Want to time travel and meet Jack the Ripper? It’s more of a thrill than visiting the Olympics.

A lot of people will be pouring into London this summer to see the Olympics. But I would rather have the thrill of time travel. I would rather walk in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper, see what he saw, visit the streets where he did his ghastly deeds, and, of course see if I can shed any new light on the identity of the world’s most famous serial killer. So, assuming I had a ticket to London, how would I start my time travel?

Well there are a number of “Ripper Walks” in London that guide you through the Whitechapel district in London’s east end. But I would go to the first and reputedly the best of these, guided by one of the most noted “Ripperologists”, Donald Rumbelow. Here is the tour operators own text from their website.

“Only by starting at Tower Hill can you unlock the truth about the Jack the Ripper murders.”
Donald Rumbelow, author of The Complete Jack the Ripper

This is the original – and complete –  Jack the Ripper Walk.
It begins at Tower Hill, right on the boundary between Scotland Yard territory and City of London Police territory. Only by beginning there can you understand the conflict between the two London police forces and their leading personalities. A conflict which blurred the investigation and made it easier for the Ripper to slip through the police nets.

And please tread carefully and keep away from the shadows… for you are about to enter the abyss. Which is by way of saying, the setting itself couldn’t be more dramatic. Two minutes into the walk a back alley takes us into a hideaway where the grim old London Wall rears up directly before us. It’s a hideaway so dark and so still that you can hear people breathing, a place where the clock seems permanently turned back to 1888, back to the Autumn of Terror.

Jack the Ripper Documentary

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who was “the great London Minotaur”?

“…not even the great London Minotaur himself—that portentous
incarnation of lust and wealth—fill us with such sorrow
and shame….”W.T. Stead in the Pall Mall Gazette
July 8, 1885

In his epoch making series of articles on the Victorian business of child sexual abuse titled, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, W.T. Stead refers to an individual whom he describes as a “portentous incarnation of lust and wealth.” He never named this person but the fact that he began the most sensational series of his career by referring to this person shows how important Stead thought him. Here is a lengthier, additional reference to the Minotaur:

Mr. ———, (is) another wealthy man, whose whole life is dedicated
to the gratification of lust. During my investigations in the subterranean
realm I was constantly coming across his name. This procuress
was getting girls for ———, that woman was beating up maids
for ———, this girl was waiting for ———, that house was a noted
place of ———’s. I ran across his traces so constantly that I began
to make inquiries in the upper world of this redoubtable personage. I
soon obtained confirmation of the evidence I had gathered at first hand
below as to the reality of the existence of this modern Minotaur, this
English Tiberius, whose Caprece is in London.”

No one who questioned Stead ever got him to provide the name of “the great London Minotaur.” It is unlikely that Stead invented this person. His reputation as an editor and journalist was on the line, and this series of articles were to be the most sensational and effective he ever wrote. Shortly after the series of articles was finished, the age of consent was raised and the contagious diseases acts, which Josephine Butler regarded as a legal basis for legalized prostitution, were repealed.

In the social history of nineteenth century England, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon is almost unique in its impact  on society. Yet, as far as I know, no one has ever named the individual whose behaviour started Stead on his crusade. All we know for sure  is that he was rich and that he had a taste for young girls.

In my novel, The Minotaur’s Children, I suggest a fictional but plausible answer to the identity of The Minotaur. To me, it is as great and fascinating a mystery as the identity of Jack the Ripper, and it is likely that The Minotaur had many more  victims than those of the Ripper. To learn more visit:  http://www.hudsonhousemysteries.com/south.php

Posted in 19th century child prostitution, 19th century Indian prostituion, 19th Century London, 19th century women's rights, Jack the Ripper, victorian London, victorian trade in children, victorian women's rights, victorian, 19th century, Jack the Ripper, the Raj, victorian child prostitution, 19th century virtuosi, The National Railway Museum, Josephine Butler,, women's rights, suffragettes, 19th century industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The most bizarre method of detection used to trace Jack the Ripper

So desperate were the police to track the mysterious killer known today as “Jack the Ripper,” they resorted to some unusual methods of detection. A letter to Sir Charles Warren, Commisioner of Police, was written by J.H. Ashforth of Nottingham to advocate the use of bloodhounds. Ashforth had urged the Lancashire police to employ them in the case of William Fish, and the dogs brought evidence to light that led to the conviction of the murderer. Ashforth reminded Sir Charles Warren of the episode in his letter:

“Some ten or twelve years ago a very dreadful murder was committed upon a young girl at Blackburn in Lancashire. I wrote to the Chief Constable at Blackburn respectfully asking him to employ dogs in discovering the criminal, and he did so with the most complete success.”

