Summer was winding to its natural end but the evenings were still warm in London as Michael Maybrick made his way on foot through a crowded Covent Garden on his way to Long Acre. He was immaculately dressed, wearing a black evening suit with a velvet bow tie, polished to the shine black shoes and a smart top hat. His moustache was trimmed to perfection and the rest of his face was freshly shaved, knowing this was to be an important meeting at the grand lodge. A pretty young prostitute approached him with a basket of flowers to disguise her intentions and offered him ‘relief from his hard day and trouble.’ He stopped and turned to greet her eye to eye. The face that glared out under the rim of the hat froze the young woman’s soul. His expression, as intense as it was vacant, sent a sudden shock of fear through her. She had the morbid sensation someone was laying flowers on her grave. He saw fear in her eyes and a smile cracked side to side on his lips. There was a malice lurking. He turned his head away without saying a word, and with a tap of his cane on the cobbles, disappeared into the London crowd. The woman looked down at her flowers disconcertedly as Maybrick performed a pirouette in a strange, uncoordinated way.
Maybrick was a musician by profession and was a well-respected member of his Masonic lodge. He was seen by his brethren as a decent sort of fellow but his brooding and melancholy moods had been commented upon. On one occasion he had struck a bell boy around the face for merely being late with his luggage. He had been rumoured about by some of his colleagues. “Given to fits of anger” was how one of his fellow Masons described him at a lodge meeting in Marylebone, a meeting at which Sir Charles Wheeler, the head of the Metropolitan police at that time, was present. It had been noted in the minutes.
When Maybrick reached the corner of Neal Street and Long Acre he stopped still. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cigarette case on which was inscribed the letters “TALJ” and then placed it back in his pocket. He put a cigarette in his right hand with an empty box of matches. The case had been a gift from a fellow Mason of high ranking who was grooming him for promotion. He pushed the box open with his thumb and saw that there were no matches left. Again, as if the city were made for the thing, a pretty young woman on the street corner selling matches caught his eye. This time, as he watched her standing on the street corner watching the crowd go by, a cloud of hate itched under his black hat.
He approached her slowly from out of the shade of an awning and put his hand in his pocket to reach for a half penny. With his eyes obscured by the rim of his hat she handed him the box of matches and he put the coin in the palm of her hand. He gently folded her fingers back over the ha’penny so her hand was making a fist and clasped it between his large, strong hands. He began to squeeze her hand, gently at first, but then gradually harder. And then harder still.
“Please sir, no!” She said in a squeal as she tried to wriggle her hand free. He began to laugh and then let her go. He turned his back and then lit his thin cigar before making his way on. She looked for a policeman but to no avail. The London crowd milled along Long Acre, behaving as the London crowd always does, as if it were somehow immortal. It does what it does fearlessly and without worry of ends. Two thousand years is only the opening chapter. As long as humanity lives on this planet, there will be London, bathing in the dark and the light. As Maybrick was fond of saying “The pure soul lives in light, the eternal soul under night.”
He walked on with purpose, gripping his cane tight in a hand. He was riddled with nerves but as he approached the grand lodge he began to take hold of his emotions. He became endowed with a sense of reverence as he entered the building. Filled with fluxing passion he entered the great hall and slowly craned his head backward. He gazed upward at the all-seeing eye. They met each other in an unshakeable stare, back and forth from heaven to earth. The eye sat proudly and distinctly at the centre of the ceiling. Unblinking. He took his hat off and then craned his neck back further still and marvelled at the image for the thousandth time. His heart soared to see it. It was for the glory of God he lived, and through the lodge he had made a solemn vow to work most diligently for his glory. It would be his life’s work. In the stillness of the quiet, near empty chamber, he heard the voice of God speaking to him directly through the great all-seeing eye.
“Go forth and do my work.” Said the voice. “Obey my command and you shall live with me forever in glory.” The great booming words echoed around his head. Tears welled in his eyes. They fomented through his ecstasy dilating pupils giving an extra sparkle to their blackness. And then they changed. The joy in his eyes turned to fear and he trembled.
