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

1844 — Friedrich Nietzsche is born

Of all the great philosophers, none is quite so famous for being, well, a raving loon, as Friedrich Nietzsche.

Born in Rocken, near Leipzig, on October 15, he would become the most famous German philosopher of the 19th century. His best known works include the posthumous “Will To Power”, “Ecce Homo”, “Beyond Good and Evil” and “The Spake Zarathustra”.

Nietzsche was widely seen, in Germany and elsewhere, as a supporter of German militarism – and his work was influential to Hitler and other Nazis (although they were selective in their use and interpretation of him). Later, he was seen as a forerunner of the Existentialists. However, his most lasting contribution to Western culture may be the concept of the Übermensch, or Superman.

Referenced in:

Bruces’ Philosophers Song — Monty Python