Serial killers fascinate me. My current work in progress has a serial killer, which called for a lot of research. Not long ago, I found myself sitting up half the night, reading online about Jack the Ripper. Of course, this led to more reading, comparing him to other serial killers in history. What we call serial killing is not a new phenomenon; it is as old as humanity. The Ripper wasn’t the first serial killer; before him, the world had known the likes of Countess Elizabeth Bathory and Delphine LaLaurie. He wasn’t the most prolific; either of the aforementioned women killed more than he.
The Ripper mystique lies in the fact that he was never caught. Had he been, his name would have just been another footnote in history, known mostly to the English, and people like me. He would have been added to a list that includes Bundy, Fish and Holmes, and the names of the women he murdered largely forgotten except by those closely connected to the events. Instead, his victims have gained immortality.
The women he killed were considered by most to be the dregs of society. If they had died naturally, it would not have been noticed, save by a few friends and relatives. The terrible way they died secured them a place in history. Any book, film, TV show, or Google search connected to the Ripper murders will put names to their faces. While the same is true of any victim of the more modern killers, the mystery is missing from their stories. This alone assures the Ripper victims their place in our collective memories.
In the mind’s eye, I can see these women where they lived and died, on the dirty streets of London’s East End. Behind them, cloaked in shadows, is the killer, perhaps the gleam of his eyes and blade showing faintly in the light of the gas lamps. Their faces are plainly visible for all to see, while his is lost in the darkness. Forever.