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Old June 6th, 2015, 11:45 AM   #1
Gabriel Withington
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Default New candidate discussion: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Part of what seems to make the case so baffling is that the facts just don't seem to add up. Two assumptions which seem to be taken as true are that Jack the Ripper was both a noble and a doctor. Regardless of the time, I'm guessing there are precious few nobles in England who are also trained surgeons. These two pieces seem to conflict so strongly that I suspect one must be a red herring. The case for advanced surgical training can be easily made based on the nature of the crimes so if one is untrue, it is likely that JTR wasn't actually a noble.

But there is one individual who comes very close to meeting both criteria. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He was a doctor trained at the University of Edinburgh but wasn't knighted until 1902.

This may appear a bit of a stretch but an author able to write a character like Sherlock Holmes must have been at least fairly clever himself. And it would be reasonable for him to make his own guess as to the identity of the most notorious criminal of his time, which he did, as well as for it to be revealing, which I believe it is. However, it also seems to be completely inaccurate. His stated conclusion is that the killer was a midwife. A midwife wouldn't have advanced medical training, noble midwives are likely in shorter supply than noble doctors and there really isn't a lot to support the idea at all. Which is odd.

Though in order for Doyle to be a viable candidate, there has to be some explanation for what was going on which helps clarify the things we do know. But a good way to frame this seems to be in terms of what we think we know.

To me, it seems unlikely that The Ripper was an antisemite. Aside from antisemitic messages scrawled above some of the bodies there really doesn't seem to be any evidence of this. He wasn't targeting Jewish prostitutes and his biggest contention seems to have been with the police.

Which leaves the rather burning question, what the hell was he trying to do? One of the challenges that I think we face considering such a series of events is that we tend to lose sight of the fact that it was in many ways the first of its kind. I've heard it argued that there have been serial killers throughout history, at the same time many features of the Jack the Ripper killings are both original and since repeated. So it shouldn't be surprising that these killings might contain a motivation driving certain behavior and while the behavior is repeated, the motivation is unknown and therefore different than later serial killers.

In particular, Jack the Ripper's craving of recognition from the police, media and the populous seem to stand out. While the natural inclination for such a killer seems to be to hide in the shadows, Jack the Ripper did quite the opposite in all but revealing his true identity. And it does stand to reason that without both the infamy and anonymity of Jack the Ripper, it is unlikely that others would have attempted to do the same.

Not only does it stand to reason that the motivation would be unique but it also seems plausible that there is a rationality to it. While the killings show an escalation and in some was increasing disorder, if only because he managed to get away with it the killer's thinking must have had some clarity. And it seems to me that he was likely able to justify the killings in some way. If it was simply the notoriety, the killings wouldn't have been necessary and it's unlikely a prankster would carry things so far. If it was simply the killing, there would have been no reason to court the publicity. So I suspect it was something else.

And based on the evidence, the best guess I have is that The Ripper was trying to incite a class revolt. The killings targeted prostitutes, a vulnerable population from the lower class, and slurred Jews, a vulnerable population from the middle class, while insinuating the abuses originated from the upper class. The canonical five seem to suggest a noble generally and then the killings stopped, perhaps because they failed to achieve the desired result.

However, attention persisted and the police took serious notice. When the killing started up again, there seems to be strong connections between victims and obvious but imperfect suspects. These appear to be intentionally framed. It seems unlikely that Jack the Ripper was at any real risk of getting caught and the approach changed so it makes sense that the motivation could have as well. I think that the failure of the original killings to achieve the desired result and the killer's ability to get away with it emboldened him. The police took notice and while a class revolt seemed unlikely, using the police to create an air of paranoia amongst the upper class may have been a motivation.

Then the killings stop entirely and this is where things get strange. The idea that the killer was caught doesn't seem to hold any merit, as both the police and the aristocracy looked very bad institutionally and even if there was sufficient motivation to keep the secret, it seems unlikely that there was the ability to do so. It seems likely that very few people knew the true identity. It also seems unlikely that the killer simply died, particularly considering his penchant for trophies. If the end of the killings wasn't intentional, it seems likely that there would have been sufficient remaining evidence to turn up and positively identify the killer.

So I'm guessing that the killer stopped of his own accord. This seems unusual from our current understanding of serial killers but the time line of the killings suggests that Jack the Ripper did have the control to do this and was able to do this once before. And because the police closed the case, which would have been very controversial if the killings had continued, it seems likely that someone on the police force knew both the true identity and felt confident the killings had stopped. Which is particularly fascinating. Why would the killer go to the police and why would the police agree to keep the secret?

And I think this reveals the true driving motivation of the killer, to protect the common people of London. Subsequent to the killings, the London police moved to The New Scotland Yard and became a model for modern policing.

Getting back to Arthur Conan Doyle, I believe this holds another clue. While the old headquarters did open up onto Scotland Yard, it was not a name commonly used to identify the building. And Londoners of the time didn't necessarily hold the Scottish in high esteem, so it seems a rather odd choice to name the new headquarters The New Scotland Yard. Except that Doyle was a Scotsman and if he were the killer, it seems plausible that the new name was a gesture acknowledging his shift from antagonizing the police to offering to provide assistance.

