Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unknown person who, in the fall of 1888, murdered at least five women in London’s Whitechapel district. His identity has never been uncovered, and his case remains one of the most famous unsolved criminal mysteries in history.
Murder in Whitechapel
Though as many as eleven murders have been speculated to be the work of Jack the Ripper, also called Leather Apron or the Whitechapel Murderer, five have been canonically attributed to him. All took place within a one-mile radius in or near the overcrowded Whitechapel district in London’s East End.
The first was Mary Ann Nichols, whose body was found in August. In September, three more victims were found: Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, and Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly was found in early November. Each time, the women were discovered with their throats cut and their bodies mutilated in a way that suggested some knowledge of human anatomy.
Letters and Police Investigation
Police received dozens of letters from persons claiming to be the murderer. Some were signed “Jack the Ripper,” leading to the sensational moniker by which the killer would be known. Despite widespread and varied efforts to capture the killer—including several arrests—no answers were forthcoming. Failure to catch the man responsible led to public outcry, and the London police commissioner resigned soon after. The murders stopped in late fall of 1888, and the culprit was never found.
The gruesome mystery of Jack the Ripper has been the subject of numerous books, TV shows, films, and even macabre historical tours around the London murder sites. Investigations and speculations into his identity have continued throughout the decades, without success.
Learn more about Jack the Ripper through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.