“Yes” he said, with a solemnity that brimmed with emotion. One of his brethren, who had been reading quietly on one of the pews, looked up and peered over the top of his reading glasses. He was a journalist at The Times called Graveney. He saw Maybrick in a trance like state, staring wild eyed, up at the image in the ceiling.
“I shall do thy bidding.” Said Maybrick softly, and the fear in his expression suddenly turned back to joy.
“Maybrick! Maybrick there!!” Shouted Graveney. Maybrick looked over at him with a start, as he was suddenly jolted from his trance. The dreamlike state of his aloneness with God, his state of grace, had been punctured.
“Everything alright Maybrick?” Asked Graveney.
“Yes. Quite alright” He replied, attempting calm. Graveney noticed the sweat on Maybrick’s brow. Maybrick discreetly wiped his forehead, regained his composure, and returned the hat to his head.
“Good fellow.” Said Graveney encouragingly, even though he was now tinged with suspicion. His brethren colleague was certainly acting in an odd manner, one certainly unaccustomed to the lodge. Maybrick nodded at him calmly and made his way to the study to prepare himself before that evening’s meeting began. As he went to leave, he turned to Graveney and said unexpectedly,
“Call me Jack.” He smiled, turned and walked away leaving Graveney in a state of slight discombobulation, and definite concern.
When the meeting was over and the brethren were milling about in idle conversation, Maybrick, without informing anyone there, left quietly and made his way clicking down the marble stairs to the back entrance of the Masonic head-quarters in Long Acre. It had begun to rain so he waited a while in the porch for an opportunity to hail a cab. By the end of a thin cigar the cab had arrived and the horses were whinnying in front of him. He opened the door and turned to the driver whose face was covered by a large hood that he wore to protect him from the downpour. Maybrick said one word at him. “Whitechapel.”
He shut the door behind him and pulled the curtain to, leaving just enough space that he could peer out at the street through the slit. The driver whipped the horses and soon there was nothing in Michael Maybrick’s head but the sound of the wheels and the hooves on the cobbles. It was as if he were void of consciousness. As they made their way east along the Roman road, the summer air began to turn foul.
Within the east end of London was the pitilessness of human existence manifest. The warren of streets were dark and labyrinthine. It was easy to disappear from sight. Maybrick placed his index finger gently on to the curtain and pulled it back slowly to give himself a better look. He saw two prostitutes talking on a street corner and a sudden volcanic surge of sexual energy coursed through his veins. He could feel his blood heating up in the furnace of his rage and supressed himself from crying out by putting his forearm firmly against his mouth to muffle his excitement. He bit into the arm of his coat hard as the ecstasy turned to euphoria.
Soon enough they had reached the east end as the pubs were shutting. The quiet of the city night approached. He tapped his cane hard three times on the roof of the cab and it came to a halt half way down the Commercial Road East. He was about to get out but the heavy rain changed his mind. He had somehow lost his nerve. He shouted to take him to the west end where he lived and told the driver he would tip him when they arrived. He looked at the women talking and then closed the curtain and then rested his head back with his eyes closed.
“Soon.” He said. And with a huge grin that exposed all his large rotting teeth and his blood red gums, and with his eyes as wide as could be, he sat there between his imagination and his reality, conjuring the future images of what he conceived to be the genius of his diabolical game.
