Myths and Errors (Jack the Ripper) Part 1

No subject in the field of true crime contains more inaccuracies than Jack the Ripper narratives. Sloppy research has led to many errors being perpetuated, and some of these mistakes are unforgivable. Unfortunately, there are so many inaccuracies in print that it is well-nigh impossible to list every one of them. I have therefore approached this section in two ways. First, errors will be described and the truth stated. Second, only errors for the five canonical murders of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly will be discussed. I leave it to the reader to look for less serious mistakes in writings about related crimes.

Mary Ann Nichols

Mary Ann was born in 1851. In fact, she was born on 26 August 1845.

Mary Ann married at the age of 12. This error is usually made by authors who get the year of her birth wrong. Because Mary Ann actually married on 16 January 1864, those who state that she was born in 1851 have to assume that she was only 12 on her wedding day!

Mary Ann had two children. In fact, she had five.

Mary Ann was seen at 2:30 A.M. by Ellen Holland, on the corner of Osborn Street and Brick Lane. A simple reading of the maps shows that Brick Lane turns into Osborn Street, so the two do not form a "corner." In fact, Mary Ann was seen on the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road.

Mary Ann was last seen at 3:45 A.M., staggering down Whitechapel Road. Her body was found by Constable Neil at this time. The last time she was seen alive was 2:30 A.M.

Mary Ann’s body was discovered by George Cross. Erroneous name for Charles Cross.

Cross found Mary Ann’s body when he reached a spot opposite to Barber’s slaughterhouse. This statement implies that the slaughterhouse was in Buck’s Row. It was in fact in Winthrop Street.

John Paul. Erroneous name for Robert Paul.

Paul placed his hand upon the woman’s breast in order to feel for a heartbeat. In fact, Paul accidentally brushed his hand against Mary Ann’s breast when pulling her skirts down to preserve her modesty.

Paul and Cross were friends. They had never met before the date of the murder.

Paul and Cross ran off toward the nearest police station. In fact, they decided to carry on to work, intending to tell the first policeman they found of the murder.

Constable John Neil was the officer Cross and Paul found. In fact, it was Constable Jonas Mizen. Neil found the body himself after Cross and Paul had gone to find a policeman.

Constable Neil heard his colleague Constable Haine in Brady Street. The officer patrolling Brady Street was Constable John Thain.

Constable Neil hailed a colleague. This implies that he shouted. In fact, he flashed his lamp toward Thain, who saw the signal and came to Neil’s aid.

Neil’s call for assistance was heard by Constable Mizen. Actually, Mizen had been told by Cross and Paul that a woman was lying dead or drunk in Buck’s Row and came to the scene to investigate.

Paul and Cross returned to the scene with Constable Mizen. Paul and Cross continued on to their respective workplaces in Corbett’s Court and Broad Street.

Walter King. Erroneous name for Walter Purkiss, who lived with his family at Essex Wharf.

Mr. King slept on the second floor of Essex Wharf. As stated above, the correct name was Walter Purkiss, and he and his wife slept on the third floor.

Dr. Llewellyn sent for the ambulance. Constable Neil sent Constable Mizen to fetch the ambulance.

Dr. Llewellyn deduced that the killer was left-handed. He did originally think so, but he later changed his opinion and thought it doubtful.

Dr. Llewellyn deduced that the killer stood in front of his victim. Again, this was his original conjecture, amended later.

Dr. Llewellyn said that the killer used a very sharp knife. He actually said the knife was strong-bladed and moderately sharp.

The mutilations were discovered at the mortuary by Inspector Helson. They were found by Inspector Spratling, though Hel-son did see them soon afterward.

The whereabouts of Mary Ann’s father were not known. At the time of Mary Ann’s death he was living at 16 Maidswood Road, Camberwell, and he attended his daughter’s funeral.

Mary Ann absconded from the home of her employers, the Cowdrys, with clothing worth in excess of 3 pounds, 10 shillings. Its stated worth was precisely 3 pounds, 10 shillings—not more, not less.

Mary Ann absconded with 3 pounds of her employers’ money. She stole clothing, not cash.

Annie Chapman

Hanbury Street was just a few yards from Crossingham’s lodging house. Crossingham’s was at 35 Dorset Street, and a glance at any map will show that the two locations were much more than "a few yards" apart.

