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  • The Origins of Jill the Ripper September 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    jill the ripper

    There has long been a minority opinion that Jack the Ripper was a woman: the so-called ‘Jill the Ripper theory’. It is often said that the theory begins with William Douglas Steward, Jack The Ripper: A New Theory in 1939. Steward established to his own satisfaction, that Jill was a deranged midwife. But Steward was not original in suggesting that a woman was the killer. Beach was, in fact, flabbergasted to learn that the Jill the Ripper theory was already floating around in the autumn of the dreadful murders 1888

    L. Perry Curtis in his book on Jack the Ripper and the London Press (2001) gives the following figures for Jack suspects from letters to the editors (printed) in that awful fall. Here is the breakdown (243).

    Lunatic 10
    Butcher 7
    American 3
    Malay 3
    Policeman 2
    A respectable lodger 2
    A woman 2
    An unspecified Jew 2
    A foreigner 2

    What about the butler?

    Curtis has also given a useful breakdown of candidates for murder in letters to the police. There were 153 letters in the archives, six of which suggested that Jack was a girl (251). Everything we know about serial killers and gender suggests that Jack was most emphatically not a girl: a man with a small penis and dandruff problems would make an infinitely better candidate.* So where did this nonsense come from? Are we just in Agatha Christie land were every imaginative narrative contortion has to be played out: it was a suicide not a murder; it was the detective; every suspect did it; the death was faked…

    It is sometimes said that Detective Aberline suggested that the killer was a woman. Only this is not true because it came from the pen of the ‘inventive’ Donald McCormick. Scratch, then, from the archives the idea that Aberline ever said: ‘Do you think that it could be a case not of Jack the Ripper but Jill the Ripper?’

    Actually, the first reference that Beach has found dates to 21 September 1888. We are discussing the use of transvestite detectives to hunt down the killer.

    Amongst the various means adopted to entrap him or her (for many think that it is a mad woman who has slaughtered the four persons) is the dressing up of two detectives as women of the class to whom the murdered people belonged.’ Anon, ‘London Letter’, Sevenoaks Chronicle (21 Sept 1888), 2.

    The ‘London Letter’ was a circular published in many papers and it was certainly written before 21. It may even have been published before that date. The author gives a sense that locals believed that Jack was possibly a woman (as well as a ‘Jew’ and later a toff). If the journalist can be trusted we have here a fragment of Ripper gossip from out of the tenements and rookeries. Of course, its use in solving the case is zero: but, then, the case is never going to be solved. (Sorry, riperologists.) It does give us a glimpse of Whitechapel mythology, though, between the second and the third and fourth killings.**

    Can anyone find any other early evidence for Jill: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    *The suggestion of seven correspondents that Jack was a man dressed as a woman is slightly more interesting.

    ** the London letter refers to ‘four persons’ because of the then common idea that there were earlier killings. The third and the fourth canonical killings, the so-called Double Event, took place on the same night 29/30 Sep.

    Filip writes, 29 Sep 2017: To be pedantic, the text you quoted was published 2 days earlier in “Falkirk Herald” as well (see the attachments). Anyway, frankly, I have never understood this whole riperomania (Spring-Heeled Jack is my hero)… but checked out of curiosity, and actually he was Polish (well, OK, Polish Jewish…)!
    Filip, in a subsequent email, drags it back to 18 Sep.