On 16 October 1888, George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee in London, received a parcel in the mail, postmarked the previous day. The letter was addressed "From Hell," and coldly informed Lusk that its writer had extracted a kidney from a female victim, preserved it — and ate half. It then suggested the author might later send along the knife used to butcher the poor woman.
Accompanying the letter was half a human kidney.
In Whitechapel, in London, and around the world, Jack the Ripper hysteria was well underway. Lusk, believing the letter to be a hoax, initially failed to report it to police, though he would eventually. As it turned out, one of Jack's victims, Catherine Eddowes, did in fact have her kidneys cut out.
The murders of five Whitechapel prostitutes — Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly — spanned just over two months in 1888, then stopped as suddenly as they began. Jack the Ripper, a name bestowed upon the killer by the press, was never caught. Investigation into the Ripper's identity has fingered dozens of suspects, some more likely than others. Even the "From Hell" letter itself, and the small number of other writings from the killer believed to be genuine, among many hundreds of frauds, have been brought into question.
Yet Jack the Ripper's legend grows with each passing year. He may have given birth to the concept of the 20th century killer, with the butcher of women becoming the prototype for serial killers throughout decades to come. Who could have been behind these gruesome acts? Read on for some of the more interesting theories.
10. Prince Albert
Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria, is one of the many names floated as the real identity of Jack the Ripper.
2001's From Hell (and the graphic novel on which it was based) fingered the Queen's physician, Sir William Gull, as the serial killer — his heinous killings a revenge, of sorts, for Prince Albert slowly dying of syphilis. That theory and others like it stemmed from a series of newspaper articles between April and May, 1895 in US newspapers claiming a London doctor had suggested the killer was a "medical man of high standing." The doctor in question, Dr. Benjamin Howard (an American who had practised in London), later issued a denial.
There's another argument regarding Prince Albert, however: the heir to the throne himself was the killer.
This theory also involves Gull. In the 1970s, Dr. Thomas Stowell published an article in UK crime magazine The Criminologist, stating that he had been a colleague of Gull's son-in-law. He also had access to Gull's personal papers. According to that piece, one of Gull's patients, identified only as "S," was the real Jack the Ripper. "S" was described as "the heir to power and wealth. His grandmother, who outlived him, was very much the stern Victorian matriarch."
Could the Prince truly have been Jack the Ripper? There were several clues pointing to him.