Warm days passed by. Then on the 31st of August 1888 Maybrick left his house, and shut the door carefully behind him, humming the melody to a song he had written entitled “They All Love Jack.” Night had fallen but before long he hailed a cab and asked again to be taken to Whitechapel. The night was cloudless and there was no sign of rain. He looked at his pocket watch as the cab began to move. It was just after 11pm. He wore a long coat with deep pockets and about it a black cape and by his feet was a dark carpet bag. That night he wore a bowler hat which was tilted slightly forward. On the inside on his pocket watch was a depiction of the all-seeing eye and when he saw it he went into a kind of flux. His head began to shake softly and his eyes rolled back to a hypnotised state. “God’s work’ said the voice, “Gods work” again until a jolt of the cab’s wheel on an upturned cobble awoke him. He rubbed his face and lit a cigarette and then carefully, as he had done a few nights before, he pulled the curtain back an inch and looked out. If it wasn’t for the noise of the city he would have been able to hear the thumping of his heart. Adrenaline seeped through him, but then diminished, leaving him unfilled in the charging moment, the unrequited eroticism begging him towards the fire. Making sure the curtains were pulled shut he unsheathed one of the knives he was carrying, allowing himself for a moment to admire the sharpness of the glinting blade. He then put it back in its sheath and concealed it in the specially made pocket in the inside lining of his cloak.
When Maybrick arrived in Whitechapel it was just past midnight and the pubs were beginning to empty. “Hehe” he giggled in a mad way. The sound of his own laughter let off a madness in him that he boiled to repress, sinking his face into his hands and then scratching the back of his head with dug in nails. He rocked backwards and forwards a little. A sweat had began to form around the edges of his hair. His eyes were so dilated they were nearly totally black when he opened them. He got out of the cab and paid the driver, taking care to obscure his face. He thanked him and said goodbye. There was life sounding out of the various pubs and a few people milled around including a drunk, swaying on gin, holding on to a wall to keep himself upright.
Although the road was badly lit there was still enough light. Not like the side streets and back alleys that were lit by the stars and moon. A light that could be doused by the movement of clouds, plunging the back alleys and courts into pitch blackness. As he stepped down onto the cobbles a man walked past him with wild, incendiary eyes. The man’s name was Kosminski, one of the many immigrants that had arrived in east London, causing the city itself to swell. Maybrick had once commented that the east end was like a bloated abdomen. Rats and sewage festered. Conditions and sanitation in some places, especially the doss houses, were unfit for living, and the stench in places so bad, especially in summer, as to make an unsuspecting visitor retch. But London could cope, as it always has and always will, with change and misery.
The two men caught each-other’s eye. Their madness met in a fleeting glance. There was a sudden moment, as there is before fights, fuelled by adrenaline. But they turned their heads away from each other and there was no conflict. They had out-madded each other. Kominski carried on, muttering to himself as he walked down Commercial Road East and Maybrick carried on into the sullen heart of Whitechapel, to be among the night wanderers.
One of those night wanderers was a woman by the name of Mary Anne Nichols. She had been turned out of her lodgings and needed to go and make some money to pay for her bed. She said to the woman that ran the doss house “With me pretty bonnet I’ll soon get me doss money” and she left the place with her shawl wrapped tightly over her shoulders. She had been drinking that day and had a head full of booze but was compos mentis in terms of what she felt she had to do. She staggered a little when she walked but not too much. Almost an hour passed without her getting any business. As she slowly sobered up the night became quiet. The badly lit street where she waited offered no sound. It was almost half-way through the night when she smiled at the opportunity of her luck changing. Walking towards her across the empty road was a tall man with his hands in the pockets of his long dark cloak and with a bowler hat tilted forward. As he crossed the street towards Buck’s Row and to Mary, he said to himself in a controlled monotone way:
“All this I most solemnly, sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steady resolution to perform the same, without any hesitation, myself, under no less penalty than that of having my body severed in two, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes, the ashes scattered before the four winds of heaven, that no more remembrance might be had of so vile and wicked a wretch as I would be, should I ever, knowingly, violate this my Master Mason’s obligation. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.”
This was a part of his Masonic oath. An oath to which his mad mind clung. By the time he was close enough to speak to her he had stopped speaking. She didn’t hear him say a word. When he arrived he stood two feet away from her and waited for her to make an offer.
