From Hell letter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Jack the Ripper letters
"Dear Boss" letter
"Saucy Jacky" postcard
"From Hell" letter
Openshaw letter

The "From Hell" letter[1] (or the "Lusk letter"[2]) is a letter posted in 1888 by a person who claimed to be the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.

Postmarked on 15 October 1888, the letter was received by George Lusk, then head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, the following day.

The letter[edit]

A photographic copy of the now lost "From Hell" letter, postmarked 15 October 1888.

The text of the letter reads:[1]

The original letter, as well as the kidney that accompanied it, have subsequently been lost along with other items that were originally contained within the Ripper police files. The image shown here is from a photograph taken before the loss.

Analysis[edit]

Though hundreds of letters claiming to be from the killer were posted at the time of the Ripper murders, many researchers argue that the "From Hell" letter is one of a handful of possibly authentic writings received from the murderer.[3] Its author did not sign it with the pseudonym "Jack the Ripper", distinguishing it from the earlier Dear Boss letter, the Saucy Jacky postcard, and their imitators. The "From Hell" letter is also written at a much lower literacy level than the other two, though scholars debate whether this is deliberate, as the author observed the silent k in 'knif' and h in 'whil'.[4]

The reason this letter stands out more than any other is that it was delivered with a small box containing half of what doctors later determined was a human kidney, preserved in ethanol. One of Catherine Eddowes' kidneys had been removed by the killer. Medical opinion at the time was that the organ could have been acquired by medical students and sent with the letter as part of a hoax.[4] Lusk himself believed that this was the case and did not report the letter until he was urged to do so by friends.[5]

A forensic handwriting analyst working for the History Channel documentary series "Mysteryquest" argued that the letter was genuine, based on the characteristics of the handwriting, particularly the "invasive loop" letter "y"s. Based on linguistic clues (including the use of the particular spelling of the word "prasarved" (preserved), the examiner felt that the letter showed strong evidence that the writer was Irish or of Irish extraction, linking the letter to Ripper suspect Francis Tumblety.[6]

See also[edit]

  • From Hell, a graphic novel that takes its title from the "From Hell" letter.
  • From Hell, a film loosely based on the graphic novel.

Sources[edit]

  • Evans, Stewart; Keith Skinner (2001). Jack the Ripper: Letters From Hell. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2549-3. 
  • Sugden, Philip (2002). The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0932-4. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jack the Ripper article on the Ripper letters. Casebook.org.
  2. ^ Grove, Sophie (June 9, 2008). "You Don’t Know Jack: A new museum exhibition opens the case file on Jack the Ripper—and affords a grim look at the London of the time—a city made for murder". Newsweek. 
  3. ^ Sugden, p. 273.
  4. ^ a b Sugden, pp. 273-276.
  5. ^ Douglas, John; and Mark Olshaker (2001). The Cases That Haunt Us. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-0-7432-1239-7. 
  6. ^ Mysterquest, Season 1 Episode 8