A Clockwork in Crimson

A study of the Jack the Ripper murders


The Crimes & Seasons


Logic is. It is the rational expression of thought. It is the line we draw between the dots of known facts. With it we can create substance from a void, reason from abyss, cohesion from a fractured tablet. Facts are everything and yet not half enough. We need logic to use them, manipulate them, to put them in place and fill in the gaps.

     Yet logic is so taken for granted that we seldom stop to define it. Natural logic is easily (and academically) defined as conclusionary statements that are supported by the reasons the person gives. Logical behavior is appropriate reaction to the stimulus, motive or known facts. Logic is not a fact. Nor is it moral probity or truth. It is simply a criterion.    

     As seemingly simple as this seems, the process of logic is also so natural that we are unaware of its complexity. Our mind works so quickly that we do not consciously define the steps it takes in coming to an hypothesis and from there to a conclusion. We first observe. Then we classify. Then we infer. Then we interpret. Not so surprisingly these are the first four skills in the Ten Process Skills of Scientific Inquiry which together constitute Scientific Method. The full monty is: Observe; Classify; Infer; Interpret; Measure; Predict; Questions; Hypotheses; Experiment; Model Building (in other words, reproducing an effect).

     Somewhat surprising to many people is the fact that the first 9 of these 10 points are engaged in every day by everybody about their daily affairs. Immediately after we Interpret, we Measure or determine proportion of an object or speed. With this we immediately Predict outcome. Questions lead us onward to Hypotheses, and from there we Experiment to test their viability. Even in just the arranging of furniture, the mind consistently follows this pattern. From this unflagging sequence, we can see why Einstein referred to science as “merely the refinement of everyday thinking.”   

     Is it somewhat encouraging or discouraging to discover that all we do is based on logic and that science is merely the tool of refinement? I say this, perhaps unforgivably tongue-in-cheek, because we have elevated the very concepts without being aware of how inscrutably they guide and temper our everyday approach to life’s problems and solutions. These 10 skills are the mandatory steps of science only because they are the natural steps of a thinking and inquiring mind.          

     The criminal mind cannot be an exception to this rule. Criminals act logically, you see. It is a fallacy of thought that evil people must be stupid or demented, compulsive or impulsive. Very evil people can be very calculating. And even if they aren’t, they are still logical, for their actions are always guided by their motives. If we unravel a criminal’s goal, we can understand the motives and second-guess his actions. As crazed as a killer may be, there will be a “method to his madness.”

     For unsolved crimes logic therefore becomes a keen surgical tool by which to connect facts and extract truth. Even after over 100 years, as in the subject of this book, we are on much better ground than most think.

     ‘The Whitechapel Murders’ in London’s East End in the frightening fall of 1888 are the most documented series of unsolved murders in history for a reason. They were not just gory butcheries of London prostitutes. The victims were dissected for parts. Coroner inquests laboriously tried to understand it all. Newspapers followed every clue. Thanks to the powerful information highway that exists today, the massive amount of original documentation can be resurrected and accessed relatively easily. With this we can rebuild the long-changed East End in our minds and recreate the crime scenes accurately and, logically, backwork the actions of the perpetrator more securely than ever before. The result is to restore the details of the crimes, and as Holmes said— “the devil is in the details.”

     Contemporarily the murders were attributed to a phantom killer given form only by the moniker “Jack the Ripper.” In substance, that’s about the only bit of original information that has come down to us unaltered by economic rehash, pulp vignettes, and theorizing skewed to support pet suspects. It is not even accurate to say that the Ripper murders have been chronicled let alone investigated. Many writers have been content to recite generalities as a platform before introducing their suspect, crediting to him various bloodlust, sexual, conspiracy or ritual black magic motives, but none of this has been inspired by an examination of the actual crime scenes or analysis of the disturbing sequence of events. In consequence, one of the biggest mistakes perpetuated to the present has been to promote that the Ripper was after uteri. In fact, he was not. Rehash after rehash has always begun from this premise. By this mote, the actual pattern of the killer that autumn of fear has been obscured and therewith his motives and clues to his identity. It is a true statement that the greatest hindrance to solving the ‘Whitechapel Murders’ has been their own popularity. 

