Dark History

Jack the Ripper scares during “Autumn of Terror”

Jack the Ripper scares during “Autumn of Terror”
Mike Covell

Ripperologist MIKE COVELL explains how the UK reacted to the Jack the Ripper killings during the Autum of Terror in 1888

London, 1888, and an unknown, unnamed assailant is on the loose.

The press are eager to pick up every story and run it to both inform the public and sell more copies.

A letter dated September 25th 1888 is sent to the Central News Agency, purporting to be from the assailant, and naming himself “Jack the Ripper.”

By October 1st 1888 the national press are running the story with an article appearing The North Eastern Daily Gazette, dated, October 1st 1888, with more national newspapers picking up and running the story on October 2nd 1888.

This article, however, is not to look at the suspects, the letters or the victims of “Jack the Ripper” in Whitechapel, but to look at national scares and scandals in 1888 that were linked in one way or another to “Jack the Ripper.”

The scares take place between the first commonly accepted murder of Mary Ann Nichols, on August 31st 1888, and November 9th 1888 when “Jack the Ripper’s” last commonly accepted victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was discovered.  For completion I have gone up to the end of December 1888.

The earliest “Ripper Scare” occurred in London on September 9th 1888, when The Hull News, dated September 10th 1888, featured the following story:

THE LONDON MURDERS.  ANOTHER SUPPOSED CLUE.  IMPORTANT ARREST.  An important charge was made at the Thames Police court yesterday which the police believe may throw some light upon the recent tragedies in Whitechapel.  Charles Ludwig, aged 40, a decently dressed German, of 1 The Minories, was charged with being drunk and threatening to stab Alexander Finlay, of Leman Street, Whitechapel.

 Another report, also published in The Hull Daily News, dated September 10th 1888, covered the arrest of an unknown man at Gravesend:

AN ARREST AT GRAVESEND  The Press Association’s Gravesend correspondent telegraphs at ten o’clock that a man has been arrested at Gravesend on suspicion of being the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murder.  Mr. Superintendent Berry, between eight and nine o’clock last night, had a communication that there was a suspicious looking individual at the Pope’s Head public-house, West-street, and at once despatched a sergeant to the house and had the man apprehended.  It was noticed that his hand was bad, and on examining it the superintendent found it had evidently been bitten. 

The man would later be identified as William Pigott, in The Hull Daily News, September 11th 1888, and pronounced insane by Dr. Phillips, Divisional Surgeon.

On September 12th 1888, The Standard, featured a report on John Brennad, 39, a labourer, appeared at Lambeth Police Court on September 11th charged with acting in a disorderly manner.  It was said that he spoke about the East End Murders, Leather Apron, who was a suspect at the time, and informed anyone who would listen that he had a knife!  He was arrested and at the police court bailed, but ordered to keep the peace.

Then on September 25th 1888 The Hull Daily Mail, carried a report that a murder had occurred on the outskirts of Gateshead, in a small village named Birtley.  The victim was a girl named locally as Jane Beatmore, but with various press reports naming her Jane Beedmore, Beadmore, or using her other surname of Savage. She had been murdered, mutilated, and her face had been slashed violently. For anyone wishing to read more on the case I would suggest a visit to an article on the Gateshead Murder, here.

The press were quiet eager to report on the case and it was suggested quiet early that it could be related to the Whitechapel Murders, but later reports downplayed the connection, and it was pure coincidence that the nature of the wounds matched in some ways those committed on the Whitechapel victims.

A few days later, The York Herald, dated September 29th 1888, featured a report on a young girl, named only as Duffy, was walking along Chapel-street, Newry, in Ireland, when a man jumped out and chased the girl, claiming he was “Leather Apron.”  The alarm was raised, the police called for, but there was no sign of the stranger.

On October 3rd 1888, The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser for Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Yorkshire, featured a report that stated in London James Johnson, 35, appeared at Dalston Police Court charged with assaulting Elizabeth Hudson, in Kingsland, with a knife.  There was little evidence against him, and although the press were quiet eager to link the case to the Whitechapel Murders, he was found not guilty and was subsequently discharged.

The Star, dated October 4th 1888, featured a report stating that at Lowestoft a man walked into a shop and threatened the girls, he claimed to “serve the girls in the same way as the murderer served women at Whitechapel.”  The man escaped and the police were contacted and stated that they were keeping an eye on him.

