Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jack the Ripper Found At Last!

The signature on a letter dated 29 October 1888
written by a person claiming to be Jack the Ripper
that was sent to Doctor Thomas Openshaw of
the London Hospital Whitechapel.
Don't clap all at once...

As I write this, there's still some speculation, but it seems pretty clear that, using DNA evidence, Russel Edwards and Dr. Jari Louhelainen have identified the Polish hairdresser Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. The Jack the Ripper killings had a strong influence on 1890s London. Learning who the killer is brought up two main issues for me.

My first thought, reading the head line that a friend forwarded to me, was that I hoped it was the suspect that I'd recently written about for a print publication. It wasn't. Maybe it was selfish for me to think that way. But with all of the fun and mystery of speculation around the Jack the Ripper case, did we really want to know who the actual killer was? If not, why not?

Clearly some people wanted to know. Edwards and Louhelainen wanted to know badly enough that they actually found out. But I will venture to guess that there are a lot of Ripperologists out there who groaned when they found out that it was the hairdresser.

Maybe, like me, they weren't thinking about or writing about the hairdresser, and most of us don't like to be proven wrong. But the second issue this brought up for me is: what does all of this say about our mistakes!

Francis Tumblety
For over a hundred years, history has identified these people as possible serial killers. Francis Tumblety actually fled to England, while under suspicion. Sure, the list of suspects is a list of some really messed up Victorians, but it sucks to find out that you've been pointing your finger at the wrong man. It sucks even more to see how finger pointing adversely affected their lives.

As we wait for confirmation that Edwards and Louhelainen's tests were correct, what are we really hoping the answer will be?

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