Jack the Ripper
Pseudonymous murderer of at least seven women, all prostitutes, in or near the Whitechapel district of London's East End, from Aug. 7 to Nov. 10, 1888. One of the most famous unsolved mysteries of English crime, the case has retained its hold on the popular imagination.
All but one of Jack the Ripper's victims were killed while soliciting customers on the street. In each instance the throat was cut, and usually the body was mutilated in a manner indicating that the murderer had considerable knowledge of human anatomy. On one occasion half of a human kidney, which may have been extracted from a murder victim, was mailed to the police. The authorities also received a series of taunting notes from a person calling himself Jack the Ripper and purporting to be the murderer. Strenuous and sometimes curious efforts were made to identify and to trap the killer, all to no avail. A great public uproar over the failure to arrest the murderer was raised against the home secretary and the London police commissioner, who resigned soon afterward.
Jack the Ripper has provided themes for numerous literary and dramatic works. Perhaps the most notable was a horror novel by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger (1913; motion-picture versions, 1926, 1932, and 1944). More than 100 books about the case of Jack the Ripper have been published, with many of them offering conjectures as to the true identity of the murderer.
Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
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