Friday, November 20, 2009

Annie Farmer (November 20, 1888)

A scant twelve days after the brutal slaying of Mary Jane Kelly in her room at Miller's Court, news came of another prostitute found slain and mutilated in an East End boarding house. When police arrived on the scene at a boarding house on George Street in Spitalfields, they discovered a false alarm, of a sort. No woman had been killed, although one had been attacked. Annie Farmer, 40, was taken to the George Street house by a man she met on Commercial Road. The man wore a dark suit and black hat, and had a dark moustache. He was approximately 36 years old, and about 5'6" in height.

Men in the house's kitchen reported that Farmer came down the stairs, partially unclothed and bleeding from a wound on her throat. It was later determined that Farmer had previously met the man a year before. Detective William Thicke and others searched for the man to no avail. Witnesses who provided the description testified that they saw him later but that he eluded them. A gun-wielding man was arrested but proved to be an amateur detective trying to capture the man.

Today in Ripper History: November 20

1888: Scant weeks after the Mary Jane Kelly murder, Annie Farmer is attacked, according to some by Jack the Ripper.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Suspect: James Kelly (1860-1929)

Just today I watched an interesting documentary we had recorded off of the Discovery Channel which was about the Carrie Brown ("Old Shakespeare") murder in New York and its possible connection to Jack the Ripper. The suspect du jour was James Kelly. I decided to read up on Mr. Kelly.

An illegitimate son of a single mother and raised by his grandmother, James Kelly entered the upholstery trade early in life. From an early age, he suffered mood swings and complained of severe headaches. Kelly was a frequenter of the East End prostitutes. He married Sarah Brider in 1883, and within a few months she was dead, stabbed in the neck. Apparently, Kelly discovered that he had some veneral disease which he was self-medicating for, and apparently he had become convinced that Sarah was a prostitute and had infected him, although in all likelihood the disease was a product of his earlier ways. during his attack on Sarah, he also threw her mother across the room when she attempted to save her daughter. He had previously believed Sarah had some sort of sexual deformity.

Kelly was due to be hanged, but at the last minute he was declared to be a paranoid schizophrenic by a doctor from Broadmoor Asylum. He was admitted to Broadmoor later that year. It is interesting that when imprisoned and condemned, Kelly refused to believe he would be hanged. He claimed that God had a mission for him.

A gardener and violinist in the asylum, Kelly and another patient named George Shatton came up with a daring plan to escape. The two fashion keys from metal scraps found in the asylum gardens and use these to escape. Kelly has been on the run for an hour before his escape is discovered. This was in January, 1888.

Kelly's whereabouts are unknown for the next 39 years. An aged and sickly James Kelly reappeared at Broadmoor in 1927. Many of his movements in the intervening time are known, but all surface from the reports of Kelly himself and cannot be confirmed. It is theorized by some that while in Broadmoor, he discovered where his disease originated and swore vengeance on the prostitutes of Whitechapel.

As early as February, James Monro, chief of the Metropolitan CID, took an interest in Kelly.

On November 10, 1888, the day after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, the home at 21 Cottage Lane was visited by police and Mrs. Brider questioned about his whereabouts. A note in one of the police files dated November 12 made it clear that police should make all effort to ascertain James' whereabouts. The note was written by someone with the initials CET.

Kelly's own admission places him in London between June and November of 1888. In November, he walked from London to Dover and boarded a ship for France, where he stayed until 1891. Later movements can place him in New York in January, 1892; in New Orleans in January, 1896; back in England (mainly Guildford) for several years; Vancouver ca. 1900-1901; then back to England (north London). In 1907, he was formally discharged by Broadmoor on account of his not being captured. He claimed to have moved back and forth over the Atlantic several more times until 1927.

In short, Kelly is a very good suspect. The only problem with his status is himself. Can we really take for granted the word of a paranoid schizophrenic as to his whereabouts?

The Kelly theory is dealt with in book form in Prisoner 1167 by Jim Tully.

The Ghost of Jill the Ripper

Mysterious Britain and Ireland has an article on the ghost of Mary Pearcey, who is infamous as the hypothetical "Jill the Ripper". But why does her ghost haunt Whitechapel when she lived and committed her crime in Kentish Town up near Highgate? In the realm of paranormal theory, could the (imagined) connection of her to the Jack the Ripper ordeal have somehow "created" a ghost of her in Whitechapel? Or is it all just an urban legend?