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Old June 8th, 2015, 04:53 PM   #21
Gabriel Withington
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Thank you all for your responses. I've found the second page to be far more helpful and informative than the first and I will do my best to keep any further angst contained. I will look into the specific points more closely but I wanted to address a few quickly.

First off with regards to the idea of JTR being upper class, I think there has been some misunderstanding as to what I meant. First off, I am currently in agreement that he was not. Secondly "common" is being taken to mean "frequently held amongst experts", however I was referring more to popular conception. It's something I've heard on numerous occasions and, for a variety of reasons, it seems plausible on the face of it. For me, I raised it more as a point of reference. I find it highly improbable that the killer could have been both a member of the aristocracy / nobility and a doctor and based on the evidence, there seems to be more support for surgical training than social standing. Although, I do think that it is interesting and perhaps of note that Doyle comes as close to fitting both criteria as anyone else I'm aware of. And even though many have dismissed him, to me this seems to make him a candidate worth leaving as potential unless it can be definitively disproven.

And while I'm not familiar with the sex trade of the time or location, if a man could disguise themselves as a midwife to go on a killing spree then it is certainly possible that an elite could disguise themselves as lower class for a little hanky panky. I believe the slang for such a thing would be "slumming it". The recent hack on Adult Friend Finder revealed that many of our current cultural elites have been trolling the internet for sex which is something that doesn't get discussed often. Part of the problem with activities which are culturally disapproved of is that it's very difficult to detect them. Perhaps the upper class of Victorian England avoided engaging in anonymous, transactional sex with the lower class in ways that are a little surprising based on general human behavior but I feel like because of the very nature of these things it's challenging to rule out as a possibility entirely. Then there is the point that several of the victims were described as being with well dressed men prior to their demise, so perhaps such things did happen.

Perhaps I am missing much of the context but to me, the location of the murders indicates only that the killer was smart enough not to kill elsewhere. Even if the killer did stand out to the locals, my impression is that they would not be inclined to speak with the police and the police wouldn't be inclined to listen. This is precisely what I mean by a vulnerable population and targeting neighborhoods and victims that aren't likely to point back to them are a feature of the more "successful" serial killers in history. While much is made about a victim type, this is a feature of the phenomenon which I think bears careful consideration. A mix of opportunity and carefully excluding potential victims that are likely to get them caught is a hallmark of serial killers whose names we know and when the balance shifts more towards opportunity are when they are usually caught. For this reason alone, it seems to me that it is very unlikely that someone who lived within the area where the killings took place was the perpetrator. Perhaps I am wrong but for a variety of reasons the features of this case just don't seem to support the theory that the killer was from the immediate vicinity.

Also, much is being made of what we know about Doyle with little acknowledgement of what we don't know. While he was in Southsea during a period when the killings were taking place, he was also more than just a doctor at that time. It seems completely plausible that he could have made a trip back to London to meet with his publisher, murdered someone and then returned home again. The timing of the murders does fit well with the possibility of a once and future Londoner visiting the city for a long weekend. Also, at a time when there was significant public attention to the matter and suspects were being rounded up in droves, this seems like a very rational choice for a killer. Being a doctor, he easily could have been rounded up for questioning but by moving out of the city he effectively removed himself from the suspect pool - both then and later.

But in addition to being a writer and a doctor, he was also a Freemason, a metaphysicist and eventually knighted. I feel like this strongly qualifies him for the label of polymath. And if we are going to seriously consider him as a candidate (which I think is appropriate before dismissing him) it seems worth including this context. The fact that JTR has managed to elude positive identification for so long in and of itself demands considering an unusual level of mental ability and for this, Doyle seems to qualify solidly. And with that context, it also seems worth considering the possibility that the case is intentionally confusing because the killer was actively disguising both his identity and motives.

In this thread it has been suggested that there is no evidence that, essentially, Doyle displayed any proclivities towards violence or unusual behavior. And on this I feel compelled to disagree. The character of Sherlock Holmes is a rather unusual one and while the focus tends to be on his prowess as a detective, there is quite a bit more to it. Opiate addiction, an inability to maintain social relationships, a skewed morality which required Watson's oversight and guidance and a deeply secret nature including a strong alliance with the underground community of street people all make appearances in the stories. It could be argued that these were all purely fictionalized features, however they all work well enough to suggest that Doyle probably had real world experience with such things, or at least an indirect familiarity with them.

