It is regarded as the most infamous letter in the history of crime and with good reason. Known as the Dear Boss letter, it was posted to the Central news agency on the 25th September 1888 and received two days later on the 27th.
It was written in blood red ink and addressed to “The Boss” of the newspaper. The reason this letter became so infamous is that it was the first time the world learnt the nickname of the most infamous serial killer in history; Jack the Ripper
By the time the letter arrived, the Ripper had already claimed the lives of two women. Mary Ann Nichols was found murdered and disembowelled in Bucks row at 3.40am on 31st August 1888 and September 8th, the body of Annie Chapman was found in the backyard of 29 Hanbury street. Her throat had been cut and her abdomen horrifically mutilated. At the time, the killer had been known as Leather Apron, due to rumours of a shady character who was wandering the East End wearing a butcher’s apron. It was now time for the killer to be given a more suitable name.
The letter read:
“25th September 1888
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldnt you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.
Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. Ha ha.” (sic)
The letter would prove to be a journalist’s dream and would turn a series of particularly gruesome murders into a tabloid sensation. The agency, rather wisely, did not release the contents of the letter for five days after its date, allowing time to discover whether the gruesome prediction came into fruition. In the letter, the writer had threatened to cut the ear off his next victim. Interestingly enough, the next time the Ripper returned to the streets of Whitechapel, he killed two women in the same night, one of which had her ear severed.
The Dear Boss letter still remains a hotly debated topic among researchers and historians to this day, though many feel the letter is a hoax, probably written by a journalist, looking to spice up the crimes. The name Jack the Ripper guaranteed instant newspaper sales across the country. Whether the letter is genuine or not, it provided the public with a character they could now fear and talk about.
The East End of London had a monster and now that monster had a name.