A Guide to Following Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel
We were determined to only follow in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper guided by Russell Edwards, author of the best-selling book “Naming Jack the Ripper”*. If we were to get deeper inside the story, we might as well be accompanied by an expert. However, in the day we reserved to visit Whitechapel, in London’s East End, we were so bored by another borough struck by gentrification that we decided to take our own self-guided tour. Maybe it was just the “theme” of our expedition getting the best of us, but in most of the places all we could hear was dead silence, even in a busy weekday morning.
We didn’t follow a chronological path when scouting for the locations, we basically just started from the spot that was closest to the Aldgate Tube Station (and that was Mitre Square). However, on the post, I’m organizing them according to the timeline. And, as you will see in the photos, we walked on Jack the Ripper’s footsteps (pause for dramatic effect) on a very bright and sunny morning – it kind of lightens up the mood… kind of. We are not attracted to the Ripper for obscure reasons, but we are fascinated by the number of theories and stories that can be generated by the unknown serial killer. Even today, the locations are still small lanes or back alleys completely hidden from the main streets. One of the strangest effects I felt was that every time we turned from the main street to reach a spot, the whole city would be immediately muffled. Almost no sound, close to deserted, as if the world had disappeared (or we had disappeared from the world). When we reached the Ten Bells, the pub where he (allegedly) and his victims hung out, I confess I kind of felt a strange sense of relief when we got there.
In total, it is assumed that there are seven Jack the Ripper victims. We visited four of the seven locations, including two of where the “canonical five” (the ones who are believed to be the only victims of Jack the Ripper) were murdered: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.
1. Osborn Street
Emma Elizabeth Smith – April 3rd, 1888. The first of the “Whitechapel murders”, as the series of crimes was known by the Metropolitan Police before. Usually linked to gang violence, not to Jack the Ripper. From all the locations, this was the only one where I felt “at peace”.
2. Gunthorpe Street
Martha Tabram – August 7th, 1888. This is where the second victim was found and, coincidentally, it was also the second spot on our self-guided tour. Martha is believed to be the Ripper’s first victim. This was one of those alleys where the whole city “disappeared” once we turned. Very, very strange. I actually felt almost entrapped (which is odd, because as I said before we did this in broad daylight), and after a couple of shots I didn’t even feel like photographing it anymore, I just couldn’t wait to leave.
3. Hanbury Street
Annie Chapman – September 8th, 1888. The second victim of the “canonical five” and our third stop. I confess I felt nothing about this place; it’s just a bland corner in a street with hipster stores. I admit I’m a bit fed up with the hipster culture at the moment, but maybe we’ll return to this topic sometime.
4. Mitre Square
Catherine Eddowes – September 30th, 1888. The fourth victim of the “canonical five” and our first stop. Eddowe’s shawl (taken from the crime scene) was the key for Russell Edwards to identify “Jack the Ripper” as Aaron Kosminski. Whether he’s cracked the case or not, his book is an interesting read (and it will probably keep you up at night). This is where we started from (it’s very close to the Aldgate Tube Station) and I felt the place looked cool and secluded, but something felt off. Yes, maybe I was carried away by the “murder location” atmosphere, but right here, in this particular spot, I remember thinking something was off.