And while I don't want to get too far ahead of myself while discussing whether or not he's even a possible candidate, there do seem to be two points worth raising about Doyle's unique mental abilities. The first has to do with the ubermensch concept and how this has led, in other situations, to brilliant minds being groomed to kill. For reasons I won't get into at the moment, this seems like a very real possibility with regards to Doyle and I think is worth considering even if he wasn't the actual killer because it could still hold true. This would put JTR into a very different context than the vast majority of serial killers in ways which I feel make at least considering the events from a different perspective worthwhile. And the second is how those who study the criminal mind intently not infrequently develop a certain sympathy to them and tend to begin mimicking otherwise unlikely patterns of thinking. The character of Sherlock Holmes displayed significant elements of an immersive approach to investigating crimes and I would be surprised if Doyle didn't have similar tendencies.

I also find it difficult to imagine that Doyle would simply stop considering the JTR case after a single postulation which seems to miss the mark so widely. There just seems to be no reason for this, particularly with his affinity for analyzing criminal behavior in both fiction and real life. That we could continue to be fascinated by this case a dozen decades later and that he would display a lack of intellectual curiousity on the matter which so captivated his contemporaries seems rather startling on the face of it.

And more generally, from my perspective it seems worth maintaining two distinct criteria for these sorts of exercises. There's the bar of definitive which is quite challenging for a case like this. Then there's the bar for plausible. I'm discovering that it is quite easy to find experts who disagree with just about any suspect which means that if the killer is in fact identifiable at this point, they have almost certainly been dismissed or simply overlooked by many if not most. With this in mind, I would rather err on the side of considering someone who is not the killer rather than rule someone out who may well be. Even if I am dead wrong, to paraphrase Edison - I'm working on it.

So if anyone would like to help provide better context for me by either arguing how a different candidate meets my criteria better than Doyle (with some detail, please) or for how the overall structure of my approach could be improved, I would be appreciative. However, I'm finding the approach of dismissing my enter thought process with a quick "you are wrong because of 'x'" to be frustrating and generally unhelpful.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 07:32 PM   #22
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Hi Gabriel: Since Jack was never caught or convicted he could have been anyone. He could have been Doyle, Lewis Carroll, Van Gogh, or he could have been Walter Sickert the painter. Patricia Cornwell spent a great deal of her own money "proving" the latter and while she exposed some fascinating things she also made some mistakes.

I am in the camp that believes Jack was a local fellow who blended in before and after the murders. I personally do not believe he had surgical skills, but I think he may have had experience cutting up meat. I think William Henry Bury is a most interesting possibility but in the end his guilt as Jack cannot at this time be proven. There are a lot of reasons why Bury is a good candidate and there is a fantastic article in Ripperologist from awhile back.

The deeper we get into the subject, the more we know we don't know. How many women did Jack kill? Where did the idea of the canonical 5 (Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly) start? Jonathan Hainsworth has a fascinating new book that will come out soon that may shed additional light here.

In 'Bank Holiday Murders' Tom Wescott has an interesting chapter discussing the possible origin of the midwife theory; The Butler Theory, page 173. It may be sort of an urban legend thing from Whitechapel.

I believe Jack was fulfilling his very private selfish needs, as do serial killers today. To the best of my knowledge profiler Robert Ressler coined the term serial killer. Going back centuries, it has been suggested that the ideas about werewolves and vampires might have been primitive ways to explain serial killers.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 08:43 PM   #23
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Hi Gabriel,
I'm not suggesting that no upper-class men ever went to the East End for a bit of 'hanky- panky', simply that it would be very difficult for a man like that to blend in and inveigle women like the Ripper victims into dark and lonely spots without being spotted by others. Doyle was a very tall, very well-built young man and no man of such a description was ever seen with any of the Ripper victims.

Secondly, no-one is arguing that Doyle wasn't intelligent or that he didn't have other great interests throughout life. It is simply that you seem to be confusing Sherlock Holmes the creation with its author. Doyle once wrote a very witty little piece of doggerel to a correspondent in another context (about other fictional detectives) which sums it up perfectly, I think.