Ashforth went on to say that the reason he had such faith in dogs was that he had seen an an untrained dog, a spaniel, find its mistress in a crowded marketplace. However, the use of dogs was not customary but certainly not as bizarre as another investigative method the police examined to catch the Ripper.

On 13 September the Star suggested that the eyes of Annie Chapman be photographed in the hope that her retinas might have retained the image formed there. The belief that the last image formed on retinas of a dying person’s eyes was invested with spurious credibility by American press reports in the 1850s. In 1857  the New York Observer cited the Democratic Press, which noticed a series of experiments made in August of that year by Dr. Pollock of Chicago. The doctor, examining the retinas of a recent murder victim and found “in almost every instance…a clear, distinct and marked impression.” What was more to the point for the Ripper investigation, the Observer claimed Dr. Sandford had examined the eyes of a recent murder victim and detected in the pupil “the rude worn-away figure of a man with a light coat.” In February 1888, The British Journal of Photography published a New York Tribune claim that a killer had been convicted in France on the strength of eyeball photography.

One statement which could not be corroborated was that an attempt was made to photograph the eyes of Mary Kelly, the Ripper’s seventh victim.

Posted in 19th century British Journal of Photography, 19th century photography and photographic techniques, spiritualism, spiritualistic phenomena, spirit photography, Jack the Ripper | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A monumental source of eye-witness information on the Victorian age

Where did Charles Dickens go when he needed first hand information on London street merchants? Of course, he went out with detectives as they made their rounds but what if he needed to know about the street people who worked out of  Covent Garden, or the teachers who taught for little or no wages in the so-called “ragged schools” which often consisted of a large, unheated room and rowdy children of all ages? Dickens probably turned to the source that thousands have used: Henry Mayhew’s monumental work of oral history, London Labour and the London Poor.

During the 1840s and 1850s, Mayhew interviewed hundreds of London’s poorest people. He talked to flower girls, who, having nothing, sold little bouquets of violets that they tied up out of broken flowers they found on the pavement. He spoke with costermongers who sold bruised fruit and vegetables at prices the poor could afford. He described in detail their brightly painted carts pulled by small donkeys in fancy reins and saddles, and even talked about the special bond between the costers and  their animals. He described the “medicines” sold by “mountebanks” and the fake posters that purported to be the “last words and confessions” of executed murderers (very popular items). There were vendors of printed cards detailing “the professor’s system” for improving memory and learning languages.

The “casual” dock workers who gathered at the “cage” at the end of Nightingale Lane and were later a force in the politics of the metropolis were subjects of Mayhews’ pen. London “jarveys” or cab drivers are described, how they slept in their cabs while their horses slept standing up. What they wore, how they spoke, a host of eyewitness details that we could never  know if not for Mayhew. As Thackery wrote, Mayhew provides us  with “a picture of human life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and terrible, that readers of romances own they never read anything like it.” Readers will think they have picked up a Dore illustration from a Dickens novel, drawn even more vividly than the master illustrator.

This magnificent work of social oral history is available in many editions. It used to be only Dover who printed it. But no more! It is truly a masterpiece that is not  to be missed.

Posted in 19th Century London, Uncategorized, victorian crime, victorian industry, Victorian literature, victorian London | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who was Jack the Ripper?

Image

According to Dr. Thomas E.A. Stowell, he was a member of the Royal family, Dr. Stowell claimed he had seen evidence that Jack the Ripper was Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Of course, others have mentioned the artist, Walter Sickert. The true crime writer Patricia Cornwell tore apart one of his paintings to prove it, but couldn’t. But for me the most conclusive statement ever made was that of the lead detective on the case, Frederick Abberline. He was not only an excellent and thorough investigator but he told Ike Godley, the man who took over from him, that Ike “had finally got Jack the Ripper.”

So who was he talking about?

