On August 31, 1888, prostitute Mary Ann Nichols, the first victim of London serial killer “Jack the Ripper,” is found murdered and mutilated in Whitechapel’s Buck’s Row. The East End of London saw four more victims of the murderer during the next few months, but no suspect was ever found.

Jack the Ripper's First Victim, Mary Ann Nichols

Jack the Ripper’s First Victim, Mary Ann Nichols

In Victorian England, London’s East End was a teeming slum occupied by nearly a million of the city’s poorest citizens.

From a Photograph by F. Frith and Co. Westworth Street. Whitechapel of London

From a Photograph by F. Frith and Co.
Westworth Street. Whitechapel of London

Many women were forced to resort to prostitution, and in 1888 there were estimated to be more than 1,000 prostitutes in Whitechapel.

White Chapel Prostitutes

White Chapel Prostitutes

That summer, a serial killer began targeting these downtrodden women. On September 8, the killer claimed his second victim, Annie Chapman, and on September 30 two more prostitutes–Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes–were murdered and carved up on the same night.

Ripper's second victim, Annie Chapman

Ripper’s second victim, Annie Chapman

Ripper's third victim, Lizzy Stride

Ripper’s third victim, Lizzy Stride

Ripper's fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes

Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes

By then, London’s police had determined the pattern of the killings. The murderer, offering to pay for sex, would lure his victims onto a secluded street or square and then slice their throats. As the women rapidly bled to death, he would then brutally mutilate them with the same six-inch knife.


The police, who lacked modern forensic techniques such as fingerprinting and blood typing, were at a complete loss for suspects. Dozens of letters allegedly written by the murderer were sent to the police, and the vast majority of these were immediately deemed fraudulent. However, two letters–written by the same individual–alluded to crime facts known only to the police and the killer. These letters, signed “Jack the Ripper,” gave rise to the serial killer’s popular nickname.  The first written on 25 Sept. 1888 and received on 27 Sept. 1888 at the Central News Agency is known as the “Dear Boss” letter.

Jack the Ripper's "Dear Boss" letter page 1

Jack the Ripper’s “Dear Boss” letter page 1

Jack the Ripper's "Dear Boss" letter page 2

Jack the Ripper’s “Dear Boss” letter page 2

Original envelope of the Dear Boss Letter

Original envelope of the Dear Boss Letter

All photos courtesy S.P. Evans / M.E.P.O.

I had difficulty reading the letters which I have had the same type of difficulty reading documents in my genealogical research.  I found the following transcription on the internet.

Dear Boss,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.

Yours truly
Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name

PS Wasn’t good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha

The second, known at the “Saucy Jack” postcard was received at the Central News Agency on October 1, 1888.

The "Saucy Jack" postcard

The “Saucy Jack” postcard

The front side of the "Saucy Jack" postcard

The front side of the “Saucy Jack” postcard

Photos courtesy S.P. Evans / M.E.P.O.


I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. ha not the time to get ears for police. thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.

Jack the Ripper

On November 7, after a month of silence, Jack took his fifth and last victim, Irish-born Mary Kelly, an occasional prostitute.

Jack the Ripper's 5th and final victim, Mary Kelly

Jack the Ripper’s 5th and final victim, Mary Kelly

Of all his victims’ corpses, Kelly’s was the most hideously mutilated. In 1892, with no leads found and no more murders recorded, the Jack the Ripper file was closed.

Here is my two cents on the letters.  I always thought that it was believed that Jack the Ripper was someone from the upper classes, maybe even a physician.  To me, the letters don’t seem to be written by a particularly educated person.  I suppose the world will never know.  Something occurred to make him stop.  Someone that deranged would not stop unless he was caught (maybe for another crime) or killed.  In my lay person’s opinion, his family of wealth and influence, used that money and influence to lock him away and the family’s worst secret never told.

14 responses

  1. ksbeth says:

    i’ve always been fascinated by the stories behind true crimes, and this post was wonderful and chock full of information. i agree with your theory, someone knew who he was and protected him in some way. we may never know – beth


  2. magyarok27 says:

    I agree with you remark on the letters, doesn’t seem to fit with the idea of it being someone “educated.” This may sound strange but did they ever wonder if a woman who wrote those letters?


    • Interesting angle. Do you mean as a partner in crime? I wonder. What made you suggest that idea?


      • magyarok27 says:

        yes, as a partner, or maybe even an unwilling accomplish. It was the writing that made me think of that. Maybe I am way off, but it seemed “female,” in the handwritten script and language. It also seemed to me put together, not smooth flowing, more random. And the education part that you brought up fits… I’ve seem documentaries on this myself, actually quite fascinating. It also just reminded me of a episode of the TV show Hannibal, with the father/daughter serial killer duo. The daughter befriends them, their guard it down and the father does the work. ??


  3. magyarok27 says:

    btw….after reading your post and commenting, I was curious and looked this up. Seems there was a “Jill the Ripper” suspect….


    • Wow really. I will take a look.


        • I looked up “Jill the Ripper” and it was a very interesting theory. Thanks for making the suggestion. I like the questions posed by William Stewart and his idea that it could have been a midwife or abortionist. He was one of the first to write about the possibility of Jill the Ripper in his book Jack the Ripper: A New Theory, published in 1939. In it, he attempted to narrow down not the identity of the killer but the class of person he might have been by asking four pertinent questions:

          1. What sort of person was it that could move about at night without arousing the suspicions of his own household or of other people that he might have met.

          2. Who could walk through the streets in blood stained clothing without arousing too much comment.

          3. Who would have had the elementary knowledge and skill to have committed the mutilations.

          4. Who could have been found by the body and yet given a satisfactory alibi for being there.


          • magyarok27 says:

            Lost my connection so not sure if my reply went through. I said I agreed and asked if you read the part about the supposed Maybrick “diary” find?


            • I hadn’t but just read about it now. Stories about such major crimes live on forever and get so many twists. I also like reading about Lizzy Borden and once read an account to support her innocence and other plausible suspects. Can’t remember the name of the book but it had me believing.