One of the many fascinating pieces of the Jack the Ripper puzzle are the letters that were received by various media outlets and the police department. Of the hundreds of letters received, there are really only 3 that are believed to have any credibility of being by the killer. In her new book, What Alice Knew, Paula Marantz Cohen puts a lot of emphasis on these letters in the course of the investigation of the crime. I thought it would be useful to take a look at these letters in a little more detail.
The “Dear Boss” letter is one of the more well known letters and is also the first time that the name Jack the Ripper appeared as the signature. Up until that point, the murders were just called the Whitechapel Murders. This letter was sent to the Central News Agency on September 27, 1888. In this letter, the writer intimated some details about his upcoming murders that were not considered until after the murders occurred – leading investigators to believe that this may not be a hoax letter but instead for real.
The text of the letter is as follows:
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.
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
On October 1, 1888, the next credible letter, what is referred to as the “Saucy Jacky" Postcard, was received by the Central News Agency. Credibility is lent to this post card because not only does it reference the double murders of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride, but it also referred to the “Dear Boss” letter. I am unsure if the “Dear Boss” letter had been published by this time or not. Apparently the handwriting also appears to be similar.
The text of the postcard is as follows:
I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you'll hear about Saucy Jacky's work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn't finish straight off. ha not the time to get ears for police. thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.
Jack the Ripper
The final letter that is given credibility is the “From Hell” letter. This is the letter that I always hear about on shows and in articles. This letter accompanied half of a kidney that was delivered to George Lusk, who at that time was the leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The previous victim, Catherine Eddows, had been found with half of a kidney missing and the preliminary investigation suggested it could be hers. I am no forensic document expert, but the language and style of this letter is so very different than the other two accepted letters that it just doesn’t fit for me. I don’t think that the writer of the first two is the same person (but this is just my opinion, see what you think).
The text of the letter is as follows:
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk
While these letters may or may not have been written by Jack the Ripper, it is certainly interesting evidence and carries the legacy and mystery of this crime spree on into the future.
For those of you interested in reading more about the various suspects, witnesses, victims, etc – check out the website Casebook: Jack the Ripper – which I used as a reference for this article. You can also find text of some of the other letters at this website as well.
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