Well over 100 years since the gory murders committed in the Whitechapel district of East London, and the identity of Jack the Ripper is still in question. Just how many others were masters in their own right of similar, bloody handiwork?
When reading the numerous stories about the murders eventually attributed to Jack the Ripper, and known as the "Autumn of Terror" in Whitechapel, London, many are unaware that were several murders, just as heinous that occurred in the same time period, and even preceded it.
It was a bloody New Year's Day in 1885, in Austin, Texas. It happened at 901 West Pecan "about a block beyond the iron bridge that spans Shoal creek." A woman named Mollie Smith worked for the Hall family as a cook. She had established a common law marriage with Walter Spencer. Around 3 or 4 a.m., Millie's brother Thomas Chalmers woke up from a deep sleep when Spencer burst in, bleeding profusely from deep head wounds and said, "Mr. Tom, for God's sake do something to help me; somebody has nearly killed me."
Mollie and Thomas lived in a small apartment beyond the kitchen of the house.
It wasn't until 9 a.m. the following morning that a neighbor saw a "strange looking object" in the backyard of the Hall's home, immediately behind the outhouse. It was Mollie, and she had a hole on the side of her head. She seemed to be floating on a pool of blood that had gathered underneath her from wounds to her torso, arms and legs. Inside the room where the pair slept, there were signs of a desperate struggle.
Beyond the foot of the bed lay a bloodstained ax.
William Brooks, once Mollie's lover while she lived in Waco was arrested. He worked at the Barrel House Saloon on East Pecan as a bartender. Three months before he had tried to start a fight with Thomas Chalmers. Brooks provided an alibi and he was released.
Five months later the police would start to understand that Mollie's murder was not a jealous lover, but something much more sinister. It was a killing spree, with no apparent motive, except the need to spill human blood.
Eliza Shelly, also a black cook had her head split in two with an ax. Two weeks later on May 23, Irene Cross was stabbed and scalped.
Appeased for a few months the killer struck again on August 30. Mary Ramey, 11, was dragged into a washhouse, raped and stabbed in the ear.
Not all heinous murder attempts though could be laid at the feet of this furtive criminal.
On August 23, neighbors on North Avenue were roused from sleep by screams and moans coming from the house of E.J. Christmas who lived at 203 North Avenue.
Neighbors rushed in to find Clara Dick lying on her bed with a crushed skull. She'd been stuck just above the left eye, and blood flowed freely. She was unconscious. Her mother Rebecca Christmas had been wounded on the right arm.
Later it turned out that Charles Dick had visited the house a few moments before, and had reached through the window in his wife's room and made an attempt to kidnap their baby.
The couple had separated several months before, and in April he asked her to live with him again. She said no, and he responded, "Damn you, you shan't have my baby then," and grabbed the child. Eight months before Dick had attacked his father-in-law and wounded him seriously. Dick had been a horse thief in his youth, and beat his wife, which is why she left.
Clara Dick survived, her husband Charles Dick was found not guilty of intent to murder in November, 1885. He was originally from Waco.
At the end of September news stories told of another murderous assault. This time it was at the home of Alderman Duff, who was awakened about 1 a.m. when his mother said something was occurring at Major Dunham's house. The home was located at 2310 San Marcos Street where there was a small wooden shanty. Gracie Vance and Orange Washington lived there.
Orange Washington was found lying across the bed, close to death. A woman named Patsy Gibson who was a cook for Dr. Graves was lying on the floor. Gracie was missing but neighborhood men followed a bloody trail that started at the window and ended to where her body was found about 75 yards from the room, behind a stable. She had been beaten savagely about the head with a brick, and raped while she lay dying.
Patsy Gibson along with Lucinda Boddy had been sleeping on the floor in the room with the couple. The murderer had snuck in through a window.
Lucinda and Patsy had their skulls fractured by a sandbag the perpetrator used on them.
Lucinda regained consciousness and lit a kerosene lamp. She had seen the man returning to the cabin, and she said, "Oh, Dock, don't do it!" and he replied, "God damn you don't you look at me. Blow out that light." She jumped out a window and went to get help.
