Jack the Ripper: Russian Cult Initiate?

DATED: 14.02.17

In amongst the many usual Jack the Ripper suspects, there are also plenty of pretty bizarre theories and potential suspects floating about. One of these is the slightly obscure theory of Jack the Ripper being a secret agent – yes, you did read that right!

According to this line of thought, the Ripper could have been a Russian secret agent and cult leader called Nicolai Vasiliev. Although this idea is now largely dismissed as being untrue, it is still interesting to learn about another of the very many potential Jack the Ripper suspects. After all, the crimes are still unsolved all these years after the original murders, and it’s looking like we are never going to find out just who Jack the Ripper really was!

Jack the Ripper Suspects

Vasiliev was born in Ukraine in 1847. As a young man, he joined the Skoptsy (known as the Shorn in British newspapers) which was one of the many fanatical sects or cults leading away from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Shorn outlined that all sexual relations (including marriage) were impure and so, therefore, banned them. However, soon the Russian Orthodox Church began attempting to suppress the Shorn, resulting in Vasiliev fleeing to Paris.

According to the theory, while in Paris, Vasiliev spent his days studying religious texts and his nights out on the street trying to get prostitutes to repent and join the Shorn. Then, in 1872, he fell in love with one of these prostitutes, a young girl named Madeline. He tried to reform her by securing her lodgings and a respectable job. However, after a few weeks, she ran away.

Vasiliev spent his time searching for Madeline, eventually finding her on the street again. Her rejection of him seems to have caused Vasiliev to have some kind of mental breakdown, as when he found her, he ended up stabbing her in the back and killing her.

Ripper Similarities

This sparked a killing spree similar to that of our own Ripper’s murders, resulting in the murders of four other prostitutes within two weeks. Like Madeline, all were stabbed in the back. Vasiliev was arrested after an intended victim cried out for help and was overheard.

He was proclaimed as insane and admitted to an asylum, eventually being ‘cured’ and released in 1888. It was at this point that he declared his intentions to move to London, hence sparking the comparison between the Paris murders and the Ripper killings.

But could Vasiliev have been our man?

There are undeniable similarities between the two strings of killings, yet there is one major thorn in the side of this theory… there is no solid proof that Vasiliev ever actually existed. Despite extensive searching, there are no police records of Vasiliev’s murders or his admittance to the asylum. Even more intriguingly, no firm evidence suggests these murders actually happened, despite reports of the crimes from European newspapers at the time.

Has the mystery of Nicolai Vasiliev got you intrigued? Book yourself onto one of our Jack the Ripper tours today to learn all about some of the other major Jack the Ripper suspects.


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The Jack the Ripper Casebook