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“Jack the Ripper Mystery Solved” is the headline that’s been plastered all over newspapers and the Internet in the last three days as North London ‘armchair detective’ Russell Edwards claims to have uncovered the identity of the legendary Whitechapel murderer.
However, his isn’t the only Jack the Ripper hypothesis to have been forwarded in the last few weeks, though you wouldn’t know that given the enormous amount of coverage Edwards’s theory has received.
More on that shortly. But firstly a more important mystery; is this picture below the proof conspiracy theorists have sought for so long that Adolf Hitler did not die in that Berlin bunker in 1945 but in fact lived well into old age halfway across the world?

According to writer and investigator Simoni Renee Guerreiro Dias, author of Hitler in Brazil – His Life and His Death, the architect of the Third Reich lived in the small town of Nossa Senhora do Livramento in the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil, having initially fled Germany to Paraguay. A Brazilian Jew, Simoni claims to have come across the proof of Hitler’s presence in the town while hunting for buried treasure in the area using maps given to him by The Vatican (yes, I know – this sounds like the premise for an Indiana Jones film, but hey sometimes life is as quaint as fiction).

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According to the story, the Fuhrer assumed the name “Adolf Leipzig”; the intriguing figure in the photograph is claimed to be Adolf “Leipzig” posing with his girlfriend, a local woman named ‘Cutinga’, two years before his natural death from old age in 1984 – which would be some forty years after the end of World War II and Hitler’s ‘official’ date of death. The enduring tales have it that Hitler lived comfortably in this town for many years (reaching the age of 95) and was known to locals simply as “the Old German”.

Of course the legends of Hitler’s survival are no new thing and in fact were surfacing mere days after the official report of his and Eva Braun’s suicide in April 1945; since that point the stories have continued for all the decades since, becoming a primary staple of conspiracy theory lore. Some of those theories were, even at a relatively early stage, taking on increasingly exotic properties such as secret North Pole bases, the famous “Hollow Earth” stories and so on.

However, the likeliest idea was simply, as Simoni’s picture implies, that he escaped into South America – a feat demonstrably accomplished by both Adolf Eichmann and the “Doctor of Death” Josef Mengele.

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Or of course he may have simply died in that bunker in Berlin, as mainstream history insists. As for the photograph above, it has to be said that the image is very grainy, particularly in terms of the face, and is therefore very difficult to judge. It does, in terms of body shape and profile, bear a very striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler; but if it’s a fake, that degree of resemblance would of course be its primary objective.

There were always curiosities and inconsistencies in the official story of Hitler’s death, from the speed of the cremation, the lack of German witnesses, the inconsistency of statements issued by those claiming to have witnessed Hitler’s and Braun’s dead bodies, to curious statements issued by the likes of Josef Stalin and American President Dwight Eisenhower among others. While the official version of Hitler’s death isn’t as plainly obvious a falsehood as, say, the official version of the JFK assassination, it nevertheless contains enough intrigue and uncertainty so as to ensure it a permanent place in conspiracy theory lore.

Simoni has been adamantly requesting that Mr “Leipzig’s” remains be exhumed so that his DNA can be tested against living relatives of the infamous Nazi dictator. This photo, while fascinating, is by no means decisive.

But if Adolf Hitler did survive the war and live into the 1980s, it would represent one of the most fascinating untold stories of the 20th century.

From Hell: Two New Conflicting RIPPER Theories Emerge…

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Meanwhile the last couple of days have seen a resurgence in the popular interest surrounding the 125-year mystery of Jack the Ripper in the wake of amateur investigator Russell Edwards declaring he has decisively exposed the identity of the infamous serial killer. Websites and newspapers in the passed two days have featured headlines to that effect, painting this latest hypothesis as a conclusive, definitive statement on the matter.

Like the fate of Adolf Hitler, the mystery of Jack the Ripper has fascinated generations. Why has the Ripper legend endured for so long and inspired so much imaginative reinterpretation and analysis? Partly it’s because of the nature of the murders, which were both surgically precise and brutal; but more than that it’s because of the mystery of the killer’s identity, further amplified by those famous, taunting letters that may or may not have been written by the Ripper himself.