“Hello kind sir. I’m hoping I can be of service. How do you like my new bonnet?” He lifted his head up and looked at her from under the rim of his hat. The moonlight caught his face. She looked back at him and paused as she registered his glare. In a fleeting moment she thought she may have seen some sadness there, some forlorn soul within. However, she was eager to get paid and back to her lodgings to sleep.
“Yes.” He said. Where can we go?”
“Just here by the gates. No one can see us.” She said. He followed her calmly into the darkness.
In Buck’s Row by the stable door she turned and faced him and they looked into each other’s eyes. She knew who he was. That is certain. As did the other four. The canonical five as they eventually came to be known. Including the ripper himself there are six people to know his identity for sure, six that we know of. To actually know his face and his eyes.
As they looked at each other and she put her hand in his belt he put his hand over her mouth and taking the large knife from his pocket slit her throat causing blood to spill onto his maniacal face. She tried to cry murder but he muffled her cries and she bled out as he began to slash and stab wildly at her if indeed making some crazed attempt to cleave her in two. He stabbed her vagina on purpose. For four minutes he cut and hacked, nearly salivating as the intensity of the moment started to dry the roof of his mouth. Four minutes that felt to his soulless soul like the release of a life-long prisoner, repressed and caged. The laughter had gone out of him, extinguishing some remnant goodness with every vicious slash of the knife. He shook violently as the life left her body. Looking up to the heavens he gave thanks. With his power over life he was now in direct communion with God.
He suddenly heard the sound of footsteps and dropped her lifeless cadaver to the floor where she fell with a thud. Her eyes remained open though she was now dead. The ripper fell back into the shadows. A man called Charles Cross walked up Buck’s Row on his way to the early shift at work. He was used to walking this street through the dark of the night and saw what at first he thought to be a discarded tarpaulin.
“A tarpaulin’ he said aloud as he came near, but the moonlight revealed something sinister.
“Oh Jesus” he said. The ripper heard him speak as he stood motionless in a pitch-black alcove with his back to the street less than fifteen feet away. Within a few moments another man named Robert Paul who was also on his way to work saw Cross standing there and curious at the scene approached, unaware of the grim spectacle that lay in store. Cross touched her face which was still warm with life but her hands were deathly cold. With her eyes open in the bad light there was some confusion between the two whether she was dead or merely unconscious.
“Let’s find a peeler” Said Paul to Cross “I’m late for work as it is.” This piece of information did not go unnoticed by the man in the shadows. He closed his eyes and concentrated intensely on his hearing. He listened to two pairs of feet making away, and when the sound had disappeared around the corner the ripper emerged from the blackness, ignoring the carnage he had made as he made his way swiftly in the opposite direction through the rabbit warren of Whitechapel’s streets which he had learned so intimately, making his way west on foot in the wake of the rising sun.
In the lodge of the Freemasons in Great Queen Street Sir Charles Wheeler sat with five other men, including Graveney who had witnessed Michael Maybrick’s bizarre trance like behaviour a few weeks before.
“Odd kind of fellow” said one man.
“But he is one of us.” Said another.
“And a fine musician I hear.” Wheeler sat pensively averting his eyes from the ceiling. Then he spoke.
“Don’t be troubled. It seems he was having an episode. Thank-you for informing me and I would be grateful if you could all monitor the situation and keep me informed of any developments. Both Maybrick and the Whitechapel murders. It’s possible……. they are connected. Remember, he is one of the brethren and for that he WILL receive our undivided loyalty. No matter what. Do I make myself clear?”
“On our honour.” They all replied to him in unison.
Wheeler learned of the second murder soon after it had occurred. Her name was Annie Chapman. The mutilation was even more vicious than the last and initial reports said the two murders were connected. But there were other pieces of information from the first report he received that perturbed him greatly. Things that may connect the murders to themselves. It was about her abdomen. It had been removed by the killer and placed over her shoulder. At once Wheeler thought of the Masonic oath. Then he thought of Maybrick. When the double murder occurred he had personally rushed to Whitechapel and had seen above the bloody apron of Catherine Eddowes the graffiti on the wall which ran ‘The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.’ Wheeler had personally ordered the writing to be removed.