Number 29 was the home of 15 or 16 people. There were 17 people living there.

The victim’s name was Annie May Chapman. Her full name was Eliza Anne Chapman.

Annie’s husband was Frederick Chapman. His name was John Chapman.

Annie had two children. In fact, she had given birth to three.

John Davis’s mother ran the packing-case business from 29 Hanbury Street. The packing-case business was run by Amelia Richardson, and her son was John Richardson. John Davis was the resident of the front attic room at 29 Hanbury Street and worked as a carman.

Albert Cadoche heard people talking in the yard of number 29. He heard only one word, "No," not a conversation.

Cadoche heard the sounds of a struggle. He heard a noise that sounded like something falling against the fence.

Cadoche lived at number 31. He actually lived on the other side, at number 27.

The fence between the houses was 4 feet high. It was 5.5 feet high.

Both of the workmen from Bayley’s ran to the Commercial Street Police Station. The two men, James Green and James Kent, did not both go for the police. Kent was too affected and had to go for a brandy to steady himself. Green and Henry John Holland, a boxmaker who had been passing, ran to fetch the police and found Inspector Chandler on the corner of Hanbury Street and Commercial Street.

Bayley’s premises were on the opposite side of Hanbury Street from the scene of the crime. The workshop was at 23a, on the same side as 29, where the crime took place.

Inspector Chandler was walking into Hanbury Street when the alarm was raised. Chandler was on Commercial Street, close to the corner of Hanbury Street.

Inspector Chandler cleared people out of the yard. When he arrived, there was no one in the yard. He later had people cleared out of the passageway.

Inspector Chandler’s first thought was that the woman was drunk. This is total nonsense. We are expected to believe that an experienced police officer finds a woman with her entrails over one shoulder and believes she may be intoxicated!

Various items were placed at Annie’s feet, including some or all of the following: two bright farthings, a penny, and two brass rings. The only items found were a small piece of coarse muslin, a small-tooth comb, a pocket comb in a paper case, and a portion of envelope containing two pills.

Annie’s intestines were placed on her left shoulder. It was her right shoulder.

The apron found in the yard was partially submerged in a dish of water. There was a dish of water underneath the tap, but the apron was found nearby.

The envelope found in the yard was postmarked 20 August. It was postmarked "London, Aug 23, 1888."

Sergeant John Thick. Erroneous name for Sergeant William Thick.

Elizabeth Stride

Elizabeth was known as "Long Liz" because of her height. Elizabeth was only 5 feet 5 inches tall. "Long" was an East End nickname given to people named "Stride."

Elizabeth had three children. There is no evidence that this is the case. The only child we know about with certainty is a girl born on 21 April 1865 in Gothenburg. The child was stillborn.

Elizabeth had nine children. It is true that Elizabeth said she had had nine children, but there is no documentary evidence to support this statement.

Arthur Dutfield carried on business from the yard that bore his name. He had at one time but was operating from Pinchin Street at the time of the murder.

There was only one house in Dutfield’s Yard. There was actually a row of cottages.

Constable Lamb was found by Louis Diemschutz and Isaac Kozebrodsky. Diemschutz and Kozebrodsky couldn’t find any policemen. Morris Eagle found Constable Lamb and Constable Collins.

The doctor who attended the murder scene was Dr. William Blackfield. In fact it was Dr. Frederick William Blackwell.

Dr. Blackwell could not say whether Elizabeth was standing up or lying down when her throat was cut. At the inquest he stated quite clearly that Elizabeth’s throat had not been cut while she was standing up. He added, "The throat might have been cut as she was falling, or when she was on the ground."

Dr. Blackwell said Elizabeth’s throat had been cut from right to left. At the inquest he stated, "The incision in the neck commenced on the left side."

Dr. Phillips pronounced Elizabeth dead. Actually, Dr. Blackwell was the first medical man on the scene, and he determined that Elizabeth was beyond all human aid.

Elizabeth had some grapes clutched in her left hand. This statement is a mere invention to give greater credence to the evidence of Matthew Packer. All Elizabeth held were some cachous, in her left hand.

Elizabeth had some grapes, or grape stalks, in her right hand. It doesn’t matter which hand the grapes are placed in, as they did not exist. As referred to above, Elizabeth held some cachous in her left hand.

