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Ripper magic

Long before Hannibal Lecter, Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer that attained worldwide notoriety. But could he have been a murderer that was performing a magical ritual?

Philip Coppens


The series of brutal murders attributed to Jack the Ripper that occurred in the very heart of London in 1888 have interested thousands. More than a century onwards, hundreds of books have been written about the likely suspects; some even speculate that members of the British royal family were involved.
The royal suspect is Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, the son of Prince Albert Edward, himself the son of Queen Victoria. He was a party and ladies man and became embroiled in many scandals, which the Palace at the time was able to hush up. The question that is therefore posed, is whether he was also a murderer, and whether the Palace was able to cover a killing spree up as well.
It has to be underlined that at the time of the murders, no-one linked him to the crimes. Only in 1962 did he feature in a theory, and this in “Jack the Ripper: A to Z”, where the possibility that he was responsible for the murders was listed as a “rumour”. Some believe the A to Z invented the story, but one can definitely state that no source for this rumour prior to this book’s publication has so far been traced down.
The “rumour” was kindled by Dr. Thomas Stowell, who took it one step further in 1970, when he argued that the Prince suffered from syphilis and that this infection drove him insane, compelling him to commit these gruesome murders. Alas, since the publication of Stowell’s theory, most of its central allegations have been discredited. Since, the Prince nevertheless continues to feature in some of the Ripper theories, whether these are aired as faction or fiction.

Extra-ordinary crimes often have extra-ordinary motives. And hence, some have looked into the direction of Freemasonry and Masonic rituals as possible inroads that might explain the extra-ordinary nature of these crimes. One such road was travelled in the graphic novel turned film “From Hell”, created by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, which was largely based on Stephen Knight’s “Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution”. Knight is known for a number of bestsellers warning his readers about the evils of Freemasonry, and to see him fingering them as culprits in the Jack the Ripper murder should therefore not come a surprise.
However, there is zero evidence that Freemasonry had anything to do with the murders, but there is a type of circular logic at work – which is also apparent in the royal connection. As it was a major crime, which was never solved, was there a cover-up, because the truth could not be brought out into the open? If such a cover-up was in place, does it mean that it were powerful people that enabled such a cover-up. Hence, they must have been responsible for the murders… and royals and Freemasons come somewhat “naturally” to mind.

The only “evidence” that Freemasonry might have had anything to do with the series of murders comes from the word “Juwes”, which was found chalked on the wall in Goulston Street, above the body of one of the Ripper’s victims. Knight suggested that the reference to Jews was meant to refer to the traitors of the Freemasonic ritual, namely Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum. These were the Jews that killed Hiram Abiff, the famed architect of the Temple of Solomon, whose murder is central to Masonic lore. However, these three Jews were no longer truly part of the Masonic rituals as practiced in the late 19th century (the period of the Ripper murders), and it is clear that the reference to “Juwes” shouldn’t at all automatically apply to these three Jews specifically. If so, further references surrounding this inscription should have been found to make clear that the inscription should be read within a Masonic context, with cryptic messages like “the Juwes are on the Square”, etc.
Still, it is interesting that the inscription was ordered to be washed away by Sir Charles Warren. No doubt, the head of the police realised that any connection between the brutal murders and the Jews would have nefarious effects, likely resulting in racial riots in the streets of London, as social tensions were already rife throughout the city.
Many have seen the inscription “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing” as a code that could crack the Ripper puzzle. But there is no hard evidence that the inscription was actually placed by the murderer himself. Still, if we assume it is, then some argue we should take the murderer at his word, which means that he was a Jew, incriminating himself and his people. Of course, that is but one explanation, with others arguing that it was a subterfuge, meant to incriminate the Jews for these crimes. Author Martin Fido has argued that the line included a double negative, which is a common feature of Cockney English. In correct English, it would read “The Jews are men who will not take responsibility for anything”. But it seems unlikely that the message itself had anything to do with the murder. Indeed, one can wonder why – if it was related to the murder – no similar inscriptions were found at any of the other crime scenes. And it might just be that the graffiti had been there for several hours or days before a mutilated body was found below it.