When she ran into Major Dunham she said, "Dock Woods did it!"
It seemed Dunham had already awoken, roused by noise, which he took was Orange whipping Gracie, which he frequently did. He came out of his home with a gun, and the killer which had caught up with Lucinda at the front gate fled.
Another neighbor saw a man running away. A crowd pursued him, and a couple of shots were fired after the fleeing suspect, but he got away from them.
Lucinda survived, and so did Patsy despite the belief that she wouldn't make it. Lucinda told authorities she recognized the man who attacked them; that his name was Doc Wood.
Police arrested him, and found he was wearing bloody clothes. He said the blood was a product of a venereal disease he suffered from. Woods produced an alibi for his whereabouts, but it took months before he was released when it was found the blood was indeed his own.
Orange Washington succumbed to his wounds and died.
Almost a year to the date of Mollie Smith's murder the Annihilator killed two victims on Christmas Eve.
Mr. Hancock was a carpenter and the family lived at 203 East Water Street. He came to wakefulness after hearing groans, and went into the next room where his wife slept. He found it empty and blood stained the bed and floor. He followed the trail of red out the front door, and around to the side of the house into the back yard. There he found his wife dead. Hancock threw a brick at the figure of a man standing over his wife. Even though he had an ax in his hand, the man fled, and disappeared into the darkness.
Police and doctors were called. Mrs. Hancock had been hit twice with an ax on the left side of her head. One of the blows fractured her skull. She was still alive, but the doctors doubted she would survive. Like other victims before her she had been raped and something thin and sharp was stuck in her right ear that reached her brain. She died on December 28.
An hour later, another victim was claimed. Eula Phillips lived with her in-laws on West Hickory Street. She occupied a room along with her husband and their 18 month old child.
The older Mrs. Phillips heard her son groaning and came to his room. There she found her grandbaby sitting up in bed covered with blood, and her son on the bed "weltering in blood" with a deep gash under the ear, extending from the back of the head to the throat. Beside him in the bed lay a bloody ax. His wife Eula was missing.
A bloody trail led out on the gallery which connected the two houses, and then into another yard to some out-buildings that were surrounded by a rail fence.
There they found Eula who had been struck in the forehead above the nose with the butt of an ax. Fence rails were placed across her chest and it was evident she was raped.
The perpetrator as usual had used an ax that belonged to the premises.
Now the authorities faced the fact they had a killer that was targeting women regardless of socioeconomic class or race. The killer's MO was entering the bedroom when the victim was sleeping, then rape and murder the woman in the backyard or behind buildings.
Four hundred men were arrested, and some made it as far as going to trial. Jimmy Phillips, Eula's husband was accused, the prosecutors claiming he copied the murderer's methods in order to punish his unfaithful, young wife. He was sentenced to seven years but it was overturned, and the second trial ended in a hung jury.
Theories abounded even if an exact identity for the killer was absent.
Some pointed to a Malaysian cook named Maurice who worked at the Pearl House, located close to where many of the victims lived.
He left Austin in January, 1886, bound for London. This coincided with the time period when the murders ended.
The murders in Whitechapel started in 1888.
James Maybrick has also been considered as Jack the Ripper due to a so called diary discovered in the 1990s during a renovation of what was once his home. Coincidentally Maybrick was visiting Austin during the time of the Annihilator crimes.
Another suspect was Nathan Elgin a black cook who was only 19 years old during that year of 1885. In February 1886, he was shot by police when he dragged a girl named Julia out of a saloon where he was drinking. He had taken her to his brother, Sylvester's house a block away. Neighbors could hear him beating her as she cried out for help.
A policeman arrived with two neighbors, who he threw to the ground. When he brandished a knife he was shot, and died the following day.
During his autopsy it was noted he was missing a toe from his right foot.
Sheriff Hornsby compared a plaster cast of Elgin's foot taken after his death with a bloody track on the Phillips' porch the morning after the murder and they matched.
This was important because it was found when examining earlier crime scenes, that the perpetrator would discard his shoes in order to be stealthy. The prints were not distinctive except for one thing, which is that one of the footprints had only four toes.
