1888 – The “From Hell” letter is mailed

More than a century after the fact, debate regarding nearly every particular of the Jack the Ripper slayings still rages. One of the major points of controversy is the “From Hell” letter (named for the words appearing in the place of the sender’s address), which was sent to a Mr George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee – an organisation that sought to find and stop the Ripper. The letter is written in a curious style, with many mispellings but also several anomalies – the word knife, for example, is spelled “knif” in the letter. Some have seen these spelling errors as evidence that the writer had poor literacy, but conversely, surely someone whose literacy was so poor would have ovelooked the silent “k” in knife – leading to the theory that it was written by someone who was educated but wished to appear otherwise.

Included with the letter was a piece of a human kidney, preserved in ethanol – the writer claimed to have cooked and eaten other parts of the kidney. One of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes, did have her kidney removed by her killer, and so the presence of this body part would seem to give weight to the idea that this letter is genuine. On the other hand, the peculiar spelling mentioned above and the ethanol-preserved kidney might indicate that the letter is a prank by medical students. Certainly, thousands of other letters claiming to be from the Ripper were mailed to newspapers and the police in 1888, and there’s no particular reason to think this one genuine.

Referenced in:

From Hell — Radio Werewolf

1888 — Irving Berlin born

Born Israel Isidore Baline, the composer better known as Irving Berlin was 101 years old when he died. His family came to America in 1893, fleeing the anti-Jewish pogroms of Russia. They settled on the Lower East Side of New York City, where the family got involved in music and Irving’s talents as a musician first came to light.

Over the course of his life, he wrote more than 1800 songs, which included the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, including songs such as “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and such classic musicals as “Annie Get Your Gun”. His music was nominated for Academy Awards on eight separate occasions, but he never won one.

It doesn’t seem to have bothered him much, although he did retire from songwriting in the Sixties and spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity in his beloved New York City.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1888 – Jack the Ripper kills Mary Jane Kelly

The last victim of Jack the Ripper – at least as far as everyone agrees upon – Mary Jane Kelly was both the most attractive and the most obscure of those killed by the Ripper.

No one knows why he stopped – although there are no shortage of theories – and in truth, the reason wouldn’t be much comfort to Kelly and her fellow victims. There are also those who believe that Kelly was not actually killed – that another woman was the victim and was subsequently mis-identified as Kelly. It certainly is possible that such a thing could have happened – the body was badly mutilated and parts of it had been burned, and the identification was largely based on the fact that the body was found in the room she rented.

So the question of who was Jack the Ripper also includes the question of was that really Mary Kelly?

Referenced in:

Jack the Knife – Falconer
Nice Man Jack – John Miles
Whitechapel – Manilla Road
Anthology of Evil – Infernäl Mäjesty
Jack the Ripper – Screaming Lord Sutch
The Curse of Whitechapel – Vernian Process

1888 – Mary Ann Nichols becomes the first victim of Jack the Ripper

He wasn’t the first serial killer, but he was one of the earliest of what we now recognise as the modern urban serial killers. And even today, he’s certainly the best known – which is doubly odd since the identity of the killer dubbed Jack the Ripper is still unknown (and likely to remain that way).

Although there are those who attribute two earlier murders – those of Martha Tabram and Emma Smith – to him, Mary Ann Nichols was the first murder to be agreed by all Ripperologists to be his doing. Nichols was an occasional prostitute and a heavy drinker, who was found dead after being savagely mutilated and left to bleed out outside a house on Buck’s Row, in Whitechapel. She was 43 years old.

Referenced in:

Jack the Knife – Falconer
Nice Man Jack – John Miles
Whitechapel – Manilla Road
Anthology of Evil – Infernäl Mäjesty
Jack the Ripper – Screaming Lord Sutch
The Curse of Whitechapel – Vernian Process