Doyle was also a prolific writer but his works were first published in newspapers, which means that he was familiar with interacting with that audience and notably in fairly sensationalistic terms. This fits with The Ripper's ability to capture the attention of the media and the general public. And the format that he wrote in was serials. The term serial killer was coined to describe Jack the Ripper and while the term feels commonplace now, the origin seems worth considering.

And who better to coin the term "serial killer" than a serial writer?

But those are just my thoughts and I would love to get feedback from others who find the topic fascinating. Please feel free to raise questions, comments and challenges.
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Old June 7th, 2015, 02:24 AM   #2
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Welcome and hi, Gabriel, to this lovely forum! You'll enjoy it I'm sure.

Why is Jack the Ripper presumed to be noble? There are many suspects for this series of murders from all classes of society!

Sir Arthur was a keen follower of crime and criminals of his own time, a true crime buff like many of us here. He was often asked for his opinion on prominent cases of the past and the present and helped with several miscarriages of justice. My guess is that with JTR he was asked about it and, (knowing nothing about the paucity of female thrill killers) thought "Now who would be able to move about the streets at night, no questions asked, and could be blood-splattered?"

He came up with a female midwife because in his view that fitted both criteria, IMO. I don't think there was anything sinister about it, he just felt it could be a possibility.

Do we know that Conan Doyle was any more anti-Semitic than most others of his time and class? Where was he is the late summer and autumn of 1888? I believe he was in medical practice at Southsea at that time and newly married with a baby expected, which was born in January 1889. It would be an odd time for anyone to commence a career as a serial killer IMO.

The problem with any celebrity or upper middleclass suspect (and Conan Doyle was public school educated) in my view is that they would stick out like sore thumbs in the slums of the East End of London even if they tried to disguise their accents, mannerisms, etc. Which is why I've always thought of Jack as being an anonymous little man, a local and very much part of his surroundings. Sorry, but in spite of his medical training Conan Doyle doesn't do it for me!
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Old June 7th, 2015, 02:51 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Gabriel Withington View Post
The term serial killer was coined to describe Jack the Ripper and while the term feels commonplace now, the origin seems worth considering.

And who better to coin the term "serial killer" than a serial writer?
Who better than Doyle to coin the term 'serial killer'? How about an FBI agent in the 1970's? And at that, he wasn't specifically seeking to define Jack the Ripper.

JM
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Old June 7th, 2015, 03:50 AM   #4
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Conan Doyle was fairly comprehensively introduced as a suspect in The Strange Case of Dr Doyle: A Journey into Madness and Mayhem by Daniel Friedman and Eugene Friedman in February.
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Old June 7th, 2015, 07:32 AM   #5
Robert Linford
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I can't believe that Conan was a barbarian.
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Old June 7th, 2015, 09:09 AM   #6
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I can't believe that Conan was a barbarian.
Well, he was Scottish.
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The theory that the murderer is a lunatic is dispelled by the opinion given to the police by an expert in the treatment of lunacy patients......."If he's insane
" observed the medical authority, "he's a good deal sharper than those who are not".
Reynolds Newspaper, 4 Nov. 1888.
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Old June 7th, 2015, 09:22 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Gabriel Withington View Post

Getting back to Arthur Conan Doyle, I believe this holds another clue. While the old headquarters did open up onto Scotland Yard, it was not a name commonly used to identify the building. And Londoners of the time didn't necessarily hold the Scottish in high esteem, so it seems a rather odd choice to name the new headquarters The New Scotland Yard. Except that Doyle was a Scotsman and if he were the killer, it seems plausible that the new name was a gesture acknowledging his shift from antagonizing the police to offering to provide assistance.
The term Scotland Yard appears 30 years before Conan Doyle was born.
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Regards, Jon S.
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The theory that the murderer is a lunatic is dispelled by the opinion given to the police by an expert in the treatment of lunacy patients......."If he's insane
" observed the medical authority, "he's a good deal sharper than those who are not".
Reynolds Newspaper, 4 Nov. 1888.
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Old June 7th, 2015, 12:13 PM   #8
Gabriel Withington
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I'm failing to be particularly compelled by any of the points being raised. It would seem the same is true for my fellow posters. Perhaps we should discuss these matters in more detail.

Curryong:
Perhaps I was a little careless with the term "noble" and should have used the term "aristocrat". That being said, this is a fairly common conclusion and persists particularly since the police's response seemed to be guarding the identity of Jack the Ripper. However, I'll leave you to investigate this position particularly since at the moment I solidly disagree with it.

With regards to it being a midwife, does that seem like a serious suggestion to you? It *could* have been a midwife had the only requirement been moving through the streets blood spattered. But then, the same could be said of a Cardinal or a British soldier, particularly if they took their gloves off prior to the murder and put them on afterwards. Either of these seem more likely suggestions. Does anyone other than Doyle seriously put that possibility forward? And if this was such a hot topic on his mind, why did he not move past a single candidate based on a single criteria? None of this seems to fit with the ability of one of the greatest analytical minds to consider complex situations.