Elizabeth had a corsage of fresh flowers pinned to her breast. She had a single red rose, backed by maidenhair fern.

Edward Spooner noticed that Elizabeth wore a red-and-white flower pinned to her breast. Spooner mentioned the single flower, and the cachous.

Elizabeth’s hands were folded underneath her. The reports at the time clearly stated that Elizabeth’s left arm was extended from the elbow, which meant that her left hand was most certainly not under neath her body. Furthermore, her right arm was lying across her body, and the right hand bore clotted blood.

William Marshall saw a couple outside number 63. Marshall lived at 64 Berner Street and claimed to have seen a couple talking on the pavement opposite number 58.

Elizabeth lived with Michael Kidney in Fashion Street, or at 33, 35, or 38 Dorset Street. Poor research led to much confusion over where Elizabeth lived. In fact, she lived for some time at 32 Flower and Dean Street and later with Michael Kidney at both 35 and 36 Devonshire Street.

Elizabeth met Kidney in early 1888. She actually met him for the first time three years before her death, or in 1885.

Catherine Eddowes

Catherine was 43 years old. She was born on 14 April 1842, so she was 46 years old when she died.

Catherine was one of 12 children. There were 11 children.

Catherine was also known as Emily Birrell. This error is the result of sloppy research. It is true that among Catherine’s possessions was a pawn ticket in the name of Emily Birrell, but the ticket had been given to her by Emily, a friend with whom she had been picking hops.

Catherine had been arrested for being drunk in Bishopsgate. It was actually Aldgate High Street. She was taken to the Bishopsgate Police Station.

Catherine did not have a regular doss house to go to. Catherine usually stayed at Cooney’s lodging house at 55 Flower and Dean Street, though she had recently had to stay at the Casual Ward in Mile End when her funds were too low for Cooney’s. This error may have been made because she had no money for a bed on the afternoon of her death.

Catherine had been lodging in Church Street, Spitalfields, or with John Kelly in Thrawl Street. Again, Catherine usually stayed at Cooney’s lodging house at 55 Flower and Dean Street.

Joseph Lawende, Joseph Hyam Levy, and Harry Harris left the Imperial Club at 1 A.M. Lawende checked his watch as they were leaving, and it was then 1:30 A.M.

Two other men saw Catherine with a man after Lawende saw her. This error is owing to press reports of the time. No one saw Catherine alive after the supposed sighting by Lawende and his friends.

Catherine was released from police custody just after midnight. She was released at 1 A.M.

Mitre Square was well lit by five lamps. An excellent map of Mitre Square was drawn at the time of the investigation. It shows two lamps, one on the edge of the pavement near a passage that led to St. James’s Place and the other on the wall at the junction of Mitre Square and Church Passage. The square was not well lit, and the corner where the murder took place was the darkest part.

The watchman at Kearley and Tongue’s warehouse was Herbert Morris. He was George James Morris.

Church Passage is 50 yards from Mitre Square. Church Passage leads into Mitre Square.

The body was found at 1:30 A.M. It was discovered at approximately 1:44 A.M.

Catherine’s ovaries were removed. The killer removed her left kidney and part of her uterus.

Inspector Collard arrived with Dr. Brown. Collard arrived at the scene at 2:03 A.M. By then he had sent a constable to fetch Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, who arrived at 2:18 A.M.

There was a sink close to the Goulston Street graffito, and it was wet with blood. There was no sink close to where the graffito and apron were found.

The apron was not there five minutes before it was found. The apron was found at 2:55 A.M. by Constable Alfred Long. He stated that he had last passed through the area at 2:20 A.M. and was sure the apron hadn’t been there at that time. If he was correct, the killer had 35 minutes to dispose of the apron, not just five.

A sink off Dorset Street was found to contain bloody water. This detail comes from the memoirs of Major Smith and cannot be corroborated from any reports of the time.

The graffito was written in red chalk. The chalk was white.

Part of Catherine’s right ear was missing. The killer did detach one of the lobes, but this piece fell out of Catherine’s clothing as her body was being undressed.

After the earlier murders, Catherine had said she knew the identity of the killer. This story did circulate in the press, but there is no proof that she ever said any such thing.

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