History's Mysteries - Hunt for Jack the Ripper
This History Channel special chronicles the mystery surrounding the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' killings. It manages to relay this tale by gauging varied opinions from noted specialists in this field, as well as by presenting a number of still images of this time - 1888 - in both photographic and illustrated form. Also, to add an additional layer upon this recount, there are a number of lavish re-enactments depicting those times, plus a continuous narration by Arthur Kent.
What is the story? A number of unfortunate women were killed on the streets of London's Whitechapel in 1888, and the culprit was dubbed in the media as 'Jack The Ripper'. The mystery surrounding Jacks true identity remains unknown to this very day, although a number of 'ripperologists' and crime experts have tried there best in hypothesizing who he was, and why he killed these women in the first place.
How many women did Jack kill? Depending on who you ask, the number of women that Jack killed ranges from eleven to three. Notably, the presumed figure is between four and six women – all of them in one way or another destitute by nature and by a un-sober disposition. The official number of women that Jack killed was eleven, dating from the end of 1887 to the middle of 1891.
Primarily, the five women Jack killed in the Autumn of 1888, are the ones that are commonly known as the ‘conical five’, and are generally highlighted in the films, the books, and the media in general. It is believed that these five women were all killed by a similar hand, because of the location in where they died, the manner in which they died, and the time-frame in which they all died. The other six women murdered where all more varied in nature and time-frame.
Who is Jack believed to be, and who gave him that name to begin with? ‘Jack the Ripper’ was the name used in numerous baiting letters sent to the police and the central news agency. Presently is it is presumed that these letters where written by an unscrupulous journalist, who wanted to perpetuate the story so that he could showcase the squalid climate that Whitechapel was in at the time.
However – Jack – who ever he was – true motives and true name is unknown. Stephen Knight insinuates that Jack was a freemason working for Royalty. Inspector Littlechild wrote in retrospect that Jack was an American ‘quack’ Doctor. Inspector Abberline presumed that he was a convicted wife poisoner. And Sir Melville Macnaghten thought that he was a failed barrister, or a deranged Jew, or a Russian thief. Plus many, many more....
OK, so no smoking gun was presented in this 'Jack the Ripper - History Mysteries' special then. However, what was presented, was a well thought out and rather lavish presentation on who Jack the Ripper could have been.
Well, as normal with this type of ‘Jack related’ documentary, this one recounts most of the usual spiel – you know – the women, how they were killed, why they were killed, and who do the noted experts think killed them and for why. But what this one does something in addition to all this, because it also touch upon the fringes of Jack the Ripper lore, and highlights the ‘other facts’ that most other people forget to mention.
What facts? (1) That officially it is believed that Jack the Ripper killed eleven women, even though they cannot even prove that he even killed three of them. (2) That the Jack the Ripper crimes were used by the media to promote anti-royalist sentiment amongst the populous, all focused on the first London Mayoral elections. (3) Crime techniques were very primitive at the end of the 19th Century, as highlighted by some of the mediocre procedures that the policed used on this case. (4) The reasons why certain facts were omitted from the public at that time, was in the inane effort to establish order and keep the peace. And (5) That most of the policemen in those day’s sported mustaches.
OK – OK – OK, that last one was an observation and not a relevant fact, but still, perspective does play a large role on this documentary.
You see, there is none.
All in all no two ‘ripperologists’ can seem to agree on why Jack did what he did and for way. Fair dues, this does make for a more evenly balanced documentary. But at the same time it also leaves it in very shallow waters conclusion wise.
Though does this documentary have to have a conclusion? No – not really. But I feel that it should have been more focused on what it is trying to convey. No one knows who Jack the Ripper really is – that’s a given fact presently. But maybe a bit more depth given to a more selective suspect roll call, would have allowed for this program to become all the more rewarding at the end.
Still, saying all that, this is a really great slice of repackaged yesteryear, and a must see for all fans of Jack and budding criminologists everywhere. Good show.
THE RATING: A