14th September 1888, Friday
Since the murder of Annie Chapman on 8th September of the same year I am writing this entry, the East End, and Whitechapel, in particular, hides under a sheer veil that fogs the place with confusion and doubt. Residents are cautious, as though this side of London is hanging by tattered string, gently swinging back and forth in the slight breeze that chills us to the bone.
Though the streets remain dimly lit, with the soft, almost warming glow of the gas lampposts, the unsuspecting presence of a serial killer is concealed in the shadows. Known by rumour as Jack the Ripper, even modern houses, with all their trimmings, seem to shudder when night falls.
The rich reside in their warm homes, with flickering fireplaces and hearty laughs seeping through the closed shutters, symbolising the divide between those who live in comfort and those who are forced onto the harsh streets.
The poor grasp each other for heat, looking to the moonlight for any sign of hope.
Despite this detachment, the wealthy and the poverty-stricken are united by the merciless killings of the murderer that stalks our streets. Not by victim pattern though, but by sick humour and facades that will eventually whittle away in the bloody winds of winter.
The brutality that the killer is so famous for, in both whisper and tabloid, brings about a sense of distance within the families that have suffered the most, at the loss of a relative or close friend.
And here I am, on the day of Annie Chapman’s funeral. I believe, at least, there is a certain art to the role I play in allowing the deceased to rest in eternal peace; social detachment is key to avoiding becoming emotionally attached to those that are lost in a second. It is lonely, no doubt, but would you be willing to sacrifice the ones you love for the sake of one more day without tear-stained cheeks?
Clutching at throats, with so many words left unsaid, the relatives of Annie Chapman gathered to say their stifled goodbyes and pay their respects. And I, as I watched in the distance before departing to resume my place as an undertaker and skilled carpenter, felt my lips rise a little at the corners, half hoping a relative would turn around. Of course, they didn’t, they wouldn’t, and so I disappeared into the distance, as always, ready to relive the tearful experience for another day…
If you’d like to find out more about the effect the Ripper had on society, and his brutal killings, join us on one of our Jack the Ripper walking tours!