The Legacy of Jack the Ripper in the East End

I’ve always had an interest in serial killers. Seems creepy, but it’s actually a fascination a lot of people share. Drexel offered a serial killers class within the criminal justice department (which I would highly recommend) and in a class of 60+ people, we did research on why that was. We came to the consensus that the acts of serial killers are so inhumane that most of the population can’t comprehend their motives, and the confusion around this is what leads so many people to research so many of them. 

America has a lot of notorious figures: Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy. We all recognize the names and have at least some idea of who they are and all the creepy and disturbing things they did. Britain, of course, also has serial killers, cult leaders and mass murderers, but after researching the most famous serial killers in Britain, there was only one name I recognized—Jack the Ripper. 

Jack the Ripper, although most are probably aware of his reputation, was an unidentified serial killer who killed sex workers in the late 1800s. After a guided walking tour, I learned the name actually appeared for the first time in a letter that was sent to the police from someone who claimed to be the murderer himself. Whether it actually was is still unclear however.  

Jack the Ripper killed his five victims in the East End, a neighborhood that is now a center for street art in London and a hot spot for “hip” young people. The walking tour took us around the neighborhood to the approximate locations of evidence and crime scenes. Backgrounds on detectives, suspects, victims, potential leads were given. The tour guide showed us photographs of evidence, people involved, and (increasingly gruesome) post-mortem photographs of the women were shown. If you ever go on the tour, the last two photographs are not for the faint of heart. 

The tour was very interesting, but I was also very intrigued by the way his reputation showed itself throughout the neighborhood. There were plaques commemorating his victims, and more interestingly, there were commercial shops with plays on the notorious killer’s name. For example, the barber shop “Jack the Clipper” pictured here, or restaurant “Jack the Chipper.” It’s interesting to see how they played on the history of the one big serial killer in London. I’m sure the clever names are popular tourist destinations.

If anyone is interested in serial killers like I am, the tour was a great way to spend my Thursday evening. I know much more about his disservices to his community, and I’ve gotten quite familiar with the neighborhood, which is lovely!

A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:

The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.

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