A Human Menagerie · Modern Times

Jack The Ripper’s Boss Letter.

Dear Boss,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.

Yours truly
Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name

PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha

This was the very first instance of the name ‘Jack The Ripper’ – someone who plays a pivotal role in the book I’m writing. Indeed, it was whilst researching my book, which is set in the early 1890s that a few things became clearer to me. And that included the theme of the book, a theme that is as valid, if not more valid today than it was back then.

The ‘boss’ in this instance being the boss of the Central News Agency in London. It first appeared in The Star on the 1st of October 1888. And Jack the Ripper instantly became a byword for the bogeyman in British culture, a culture sensitive to death in its own peculiar way. That is to say, not personally, but for their nearest and dearest. It is this which startles the British, Anglo-Saxon mind into wild imaginations of the most dreadful kind. We will return to this later.

As you will no doubt know, newspapers were the primary organ for the dissemination of news in the late 1800s. Only recently freed from the stamp duty, they became available at prices almost everybody could afford. They were cheap enough to throw away, too, availing others of the latest scandals. Or murders. There were a lot of newspapers too; most are long forgotten, like the Star itself; the Hackney Standard may now exist as a local freebie, but back then it was a major player. The likes of the Daily Telegraph or The Times were read mainly by the upper classes.

What is it they say about the ‘Daily Telegraph’? “It’s read by the people who want to rule the country.” And ‘The Times’? “It’s read by the people who do.”

Neither was free from scandalmongering. If for the only reason that the upper classes are as susceptible to their fears as any other Anglo-Saxon, and therefore guarantees a few more sales.

This is what the Hackney Standard had to say on the 13th of October 1888, and I’ll spare you the mawkish drivel about shivering and shuddering wretches… but it was entitled “Panic In London” just in case anybody had forgotten.

It is a fact that postcards purporting to come from the man-demon – this bloodthirsty Will-o-the-Wisp – “Jack the Ripper” were passed through the post, for we received one at our Chief Office, which we at once handed over to the police.

When the post-card arrived at our office last Friday evening signed “Jack the Ripper,” containing a threat to murder a girl in the Hackney Churchyard on Saturday night, we at once informed the police. Within ten minutes every metropolitan police office was advised of the fact. The knife and cross bones in the corner were apparently drawn to add to the panic which such diabolical humour was bound to cause. [an illustration of card marks appeared here].

Within a short time of the arrival of the post our paper was in the hands of the public, whilst the post-card was in the custody of the police. Although it is not certain whether these communications received by the Central News, ourselves and the police are bona fide, yet it would not be wise to disregard them altogether. Our duty was to at once inform the authorities and the public, and we lost no time in giving publicity to the fact. For two or three hours our office was besieged with a crowd eager to read the news, and directly they had grasped all the details they carried the news east, west, north and south. Never did bad tidings travel faster in Hackney. Orders for the papers poured in from all parts of the east end, and the demand was far in excess of the supply – our machinery could not travel half fast enough to supply an eager and excited public. Never was a Hackney paper in such great demand. Enterprising newsagents in the city and west end bought up a large portion of our stock and retailed them at double and treble the ordinary rates in many cases they were sold for 6d. a piece in the Strand, before unequalled in the history of Hackney newspapers. Our machinery was running till nearly midnight on Friday and nearly all day Saturday to enable us to meet the demand. All day Saturday the principal topic of conversation in every public bar, saloon and shop was the terrible threat contained in the postcard. The singular coincidence of the postcard received by the Central News on Thursday in the previous week, followed by the double murder on the Sunday morning, gave importance to the threat and opinions were equally divided.

By today’s standards it’s a little longwinded, but if you think of the reams of paper a newsreader on the telly will go through, it’s about the same. Today we lack the patience to read copy this long. Back then, with nothing else to sate their need to know, they were happy to sit down with a pint or a pot of tea and set about reading it. If you want to read the entire article with your tea, you can read it here on Casebook.org (click here).

The point to note here is that the media was not only able to make a hue and cry about all this, but the public were eager to lap it up.

Police Intransigence.

Police ‘intransigence’ didn’t help matters, in that they weren’t allowed to speak about active cases. Journalists might probe, they might try, but the detectives were not allowed to speak. This, as you can imagine only made matters worse; the police could do nothing, they were bound by law. A law intended to maintain a degree of safety to those under suspicion but still innocent.

Journalists knew nothing of such things, and had but one master to serve: mammon. They were there to see a great story published, whatever the fallout. The police could do nothing. It would be a good few years before the police would begin to speak with the press, even in limited terms.

Another Horror Story.

Years after the murder of Frances Coles in February 1891, the last murder that was even loosely attributed to the Ripper, a rumour passed throughout London in the spring of 1893 that the Ripper had returned and murdered a girl in East Ham. In a matter of hours every child and every mother in the city had heard of it.

There was no doubt that it was true.

No doubt! How can you doubt your own worst fears? This is where the mind is so eager to imagine the worst, and is so easy to prey on. If, that is, you know how to do this. Now, if you hadn’t already guessed it, this is my post on fake news. What’s more, it’s integral to the way the British live their lives. They are more than ready to imagine the worst, and more than happy to believe any rumour, be it by word of mouth or in print.

Nobody actually knows who wrote the ‘Boss Letter’. There have been several suggestions that it was a journalist who wanted to buck sales. It is a very different style to the ‘Kidney’ letter which contained half a kidney that had been preserved in alcohol. That was most certainly real as the kidney matched what was missing from the cadaver. We don’t know to this day who wrote that one, because his name wasn’t Jack.

