The Naked City Sep 30 2009
FROM HELL
Jack the Ripper’s double dip and letter from the inferno.


One hundred twenty-one years ago today, residents of London began to understand that a serial killer was stalking the dark streets of Whitechapel and London. Jack the Ripper had killed before—he had murdered Mary Ann Nichols in late August, and Annie Chapman the second week of September. But when two more women died in the same night Londoners flew into a panic. A malevolent entity had beset their city and suddenly it was clear his thirst would not easily be slaked. The two murders were called “The Double Event.” While some historians feel they were unconnected, Ripper orthodoxy holds that the second murder occurred because the first was unconsummated. Which is to say, the Ripper was robbed of a chance to inflict his signature mutilation on the first victim because he was interrupted by a passerby, so he immediately went out and found a second victim to kill in the intricate method his compulsion demanded.
 

The first victim, Elizabeth Stride, was found at 1:00 a.m. in Dutfield’s Yard, in Whitechapel. The yard was a gated area ringed by several businesses and a few residences. Imagine a small parking lot. The gates were kept closed at night, but not locked. This made it easy for residents to access the yard, and for policemen on their nightly beats to inspect it, but it was also unlit. A Pall Mall Gazette article from 1890 described the site: “When you push open the gate it is as dark as Erebus; when the gate is pushed back there is an effectual screen from any prying passer by.” When Stride’s body was discovered blood was still flowing from her slashed throat. She had been slain minutes—or seconds—earlier, and the man who had stumbled over her body later told police that, though he could see nothing because the yard was pitch black, he believed the killer was still there.

Less than an hour later Jack the Ripper found the privacy he sought—and another victim. Catherine Eddowes had spent the night of September 29 in the drunk tank at Bishopgate police station. The cops let her go just about the time Elizabeth Stride was being murdered not far away in Whitechapel. At 1:35 a.m. Eddowes was seen by three witnesses having a conversation with an unidentified male. Her body was found at 1:45, so police of the time and historians of today agree she was talking with the Ripper. In those ten minutes he walked with Eddowes to secluded Mitre Square, just inside the London city limits, then killed her, mutilated her, and removed her kidney. The kidney—or part of it—resurfaced along with a letter addressed to George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The letter bore a header “From Hell,” and the text boasted of how nice the missing piece of kidney tasted fried. The letter was signed: “Catch me when you can.” But neither Lusk nor anyone else managed it. And the killings continued.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 17
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
October 16
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
October 15
1945—Laval Executed
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
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