To the point of Doyle being anti-semitic, I have no evidence that he was. However, as I pointed out I don't believe Jack the Ripper was either.

And are you suggesting that it is an impossibility that Doyle managed to travel the 77 miles from Portsmouth to London during the entire summer and autumn of 1888? This hardly seems like an iron clad alibi.

As to your assertion that someone of the upper class or a celebrity could not have moved through the streets unnoticed, I believe you live in the age of Twitter and forget that the number of famous people a Londoner was able to identify is quite a bit lower than now. Then there is the question of what all those tarts were doing in that part of town anyway, if not meeting with otherwise distinguished gentleman. Plus, the small matter which you raise of Doyle not being upper class at that time and I would claim not yet a celebrity anyway.

Do you have any arguments supporting the claim that it must have been a commoner local to the area of the killings beyond that he would have been identified otherwise? And was it an area where many doctors lived at that time?

JMenges:
You seem to have completely skipped over the entire post to read the last line. And perhaps I was out of line with it. That being said, would you please cite the first usage of the term "serial killer" in the English language? There is a distinct possibility that the term could have been in wide use before the 1970s but used almost exclusively within law enforcement. It's not unusual for the police to have their own lingo for these things which doesn't necessarily make it into the paper. I don't know a significant amount about the origin of the word and from the looks of the wikipedia page on the subject, that's not uncommon.

Paul:
Thank you for bringing the book to my attention, I was previously unaware of it. Would you recommend it? Also, the blurb on Amazon makes no reference to the possibility of Doyle being the actual killer. Do you feel that they made a strong case or did the fictionalized presentation of the facts detract from the overall argument?

Wicker Man:
Thank you for the history lesson however, you fail to address the substance of what I was saying. I wasn't referring to the usage of the term "Scotland Yard" generally but specifically how the headquarters of the London police became known as the "New Scotland Yard". It could be that this simply was carry over from a nickname casually used for the first police headquarters, however that seems unlikely.

But I do believe this point merits further discussion. In the restaurant business they often use the terms "front of the house" to refer to the dining area and "back of the house" to refer to the kitchen. And from the time and location of the killings, there are the terms "upstairs" to refer to where wealthy people lived and "downstairs" to refer to where the servants lived and often worked. In this context the original "Scotland Yard" as it referred to the London police headquarters was very much a "downstairs" term.

It was not the front entrance but the rear. The actual address and front door was on Whitehall. Great Scotland Yard, the street behind the building, was full of stables and still has at least one. This was the entrance for commoners and not the sort of term I see either the police or the upper class using seriously for the location, except to tell the lower class to use the back door. Or the "public", since that was their entrance.

And "New Scotland Yard" wasn't a term which slowly grew into popularity or was simply popular at all. Rather it was the official name given to the new building.

Then there is also the fact that a large portion of one of the Jack the Ripper victims was found inside what would become New Scotland Yard while it was still under construction. The connection between NSY is considerable and even if it is purely coincidental, it should at least be considered before being dismissed.

---

While I do appreciate the feedback, it does feel like you are all a bit lost in the weeds.

If we may step back for a moment, what are your thoughts on my argument generally? Even if I have misidentified the suspects, does it seem like I've done a fair job of identifying relevant pieces of the case and arguing for the dismissal of common conclusions which don't seem to fit? And I also feel that the motivation for the crimes which I presented is one which is a significant departure from how these things are typically talked about.

Considering the cultural circumstances within which the killings took place and the positive changes for the lower class which occurred subsequent to them, does it seem plausible that the motivation of Jack the Ripper extended beyond simply a desire to kill?
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Old June 7th, 2015, 03:14 PM   #9
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Hi Gabriel,

I read your whole post, and now both of them. Twice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabriel Withington View Post
I'm failing to be particularly compelled by any of the points being raised. It would seem the same is true for my fellow posters. Perhaps we should discuss these matters in more detail.
Quote:
does it seem like I've done a fair job of identifying relevant pieces of the case and arguing for the dismissal of common conclusions which don't seem to fit?
Since you asked, fellow posters might not be compelled by your points at all. Especially when all that they indicate is that you do not yet possess even a basic understanding of the facts of the case, which is evident in statements such as this:

Quote:
Aside from antisemitic messages scrawled above some of the bodies
and this:

Quote:
In particular, Jack the Ripper's craving of recognition from the police, media and the populous seem to stand out. While the natural inclination for such a killer seems to be to hide in the shadows, Jack the Ripper did quite the opposite in all but revealing his true identity.
And a more than a few nonsensical statements like this:

Quote:
It also seems unlikely that the killer simply died, particularly considering his penchant for trophies.

Not a very good start, I'm afraid.

JM
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Old June 7th, 2015, 05:49 PM   #10
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Conan Doyle was fairly comprehensively introduced as a suspect in The Strange Case of Dr Doyle: A Journey into Madness and Mayhem by Daniel Friedman and Eugene Friedman in February.
And earlier by John Leighton in Montague Druitt: Portrait of a Contender.
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