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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Letters of Jack the Ripper

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:

Dear Boss,

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.

Yours truly
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:

From hell.

Mr Lusk,

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.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Whew! Talk about "into the mind of a madman." Your writeup reminds me of the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds in London. Have you ever been there? I did a little bit of research on it for my next book, and learned that Tussaud loved bringing the creepy and notorious into her exhibition.

    There's also a fascinating display at the London Dungeon, complete with a video lecture on Jack the Ripper.

  2. This is a rather interesting post. Like I have mentioned before, I have never really been that curious about Jack the Ripper, but now I find that I am. I think what is most interesting are the letters. I like stuff like these, bits of history that people try to pull together to make sense. Plus, this time it has the crime element, and I am thinking it may be interesting to see how things were investigated over 100 years ago.
    I am definitely curious about What Alice Knew and I am going to check out the Casebook.

    You may have answered this before, what sparked your interest in Jack the Ripper?

  3. Christine - that is fascinating - I didn't not know that. I haven't had the opportunity to see any of her museums, but it is certainly on my places to go wish list.

    Ibeeeg - I don't know exactly what sparked my interest. I have always been into true crime stories and I have always loved history. I think that crazyness of the crime paired with the major publicity it got at the time and the fact it still a popular story today has just really drawn me to want to learn more about it. But truthfully, this is the first time I have done any indepth research of the topic.

  4. Thank you for such an interesting post. As with most people the Jack the Ripper case has been of interest since I was a teen. There are many books out there which explore the case and try to solve it. I need to read more to see what they have decided.

  5. LibarayPat - You should definately check out http://www.casebook.org/. There is all of the theories and evidence, and suspects and everything. I found it to be a great resource.


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