The terror wrought by the murders in 1885, had forced the police force to be tripled, and there was a curfew in place. Saloons and taverns were forced to close at midnight.
Unsure if Elgin was the killer, the authorities decided to keep quiet in case the crimes continued, so none of these findings were shared with the public or the press during 1885.
The authorities realized that Nathan Elgin's corpse provided a direct link with the killer. Austin in those years numbered about 15,000 residents with strangers coming into the city on a daily basis, looking for work at the many construction sites spread throughout the growing city. Suspects numbered beyond any that they could hope to question, and perhaps it was a stroke of good luck that Elgin came to their attention.
When Phillips and Hancock went to trial for their wives murders, the defense used the fact that Elgin was probably the killer, but the prosecution wanted to present a case where the killers used the murders as a cover for their own nefarious deeds.
Was there something in Elgin's background to have produced such a deviant psyche? He was born in 1866, and his family moved from Arkansas to Wheatville, Texas. He was one of 5 five children, however his 3 older siblings were born to a different mother. It seems that Elgin was possibly brought up by a stepmother, who it's been theorized abused him.
In a coincidence or not, the night Eula Phillips and Susan Hancock were murdered, Elgin's wife Sallie was giving birth to their child. They had married in 1882, however at the time of the birth they were not living together.
Elgin's wife would go on to bring up the child using the surname of Davis.
There have been attempts to tie the Servant Girl Murders to crimes along the Eastern Seaboard. Other similar crimes were then perpetrated in Galveston. There was a hodge-podge of murders of women in port cities all over the world.
Perhaps the answer as to the identity of the Servant Girl Killer lies in a recent theory about the Jack the Ripper crimes, which is that there was more than one man perpetrating the murders.
For example in Whitechapel, which was a slum area, women were accosted and killed long before the Whitechapel murders, however it seems that the coverage provided by the press, which captivated a newly literate population that existed at the end of the 19th century, is what drove the idea that it was a lone perpetrator which stalked prostitutes in the murky alleys of London.
Because of their lifestyle and acquaintances, the women were easy targets, despite the so called expertise the killer displayed when dissecting them which could have been acquired in numerous types of work.
Thomas Neill Cream came to be known as the Lambeth Poisoner. In 1876, while studying medicine he courted Flora Brooks. She became pregnant and he performed an abortion on her that left her very ill. He escaped to Montreal, but Flora's father found him, and forced him to marry his daughter. The day after the wedding he left to England to continue his studies. Flora recovered, but she died of tuberculosis a year later.
In 1878, he returned to Canada and set up a medical practice. The following year Catharine Gardner a servant was found dead in a privy closet behind his office. She was pregnant and she was killed with a handkerchief soaked with chloroform. He had refused to perform an abortion on her, instead telling her to accuse a local businessman of being the father. Despite evidence against Cream the police did not arrest him. He claimed the girl had threatened to poison herself if he didn't perform the abortion.
Cream's next stop was Chicago in their tenderloin district where many brothels were located. He offered illegal abortions to prostitutes. In August, 1880, he was investigated in the death of Mary Anne Faulkner who died due to a botched abortion. He was not prosecuted for lack of evidence. Four months later another patient, Miss Stack died after receiving treatment from him. He attempted to blackmail the pharmacist who filled the prescription.
In July 1881, Daniel Stott died from strychnine poison which Cream gave him as a remedy for epilepsy. Initially the death was listed as natural but Cream wrote to the coroner blaming the pharmacist as he was again attempting to blackmail the person that supplied the drug. Cream was arrested along with Julia Stott who had become his mistress, and colluded with him to murder her husband. She cooperated with the prosecution to avoid jail and let him face the charge of murder. He was sentenced to life to be served at Joliet Prison.
Cream was released in July 1891, when Governor Fifer commuted his sentence. Cream's brother pled for leniency and allegedly bribed authorities.
After his release he sailed for London using money he inherited from his father. This was 3 years after the Ripper murders. He took lodgings at Lambeth Palace Road which was a slum area riddled with poverty and prostitution.