He suggested to himself it may have been coincidental, but he was in reality overwhelmed with doubt. But then he learned about the farthing coins that had been laid deliberately and ceremonially around the body. When Wheeler found this out a grim, unflexing look of despair came over his face. He immediately sent word to the commanding officers on the case and demanded that everyone with knowledge of this event must not tell a soul. Any details with Masonic connections must be excluded from the reports. Wheeler said specifically to those involved in the investigation, especially those who were in liaison with the press that the facts about the meticulous arrangement of the coins and the entrails being placed over the shoulder must be kept secret from the public as it might jeopardise the investigation.
That was the official line. In private, he recommended caution and vigilance to the brethren of the lodge concerning the Whitechapel murders and then disbanded the meeting. He sat alone that night looking out of the window brooding on the recent horrors. One thought obsessed him and one thought alone. If the killer was a Mason he would have the most solemn task of keeping these despicable events from in anyway tainting the brotherhoods good reputation. Again he thought of Maybrick. At first, each hour, then each minute, then each second until the whole business began to obsess his mind. Graveney, the journalist-Mason that worked on the Times said to Wheeler “If we can make the killer out to be a fool of some kind… the important thing is….. that we are in control. Perhaps I can invent a character for this murderer to live up to. Create some publicity. As a diversion. A crafted idiot, a dunce with a vicious soul. Something for the masses to wonder about. I can put them off the scent. It will be good for us in any event.” He smiled a broad smile. Wheeler looked at him and with a slight nod of his head, gave his tacit approval.
“But remember” said Wheeler “this is no cause of laughter.” Graveney knew as well as Wheeler that if news got out about the macabre nature of the carefully placed farthings, or the compasses that had been carved into the flesh of the victim, or indeed the fact that the small intestines had been placed over the right shoulder, then it may bring the eye of suspicion on their fellowship. It was this line of thinking that led him to his ingenious idea. He would create a character that would divert public scrutiny. They could benefit from the confusion. He would have to create someone stupid and semi-literate in their ways of thinking. If he made him a Cockney the East Enders might start bickering among themselves, and stoke the fires of suspicion. Then, in Whitechapel, they would need the police even more. They would seek protection. Their power would be upheld.
One night before the double murder Sir Charles Wheeler looked out of the window of his high office at the lodge down on to the west end street below and saw Michael Maybrick himself standing quite still on the other side of road, staring skywards into the night as he puffed away on a cigar that hung on his lips. Slowly Maybrick began to sway and then to the surprise of Wheeler began to dance slowly with his arm up as if he was doing a waltz with an invisible woman. Wheeler looked down at him from the high window noticing that rain was beginning to hit the pane. But that didn’t stop his dancing.
Graveney approached Wheeler and stood by him at the window with a blank sheet of paper in his hand. He looked down out of the window with his brethren friend and also witnessed the spectacle, the two of them looking down at the street in silence, through the rainy glass. Graveney turned and went over to the desk, leaving Wheeler by the window. He was unable to hide the smile of inspiration in his expression. Then he dipped his pen in the red ink pot that he had especially purchased and bent over the table as he began to write;
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 Wasnt 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
When it was done he showed the letter to Wheeler who then called the most high ranking Masons into his office to share his proposal. When he finished reading the letter out loud to the brethren they cheered heartily. ‘Well done that man!’ Said one of the Mason’s.
“I will send it to the central news agency now, should take some of the heat off brother Maybrick.” They said to him “well done old chap” again and in celebration of Graveney’s moment of creativity Sir Charles Wheeler opened a bottle of Glenfiddich and began to pour. When their glasses were filled he went over to the window to close the curtains, and looking down on the street, noticed that Maybrick had gone.
Feature Image: Michael Maybrick (1841–1913), English composer and singer, best known under the pseudonym of Stephen Adams who composed “The Holy City“, one of the most popular religious songs in English.