'He the created, would scoff and would sneer.
Where I, the creator, would bow and revere.
So please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle,
The doll and its maker are never identical.'


Agatha Christie wrote about murder in dozens of books and created the immortal and omnipotent Poirot. Yet she, who mapped out murder puzzles of great complexity for her characters to solve, never, I am certain, wrote out any plan to kill anyone in real life.

I suggest that you read Doyle's 'Memories and Adventures', published in 1924. It's published free as an e-book through Project Gutenburg on-line. It conveys the spirit and character of the man through and through, and I believe he briefly writes about the Jack the Ripper murders and the midwife theory in that.

As another poster commented, Doyle always stood very much on the side of the underdog and when he felt an injustice had been done to anyone he was implacable, as in the Oscar Slater case.

He was regarded by friends, family and acquaintances throughout his life as an extremely honest and upright individual with old fashioned views where women were concerned. He once slapped his young son because the boy stated that a woman he'd seen on the street was 'ugly'.

I cannot think of another individual put up as a suspect for the Ripper who would be more unlikely, quite frankly, unless we count Lewis Carroll.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 09:38 PM   #24
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Why do you think the police wouldn't listen to slum dwellers or that these inhabitants wouldn't talk to the police? The police on the beat were themselves mostly drawn from the working class. It would be like talking to like.

The inhabitants of Whitechapel/Spitalfields were terrified of the Ripper and, at the height of the terror and spurred on by thoughts of the monetary reward offered, there were thousands of amateur sleuths around on the streets looking for clues to Jack.

Locals seem to have been extremely anxious that this fiend be found. When there was a huge organised search made of dwellings and lodging houses in Whitechapel and Spitalfields in mid-October 1888 the police were extremely pleased and happy that the week-long operation had gone so well.

Dr Anderson wrote in a memo 'the public generally and especially the inhabitants of the East End have shown a marked desire to assist in every way, even at some sacrifice to themselves, as for example, in permitting their houses to be searched.' (These searches were detailed, under beds, inside of cupboards, etc.)

Of course there was some resentment and no doubt some refusal of entry, but in general the Press agreed. 'The greatest good feeling prevails towards the police, and noticeably, in the most squalid dwellings the police had no difficulty in getting information.'

Sugden, Page 292.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 09:47 PM   #25
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Curryong,

I understand your appreciation for Doyle and do think that there is much about him that is worth revering. However, I feel like you are putting him on a pedestal in ways that don't even allow you to consider the idea. How many murderers have been outed only to have the neighbors go "oh, he was such a quiet, nice man and I'm completely shocked he would do such a thing"? The expectation that the hallmarks of a killer should be plainly visible in any context is something which simply doesn't hold water. If it did, then surely we would know the identity of JTR because somebody must have known them.

Also, much is being made about eye witness accounts and the fact that none of the victims were ever seen with someone who matched Doyle's description doesn't seem to hold any significance. Not only are eye witnesses notoriously unreliable but to expect someone who took such pains to conceal their identity, it shouldn't be particularly surprising that there wouldn't be a sore thumb standing out for so long. It also seems worth noting that the London police not only have the advantage of eyewitness accounts but a significant battery of surveillance cameras throughout the city and yet my impression is that not only do some crimes need considerable investigation but there rate for solving them is still below 100%.

I'm not sure how it is that you see me confusing the author and his character either. However, if I am it hardly seems that I am the only one. It is widely accepted that Sherlock Holmes is based on a mentor of Doyle's from Edinburgh named Joseph Bell. At the same time, Bell wrote to Doyle saying "You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it". If the inspiration for the character who knew Doyle well couldn't tell the difference, then how are we supposed to?

And I may give the book you referenced a read. I find it particularly interesting that he was continuing to defend the midwife theory so long after the killings. Perhaps he makes an incredibly compelling argument that nobody seems to be aware of but to my mind, something like that probably would have been best to just let go. However, I find a memoir as being a fairly dubious thing to base a character reference on for something like this. Not only do people tend to struggle to see their own faults but when it comes to memoirs, they tend to go out of their way to hide them.