     Sensationalism began almost immediately due to the unbelievable circumstances of the crimes. But the sensationalism was of an interesting kind. It wasn’t of the murder scenes, or even an exaggerated flare about the mystery. The sensationalism centered on the theorizing. It ran the gamut from a West End topper haughtily preying on the righteous hides of the poor to an East End lout with a vendetta against whores. Truth, as always, seems to be in between.

     The killer was actually a very calm fellow, of clerkly appearance, dark, foreign, only about 5 foot 6 inches, stocky, soft spoken, of some education and even more inclination to put on airs. Upon this he hung an apropos veneer— dark, bland cut-away suit, sometimes a long overcoat, and the misplaced gentility of a country gentleman’s deerstalker hat. However savage the appearance of his murders became, he came and went ghostly about the narrow crowded streets of London’s East End. This is remarkable, for the bloke must have looked as though he had eloped from a bird-watching tour in the forest. Though at the pinnacle of his bloody career there must have been a bobby behind every culvert, none ever saw such a noticeable apparition strolling along. A blow on a police whistle would bring plainclothes detectives out of the woodwork within minutes after a gutted corpse was found. Still there was no sign of this uncouth villain in his gauche headgear. He was, it is safe to say, a stark contrast to the appearance of his gory crimes, and he knew the abyssal recesses of Whitechapel. 

     One would imagine that a fiend who comically looked like some misplaced member of the Audubon Society would be an image not easily forgotten. But in socially tumultuous times, as those most certainly were, only the extremes became embedded in the popular forum. And, in truth, the Ripper was seen only twice, and this very briefly and only before the crimes. His true image never took hold on London. Rather, the great metropolis was sent reeling into a panic by the image he carefully drew. The very first book written on the Ripper killings captured his grisly mystique. It was published in December 1888 while the autumn terror and public interest was at its zenith— and leave it to an American to have been first. In Leather Apron: The Horrors of Whitechapel, the author Sam’l E. Hudson wrote:


   He defied the entire population of the East End, every soul of whom was detective for the time being. He paid no heed to the swarm of Scotland Yard’s sleuth hounds, or the thousands of “bobbies” who patrolled the streets of London. He plied his knife right under their eye. He committed atrocities that sickened the soul. He left his dead, with bodies still warm, lying on the sidewalks, the yards of houses and in darkened alleys. People would pass certain spots and in a moment or two thereafter the corpse of a woman would be found there, with the body scientifically mutilated, and the murderer—gone.  


     It is not the gruesome scene of the murders— abdomens flayed wide, putrid stench of sliced bowels, the sweet/sour smell of coagulating blood, bulged eyes and throats torn open—that gave him his reputation and keeps it alive today, nor has this inspired so many to try and unravel these unsolved series of riddles. It is skillful execution at carefully planned public murder, not the number of victims or the gore that sets the Ripper apart both before and after.

     Because of this scenario, London drew the image of a sophisticated phantom, and since then we have only contributed to the old extremes. Over the last 125 years we have ornamentalized the Ripper killings with all the trappings of a good Halloween haunted house. Due to the finesse of his crimes, we first turned him into the archetypical urbane villain. He became a Simon Pure or a mad doctor. We framed him in the black silhouette of a Victorian gentleman, replete with top hat and elegant cape and mahogany walking stick. He is the quintessential stalker: innocent veneer hiding diabolical intent. He is the shadow against a brick wall, a hazy figure in a deep fog, his methodical footsteps punctuated by the fog horns of the Thames or the chimes of Big Ben. 

     Modern criminal profiling has been employed to try and draw at least a psychological profile of the Ripper. The synthesis of this process has only swung the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction and reduced the Ripper to merely being a low class impulsive sexual killer. To quote Charlie Chan: “Any powder that kills flea is good powder.” But all too often profiling has proven to be nothing but “scientific” stereotyping. And truth be known, this profiling hasn’t been based on the uncouth, stocky man and the context and details of his crimes. The comparatives used were 1960s and ’70s sexual revolution maniacs and the dossier 100 years of folklore.

     Both extremes do an injustice to the actual character of the Ripper. The topper image merely misleads us, but the image of the gutter villain is a false explanation. It tells us he killed for his own perverse thrills and that in his poverty he had no choice but to kill on the streets. This erases one of his quirks and eclipses his ingenuity. In truth, the Ripper did stand out. His quirky appearance didn’t make him a toad on white rice like the topper image, but he should have been readily identifiable in the lower class East End. This makes his success at anonymity all the more mysterious. It is safe to say his character was eccentric, highly premeditative, and his unrelenting drive to carry out his murders of worthless dregs even in the face of incredible odds shows how confident he was. The little fellow in the deerstalker hat hunted his game and murder for the sake of murder was not the ultimate motive.