One of the earliest “Ripper scares” I could find in my local newspapers occurred in The Hull Daily Mail, Friday October 5th 1888, when the Hull press featured the following report:

 “JACK THE RIPPER” CRAZE IN HULL.  EXTRAORDINARY CONDUCT OF A DARKEY.  OUTRAGE ON A WOMAN.  At the Hull Police Court this forenoon before Mr. T. W. Palmer and Mr. E. Lambert, a man of colour, named Samuel Nobb, was charged by Police Constable Leonard (111)  with having been disorderly in Adelaide Street on Saturday night.- The officer stated that the prisoner was about the street shouting he was “Jack the Ripper.”  He saw Noble get hold of one lady and lift her clothes above her head, after which he took hold of another woman, who fell on the street in a dead faint.- Deputy Chief Constable Jones said it took five constables to get the accused into a waggonnette and conduct him into a Police Station.- Mr. Palmer said the Bench considered this to be a very bad case, and imposed a fine of 40s, and costs with alternative of 30 days imprisonment with  hard labour.

On the same day in the same publication, dated Friday October 5th 1888, another article appeared that stated:

THE WHITECHAPEL CRAZE IN HULL.  The excitement which has been caused throughout the country by the horrible atrocities committed in Whitechapel, London, has been  equally great in Hull, and it appears a repetition of those incidents which have been frequent in the Metropolis of late has to some extent taken place in Hull.  At Hull Police Court this afternoon, before the Mayor (Alderman Toozes) and Mr. T Stratton, a poorly clad woman, named Jane Feeney, was charged on warrant with having used threats towards a woman named Minnie Kirlew.- The Prosecutrix stated that the prisoner threatened her in Manor Street yesterday and said she would “Whitechapel Murder her”.  Witness stated that she was afraid of the prisoner.  A man who was called as a witness said he heard the prisoner when acting very violently, threaten to Whitechapel murder the Prosecutrix.- The Bench ordered the accused to find one surety in £10 to keep the peace for six months, and also sent her to prison or seven days for having been disorderly.

The Birmingham Daily Post, dated October 5th 1888, featured a report that stated in Conangate, Edinburgh, a woman, who was in company with a man, got into a quarrel and screamed “Murder.”  The area was described as the Whitechapel of Edinburgh, and the police and local garrison of Highlanders, secured the area and the woman was removed to the local police station with the press stating that she had been involved with Jack the Ripper!

The following day, dated Saturday October 6th1888, The Hull and East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Times, featured another “Ripper scare,” in Hull, it stated:

THE WHITECHAPEL CRAZE IN HULL.  The excitement which has been caused throughout the country by the horrible atrocities committed in Whitechapel, London, has been  equally great in Hull, and it appears a repetition of those incidents which have been frequent in the Metropolis of late has to some extent taken place in Hull.  At Hull Police Court this afternoon, before the Mayor (Alderman Toozes) and Mr. T Stratton, a poorly clad woman, named Jane Feeney, was charged on warrant with having used threats towards a woman named Minnie Kirlew.- The Prosecutrix stated that the prisoner threatened her in Manor Street yesterday and said she would “Whitechapel Murder her”.  Witness stated that she was afraid of the prisoner.  A man who was called as a witness said he heard the prisoner when acting very violently, threaten to Whitechapel murder the Prosecutrix.- The Bench ordered the accused to find one surety in £10 to keep the peace for six months, and also sent her to prison or seven days for having been disorderly.

Another case to hit the headlines in October 1888, when The Leeds Mercury, dated October 6th 1888, featured a report regarding a medical student by the name of William Bull admitted he was responsible for the Aldgate murder of Catherine Eddowes, he was discharged after Inspector Izzard claimed that Bull could have had nothing to do with it. [16] Catherine Eddowes was discovered in Mitre Square on September 30th 1888, a short while after Elizabeth Stride was discovered on Berner-street.  Both victims are considered to be the third and fourth victims of Jack the Ripper although there is some debate that Elizabeth Stride was not a victim of Jack the Ripper but either the victim of a domestic, or a copycat killer.

On October 6th 1888, The Leeds Mercury, featured a report on John Solomon Jones, a slate merchant of Port Madoc, was fined 10 shillings and costs at Liverpool for being drunk and disorderly.  He was caught running around the streets drunk telling everyone he was the Whitechapel Murderer!

