“Have you seen the Devil..”

The publicity surrounding the ‘Dear Boss’ letter, ‘Saucy Jacky’ postcard and the letter ‘From Hell’ kept interest in the case going throughout the month of October 1888 when the Ripper, it seemed, was going through a brief hiatus. One other communication, received in this period, is worth mentioning, one that was received by Dr Thomas Openshaw at the London Hospital on 29 October:

“Old boss you was rite it was the left kidny i was goin to hopperate agin close to you ospitle just as i was going to dror mi nife along of er bloomin throte them cusses of coppers spoilt the game but i guess i wil be on the job soon and will send you another bit of innerds

Jack the Ripper

O have you seen the devle with his mikerscope and scalpul a-lookin at a kidney with a slide cocked up.”

Obviously it refers to the kidney received by George Lusk less than two weeks previously and the handwriting, though not identical, has drawn comparisons with that found on the ‘From Hell’ letter. Also notable is the apparent illiteracy of the author, who strangely spelt ‘hospital’ correctly on the envelope, but not in the letter itself, suggesting the apparent uneducated manner was forced.

The letter received modest coverage in the press at the time, perhaps due to the sheer number of bogus communications that were being received during this period of great excitement. Author Donald Rumbelow had it in his possession for many years before giving it to the National Archives in 2001, after which it was used in Patricia Cornwell’s investigation into artist Walter Sickert’s candidacy as the Ripper. Apparently, she noticed how letters by Sickert were written on identical paper stock to this and furthermore organised DNA testing of material extracted from the back of the stamp on the original envelope. Her conclusion? Cornwell claimed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the stamp on the envelope was the same as that found on other Sickert letters. Although it has been said that such material is not a definitive test of identity, experts state that the mitochondrial DNA sequence could, statistically, be from one of over 400,000 individuals.

The letter to Dr Openshaw was perhaps the last outstanding letter received during the period of the Whitechapel murders, as by this time there were so many of them. Many of these bogus letters mimicked the wording of the more notorious ‘Dear Boss’, featuring many similar terms and phrases, and many made gruesome threats, such as a ‘triple event’, sending off more organs, or the promise of venturing further afield. Before we leave the subject of Ripper letters, it is worth noting that there is nothing in any of them which suggested genuine authorship by the killer now known as Jack the Ripper, yet the importance of such communications for giving us the famous ‘trade name’ and the effect on the general public at large, has been strongly interwoven into the Ripper legend.

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The Jack the Ripper Casebook