Though not the first recorded serial killer, Jack the Ripper was the first criminal case to create a global ‘media frenzy’ and was therefore a watershed in the convergence of crime and sensationalist journalism that we now see as the norm.

The bleak image of the brutal gentleman murderer stalking the gas-lit streets of Whitechapel by night is as much an archetypal vision of Victorian London as the opening passages of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol; and the mystery of who slashed the throats of those five women and then surgically disemboweled them has never been decisively solved, with over a hundred different suspects implicated over the years, many of them based on highly fanciful or spurious reasoning.

This list of suspects has included among others Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, children’s charity campaigner Dr Barnardo, the grandson of Queen Victoria, and even a Sioux Indian warrior named Black Elk, who had been in London in the 1880s as part of a touring Wild West show.
The ‘Kosminski’ Theory…

This latest hypothesis, courtesy of Edwards, centers on DNA evidence found on a shawl at one of the murder scenes and the DNA testing of descendents of both victim and suspect to see if they match the shawl DNA. According to this claimed breakthrough, the Ripper is identified as Polish-born Aaron Kosminski, one of the longstanding suspects in the case. Edwards May or may not have found the decisive clue to the Ripper mystery; but someone essentially emerges every several years or so with a new theory on the Ripper’s identity and usually with a book to sell too – which Mr Edwards has, titled Naming the Jack the Ripper.

However, I’m not pooh-poohing Edwards’s hypothesis at all; the processes involved in his investigation are themselves fascinating, it’s an interesting story and his conclusion is highly plausible, of course (the citing of Kosminski, however, as the killer isn’t a revelation; again Kosminski was a key suspect from the very beginning). My reflexive hesitation with this buzz around the Edwards case is that it feels like manufactured coverage.

This is exacerbated by the language; “We have definitively solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was,”  Mr Edwards is quoted by The Independent as saying. “Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now – we have unmasked him.”

If nothing else he’s getting an extraordinary amount of publicity for his book. Some, however, and particularly those in the scientific community, have already begun to express guardedness towards these proclamations by both the author and those covering his story; it is pointed out, for example, that the molecular biologist credited with providing the case its scientific evidence – a Jari Louhelainen of Liverpool John Moores University – hasn’t so far published his methodology in any peer-reviewed scientific journal where it can be analysed or verified.

I’m not, however, trying to rain on Mr Edwards’s parade; I love the tradition of ‘amateur sleuthing’ – or “armchair detectives” as Edwards calls himself. And when it comes to the Ripper case, this tradition has more or less become an institution.

There has very recently, in fact, been another ‘conclusive’ hypothesis forwarded on the Jack the Ripper case too; I was in fact already writing this post on the matter about a week before the Edwards story broke. The enduring mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper may have been resolved by former Murder Squad Detective Trevor Marriott who has spent 11 years conducting a detailed cold-case analysis of the infamous Ripper murders. Having trawled Scotland Yard’s files and applied 21st century police techniques and modern forensic analysis, Marriot believes the myth of ‘Jack the Ripper’ was largely the creation of a London-based news reporter named Thomas Bulling.

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So could the infamous Ripper, as Marriot suggests, in fact have been an (at least partly) engineered myth?

Which, if either, of these two latest theories should we take the more seriously? As already stated, there are already so many theories, both in the more sober, academic-styled vein and in the more creative vein of the arts. Literature of the late Victorian era, such Arthur Conan Doyle’s early Sherlock Holmes stories and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, has laid long-term foundations for subsequent writers and interpreters and has often resulted in aspects of these fictional adaptations being merged with the real-world information about the Ripper murders, thus adding to the confused overall picture many people have of the case.