The Birmingham Daily Post, dated October 8th 1888, published a report that claimed Alfred Napier Blanchard, 34, a canvasser, of 5 Rowland Grove, Rowland-road, Handsworth, was charged on his own confession of being the Whitechapel Murderer. He later admitted that he was tired, over worked, and had been reading about the murders so much that he had lost his mind for a while!  He was discharged, and made one final request.  That the case not make it into the newspapers…..

One has to wonder what happened after the press published reports of Blanchard’s court case and whether or not he lost his job!  Back in London, according to The Daily News, dated October 10th 1888, at the Bow-street Police Court, George Richard Henderson was charged with being a person suspected of loitering on the streets.  He was walking around Covent Garden Market, London, carrying a black bag at an early hour and the police thought he was “Jack the Ripper.”  He was arrested.  The court later discharged him and warned him not to loiter at such an early hour.

A few days later, on Saturday October 13th 1888, The Hull News, carried the following:

THE “JACK THE RIPPER” MANIA.  A LETTER TO THE “HULL NEWS”.  The following letter was brought to-day, about noon to the office of this paper.  It was enclosed in an envelope and left surreptitiously on the office counter, it is believed by a lad, who immediately ran away.  Of course no importance is attached to the effusion, it being only an attempted hoax:

Hull Oct 5th

“I arrived in Hull last night from Manchester, and may as well inform you that I have a job or two to do here.  London’s got two hot for me.  “It’s all that I want is blood, blood, blood. For why, you will know when I’m (copped?) I’ll sharpen my knifes and I’ll take their lives, and enjoy myself till I stopped.
The letter is written in pencil on a leaf torn from a pocket-book, and at the bottom is the drawing of a knife represented to be dripping with blood.

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, dated October 14th 1888, featured a report that stated back in Ireland a man by the name of John Foster was charged at Belfast on suspicion with being concerned in the Whitechapel Murders.  He was found to be carrying a clasp knife, three razors, a table knife, a small knife, and several other articles.  The prisoner was remanded.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, The Dundee Courier & Argus, dated October 18th 1888, stated that the Glasgow police were searching for a Jewish man, said to resemble Jack the Ripper’s description.  It was stated that police in Edinburgh were also on the lookout for the suspect.

Back in England, this time in Bradford, The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, dated October 22nd 1888, claimed that Maria Coroner was charged with sending letters signed “Jack the Ripper.”  The case made national headlines and Coroner was, at this point, remanded on a charge of inciting a breach of the peace.  Coroner would eventually be bound over for £20, and told be on good behaviour for six months.

Back in Scotland, The Dundee Courier &Argus, dated October 23rd 1888, featured a report on an unnamed youth at Glasgow had sent a “Ripper” letter and another man at Aberdeen had chased and threatened a young woman, creating another Whitechapel Scare in the district.

Back over in Ireland, The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, dated October 25th 1888, reported on a “Ripper” scare, when the press stated that a practical joke at Kilkeel, County Down, had resulted in a 21 year old girl, by the name of Milligan, had had a seizure after a man jumped out claiming “I am Jack the Ripper.”  The girl never recovered.

Days later, on October 29th 1888, The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, featured another Ripper scare, this time at Hillsboro, when an unknown man repeatedly called at a hairdresser’s owned by a Mr. Hollatt.  The stranger had made up a story that his wife and daughter were in a local asylum and that he needed a bed for the night, which Mr. Hollatt provided.  Eventually, for unstated reasons, Hollatt becase suspicious of the man, and looked inside his hat, finding a letter signed “Yours, Jack the Ripper.”  Sergeant Hobson of the local police force was called for and the man was identified as someone from Halifax who was known to the landlord of the Queen’s Hotel.  He was released by the police and allowed to stay the night at the Queen’s Hotel.

On November 6th 1888, The Dundee Courier & Argus, featured another Jack the Ripper scare, this time at Craigo when David Beattie, a mill worker, was called to answer charges of assault on David Durward Junior.  Durward was just 12 years old and returning home from work when Beattie attacked him, pulled out a knife, and threw him into a ditch.  Beattie admitted the attack, but denied carrying a knife, and was fined 10 shillings.

