Like many kids growing up back in the good old days, I had a mom and dad that liked to scare me. Oh, I knew it was always for my own good. Striking old-fashioned icy-cold mortal fear into the hearts of pre-teens, is a darned good way to get them to come right home from school, not talk to strangers, and not hang with the wrong crowd. All the parents did it, and mine were no different.
One of the perennial favorites bad-guys was of course, the ever-popular English boogeyman, Jack the Ripper. He was the cause of a lot of crap being scared out of the kiddies–with myself no exception. You have to remember that this was the early fifties, and old Jack could have been, at least in theory, still alive. I can’t say I ever really stopped to think just how old he would have had to have been. Ninety something if he was a day. It would have made for a no contest footrace between old Jack and me, as I could move pretty darned well back then. Now of course, I move like a ninety year old myself.
Mom would always say something like “He was never caught you know.” It was a tagline guaranteed to send a shiver down my spine.
Those childhood scare tactics spawned a lifetime interest in old Jacko, and I think that at one time or another I probably bought into whatever hair-brained theory was out there about who the Ripper might have been. They ranged from Russian born butchers, sons of royalty, famous writers and painters, and just plain old common street thugs. Turns out that the simplest answer was the correct one.
I even included the Ripper in my last published book–ELLIOTT BAY: The Watchmaker – Book Two. I wrote it before this latest Ripper news hit the press, but oh what the heck. I may not have got the right guy in my story, but it is fiction, and a darned good read, so I make no apologies. The first rule in novel writing is: never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.
The winner was, by the way, a Polish-born barber named Aaron Kosminsky. He was actually seen at the scene of two of the murders, and was taken into custody by Scotland Yard, but released because the witness refused to testify. He was a paranoid schizophrenic and lived only a couple of hundred yards from the scene of the murders in Whitechapel. But most telling of all is the fact that his confirmed DNA was on the shawl of Catherine Eddows, the Ripper’s fourth victim.
I would invite anyone with an interest in the most fascinating facts of this case, and how the modern art and science of DNA tracked him down and solved this one-hundred and twenty-six year old very, very cold case, to read a most excellent article on the subject can be accessed at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/it8217s-case-c
Kosminsky went to an insane asylum the very next year after the murders ended, 1889, and stayed there until his death in 1919. So he was hardly a free man, although he was never charged for his crimes. And as it turned out, he was dead long before I came to live on the planet, so I need not have worried myself so much when I was a kid.
A sordid and bloody chapter in the annals of crime history is now closed, and The Ripper is unmasked. I’m glad . . . I guess. It was always a lot of fun playing suppose. Kind of a shame, I guess, that it wasn’t the son of Queen Victoria or the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As it turned out, it was really pretty ordinary and mundane. Most things are, in the end.
Well, here’s to you . . . Jacko. Thanks for all the sleepless nights.
And for all the goose bumps.