repeatedly and partially ripped open post-mortem)
    • September 8, 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields: Annie Chapman, 47 (throat was slashed twice; disemboweled, threw her intestines over her shoulder, removed her uterus and parts of her vagina and bladder post-mortem, and took them)
    • The September 30 "double event":
      • Dutfield's Yard: Elizabeth Stride, 44 (throat was slashed once; wasn't mutilated significantly post-mortem)
      • Mitre Square, the City of London: Catherine Eddowes, 46 (throat was slashed; her abdomen was ripped open and an earlobe and a kidney removed post-mortem)
    • November 9, 13 Miller's Court, Dorset Street: Mary Jane Kelly, 24 (throat slashed down to the spine and severely mutilated almost beyond recognition; removed her heart and took it post-mortem)


Victims who were killed during the so-called "Whitechapel murders", which is heavily suspected of being perpetrated by the Ripper and also includes the Canonical Five

  • 1888:
    • April 2, Osborn Street: Emma Elizabeth Smith, 45 (assaulted, violated with a blunt instrument, and robbed; fell into a coma and died two days later)
    • August 6, George Yard Buildings, George Yard: Martha Tabram, 39 (was stabbed 39 times in the body and neck)
    • December 20, Clarke's Yard: Rose Mylett, 29 (strangled; some suspect she died by accident or natural causes as there were no signs of a struggle)
  • 1889:
    • July 17, Castle Alley: Alice McKenzie (her throat was slashed and her abdomen wounded; some suspect she was the victim of a copycat)
    • September 10, Pinchin Street (found): "The Pinchin Street torso" (real name unknown; throat was slashed; no other body parts were found)
  • February 13, 1891, Swallow Gardens: Frances Coles (thrown violently to the ground and her throat slashed twice)

Other Possible Victims

Other victims suspected to have been attacked by the Ripper that were not counted in the Whitechapel murders

  • 1888:
    • February 25, unspecified location: Annie Millwood (stabbed in the legs and abdomen; survived; later died of apparent natural causes over a month later)
    • March 28, unspecified location: Ada Wilson (stabbed twice in the neck; survived)
    • November 21 (reported), unspecified location: Annie Farmer (throat was superficially slashed; survived; the wound was possibly self-inflicted)
    • October 2 (found), various locations (discovered): An unidentified woman (case was dubbed the "Whitehall Mystery"; decapitated, dismembered, and her parts found in various locations of London)
    • December 29, Manningham, Bradford: John Gill, 7 (legs were severed, his abdomen opened and his intestines slung out, and his heart and one ear were removed)
  • June 2-25, 1889 (dates of discovery of parts), the river Thames: Elizabeth Jackson (decapitated and dismembered in the same manner as the "Whitehall Mystery" victim)
  • Notes:
    • There is a serial killer dubbed "The Torso Killer", who was active near the river Thames, where the parts of his or her victims were discovered. He or she was suspected of having murdered, among his or her victims, the Pinchin Street torso and the "Whitehall Mystery" victim, as well as Elizabeth Jackson.
    • Carrie Brown, a.k.a. "Shakespeare" (reportedly for quoting William Shakespeare's sonnets), was briefly suspected of being a victim of the Ripper victim. Her body was found strangled with clothing and mutilated by a knife in New York City on April 24, 1891. Her murder was compared to the deaths at Whitechapel, but any connection between the two cases was ruled out.
    • Due to the fact he was never caught and the suspicion that he is responsible for many more murders leads to the possibility that Jack may be responsible for many more unsolved or undiscovered murders.


There are no documents in the Whitechapel murder file dated after 1896. The murderer or murderers were never identified and the cases remain unsolved.