On November 17th, a little over a week after Mary Kelly’s body had been discovered the scares were still occurring when The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury reported that there had been a Jack the Ripper scare in Leicester.  It was reported that a man, bearing the description of Jack the Ripper, had appeared in the town and was taking lodgings in the area.  He made conversation with residents of the Highfields Hotel, and in speaking they believed him to be the Ripper.  The theory spread across the town, and for a while the man, it is said, loved the notion that people thought he was Jack the Ripper, but as more and more people heard the story he soon beat a hasty retreat to the local police station where the police dealt with the crowd and allayed everyone’s fears.

The Daily News, dated November 20th 1888, reported that on November 19th 1888 at the Marylebone Police Court James Bunyan, 45, appeared on a charge of being drunk and disorderly and assaulting Gorsie Some.  It was claimed that during the assault a crowd gathered and accused Mr. Bunyan of being Jack the Ripper!  Bunyan was sent to prison for 14 days.

During November a Jack the Ripper scare hit Wales when Miriam Howells, a Welsh housewife, appeared at Aberdare Police Court, on a charge of feloniously and maliciously sending threatening Jack the Ripper letters!  One such letter read,

Dear Boss, – I mean to have your life before Christmas.  I will play a – of a trick with you, old woman.  I played a good one on the last, but this will be better.  Aint I clever? – Jack the Ripper.

Howells was remanded for a week and admitted to bail in her won surety of £50.  It was eventually revealed that Howells had two other helpers to write the letters, and they were all eventually given a very harsh dressing down and told to be ashamed of their actions, but spared any further punishment. The Welsh “Ripper Scare” appeared in The Cardiff Times, November 24th 1888, The Cardiff Times, December 1st 1888, and The Cardiff Times, December 8th 1888!

Back in London, The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, dated November 27th 1888, reported that a man with a silk hat and carried a black bag was seen to get on a train at London’s Broad-street Station.  He was described as being tall and like “Jack the Ripper,” and subsequently scared a lady who was on board the train.  The man left the carriage and vanished into the crowds, leading the woman to believe she had sat with Jack the Ripper!

After the initial Jack the Ripper scare of 1888, the press, both locally, nationally, and internationally, were keen to seek out other scares associated with the crimes in Whitechapel.  Ripper scares were recorded in Spain, France, Germany, Austria, America, and Canada.  The term Ripper was also used for other murders and murderers, most infamously with the likes of Peter Sutcliffe, “The Yorkshire Ripper,” Peter Kurten, “The Dusseldorf Ripper,” and Gordon Cummins, “The Blackout Ripper.”  Many of the stories were nothing more than people with knives, assaults, and threatening letters, but many of them worked the press up into a frenzy and even today we have the occasional flurry of stories whenever the name is mentioned.  That name is “Jack the Ripper,” and as we have seen, his reign of terror extended much further than the confines of London.

MIKE COVELL is a writer and researcher based in Kingston upon Hull.  His work has featured in magazines, including Ripperologist and the Casebook Examiner, books, newspapers, and periodicals.  He has appeared on the Rippercast podcasts, Ripper Radio, and more recently at the 2010 Jack the Ripper Conference in London where he lectured on Hull Ripper Scares and Scandals.  He also acted as a consultant on Prospero Productions documentary on Jack the Ripper and Frederick Bailey Deeming.  Mike is a moderator at jtrforums.com, and has a Jack the Ripper blog here. Follow Mike on Twitter here. at https://twitter.com/MikeCovell

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Dark History
Mike Covell

MIKE COVELL is a published author with nine titles under his belt. He sold the rights to four of his books to Hollywood, and stormed the American charts with “Annie Chapman: Wife, Mother, Victim.” His books on Mary Jane Langley and the Marfleet Murder Mystery, and Frederick Bailey Deeming, have also been optioned by Hollywood to be turned into movies. Mike has also been cast in A Study in Red-The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper as Detective Inspector Abberline. He is also advising on several Hollywood projects as an historical director, working on several TV shows, continues to work on radio shows about the Hidden Histories of Hull, and has ten books due for release this year! Mike is also the historical advisor on Hull’s Dark Museum, a visitor attraction looking at 700 years of Hull’s history, and can often be found lecturing or taking ghost and history walks around his hometown of Hull, or spending time at this magnificent building. You can check out his website www.amazinghulltours.co.uk

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