Far beyond the era of their occurrence the Ripper murders have inspired hundreds of investigative books, fictional novels, speculations and theories, amateur sleuthing, dozens of movies and TV episodes across multiple genres (a version of the nineteenth century Jack the Ripper has appeared in both Babylon 5 and Star Trek, as well as The Twilight Zone among others), as well as comic books, stage plays, video games, even Anime. In the aforementioned Star Trek episode the identity of the Ripper is that of a murderous ‘eternal entity’ named “Redjac” that feeds on fear as a means of sustaining its existence. In the Babylon 5 episode ‘Comes the Inquisitor’ a character named Sebastian is the Ripper and has been abducted by the Vorlons in 1888 and brought to the future. And of course the popular BBC series Ripper Street is set in Whitechapel in 1889 six months after the Ripper murders and is the most obvious contemporary continuation of the Jack the Ripper mythology.

Influencing numerous other dramatisations and adaptations, Stephen Knight’s 1976 work Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution expanded on the popular theories involving the royal family, Freemasons, and the medical profession that have come to be associated with the Jack the Ripper mythology. Marie Belloc Lowndes’  book The Lodger has been made into five separate films, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927). Murder by Decree, starring the great Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes (with the late, great James Mason as Watson), follows the masonic and royal conspiracy idea popularized by Stephen Knight and has a royal physician being the murderer.

Even 1972’s The Ruling Class, a satire on the British aristocracy starring Peter O’Toole, links the Ripper murders to the British upper class. O’Toole’s character, the mentally ill 14th Earl of Gurney, spends part of the film believing he is himself Jack the Ripper and performing a pair of Ripper murders.

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Meanwhile From Hell was a renowned graphic novel about the Ripper case by the legendary Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, taking its title from the “From Hell” letter supposedly written by the Ripper himself to the police. It was made into a film in 2001, starring Johnny Depp (a film Russell Edwards cites as a major influence on his interest in the subject). Elsewhere the Ripper legend also spawned the classic Gotham by Gaslight (1989), featuring a Victorian era version of Batman hunting the Ripper in New York City, the killer being a now-insane former friend of Batman’s parents.

The various creations mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg of Ripper lore in various mediums; it’s difficult to think of many other real-world events that could match the Ripper murders for sheer volume of subsequent mythology and cultural penetration.

The ‘Thomas Bulling’ Theory…

Back to Trevor Marriot’s hypothesis. In 1888 Thomas Bulling was working London-based Central News Agency, though also had several contacts at Scotland Yard, the theory being that Bulling was hired to concoct gripping and sensational crime stories for the newspapers. Marriot believes Bulling forged at least one letter to Scotland Yard in 1888 pretending to be the infamous Jack.

Mr Marriott has discovered at least 17 unsolved murders with Jack the Ripper type properties occurring between 1863 and 1894 and believes a German merchant seaman named Carl Feigenbaum was responsible for some of those killings, though not all of them.

Feigenbaum was an infamous presence aboard ships regularly docking near Whitechapel; he was eventually executed in New York in 1896 after being caught trying to flee the scene of a Ripper-esque murder there. The picture being painted by Marriot is that there was no single, definitive ‘Jack the Ripper’ figure, but rather a scattering of similarly brutal crimes over several years; and that it was journalistic artfulness that furnished the situation with its more dramatic narrative and the various evocative elements that would ensure the long-term propagation of the myth. “The reality is there was just a series of unsolved murders and they would have sunk into oblivion many years ago but for a reporter called Thomas Bulling,” Mr Marriott has said in regard to his research.

In conclusion, however, whether Marriot’s hypothesis or Russell Edwards’s hypothesis is the correct one (or neither of them is), it almost doesn’t matter anymore;  even if they are are factually valid, the myth of Jack the Ripper is far more powerful and enduring than the actual truth can ever be anymore. I said something similar about the Loch Ness Monster recently, but it’s true. Most people interested in the matter don’t actually care for the truth but for the dark romanticism of the myth and its associated imagery, folklore and psuedohistory. When something becomes that embedded into popular consciousness for so long, the idea in itself becomes self-sustaining and independent of the shackles of historical truth.

Whether he existed in the classic archetypal form we’re familiar with or whether he was a phantom summoned up by journalistic inventiveness, ‘he’ nevertheless lives to forever stalk the misty Victorian Whitechapel streets in the dark corners of our collective consciousness.

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