Last night I was surfing The Huffington Post and came across a story about an Australian scientist who performed DNA testing on one of the Ripper letters. For those who don’t know, several letters were sent to police during the time of the murders. Most are believed to be fakes, but a few are considered to be authentic. Scientists using technology that’s way above my head took swabs from the back of the stamps and the seal of the envelope to process for DNA. There’s a lot more to the science, but you get the point. Reports were inconclusive, but enough of a profile was constructed for the scientist to claim the Ripper could have been a woman.
Seriously?! Don’t get me wrong – there have been more female serial killers than people realize. Countess Elizabeth Batheroy murdered hundreds of peasant women in the Middle Ages in order to drink their blood and remain young. Some go so far as to suggest she may have been the real inspiration for Dracula instead of Vlad the Impaler. There’s also Amelia Dyer, a.k.a The Baby Butcher, who murdered several infants while “baby farming,” a practice in turn-of-the-century England for illegitimate and poor mothers. Aileen Wuornos is another notorious female serial killer, and many more paved the way before her.
Still, it’s just hard to imagine a woman could be responsible for something as heinous as the Ripper murders. At least five proven victims in Whitechapel (and likely more) were mutilated by the Ripper, their throats and genitalia slashed open. Could a woman really have done such a thing?
I have to admit, it’s possible. There’s all types of crazy in this world, and for all our modern advances, people weren’t that different during Jack’s time. I could see a religious woman with a crazy gene seeking to rid the streets of London from the filthy prostitutes.
Makes for a good story, doesn’t it?
According to history, the detective who ran the investigation thought it was possible the Ripper could be a woman because Mary Kelly was seen hours after her death, with the Ripper wearing her clothes. The only female suspect had a similar M.O. to the Ripper, so it’s impossible to rule out the option, especially with the new DNA evidence.
If this is true, no wonder the case has never been solved. The police were looking in the wrong place! Investigators leaned heavily toward the male suspects, and many believed the Ripper had some sort of surgical training or was a skilled butcher. Those theories have never been proven and are still argued to this day.
Jack the Ripper wasn’t the world’s first serial killer by any means, but he was the first to garner worldwide media attention. Reporters went crazy with their theories, and the investigation was tainted by their interference. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Now imagine if the Ripper had been a woman and the media frenzy that would have created.
‘Sweet, Victorian housewife slaughters prostitutes while her babies sleep.’
The press would have loved her!
We’ll probably never know the truth. Then again, genetic profiling and the science of DNA advances at the rate rabbits reproduce, so who knows what we’ll learn about the Ripper in a few years. Maybe the geniuses will come up with some trick to get a full profile from what little biological stuff is left.
I doubt it. Jack the Ripper will continue to live in infamy, the stuff of legend and folklore. Tourists will flock to Whitechapel to follow the trail of the murders, butterflies in their stomachs as they walk the streets. They’ll listen to the tour guides tell the story, all the while thinking what a hideous man the Ripper was.
But who knows? Perhaps Jack was a Jane, after all.