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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bill the Ripper

No wonder we never found Jack the Ripper, we should have been looking for Bill; or so says the Boston Daily Globe, on July 20, 1889.

The one enduring fact of the Whitechapel murders in London in 1888 is that “Ripper” in the headline sells newspapers. The name “Jack the Ripper” comes from the signature on several letters sent to the London police, allegedly from the killer. In fact, most knowledgeable investigators believe these letters are frauds and the killer never identified himself. In the great tradition of British journalistic ethics, a reporter sent the forged letters, signed “Jack the Ripper,” for the sake of the story. It was a media gamble that has been paying off for more than a hundred years.

On both sides of the Atlantic, in the years following the Whitechapel murders, any unsolved murder of a woman, by slashing, was tied, or at least compared, to Jack the Ripper. Most notably, in 1891 the New York City press nearly sent the city into a frenzy by speculating that the murder of Carrie Brown was the work of London’s Jack the Ripper. This incredibly unlikely story was revived in the very popular Discovery Channel documentary, “Jack the Ripper in America.”

The Globe story—one short paragraph—states that a man named William Brodie was arrested and confessed to the London police. Brodie is not mentioned today as a Jack the Ripper suspect. If anyone has more information, please let me know.

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