But if he were more than just an author and also a killer, it stands to reason that he had great skills in hiding his darker side. While some serial killers seem unable to fit into society, others are highly charismatic and veritable chameleons. And considering the great breadth of his knowledge and activities, the idea that he was skilled at compartmentalizing his thinking on subjects is highly likely. Which is something he talks about in various ways within the Sherlock stories, with mental skills like his "mind palace" which is based on a very real discipline, while those stories hold little about either Freemasonry or metaphysics. The idea that we could look in any one place and see the entirety of who Doyle was seems to be plainly mistaken.

While I've been attempting to avoid moralizing or vilifying, in part specifically because of who I am accusing, it does seem worth stopping to ponder the implications. Is it possible that as a young man Arthur Conan Doyle was able to commit a series of horrific murders, then stop and become a great humanitarian and beloved author who would hit his children for disrespecting women? And hypothetically, of course that's possible. The challenge with this and any other candidate is sifting through a huge mass of information both from the case and the suspect's life to determine what is probable and what is impossible. However, accepting the possibility requires maintaining an open mind on the subject throughout the inquiry. If it is Doyle, Carroll or Queen Victoria, being able to see that will require allowing our perceptions of that person to shift dramatically. If we are unwilling to do that, then it stands to reason that the only candidates that will seem plausible are those that we know next to nothing about.

And with regards to Agatha Christie, I'm not sure if you've picked a very good straw man for your argument. While Christie may not have displayed homicidal tendencies, it hardly seems fair to say that her thinking from her writing failed to spill over into her own life. There is a fairly famous incident involving her disappearance at a time and in a manner which is strongly indicative of an attempt to frame either her husband or his lover of her murder. She never produced a satisfactory explanation for the events and more sympathetic opinions write it off as a fugue state, however even if that were the case it would suggest that she had a mental break where she fell into thinking like a criminal mastermind from her writing. But the mainstream opinion is that she was in fact in command of her faculties and was in fact attempting to frame someone for a crime which is criminal behavior in and of itself. We don't need to go through all the crimes committed by crime writers but it would seem that they aren't that difficult to find.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 10:49 PM   #26
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Why do you think the police wouldn't listen to slum dwellers or that these inhabitants wouldn't talk to the police? The police on the beat were themselves mostly drawn from the working class. It would be like talking to like.
I think this because this is a typical response to the police by the most destitute of society throughout the history of police. Going door to door looking under people's beds is hardly listening to people and hardly the way to garner cooperation or make people feel respected.

You also seem to be forgetting that even with the advantage of a century of experience dealing with panic inducing crime sprees, modern police still fail miserably at this. The DC Snipers tried reaching out to police tip lines multiple times and were ignored because of the sheer volume of tips. Without the aid of computers and digital communication or any precedent for the scale of the investigation, they were simply unable to collate the tips they did collect and it doesn't take long for further interviews to seem pointless. I'm not saying that they couldn't have solved the case but unless I'm very mistaken, they did not and this almost certainly played a factor.

Even today, we struggle to see our way clearly through all of the evidence and opinions from that time which persist and it seems quite likely that a considerable amount has been lost. Also, if the police were concealing the identity of the killer out of corruption, cooperation or sheer embarrassment, it is quite possible that key pieces of evidence where intentionally removed. I suspect this is actually the case and the disappearance of the letters believed to be from the killer seem to support this. So even if the police did have an accurate description of the real killer, we shouldn't rule out the possibility that we do not.

And the response to the killings from the community seem to refute your assertion that the people who lived in those neighborhoods trusted the police to solve the case. Extra-police groups patrolling the streets and amateur gum shoes investigating both suggest that there was little faith in the part of the people that the police could solve the case. If it was simply a matter of the police asking the right person the right question then, yes, perhaps there would be no problem gaining cooperation. But you are assuming that anyone who saw something relevant was either questioned by the police or else sought them out and were listened to. Particularly with how wide a net the police threw with rounding up suspects, it seems quite likely that there was a fair amount of resentment towards how the case was handled.

As to your newspaper quote, I'm afraid that you may have stumbled on to one of those instances commonly referred to as propaganda. It is not unusual for newspapers to gloss over the opinions of the lower class particularly when it conflicts with the agenda of law enforcement during a crime spree induced panic.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 10:54 PM   #27
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I don't in fact set Conan Doyle up on a pedestal. Although I enjoyed the Holmes stories when I read them I haven't done so for years. I haven't thought about Doyle for decades either. (By the way, I believe Bell was gracefully returning Doyle's compliment that he was the origin for Holmes, that's all.)