The poor of the East End had long been ignored by affluent society but the nature of the murders and of the victims drew attention to their living conditions. The murders galvanized opinion against the overcrowded, insanitary slums of the East End and led to demands for reform. On September 24, 1888, George Bernard Shaw commented sarcastically in a letter to The Star newspaper on the media's sudden concern in social justice:

Whilst we conventional Social Democrats were wasting our time on education, agitation, and organization, some independent genius has taken the matter in hand, and by simply murdering and disemboweling ... women, converted the proprietary press to an inept sort of communism.

Acts of Parliament, such as the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890 and the Public Health Amendment Act 1890, set minimum standards for accommodation in an effort to transform degenerated urban areas. In the two decades after the Whitechapel murders, the worst of the slums were closed down and demolished.

Sensational reportage and the mystery surrounding the identity of the killer or killers fed the development of the character "Jack the Ripper", who was blamed for all or most of the murders. Hundreds of books and articles discuss the Whitechapel murders, and they feature in novels, short stories, comic books, and films of multiple genres. There is even an entire science dedicated to the Ripper murders called "Ripperology".


Derek Brown.

Some modern-day serial killers have been compared to the Ripper (a name which is sometimes part of their nicknames). An example is an unidentified English serial killer active between 1964 and 1965 nicknamed "Jack the Stripper", so named because all of his known victims were prostitutes who were found undressed, having suffered head injuries, died of various causes and been dumped in the Thames. Another is Peter Sutcliffe, a.k.a. "The Yorkshire Ripper", another English serial killer who also targeted prostitutes. He would strike them from behind with a blunt object and then stab them. Yet another is Colin Ireland, a.k.a. "Jack the Gripper", who would beat and torture his victims before killing them by some form of asphyxiation, though he didn't attack or mutilate any of his victims with a knife. Furthermore, the word "Ripper" is often included in the nicknames of serial killers whose murders often involved the use of sharp instruments and mutilation; examples include the aforementioned Sutcliffe; Andrei Chikatilo, a.k.a. "The Rostov Ripper"Robert Napper, a.k.a. "The Plumstead Ripper"; and the uncaught Gilgo Beach Killer, who also had the nicknames "The Craigslist Ripper" and "The Long Island Ripper".

In 2008, a convicted rapist obsessed with serial killers, named Derek Brown, tried to copy the M.O. of the Ripper. Brown picked up a prostitute named Bonnie Berrett and a DVD seller, Xiao Mei Guo, in the same Whitechapel area where the Ripper was active. He then brought the women to his flat, where they were murdered and butchered in a bathtub. He was subsequently nicknamed the "Jack the Ripper Killer" by the press.

On Criminal Minds


Jack the Ripper, as depicted in a flashback sequence in "Jones".

Jack the Ripper is first mentioned in "Sex, Birth, Death", when Nathan Harris tells Reid he has read a lot of Ripper-based literature, mostly comics. Later, Nathan is shown writing Ripper-related fan-fiction on his laptop.

In "Jones", Sarah Danlin copied the Ripper, going as far as sending her own "Dear Boss" letters to the New Orleans Police Department.

In "52 Pickup", the Ripper wasn't mentioned or referenced, but may have inspired Robert Parker, who initially targeted prostitutes, eviscerating them and fatally slashing their throats.

In "Zoe's Reprise", at least one of Eric Olson's copycat murders was also based on the Ripper (though that victim was raped while the Ripper never did so with any of his victims).

Frank Breitkopf's murders were somewhat similar; while his victims were dying, he would dissect them, prolonging their pain. The victimology of the two is similar, as both men targeted those unwanted in society.

Coincidentally, A.J. Cook, who portrays JJ, had the starring role in Ripper: Letter From Hell, a film about a forensic psychology student being terrorized by a Ripper copycat.

The Ripper was also mentioned in "Pay It Forward" as an example of serial killers who stop killing and disappear.

The Ripper was most recently mentioned in "Tribute" as one of the infamous serial killers whose M.O.s were copied by Michael Peterson.



  1. Note that at the time of this writing, the DNA testing, carried out by Ripperologist author Russell Edwards and Dr. Jari Louhelainen, has not yet gone through peer review