Jack the Ripper is no doubt the most famous example of a serial killer. By definition, such a killer leaves a series of murders, which have a common strand running through them. Today, one of the most notorious – fictional – serial killers is Hannibal Lecter, but the exploits of Jack the Ripper are clearly on par. One letter, titled “From Hell” and sent on October 15, was allegedly from the Ripper and received by George Lusk, leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The letter included a preserved human kidney – though it is unknown whether it actually belonged to the body of a Ripper victim. The writer claimed that he had “fried and ate” the missing kidney half.
It was not the only letter received either by the police or the newspapers. The killer was nicknamed “Jack the Ripper” after the signature on a postcard received by the Central News Agency, though it is not known whether this postcard was sent by the killer – some argue it was instead sent by journalists to themselves or one another, to spice up the sales of newspapers dealing with the Rippermania that was hitting the streets of London – and sold their papers.

How many victims the Ripper claimed is also a matter of some dispute, but most argue that there were five, all of which were killed at weekends, specifically on August 3, 1888, September 8, September 30 (two victims) and November 9, 1888 – a killing spree of roughly three months.
The Metropolitan Police files show that the investigation actually encompassed eleven separate murders, stretching from April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891, all of them grouped as “the Whitechapel Murders”. But even though they were part of the investigation, it is clear that several of these did not correspond to the circumstances preferred by, or modus operandi of, the Ripper. In fact, some argue that even the “canonical five” murders (as they have become known) might not all be the work of one man.
The Ripper murders were therefore not so much extraordinary because there were so many, but because the crimes themselves were so cruel, and apparently without motive: prostitutes that were brutally murdered, to some extent even dissected, with certain parts of their body removed. It was much more than the usual stabbing or murder that befell such women on the streets of London.

The murder scene in the home of Mary Jane Kelly

The first of the “canonical five” murders was that of Mary Ann Nichols (August 31, 1888), who was killed near the London Hospital. Her throat was severed deeply by two cuts and the lower part of her abdomen was partly ripped open by a deep, jagged wound. Annie Chapman was the second victim, on September 8, her throat severed by two cuts and the abdomen once again ripped open, her uterus removed. Elizabeth Stride was killed September 30, with an incision in the neck. However, there were no other mutilations to the victim’s abdomen, which means that some question whether she was truly murdered by the Ripper. However, this “neglect” might merely be because he rushed to kill Catherine Eddowes that same day. Again, the throat was cut twice, and this time, the abdomen was ripped open, the left kidney and the major part of the uterus removed. It was possibly this kidney that was later sent “From Hell”. The final victim was Mary Jane Kelly (November 9), the only victim killed inside her own home. Her throat had been severed down to the spine and her abdomen emptied of its organs, her heart taken by the killer.
Though the circumstances and locations of the “canonical five” crimes have several similarities, method-wise, there are some differences. The murders were indeed committed in the dark of night, during weekends. But even though the locations were very precise, the timings weren’t, especially the Kelly murder occurring after six weeks of inactivity and not carried out in a public space.

For a century, no-one has been able to solve these crimes and a number of authors have put forward a number of candidates, some with more conviction than others. With various possible inroads explored and leading nowhere, Ivor Edwards felt that the path to be followed would be that of ritual magic… and that the locations of the murders might hold the clue. Edwards argues that the murderer even mapped the locations of the murders on a map beforehand, and that the locations of the murders are a vital ingredient in understanding what was truly happening: ritual magic.
Hence, Edwards mapped the sequence and sites of where the murders were committed, and realised that they were in a specific pattern, namely that of the cross, or, when adding the fifth murder to it, that of the Vesica Pisces.
This geometrical shape is often linked with several mysteries; it was particularly popular because of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras’ devotion to it. The name literally means “bladder of the fish”; interestingly, nevertheless, is the fact that some claim that the shape is also linked with the female genitals – which brings us close to prostitution – the career of the Ripper’s victims. However, the fish is of course the primary animal associated with Christianity, and so is the cross. Noting that the two designs created by the pattern of the murders is a cross and a Vesica Pisces, “something” to do with Christianity would seem to be a likely first port of call. But when we delve into some of the origins of Christianity, such as the cult of Osiris, we find that here we are confronted with the Lord of the Underworld, whose body was mutilated, his phallus eaten by fish. Though Osiris did not die on a cross, his wife Isis, who went in search of his body parts, was associated with the Ankh, a stylised cross which is known to have resembled the layout of the River Nile. Noting that London’s river is the Thames, which even back then was said to be linked with the goddess Isis, one could ask certain pointed questions…

