In 1888, amidst the pitch black alleys, the fog wreathed streets and the shadowy nooks of London’s East End, a sadistic maniac dubbed by the press with the macabre moniker of “Jack the Ripper”, fuelled by an insatiable lust and hatred for the gin-soused street-walkers, seized a terrified city in fear as he soaked the cobbled stones of Whitechapel with their blood… supposedly.
Of course, there is very little evidence that “Jack the Ripper” ever existed.
The fact is that during Jack the Ripper’s so-called reign of terror, London’s most notorious serial killer either killed five women, or seven, or nine, or eleven, or as many as twenty-two, depending on which theory you choose to believe and what book you’ve just read, over a period of somewhere between three months and three years, and for whom not one single piece of evidence nor victim can conclusively be linked to one of the one hundred and six current suspects.
So why do we still believe (even after 128 years) that “Jack the Ripper” exists, if he probably didn’t? Because “Jack the Ripper”, as commonplace as his crimes were in an ever-expanding city (divided by wealth and health, with a barely fledgling Police force) was nothing more than a very clever construct of media manipulation; a convenient if slightly sensational character created by eager journalists during the birth of tabloid to sell newspapers.
Admittedly, in a morally uptight Victorian era, there was nothing newsworthy about the nightly violence inflicted on the city’s sex-workers - destitute by destiny, shunned by society and regarded by many as “ten-a-penny” - whose attacks by drunken punters, were seen as little more than an occupational hazard. Crimes such as these of often went unrecorded, unreported and unsolved. But by connecting these crimes together, giving their murderer a motive, a mission and a memorable name that is easily whispered from person to person? And you’ve got yourself something sensational. Therefore in a very short space of time, just the idea of “Jack the Ripper” created mass-panic, a climate of fear, a society fuelled by suspicion, speculation and sensationalist theories, and a media feeding frenzy, which still exists, even today.
So, was there ever a “one-man ripper” slaughtering prostitutes in London’s East End? Probably not. But… there was in the West End.
After the Blitz of 1940-41, as London was gripped in a continual state of fear as German bombers loomed overhead, a maniac prowled the seedy dark-lit streets of Soho. He attacked by night, during air-raids, when the city was at its blackest. And every street lamps was off, every house-light was out, every curtain was closed, and every door was shut.
His name was Gordon Frederick Cummins. But you won’t have heard of him. Very few people have. As during war-time, with London’s debilitated public morale at an all-time-low after a constant barrage of nightly bombardments and for fear of starting a panic, much of this story was suppressed. The Press called him “The Blackout Ripper”.
Gordon Frederick Cummins was a Leading Aircraft Man billeted at Abbey Lodge, the RAF's Reception Centre in Regent's Park, on a three week course. During his brief visit to London...
Learn more about the The Blackout Ripper "London's real Jack the Ripper" and other murders, many of which even the locals of Soho know very little about on Murder Mile Walks.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious (and often forgotten) murder cases, featuring 18 murderers, 3 serial killers, over 21 locations, totalling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime historian, writer and tour guide of Murder Mile Walks.