October 15, 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 misspellings 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 overlooked 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.


As mentioned in:

From Hell — Radio Werewolf

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