Within a magical framework, who could be a likely suspect? Edwards points the finger to one Rosslyn D’Onston Stephenson, a man well-versed in magic, and who also knew several of the leading esoteric doyens of his era, including Helena Blavatsky, the founder of theosophy. Her most famous work, “The Secret Doctrine”, was actually published that very autumn of 1888.
D’Onston also wrote for several occult publications and he had even travelled to the West Coast of Africa in search of certain magical rituals. Most importantly, he was living in Whitechapel at the time of the murders, as he had checked himself into the London Hospital. Furthermore, he had confessed to killing at least two people while he was abroad, so he was in the right place at the right time, was known to have killed before, and might have had a motive.
Edwards has also unearthed evidence that D’Onston likely murdered his wife, as well as committing a murder in Brighton – just days before he checked himself into the London hospital. His wife’s body was recovered in May 1887 from London’s Regents Canal, whereby it was noted that the body had been dissected with a knife and a saw by someone with knowledge of human anatomy. The head of the victim was never found and hence the conclusion that it was his wife, was – in the days before DNA evidence – never made. Shortly after the discovery of this body, D’Onston referred to his marital status as single; seeing he did not divorce his wife, he either felt he was single, that she had abandoned him, or that he knew she was dead.
Was the Brighton murder practice, to verify that the Whitechapel murders would occur according to the methodology he knew he “had” to follow? It is a matter of fact that the day after the inquest, D’Onston left Brighton for London, and immediately checked himself into the London Hospital, complaining of ailments that in themselves were easy to fake. Most importantly, Edwards questions why any ill person would abandon the sea breeze of Brighton for the foul smells of London, in the hope of getting better. Unless, of course, D’Onston realised that a private patient in this hospital would largely go unnoticed – including when he wanted to go in and out. Indeed, D’Onston largely could use the hospital as his hotel, with no-one truly bothered about his doings or whereabouts.

Rosslyn D'Onston Stephenson

Police often state that the culprits hang around the scene of the crime. And in the case of D’Onston, it is known that he took a very active interest in the Ripper murders, even writing on the subject. Of course, the Ripper was a very popular subject even back then, but at the same time, it was not precisely his “cup of tea” to comment on popular events of the time. Furthermore, D’Onston had actually been a suspect and was questioned twice by the police. He was nevertheless released, as there was no evidence tying him to the murders. But back then – and later – people somehow felt he had something to do with him, including a future lover.
Identifying D’Onston as the main culprit was actually done by Melvin Harris, in “Jack the Ripper the Bloody Truth”, published in 1987. He states that D’Onston “alone, of all the suspects, had the right profile of the opportunities, the motives, and the ideal cover. His background, his personality, his skills, his frame of mind, all [point to] him for the fateful role.”
It is therefore an interesting fact that D’Onston in a December 1888 article for the Pall Mall Gazette argued that there was a satanic plan behind the killings, highlighting that each corpse was supposed to lie along the lines of a cross – and it was Edwards who plotted the murders on a map, to show that D’Onston’s observation was indeed correct. It meant that D’Onston had a good understandin of the mind of the Ripper – unlike anyone else in his day, seeing it would be a century before Edwards realised this gone-unnoticed aspect of the crimes.
Finally, in the article, D’Onston said that there would be no more Ripper murders and there were indeed none. Coincidence, or evidence that D’Onston was the Ripper?

Edwards believes that D’Onston killed prostitutes as he held them responsible for his illness, resulting in him being fired from his job. But when you have opted for a ritualistic framework for these murders, one should also look into the role prostitutes played in ancient religions, e.g. temple prostitution, or even the importance accorded to the “Great Whore of Babylon” in some of the more recent ritual ceremonies that some secret societies and/or magicians performed. In the bible, she is seen as the symbol of all evil, linked with Satan, as well as the Apocalypse, as she makes her appearance in the Book of Revelation. As such, one might conclude that the choice to murder prostitutes has little to do with a personal motive of revenge, but with aspects of a magic ritual. Couple this with Edwards’ notion that the murders occurred on certain key locations, and the case for the possibility that the murders were committed as part of a magic ritual might make most sense amongst the various possibilities proposed as to why the Ripper murders occurred.

Of course, this new thesis suffers from some of the same weaknesses previously encountered with the Masonic or Royal angle to the Ripper saga. It cannot be proven – but at the same time, it cannot be disproved. We simply do not know what went on inside the mind of Jack the Ripper – if there even ever was one such single mind responsible for these murders. But if there is, the geometric pattern he laid out on the streets of London is some of the most convincing evidence that four, if not all five, of the “canonical five” murders were planned by one man. And when we accept that, the next item we need to accept is that the killer obviously had a clear motive, and that this involved the precise siting of where the murders had to occur. And once that is accepted, a religious-ritual dimension to this motive, is not only logical, but the most likely.