In the Footsteps of Jack the Ripper
21 October, 2015
We have all heard about Jack The Ripper, surely the first media serial killer in history. His dark legacy has been an inexhaustible source of narrative material for over a century. Those mournful events have spawned both literary marvels and graphic novels such as From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, in addition to movies and TV series and even the odd opera. There may be a dose of morbidity involved in the interest aroused by anything relating to the subject. However, what stokes the flames is undoubtedly the fact that the perpetrator of those crimes has never been found, sparking a host of theories on the matter.
While the identity of the culprit remains unclear, what is known is the names of his victims and the spots where their bodies were found. Theme tours are based in Whitechapel, the scene of those atrocities. In the late-19th century, the district was a veritable hotbed of crooks and a limitless breeding ground for venereal diseases. Fortunately, it is now a salutary area and one of the major arty districts in London, with the Whitechapel Art Gallery at the forefront. In fact, it has become a must for day trippers, thanks to its second-hand market, which runs up to the Whitechapel Market, where you can pick up bargains from Monday to Saturday in over 80 street stalls, selling anything from fruit to electronics, rugs and jewellery. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Dark Route
Regarding the question, Who was Jack the Ripper?, you probably won’t find out after a tour of the area, but you will get an idea of what it was like there in the year 1888, when the deeds took place. Various tours can be joined in Whitechapel. Following are details of some of the areas you will visit if you dare to relive the horrific story.
This is where the first body of the two under investigation was found, although it wasn’t among the “canonical five” – of all the cases related to the Ripper, five are considered to be canonical, as they have several traits in common. The victim in question was Emma Elizabeth Smith, a prostitute who was attacked and raped in the street on 3 April 1888. She was found dead, with her ears cut off. Currently sited on this street is one of the most fashionable basement spaces in London, Apples and Pears, a designer bar with Japanese decor which is a cocktail bar by day, and a club by night. It has been graced by the likes of Kate Moss and David Beckham.
The Old Truman Brewery
This is where the second victim, Annie Chapman, was found. Over the last fifteen years, the 10 acres of derelict buildings from the former Truman Brewery have been refurbished as offices, retail outlets and venues for leisure and events, as well as art hatcheries. It is now a thriving complex of creative businesses, independent stores, malls, markets, bars and restaurants. At weekends it becomes the nerve centre of flea markets and tapas bars. Business and leisure combine to perfection here.
Durward Street (formerly Buck’s Row)
This is where the body of the 43-year-old Mary Ann Nichols – the first of the canonical five – turned up. The bodies of these women had their throats slit and presented mutilations on the abdomen and genital area, with facial disfigurement or a missing organ. Such was the modus operandi of the macabre butcher.
On 30 September 1888, the body of Catherine Eddowes, aged 46, was found. She had a slashed throat and a large, deep wound on the abdomen. Her left kidney was missing. The police found part of her bloodied apron at the entrance to a house on Goulston Street. Also murdered on the same day at Dutfield’s Yard – now Henriques Street – was the 44-year-old Elizabeth Strice. Death was caused by an incision on the left side of the throat, which severed her carotid artery. A postcard was received by the Central News Agency by the alleged culprit, who claimed responsibility for the crime.
The Ten Bells Pub
Jack the Ripper and some of his victims are thought to have frequented various pubs in the area, notably The Ten Bells (84 Commercial Street), which has remained open on the same premises since 1752. It lies just a few yards from the Liverpool Street Underground station.
Other landmarks you will see include Tower Hill Underground Station, the place chosen by Scotland Yard and the City of London Police to start their beat in search of the culprit, and St Botolph’s Church, a favoured haunt where the prostitutes of the time touted for customers. More information about the tour.
Whitechapel now stands for an alternative setting in the heart of the city. It is both classical and avant-garde, an area with a large number of mosques and such historic buildings as the Royal London Hospital. We urge you to come and discover it, even if you’re not particularly interested in Jack the Ripper. It’s a good opportunity to explore the streets of London’s famous East End, a charismatic district full of history and stories, like the one about the celebrated “elephant man”, as well as the Spitalfields and Petticoat Lane street markets andthe world famous Brick Lane, a street with a marked Asian presence, full of Indian and Pakistani restaurants, at really affordable prices. (There are menus for six pounds which include two or three dishes to choose from, plus rice and a drink.)
Why wait to discover it all? Check out our flights here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
21 October, 2015