DANIEL MacDONALD tells what it was like growing up in the East End with a family connection to the Jack the Ripper killings
The East End of London has been transformed in recent years, the regeneration of an area that was formerly known for its unsavoury underbelly helps to ensure those visiting the area do not see its seedy past, unless they go looking.
However, having grown up in the East End it was difficult to avoid that history, including stories of one of the country’s most infamous serial killers – Jack the Ripper!
Growing up in the East End during the 1970s was probably no different to anywhere else; we would walk to school and play in the streets which made up the relatively limited world of a child. However, this limited area, with the narrow passageways and dark streets that had changed little since the 19th century, when it had also been the play ground of Jack.
My interest in Jack the Ripper started as a young child, hearing tales of how a great uncle had been on his way to work in the early hours of the 31st of August 1888, so was at the scene in Bucks Row when the body of the first victim; Polly Nichols, had been found brutally murdered. The stories would be constrained, at a certain point the voices would turn to hushed tones around the children. The curability of the unknown drove me to find out more, which started me on a journey of research and discovery.
It was in these foggy streets I may have an encounter with the dark spirit of the Ripper. In 1979, at the mere age of 12 year old, while in a counter near the Watney Mann & Co, and a stones throw from the Blind Beggar pub I ‘met’ a shadowy form, who exuded a feeling of darkness and forbidding. Was that the spirit of Jack? It was in an area he would have visited, but in honesty I really do not know who that spirit was and have not encountered the same spirit since, although it left a lasting impression.
Over the years I have read books, walked the streets and formulated by own theories. Recently I was lucky enough to be one of the few that has been able to visit the place where the second ripper victim was found. Annie Chapman was murdered on the 8th of September 1888 in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street.
The house is no longer there, and the area is now private property, but there is still a strong feeling of loss and sadness as well as a feeling of controlled anger, feelings felt by others who were also there.
Perhaps the feelings or recordings are preserved due to the lack of everyday traffic with the location being protected from much of the contamination that is only a few feet away on the public streets, or maybe we visited at a time when the veil between the worlds was thin.
However, one thing remains; the fascination of the child whose uncle may not himself be a part of history but witnessed an historic event that has also become a part of a family history.
DANIEL MacDONALD is a medium and a demonologist.