The story is one that has burrowed deeply into the global sub-conscious. The eruption into sedate, dignified, and moral Victorian society of a depraved maniac who savagely mutilated that society's lowest valued members. The mystery of the unknown killer, the sexual undertones of victims who tried to survive by selling sex, and the stirring cauldron of urban unrest amid social and political tensions made the story one that gripped people on every continent with a newspaper or reached by travelers.
The familiar events are well known. The murders attributed to this still unknown serial killer were committed between 3 April 1888 to 9 November 1888. These are the "canonical five" but others suggest they should also include a murder from 13 February 1891 and one or two before 1888. Whatever the exact number the death of November 9 seemed to reach a high point of horror. After that, jack the Ripper, for all intents and purposes seems to disappear. Some have suggested he was placed in a mental institution, some that he committed suicide, and some that he left the country.
For London dwellers, the abrupt ceasing of murders after the intense Mary Kelly slaughter, appeared to herald an end to the nightmare of terror. There was a general sigh of relief. To those in England the murders appeared to stop but in Europe, well, the story tends to get a little more interesting when one sees events in Europe over the next decade.
In Vienna in the 1890's a killer struck with what was termed "Jack the Ripper" style. This was a vague and often over sensationalized description for what was often a 'run of the mill' murder. Women whose skulls were crushed by an axe blow and throats slashed by knives and razors are horrific but they did not compare with level of mutilation shown in the London murders in the White Chapel district.
Alois Szemeredy (1840-1892), "Doctor?"
There were two men arrested in Vienna in the 1890's and some sources tend to confuse the two accounts. In 1892 an Alois Szemeredy (1840-1892) was arrested in relation to a February 11, 1892 murder in Vienna. He committed suicide 1 October 1892 in Prezburg, Austria.
There is some attempt to connect this man with the London murders. It was believed he was responsible for killing a woman in South America in 1876, Caroline Metz. It is alleged he disappears and is unaccounted for in the years 1886-1890. This span of years covers the Jack the Ripper killings in London. (Port Phillip Herald (AU) 9 November 1892). The book, Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook by Richard Whittington-Egan suggests there was some suggestion this man had ben in England during the time of the Ripper deaths, that his papers into the country suggested he was an American surgeon and that later in a visit to Vienna his papers claimed him to be a "sausage maker." It is unclear if this is a confusion of the two claimed Ripper murders in Vienna or not.
Simon Schostowitz (?-?), "Pork Butcher"
This Hungarian born man was arrested in relation to the murder of a Miss Anna Spilka, 32 year old woman who was strangled and had her throat cut. This killing is called a "Ripper like" murder in the Aberdeen Weekly (AU) of January 3, 1899. The killing is thought to have occurred within days of another killing about December 28, 1898 in Vienna. An angry mob sought to lynch him but authorities enabled him to escape. (West Australian (AU) 3 Jan. 1899:5).
An article from the Naugartuck Daily News of 29 December 1898 indicates the first victim in Vienna was named Frankska Hofer and that she had been dissected by an unknown "Jack the Ripper." Of note, was that police indicated similar cases in Amsterdam and Brussels. They also offered a fascinating, but unexplained, side note that the police maintained a theory that a maniac woman was killing as she moved around Europe.
It has been suggested that the Vienna killer was a shochet. As such he may have been the victim of Anti-Semitism. This posed a very real threat in Vienna and the region in the time period before and after these killings. A person filling this role in Jewish society was specially trained to provide a ritually pure slaughter to the kosher animals that Jewish Law allowed them to eat. Pigs were never considered 'kosher.' So, unless this was a slur applied to the man, it is unlikely he served as a Jewish shochet.
"Jack" sightings were irregular notes popping up across the globe with a variety of murders all labeled sensationally as "Ripper" style killings. Few, however, appear to match the unique M.O. of the London killings. A few do pop up in some interesting places: southern Texas, New York City, California, and other locations. The news accounts are often hard to decipher; newspaper men knew that the words "gruesome", "slaughter" , "butchered", and "mutilated" were sure to sell papers and as a result many a 'run-of-the-mill' murders were labeled with those terms for that purpose. Often, to a small peaceful hamlet where the most violent act in a decade was when farmer Brown fell off his wagon and died of a broken neck, the facts of a murder in their community where truly awful and shocking. For them, in that place and time, they were truly horrific.
|Victim Mary Kelly, Nov. 1888, London|
Jack was a Woman?
Over the decades this was a theory that some presented. The argument was that only another woman could have moved so stealthy and become so invisible in White Chapel. Women were often invisible and unremarkable. It has been suggested she was a really bad abortionist who just wanted to learn more and was unconcerned about killing her 'patients' in the process. Other theories are that a society woman or middleclass merchant's wife was gifted by a philandering husband with a sexually transmitted disease and went on a rampage.
Although it is known that women died during abortions (sometimes due to mangled attempts, sometimes due to bleeding caused by the process and infections caused by the environment). Sometimes, even as late as the 1930's, attempts were made to disguise the death as the work of a murderer or accident.
Victorian society was conflicted when it came to women in general. On one hand they firmly believed that women were gentile, fragile, and in constant need of protection. Woman was a little like a mentally challenged child who had to be handled with care and offered no mental challenges because she was unsuited to the struggle that would entail. At least, women of a certain rarified class were considered such delicate flowers. Lower class women were often seen as made of sturdier, and therefore more inferior, stuff. To imagine a woman slicing into a human being with the force and seeming enjoyment of the "Jack" murders was beyond belief. Yet, stories from several continents do show women from this era slaughtering entire families. One story from the U.S. shows a woman killed her husband and six children with the household axe. It is feasible that police may have been disinclined to think of a woman as the killer.
Is it likely, though, for Jack to be a woman? The terrible focusing on the genitals and muscular structure of victims such as Mary Kelly seem to suggest a - curiosity. Were these then all steps to a discovery of the female in the sick and twisted mind of the killer? A search to explain why people searched out frantic and blunt couplings in the alleys and side streets of fog shrouded White Chapel? A mad desire to explore his own sick compulsions and the act that drew him and perhaps repulsed him at the same time?