As you fellow Ripperologists well know, there are many theories floating around about who Jack the Ripper was, but there is a handful of truly bizarre theories you may or may not have heard about.
1. Walter Sickert
A renowned painter of the time is a curious candidate for the Whitechapel murders, and mainly falls to the fact that Sickert had made sketches and paintings of the Ripper crimes that were quite accurate.
As the Casebook writes:
Sickert had been tangentially implicated in the Ripper crimes as early as the 1970s, with the release of the now infamous “Royal Conspiracy” theory. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s, with the release of Jean Overton Fuller’s Sickert and the Ripper Crimes, that the peculiar artist became a Ripper suspect in his own right.
More recently, famed crime novelist Patricia Cornwell has claimed to have found DNA evidence linking Sickert to at least one of the ‘Ripper Letters,’ and she has made a case in her book, “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed.”
2. Lewis Carroll
Yes, that Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice in Wonderland books. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll’) taught at Christ Church until 1881, which was at the forefront of the Ripper Murder scenery. ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ was published in 1865, under the pen-name, ‘Lewis Carroll.’ His pen name was later called into question and became the topic of myth around London.
Richard Wallace later claimed that Dodgson was Jack the Ripper though there is no real evidence to support Wallace’s claim. However, the claim that Dodgson had committed other questionable acts, such as proposing to a very young girl named ‘Alice,’ was considered fact although there was no evidence supporting this either.
The Casebook writes:
Wallace published his theory in 1996, in his book ‘Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend’. It was, in brief that Dodgson and his Oxford colleague Thomas Vere Bayne, were both responsible for the Whitechapel murders. He based his belief on anagrams he constructed out of Dodgson’s work, which he claimed were hidden confessions of the author’s life of crime in Whitechapel in the autumn of 1888.
The anagrams he presents in his book are not very good, in that they tend to make limited grammatical sense, and Wallace tends to cheat rather by simply leaving out or changing any letters he can’t fit in.
For example he takes this passage from Dodgson’s ‘Nursery Alice’:
‘So she wondered away, through the wood, carrying the ugly little thing with her. And a great job it was to keep hold of it, it wriggled about so. But at last she found out that the proper way was to keep tight hold of itself foot and its right ear’.
and turns it into:
‘She wriggled about so! But at last Dodgson and Bayne found a way to keep hold of the fat little whore. I got a tight hold of her and slit her throat, left ear to right. It was tough, wet, disgusting, too. So weary of it, they threw up – Jack the Ripper.
However, Wallace’s theory is flawed in that one could in fact rearrange the words in any piece of writing anywhere and make half-connected sentences suggestive of almost anything.
Was Lewis Carroll Jack the Ripper? Well, even after Wallace’s anagrams, the general consensus is – unlikely. He was, however quite the man of mystery, that has yet to be fully solved.
3. Jill the Ripper
Maybe Jack wasn’t ‘Jack’ at all, but in fact, a woman, which was a theory that posed by famed Inspector Abberline himself at the time of the killings.
According to Donald McCormick, author of The Identity of Jack the Ripper published in 1959, Abberline raised the theory in a conversation with his mentor, Dr. Thomas Dutton after the murder of Mary Kelly. Testimony given by Caroline Maxwell, who lived in the area, was central to the argument.
The Casebook writes:
Abberline based the brunt of the argument on the fact that it was possible that the killer dressed up in Kelly’s clothes in order to disguise herself, therefore accounting for Mrs. Maxwell’s sighting of her the next day. Dutton answered that he believed it was doubtful, but that if it were a woman committing the crimes, the only kind capable of doing so would be a midwife.
Thus began the theory of ‘Jill the Ripper,’ sometimes referred to as ‘the mad midwife.’
As ludicrous as this theory may initially sound, there are a few points which makes it reasonably credible. The fact that all of London was looking for a man would have allowed a female to have gone relatively uncaught for as long as the killer did. A midwife would have also been seen at all hours of the night, as well as blood on her clothing, which would have been discarded due to the nature of her work. A midwife would have also had the anatomical knowledge needed of the Ripper candidate.
4. Lord Randolph Churchill
There has always been a royal tie with the Ripper Investigations, and even members of the royal family like Prince Albert have been suspects, but Sir Winston Churchill’s father is the most curious within this group.
Considerable speculation grew that Churchill had been infected with syphilis. Some report it was during an encounter with a housemaid during a drunken tirade as a student.
According to the Casebook:
Churchill’s link with Jack the Ripper is tenuous to say the least. According to Author Melvyn Fairclough, Churchill, being the highest freemason in the land and protecting the good name of the royal family and the position of the crown, gathered together a group, which consisted of Sir William Gull, John Netley, Frederico Albericci, and J.K Stephen, in a plan to murder five prostitutes led by Mary Kelly, who had been using their knowledge of Prince Albert Victor’s secret marriage to Annie Elizabeth Crook, for blackmailing purposes.
While there is no evidence to support the claim that Churchill was ever a freemason, there is also no documented evidence to prove such a marriage ever took place. The death certificate of Annie Crook clearly states she belonged to the Church of England, and was not Catholic. There have been many different versions of the royal Masonic conspiracy theory over the years, and none are ever taken seriously.
One other curious aspect to Churchill as a suspect, is that he apparently resembled George Hutchinson’s extraordinarily detailed description of a man seen with Mary Kelly shortly before she was murdered.
The Pall Mall Gazette June 28 1884 described Churchill as, ‘Of average height with a wide turned up moustache, beautifully dressed, his gold chain has the solid appearance of real 18 carat’.
5. James Maybrick
James is voted the #1 suspect in the Jack the Ripper Casebook, which makes him notable. And while some screen shots of his diary may prove rather convincing, these claims are hotly contested and rumored as a hoax.
Michael Barrett, who originally claims he discovered the Maybrick diary, has confessed to the forged documents. These confessions have been retracted and restated many times in the past years, however. See his confession.
James, who was originally from Liverpool, moved to London to live with his mother, and had reportedly contracted Malaria and became increasingly addicted to arsenic and strychnine, which was not uncommon for the 1870s. He soon after married and fathered two children with Florence ‘Florie’ Chandler. After dying in May of 1889, James’s wife, Florie, was accused of his murder. The case for James lies mainly in the contested diaries, which surfaced only in 1992.
While its authenticity remains debatable, Maybrick’s diary has yet to be proven a forgery. Whether it is real or a fake, it maintains sound constancy with the known facts. As the Casebook suggests, “the diary also introduces what some would call startling evidence to support its authenticity.”