Jack The Bogeyman.

But the British are still hard at it! There is at least one internet forum given over to Jack The Ripper that see people offering their various fantasies. Jack the Ripper hasn’t been the bogeyman for a good century; his place was taken by another. This, however was the result of a carefully planned orchestration that would begin in the early 1890s and drip, drip, drip until it lodged firmly in the minds of the public. Where it remains to this day.

Be careful what you read, because it might be fake news. Be careful what you read, you never know which of my upcoming posts might be my next in this series on the abuse of the media.


18 thoughts on “Jack The Ripper’s Boss Letter.

  1. I’m sure you’ve noticed that every world leader the US wants its public to be frightened by will at numerous point be compared to Hitler. Assad is only the latest.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By the way, as I was reading the part about how many more than usual were printed I wondered, “I wonder of the paper itself wrote this.” Who owned the paper at that point?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Local businessmen, probably. The age of Hurst hadn’t dawned by that point: newspapers often went bust, rather than joining together to become bigger and with less troublesome staff.

      Your point about the increase in sales is an important one, but not the most important when it comes to influencing people’s thinking.


  3. “What’s more, it’s integral to the way the British live their lives. They are more than ready to imagine the worst, and more than happy to believe any rumour, be it by word of mouth or in print.”
    This is a quote my Grandfather used to say quite often ” Don’t believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see ” he would then reverse the qoute , and say when that makes sense to you boy, you’ll work out ok by me ? There are still some British who have a mind of their own , granted not many but a few !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This should apply to the media only; there are things you’ll see and believe because they happen. Like a stone falling or a bird flying.

      The ‘Hampstead Horror’ only shows how few do have a mind of their own, and that was a very long time ago. Things have only gotten worse.


      1. Unfortunately the media have their versions of what is and is not ? Its hard to discern the facts from fiction
        the Hampstead Horror the only people who will ever know the complete truth is the people involved , as for the stone falling a bird flying , that’s fine as long as you see for yourself physically , even then it could have been imagined .


        1. Sorry for the type’s on last comment place full stop after fiction then a capital T at the start of the Hampstead Horror. Apologies for that.


          1. I’m not fussed about typos; if you find that you’ve said something in the wrong way, just ask for an edit of your comment. Either by email or by dropping another comment through. Usually if I don’t understand something, I’ll ask.


      2. “Unfortunately the media have their versions of what is and is not ? Its hard to discern the facts from fiction”

        That is why I wrote this post. There are several things to note in a post that is fake:

        1) It will speak to the fears of the nation, the overruling culture of that nation.
        2) It will have a hint of truth to it.
        3) It will be what people want to hear.

        The last is the most important element of all, and may take decades to establish in the hearts and minds of the community. The Hampstead Horror was actually a rumour, I don’t think it even made it to the press in such a way; yet the effect on Britain was electric. Gullibility is a sign that someone does not know how to tell reality from illusion in their own mind.

        As to the imagination, if you see a bird flying, you need no recourse to your imagination. The entire point of our having an imagination at all is so that we can imagine things that are real – and not just fantasy. I will add that it is only possible to determine for yourself what reality is; yet the sun rises for us all, albeit we all see it from a different place on earth. Yet it is still reality for all that.

        The key to using our imagination effectively is to be able to determine that invisible line between what we imagine that is real, and what we imagine that is not. It takes a long time, but that is why we have three score years and ten.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The best way to start a rumour is to base it on a little truth and let it build, grow and run , some rumours based on lies are easier to see , than rumours based on a little truth ! cultural fear is something that can be passed on from generation to generation , this could be gullibility the willingness to accept some thing on face value , an old rumour based a little truth or lie , over generations it’s just now accepted

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Such a rumour is like a plant. It can only grow in fertile soil. The Americans do not understand this, and so expect their rumour mongering to work for them in Europe, where it meets opposition instead.


  4. I believe you had said in a previous comment , that a rumour needs to speak to fears of the nation it self , well if the nation or Europe in this case do not fear the rumour or at best don’t allow it to grow then opposition it is ! that is the chance people who plant rumours for nefarious purposes take

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “that is the chance people who plant rumours for nefarious purposes take”

      They do it out of ignorance. It is that kind of ignorance that led them to support Hitler – only for him to hurt them more than they could ever have imagined! (He threw out the American backed central bank). Had he not done that, there’d have been no need for a war.

      Ignorance costs lives – usually ours.


      1. I believe that the people who perpetrate the rumours are not that worried about the cost of a few or a lot of lives as long as their aim is met


      2. How many people buy the cheapest apples or oranges and think nothing of the people who worked so hard to pick them for such poor wages?

        Truly, how many people on this planet really think about their neighbour??? They are no different from the perpetrators of lies, and their misdeeds will come back to haunt them with an equal amount of aggression.


        1. Some people will welcome help while others will bite the offering hands off some from fear some from pride , like they say you can lead a horse to water but , you cannot make it drink ? As to the workers working hard for low wages , there are so many circumstances were this could be legal and illegal , how are the final consumer’s to know from which side the suplier has brought his stock , especially if he is just slightly cheaper than the shop down the road. There are so many ways that the average person comes out on the wrong side trying to help someone or even trying to save a few quid .


      3. “there are so many circumstances were this could be legal and illegal , how are the final consumer’s to know from which side the suplier has brought his stock”

        Buy from people you know and trust, and you will not have this problem. This kind of problem arises when business becomes ‘abstracted’ by considerations of money instead of pleased customers. See the next post on 80/20 for more on this.


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