     Though his actual image might have been lost on Victorian London, this pattern was all too clear and it frightened London the most. It is this that created that Gothic autumn. The Ripper started in late summer, and every day the nights fell sooner, the dread of encountering the Ripper became greater. Foggy dark nights were animated only by footsteps approaching and fading away. An incandescent orb hovered over the cobblestones from a distant gaslight, cottony and soft in the clutches of fog. Any unexpected sound sent a chill up the spine. Rushing along the streets, people stopped to wait for the solemn chimes of Big Ben to stop tolling so they could listen again for footsteps around them. Women secretly armed themselves. Everybody bolted their doors and windows.

     The Ripper no doubt intended to baffle the police and all who read of his crimes, but his motive even for this is up to debate. Did he do so to cover his ultimate motive? He could have killed them in parks or indoors, but he chose streets, courts and backyards. When he saw that he could create chaos, he tried even harder to plunge the greatest capitol in the world into terror and intrigue. In this he succeeded. His murder scenes grew more gruesome, he more and more gave the appearance of being a maniac, but he still took the desired organ with precision. His care is seen in his success. He left the scene without trace— not a drop of a trail of blood, not a bloody shoeprint, not an accidental step into the pools of sticky blood despite the blinding darkness. He inspired debates of the supernatural and fears of an unstoppable predator who could move through locked doors. He coveted his ghost-like anonymity. . .And as far as history is concerned he walked away clean. After taking a victim’s heart, he quit suddenly. To this day no one is sure of the identity of Jack the Ripper. Sadly, no one even remembers he’s the clerkly little guy in the gauche deerstalker hat.   

     The purpose of this volume is to let the crimes and seasons of Jack the Ripper speak for themselves. It is to be a conduit by which we go back in time and vividly relive two years in Whitechapel and hopefully thereby catch a glimpse of the “shabby genteel” man with the pleasant albeit eccentric veneer and diabolical motive. He left many clues, most of which were not picked up on by the bland minds of Victorian detectives. He followed several risky patterns, and yet ably hid subtle mistakes, mistakes that he no doubt felt were far more revealing than his pattern. Scotland Yard had stereotypes and impressions that only a sexual maniac did these things. More than anything this caused them to innocently limit their scope of suspects and overlook evidence on the type of man that was at work and his ultimate goal. They didn’t see him try to opportunistically exploit his crime spree, nor did they see the unoriginality in his attempt. I intend to fully resurrect the clerkly fellow through his crimes and bring him to the fore of theorizing yet again.

     Without a doubt, the Ripper was the furthest thing from a homicidal maniac. I intend to minutely bring forward every clue at the collective crime scenes to show that he did, in fact, remain calm and unwavering from his purpose; that any variation he made was based on circumstances and the necessity to hide clues that the newspapers had picked upon from a previous murder. The newspapers rightly condemned him as a monomaniac— a person who obsesses on perfecting one thing, one object, one task.

     I am very well aware that many modern scholars or “Ripperologists” have attributed only 5 victims to the Ripper during a single autumn of terror in 1888. But that was not a contemporary consensus. We must forget what we think today. We must go back and we must relive. We must walk the streets. We must examine the crime scenes. We will sit at the inquests and hear the gory details. We must forget the overlay of 125 years of theorizing and impressions. For over 2 years there were 12 murders, all prostitutes, and then they stopped. The Ripper’s ominous reputation hung over Whitechapel like a gray, vapid wraith each time one was reported. To this day the aura has never died. It is not hype and hyperbole that keep it alive. The circumstances truly baffled a city and inducted police into the realities of modern barbarity. For cunning, even to this day, they have never been surpassed. 

     Truth lies in the body context. Therefore the reader must go back in time. Only from all the contemporary evidence can we classify this killer and begin to understand why these series of murders captured the imagination of the world and why their nameless perpetrator remains identified even to this day only as Jack the Ripper.


Scarlet Autumn: The Crimes and Seasons of Jack the Ripper

By Gian J. Quasar