The year was 1893, and at Wandsworth Prison a man had just been hung for murdering his wife when Detective Abberline made his remark. The executed man was named Stanislaw Kosloski and was also known as George Chapman. He had been trained in Poland as a surgeon, and therefore had the skill necessary to have performed the grotesque murders attributed to the Ripper. He also lived in the area where the Ripper murders took place.

Kosloski had actually been questioned during the investigation but was released. And if Abberline’s remark doesn’t impress you, take a look at Mr. Kosloski.

Image

Stanislaw Kosloski

To me, he looks like a killer. What do you think? To learn about other Ripper “solutions” click the link to my website: http://www.hudsonhousemysteries.com/south.php

Posted in 19th Century London, Jack the Ripper, Josephine Butler, spiritualism, Spiritualism & Psychics, Uncategorized, victorian London | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

The Queen’s Official Jubilee Portrait

In Her usual thorough and efficient way, Queen Elizabeth II, has given  her subjects all the information about Royal Diamond Jubilees that anyone could desire. She has taken Queen Victoria’s own journals and posted them on the internet. I don’t know how long they will be up, so don’t miss it. As the present Queen explains:

“These diaries cover the period from Queen Victoria’s childhood days to her Accession to the Throne, marriage to Prince Albert, and later, her Golden and Diamond Jubilees.

Thirteen volumes in Victoria’s own hand survive, and the majority of the remaining volumes were transcribed after Queen Victoria’s death by her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, on her mother’s instructions.”

http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/home.do

Posted in British royalty, Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria's Diaries | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A hero, novelist and an Englishman who was beloved by the Indian people whose lives he improved

Philip Meadows Taylor

Few people today know the name, Philip Meadows Taylor. He came out to India when he was barely fifteen. Like many who came to the subcontinent, he had few resources in England. He did not attend Haileybury, the training school for the elite members of the  British civil service in India. He lived hand to mouth for several years before  he was employed by the Nizam of Hyderabad, largest of the princely states of India.

The Nizam was ruler of a vast region encompassing  the largest of the princely states, which included parts of present-day Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra states. Its ruler, the Nizam Osman Ali Khan was a Muslim, although over 80% of its people were Hindu. Today, the Nizam of Hyderabad, is Fifth on Forbes ‘All Time Wealthiest’ list of 2008 with Net Worth: 210.8 Billion USD. Bill Gates is twentieth, Net Worth: 101.0 Billion USD.

So how did a very young  man with no patrons or “connections” find a post with the Nizam? First, Meadows Taylor was  one of the first people to pursue the Thuggee, the cult of killers who haunted the back roads of India for centuries. If General W.H. Sleeman hadn’t rounded them up, Meadows Taylor would have.

Taylor was sent out to India to become a clerk to a Bombay merchant. On his arrival the house was in financial difficulties, and he was glad to accept in 1824 a commission in the service of his highness the Nizam, to which service he remained devotedly attached throughout his long career. He was speedily transferred from military duty to a civil appointment, and in this capacity he acquired a knowledge of the languages and the people of Southern India which has seldom been equaled. He studied the laws, the geology, the antiquities of the country; he was alternately judge, engineer, artist and man of letters, for on his return to England in 1840 on furlough he published the first of his Indian novels, Confessions of a Thug,

As a result of his experience with the Thuggee, subject of another post in upcoming months, Meadows Taylor wrote a book, Confessions of a Thug, which became a best seller in England.

Taylor worked for the Nizam for decades and when he grew old and tired and was about to leave India and go “home,” to England, thousands of the Nizam’s subjects followed him for days, sang to him and prayed, to show how highly they valued him. He was the exceptional Englishman who gave his all for India and the Indians. He built roads, reservoirs and looked for any way he could to improve the lives of the Nizam’s subjects, and they knew it.

As you can see from the image of Meadows Taylor I have posted, he was a big, powerful man with more than the ordinary share of bravery and love for his fellow man. To learn more, read Meadows Taylor’s own, Story of My Life,

Posted in 19th century India, A hero, novelist and an Englishman who was beloved by the Indian people whose lives he improved, A hero, novelist and an Englishman who was beloved by the Indian people whose lives he improved, Nizam of Hyderabad, The princely states of India | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment