What is a Conspiracy?
Dictionary.com defines conspiracy as:
1. An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act
When most people talk of conspiracy theories, they speak of a group of people, mainly in high-ranking government positions, who conspire to hide the truth from the general populace to either protect themselves, or to further their own agendas. People concoct theories, some of them very elaborate (and some very far fetched), to explain why certain things seem to go unanswered to the public. In some extreme cases, people who believe in these conspiracy theories become extremely paranoid about everyone and everything in their lives.
2. A group of conspirators
3. Law. An agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.
4. A joining or acting together, as if by sinister design: a conspiracy of wind and tide that devastated coastal areas.
Conspiracy theories range from idiotic ("Our pets are secretly aliens, bent on world domination!"), to semi-plausible or even plausible ("The government knows who really killed JFK." And I'll elaborate on this theory in part three). Conspiracy theories seem to be, by and large, a product of the Twentieth Century. With the advent of radio, telephones, television, and the Internet as ways to move information quickly from one part of the globe to the other, it is very easy for people to become caught up in them, even if just for fun.
The first conspiracy theory of this series, however, began in the late Nineteenth Century.
Jack the Ripper
Beginning on August 31, 1888, the infamous Jack the Ripper left a trail of gruesome murders in his wake. From August 31, 1888, until November 9, 1888, Jack the Ripper killed, and mutilated 5 prostitutes in the Whitechapel section of London. After that date, he seemed to just disappear. No more murders of the style were committed in Whitechapel after the killing of Mary (sometimes Marie) Kelly.
The murders are still unsolved to this very day. Because they are unsolved, however, a host of theories involving everyone from the Jews of the area all the way up to Queen Victoria's involvement have sprung about. As to which theories are true? It's anybody's guess. No one who was alive at the time is around to elaborate on the details today.
Methods Used in Murder
Jack the Ripper was something of an oddity in killers. He not only killed his victims, but also mutilated the bodies, often removing organs from the scene. All the victims shared a few things in common, however. With the exception of Mary Kelly, every prostitute was in her forties, Mary Kelly was only 25. Each victim suffered a strong slicing of the throat, which severed the Carotid Artery, and esophagus, killed each victim. Each victim, with the exception of Mary Kelly, was found in the street, or other area where they would be easily found, or the Ripper could have easily been seen. Apart from these, however, various things were done to the bodies.
The first official victim (there were other similar murders before this, but this is the first one considered to be actually called a Ripper Victim) was Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols. Her body was discovered on August 31, 1888, under a window of a residence belonging to a Mrs. Green. There were several cuts on her body, as well as incisions in her abdomen, which severed the tissue within her abdomen severely. She was missing some teeth, as if she had been violently struck in the mouth, as well as other bruises upon her face and neck.
After only a cursory examination, it was ruled Polly had been killed where her body had been found, even though police evidence suggests there was very little blood around the body or in the gutter nearby. Also Mrs. Green testified that she was a light sleeper, and was not disturbed while she rested that night by any unusual sounds. Many people then, and today, believe she was killed elsewhere, and then her body dropped at that place.
The second victim was found 9 days later, on September 8, 1888. Annie Chapman, AKA "Dark Annie", was found in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street. This time, however, the bloodied fence, and area seemed to indicate that she was indeed killed where her body lay. The back yard had many other buildings surrounding it, all with windows that could see into the yard, and yet no one heard, or saw the killing (save one man who was in the adjacent yard, but all he heard was a woman say "no!" and then something hitting the fence that separated the yards; he did not investigate what it might have been).
Annie's body was in much worse shape than Polly's. Her head was almost completely severed by the incision across the throat; bruises about her face (although her teeth were intact); her abdomen was completely cut open and her intestines thrown over her shoulder; her uterus, upper portion of her vagina, and most of her bladder had been completely removed; all of the incisions for removal were done with the precision of a well trained surgeon. It should be noted, however, that the examining pathologist remarked that he was unsure how only one person could have done such precise surgical work in the space of a quarter hour. The pathologist remarked even if he had it down to an exact routine, it would still take him the better part of an hour.
The next two victims were killed within an hour of each other.
Elizabeth Stride was the first of two victims on the night of September 30, 1888. Reports vary as to what actually happened, but the appearance is that a lone man did not kill her by at least one of those reports. Or, at least-- if the report is to be believed-- the Ripper was not alone, and had an accomplice to make sure things went well.
Elizabeth's body was not mutilated, however. Her throat had been cut in the same manner as the other 2 Ripper Victims, but it is believed that the arrival of Mr. Louis Diemschutz frightened the Ripper off before he could mutilate the body. Mr. Diemschutz was also fairly sure the Ripper was still around when he entered the alley, because his pony was acting very nervous.
Catherine Eddowes was found dead later that night. Like "Dark Annie" her intestines had been strewn about her shoulder; her right earlobe had been cut off; her nose had been cut off; her face was slashed multiple times; her eyelids had been cut through, almost cut off; her left kidney was completely removed; as well as massive cuts within her abdominal cavity.
The final official Ripper murder was that of Mary Kelly, on November 9, 1888. This murder was a bit different, in that the Ripper killed her in her own bed. But, by being secluded within walls, with no chance of prying eyes, the Ripper did his most damaging work yet.
Mary's body was completely mutilated. Both of her breasts had been cut off; her face was cut to beyond recognition; many of her internal organs were removed, and some placed under her body; her heart was missing; as well as other details which are best left for the reader to read on his own terms. There are also pictures of this grisly scene, which are not for the faint of heart. A list of references online will be given at the end for reading and visual reference.
The Beginnings of Conspiracy
Many theories exist about who the Ripper really was. There were three main suspects in the case, but no convictions were ever made.
Montague John Druitt was one such suspect. Some believe he was the Ripper, even those within his family. He committed suicide by drowning himself in the River Thames shortly after the Mary Kelly murder. If he was the Ripper, his suicide would have indeed ended the killings.
Aaron Kominski was another suspect. A Polish Jew, he was often seen walking the streets of the Whitechapel section of London. He was also known to be clinically insane. However, he did not appear violent. He was not a suspect until 1894.
Francis Tumblety was Scotland Yard's prime suspect in the case. An American born doctor, he had a history behind him. You can read much of it here. Among the reasons he was suspected were: his failed marriage to a former prostitute, his collection of human wombs, he fled from England after being detained in connection with the murders, and his "abortion" practices on prostitutes.
The Conspiracy Thickens
It is believed that Jack the Ripper was a well-educated person. His precise removal of human organs, as well as the speed in which the murders were completed would indicate someone trained in the surgical arts. The speed might also indicate that he was a field surgeon for the military before becoming a serial killer.
However, the local police at the time did not take this seriously. They professed that the murderer was not an educated man, as an educated man would do no such thing. It was said he might have been a tradesman, or perhaps a butcher. Some police even suspected the Jews of the area or other foreigners.
There are some oddities that exist that can appear to have some form of conspiracy going on.
Apparently the Ripper left a note, scrawled in chalk on a wall near the body of Catherine Eddowes. The note was remarking about the Jews of the area, and Commissioner Warren had the note washed off. He defends his actions to the home office in this letter.
The police, who were on a very high alert up until the Mary Kelly murder, were put back on normal status the very next day. No real reason is given for this. But it almost seemed like the police knew the Ripper was done, if the stories are to be believed.
And then there are some of the more far-fetched theories.
One such theory has Prince Eddy secretly seeing (or even marrying) a Catholic commoner, named Annie Cook, and them having a child, named Alice. Once the Monarchy and Parliament officials found out, they moved to silence anyone, and everyone involved.
There's a few variations on this theory, which is fairly new (first proposed in the 1970's), some have Mary Kelly as the nanny of Alice, and she with her friends, Dark Annie, Elizabeth Stride and Polly Nichols, trying to blackmail the government after a raid by government agents left Annie Cook in an insane asylum and her lover found out to be Prince Eddy. Then a zealous agent took it upon himself to silence the prostitutes, permanently. In this version, Catherine Eddowes' murder is a mistake, because she used the name Mary Kelly when she was arrested for public drunkenness earlier that evening.
Other variations have it that the other women were witnesses to Annie's wedding to "Albert", and thus were silenced once the Monarchy found out about the wedding. This particular version was the basis for the Graphic Novel entitled "From Hell" written by Alan Moore, and later adapted into the movie "From Hell" starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham.
This particular theory tends to have many holes, but it is quite popular.
Another theory is that Prince Eddy himself did the murders, but his whereabouts at the time of the murders seem to be well documented, and out of the country. It is also fairly suspect that he would even have the knowledge of human anatomy, much less the ability to quickly perform eviscerations and amputations.
The Annie Cook Theory also adds in the involvement of the Free Masons. Of course any theory indicting the Free Masons would be easy enough to substantiate on the fact that the Masons are very secretive of their inner workings, and would simply deny any interviews and requests to view their documents. Thus their refusal to answer questions would be as damning as holding the knife to some people. Some claim that the position of Dark Annie's and Catherine Eddowes' bodies were in ritualistic Masonic poses. As to the truth of these implications? I'm not a Mason, so I can't say either way. However, it should be noted that Free Masons do tend to be some of the largest contributors to charitable institutions all over the world. Their secretive ways are more than likely the way of keeping the group an "old boys club".
Other theories point toward multiple Rippers, all helping each other. Some claim these are government agents, and this theory normally only arises in conjunction with the Annie Cook theory.
There's even a theory that proclaims that Lewis Carroll was the madman himself!
There are at least 21 suspects in this case, either by wildly imagined references--such as those supposedly found in anagrams of Carroll's works; to those that seem more plausible--like Druitt or Tumblety.
All in all, this case will likely never be solved, unless someone can actually go back in time and videotape the actual Ripper in action. About the only facts we know is that he butchered at least 5 women (some say more) in a span of four months. He appears to have had quite a good working knowledge of human anatomy, especially female human anatomy. He was fast, and efficient--doing his murders in plain view, and not getting caught. And he probably hated women, or at least prostitutes, due to the fact that his killings seemed to be methodical punishments toward them, instead of just killings.
Casebook.org A comprehensive directory of all things related to Jack the Ripper, as well as unsensationalized views of the theories.
Crimelibrary.com This particular section dealing with Jack the Ripper.
World Wide Serial Killer's Homepage with quick facts about the case.