I do not believe that Doyle was obsessive about Jack at all, or he would have written a book featuring Holmes vs the Ripper. He just mentions these killings in a little anecdote in his memoirs, I believe. You have to remember that by the 1920's Doyle's interests had changed largely to spiritualist matters and there were many sensational cases that had occupied the public's mind since the 18880's, Crippen, Seddon, Thompson-Bywaters, Armstrong etc.

With the JTR case a suspect's character is important as is their lifestyle before, during and in the years after 1888 (when it is known, which is not the case with several of the working class suspects). Doyle's life as a husband, father, public-spirited citizen during the course of a long life is therefore of importance.

At a time when most male slum dwellers were 5ft 6ins to 5ft 8ins a man standing over six feet high would inevitably have been noticed. I'm well aware of the disadvantages police suffered in gathering information in a pre-computer age. However, there is as much evidence of people writing to the police with suggestions and speaking to police on the beat about various suspicious males as there is for your contention that this was an alienated community. Whitechapel/Spitalfields was a very mixed area encompassing everyone from doctors and solicitors, petty bourgeoisie like small shopkeepers and skilled artisans to market porters and street traders to common lodging house dwellers who were one step from starvation. They weren't all 'People of the Abyss'.

As far as Christie is concerned, it is unclear what her mental state was at the time of her disappearance. The complete breakdown of her marriage due to Archie Christie's infidelity occurred just after the death of Christie's mother, to whom she was devoted.

Having read her latest biography I feel that Agatha might well have been suffering from a nervous breakdown at the time of the disappearance and blanked much of what she did out. She may have wished Archie Christie to suffer humiliation and the suspicion of others after the great hurt he caused her.

However, she would not, IMO, have allowed him to be charged with her murder, much less stand trial. That is a very far cry from planning murder or executing it as you believe Conan Doyle may have done.

The Star (the origin of my quote) was a radical newspaper, East End based and very much pro the common people and against the privileged elite.

Various groups like the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and young men from Toynbee Hall etc were formed to assist the police as of course there was a recognition that the police could not be everywhere at once. There was nothing sinister about them and they were not anti-police.
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Old June 8th, 2015, 11:30 PM   #28
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Why did Hornung get a gig? Because of Raffles or being Doyle's brother in law?
Pretty much. That play I was a reading and watching Raffles a lot at the time
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Old June 9th, 2015, 02:46 AM   #29
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Curryong,

You are more than welcome to your own opinion, however I feel like your bias is very clear. You simply don't believe that Doyle would have committed the crimes and so you are refusing to consider it as a possibility. I am of the opinion that regardless of how much of his life exists on the surface, there is still a tremendous amount that lurks below the surface. And the idea that he must have been seen at the time of the murder, that it must have been reported to the police and that we must have documentation of it just doesn't hold water for me. I feel that it seems far more productive to focus on the evidence that we do have rather than the evidence that we don't and also to accept the possibility that just because there isn't known evidence of a certain type, we can't definitively rule out a possibility.

Similarly with Christie, you are insisting on the most favorable interpretation of the facts. I certainly wasn't implying that every person who has ever studied the criminal mind has gone on to become a serial killer. Or even commit a crime. However, if you view it as possible that Agatha Christie had a nervous breakdown and engaged in behavior which was very out of character from what you assume you know about her, why is the same not possible of Arthur Conan Doyle?
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Old June 9th, 2015, 04:59 AM   #30
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In what I said about Christie there was no insistence. I said 'may' , 'might' and 'IMO'.

There are always possibilities, but, there has to be some evidence tying Doyle to Whitechapel/Spitalfields in the autumn of 1888 or before, as well as some physical or mental traits that he would make a viable serial killer in order to have a discussion of him as a serious candidate. Otherwise we are dealing with thistle down, just blowing in the wind.

Gabriel, just take another look at the last reported sightings of Annie Chapman, Kate Eddowes, Liz Stride and Mary Kelly alive, including the males they were seen with. There are question marks around those sightings, yes, but is there anyone who was seen with these women who resembled Doyle's height and weight ? There are some interesting points about Stride's last hour especially, before she went into Dutfield's Yard.
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