On October 13, 1891, Nellie Donworth, 19, a prostitute was poisoned by Cream with strychnine as part of his plan to blackmail a business man and asking for a hefty reward for naming the perpetrator.
A week later he did the same thing to Matilda Clover, a 27-year-old prostitute who died after he gave her pills to take. Following the same MO, he tried to blackmail a prominent physician who went to Scotland Yard. They set a trap but Cream didn't fall for it.
In April 1892, Cream returned to London after visiting Canada. In the same pattern he offered two pills to Louise Harvey, insisting she swallow them right away. She became suspicious, pretended to take them, and instead threw them away.
A week later, Alice Marsh and Emma Shrivell, both young prostitutes spent a night with him, and then he offered them each three pills. They died a few hours later from strychnine poisoning.
During their investigation of the blackmailing scheme, authorities realized they were dealing with the killer referred to in the newspapers as the "Lambeth Poisoner".
Scotland Yard started to surveil him, and realized Cream frequented where prostitutes where at. They extended their investigation to the United States and Canada and learned of the suspect's history, including his conviction in 1881.
On June 3, 1892, Cream was arrested and charged with the murder of Matilda Clover. The following month they charged him with the deaths of the other prostitutes and extortion.
The jury deliberated 12 minutes and he was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Newgate Prison on November 15, 1892. He was buried under the flagstones of the prison with other criminals. In 1902, his remains were moved to London's municipal cemetery into an unmarked grave in section 339.
James Billington who executed Cream claimed his last words on the scaffold were "I am Jack the..." Despite Billington's claim, Cream was imprisoned at the time of the Ripper murders in 1888. He was also wearing a hood which would have muffled anything he said.
Cream's murderous actions were committed to satisfy his appetites as a sexual sadist,who enjoyed the victim's agony while they died. There was also his greed as exemplified by his blackmail schemes.
Six years passed since the Ripper stalked the alleyways of Whitechapel. It was then that a series of rapes and murders occurred in rural France. The victims were young people herding sheep.
Magistrate Emile Fourquet gathered the details of each of the cases. The victims were hacked on the back of their neck, indicating the attacker approached them from behind.
Reporters of the time posited that perhaps Jack the Ripper had traveled across the English Channel to find new victims in France.
Fourquet developed a profile based on reports provided by witnesses. He would watch to make sure his target was alone, approach them stealthily from behind and then hack the person in the back of the neck. He would drag the bodies to a hidden place where he would sodomize and mutilate the victims. The man was described as being in his thirties with dark hair and eyes, and he had a menacing manner.
Vacher was one of 15 children born to an illiterate farmer. He joined the army in 1892. It was at this time that he tried to kill himself by slicing his throat. He was dismissed from the military after his actions.
Once he left the Army he fell in love with Louise a maidservant who rejected him. She not only said no to his proposal she made fun of him, which resulted in Vacher shooting her four times. Then he tried to commit suicide again by shooting himself twice in the head.
Louise survived the attack, and he did as well, but one side of his face was paralyzed. A bullet had lodged in his ear and remained there for the extent of his life. Likely the bullet also damaged his brain which worsened his mental illness.
After his second suicide attempt he was sent to a sanitarium in Dole, Jura. He stayed one years and was released after doctors said he was cured.
He was 25 years old then, and he started killing soon after.
Starting in 1894, he killed and mutilated eleven persons, the majority of them were teenagers. They were stabbed repeatedly, disemboweled, raped and sodomized.
Vacher drifted from town to town in the southeast of France. He worked as a day laborer, but was reported as having a filthy and frightening appearance.
In 1897, he assaulted a woman in Ardeche. Her screams brought her husband and son to rescue her. Vacher was overpowered and taken to the police. The authorities suspected he was the culprit which had killed other people in the countryside, but they had no evidence to tie him to the crimes. However the case was resolved when Vacher confessed to the murders, saying "I committed them all in moments of frenzy."
He was executed by guillotine in December, 1898. He refused to walk to the guillotine, and instead had to be forcibly dragged to his death by the executioner.
The mystery of the Ripper's identity is still open, whether it was one man or various offenders, their names seemed destined to remain unknown.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer