Friday, August 29, 2014

A Look Back at the Vicitms of Jack the Ripper

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2012 about the Victims of Jack the Ripper.)

This Sunday marks the 126th anniversary of the first of the ‘official’ murders attributed to an unidentified serial killer, given the monikers, "Leather Apron, "The Whitechapel Killer," and “Jack the Ripper.”  Almost a century and a quarter later, the five murders remain unsolved.  Many suspects have been identified, but no one has been undeniably determined to have been “Jack the Ripper.”

The “Official” Five
Nichols Body Discovered
Mary Ann Nichols
It was in the middle of the night on August 31, 1888, when 43-year-old Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols was found murdered in the Whitechapel district of London.  Nichols, a local prostitute, was found lying in front of a stable on Buck’s Row, with her skirts raised.  Her throat had been cut twice and her abdomen slashed deeply several times.  The coroner placed the time of death around 3 A.M.

Marker for Mary Ann Nichols
City of London Cemetery
Nichols’ body was held at the Whitechapel Mortuary until the following Thursday.  She was buried on September 6, 1888 at the City of London Cemetery in Ilford.  Nichols death was the first police officially attributed to “Jack the Ripper.”

Annie Chapman
Where Chapman was found
About 1:45 on the morning of Saturday, September 8, 1888, 47-year-old Annie Chapman found herself without money for lodging.  Worse for drink, she headed out into the streets to earn the necessary funds. Her body was discovered around 6 A.M. Her throat had been severed by two cuts, and her abdomen had been laid open.  It was later discovered that her uterus had been taken. 

Manor Park Cemetery
Annie Chapman was buried at Manor Park Cemetery on Friday, September 14, 1888. Her funeral was kept secret by her family in order to avoid crowds. Chapman’s grave no longer exists; it has since been buried over.  

Searching for suspects
Headlines of the Day
It was after Chapman’s death that the police realized the same person could have committed both her murder and that of Mary Ann Nichols.  The two crimes were so similar that the investigations were merged into one and officials began searching for one suspect.

Police News Headlines
After Chapman’s murder, the public, panicked by the thought that a murderer was loose on the East End, began observing curfews, careful to travel in groups.  The police began investigating any lead that came their way, many hoaxes dreamed up by those wanting to trick the local police.  But after three weeks without a murder, it seemed that maybe the worst was over…. 

Elizabeth Stride
Discovery of Stride
The night of September 29th was wet and cold.  Forty-four-year-old Elizabeth Stride had been drinking with friends that Saturday evening, spending the money she’d earned earlier in the day, cleaning rooms.   Around 11 P.M. she was seen working the streets.  At 12:45 A.M. on September 30th, Stride’s body was discovered. She was lying by a fence in the yard near the International Workers Educational Club.  Her throat had been gashed deeply, but it appeared the murderer had left quickly.

East London Cemetery
Grave of Elizabeth Stride
Elizabeth Stride was buried on Saturday, October 6, 1888 in the East London Cemetery at Plaistow.  The local parish provided for her short funeral and burial.

Catherine Eddowes
The police had just arrived on the scene of the Stride murder when yet another murder was occurring nearby. Forty-six-year-old Catherine Eddowes had spent her Saturday evening in a cell for drunks at the Bishopsgate police station. She was released at 1 A.M. when she was able to stand and walk out of the station unaided.  At 1:45 A.M. Eddowes mutilated body was found by a beat cop in the corner of Mitre Square.  Her throat had been cut, her face disfigured, her abdomen laid opened, and the intestines pulled out and laid over a shoulder. Her left kidney and most of her uterus had been taken.

Marker for Catherine Eddowes
City of London Cemetery
Catherine Eddowes was buried on Monday October 8, 1888 in the City of London Cemetery in an unmarked grave.  A plaque was placed by cemetery officials in 1996.

Kelly's Room
The last murder officially attributed to Jack the Ripper occurred sometime during the early morning hours of November 9, 1888.  Twenty-five-year-old Mary Jane Kelly had gone out about 11 P.M. on Thursday, November 8th.  She returned to her room in Miller Court around 11:45 with a man.  She was heard singing in her room around 1 A.M. and was reportedly seen taking another man to her room sometime after 2 A.M.  A neighbor reported hearing the cry of “Murder” about 4 A.M. and someone leave the room close to 6 A.M.

Mary Jane Kelly
It was almost 11 A.M. Friday morning when a man sent to collect Kelly’s rent, looked through her window and saw what was left of her mutilated body on the bed.  Police determined that she had been killed by a slash to the throat before the mutilations were performed.  It was reported that her heart was missing.  Kelly’s body was the most maimed and disfigured of the five.

St Patrick's Catholic Cemetery
Marker for Mary Jane Kelly
Mary Jane Kelly was buried on Tuesday, November 19, 1888 at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone.  No family attended her funeral.  During the 1950’s, the cemetery reclaimed Kelly’s grave.  A small plaque was placed in the cemetery in the 1990’s.

Murder Location for Emma Smith
Other murders might have been committed by Jack the Ripper, beginning with 45 year old Emma Elizabeth Smith on April 3, 1888 in Whitechapel.  She was attacked, sexually assaulted, and died the next day of peritonitis at London Hospital.   Her killing was the first recorded of the “Whitechapel Murders.”

Surgery Implements
Although the M.O. (modus operandi) does not follow the Ripper’s later actions, it could be that he had yet to settle on a technique.  It is considered more likely that the media made the connection for added interest to the Ripper murders during the autumn attacks.

Martha Tabram
The other murder, prior to the “Autumn of Terror”, involved 39-year-old Martha Tabram.  She was murdered August 7, 1888 in Whitechapel.  She died from 39 brutal stab wounds.  Police thought that the closeness of the date to the five attributed murders, along with the savagery of the attack, a lack of motive, and the location warranted it to be considered as a Ripper murder. 

Discovering Another Body
It is worth noting that both women fit the victim profile; dark hair, single, heavy drinker, prostitute.  No one was ever arrested in either murder.  The other “Whitechapel Murders” included Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles, and a woman who was never identified.

The Murders
Location of 1888 Murders
The “Whitechapel Murders” occurred from April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891. A total of eleven women, all prostitutes in the Whitechapel area, were brutal murdered. Five were attributed to Jack the Ripper, the others were considered to likely be Ripper victims.

Police questioned over 2,000 people during and after the murders. Of those, over 300 people were investigated; eighty were taken in and detained.  Although scrutinized, most were not believed to be seriously involved. Some were considered but had alibis, and a few have remained top suspects for well over 100 years.  But no one was ever charged with any of the murders.   
After 126 years, it is doubtful that the identity of Jack the Ripper will ever be known.  It appears the murders of this serial killer will remain part of a historical whodunit for all time.

~ Joy

Friday, August 22, 2014

Divining the Dead

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2011 on grave-witching.)

18th Century Dowser

Regardless of what you call it, divining, witching, dowsing or rhabdomancy - the interest in this ancient art is growing.
Grave dowsing has caught the attention of genealogists around the world as a way to locate the unmarked graves of ancestors. It can also be utilized to help locate lost burial grounds, find pioneer cemeteries, and uncover the burial grounds of Native Americans.

Y Branch
Witching, divining or dowsing has been used for centuries to locate water, oil, caves, precious metals, artifacts and treasure.  Cave paintings depicting dowsing have been found in France, Spain and the Middle East.  

Pharaohs were buried with dowsing tools and etchings on how the tools were used have been found on the walls of their tombs. Dowsing is mentioned in the Old Testament.   The Greek poet Homer referred to dowsing as Rhabdomancy – meaning divining rod in Greek.  Dowsing with a pendulum was popular in ancient Greece. In the 1700 and 1800’s. Europeans used forked branches to locate water and ore deposits. The U.S. military used dowsers in the Viet Nam War to locate land mines and hidden tunnels.  The British military had dowsers on the Falkland Islands to help locate unexploded ordnances.

De Vinci
There were times in history when dowsers were considered to be witches, or evil.  The Catholic Church assisted in this rumor by declaring that the devil was involved, giving dowsers ‘special powers.’  Dowsing fell from favor and went underground during the 1500's and 1600’s.  Victorians revived an awareness of it with their interest in the mystical and spiritual.  Many well-known people were dowsers including Leonardo De Vinci, Robert Boyle, Otto Edler von Graeve and Albert Einstein.

There are mainly four types of dowsing items used.  There is the rod, usually from a peach, willow or witch hazel tree.  The L rod can be brass, copper, aluminum, even wire coat hanger, bent in the shape of an L.  The Bobber rod is a long, slender, tapered stick.  The Pendulum is not a rod but a weight with a chain or a string attached.

L Rods

The actual skill of dowsing is not hard to learn.   L rods are easy to use and to explain.  You can make your own from wire coat hangers. Simple cut off the hook and straighten out the wire.  Make a bend about 4 inches in on the wire to create an L shape.  The smaller part of the L will be the handle. Create another and you have two L rods.

L rods held out

Stand normally, hands at your side.  Raise your arms to bend naturally at your elbows, with your forearms parallel to the ground.  Hold each rod straight out.  The rods should be held lightly in your hands.  Do not place your thumbs over the bend in the rods.  Now begin walking slowly and calmly toward the area you wish to test.  When you step on a grave the rods should cross or swing apart. When you step off the grave, the rods should uncross or swing back to their former positions.  Before you attempt to go into uncharted territory to divine graves, get your feet wet.  Take your rods to a cemetery and practice the art of dowsing there.

Many dowsing books and articles mention that cemeteries in the U.S. are usually laid out with heads pointing west and feet pointing east.  Supposedly this will aid you in identifying the gender of the body.  I have been in countless cemeteries where this is not the case.  While it may have begun in that manner, through the centuries, especially in large cemeteries, the bodies have been buried with the lay of the land.  Regardless, working your way from north to south will help you create an organized search route and may be able to determine the width of the cemetery.

Counting Steps
Once you get familiar with the rods, you may want to try to identify age and gender.  Age can be guessed at by the length of the body.  Count your steps lengthwise along the body.  A general rule of thumb is 1 or 2 steps for an infant, 3 or 4 steps for a child, 5, 6 or 7 steps for an adult. 

...indicates a female.

For gender, there are several methods.  An easy  one is to push one rod in the ground at the center of a grave.  Step back away from the grave and reapproach the grave with the remaining rod in one hand, out in front of you.  A swing to the left indicates a female; to the right is a male.  You can attempt to verify by approaching the grave from the other end and see if the verdict is the same.  (This is why practicing in a cemetery is useful – The stones will verify what you’ve found out.  Try different methods in order to discover what really works for you.)  Also remember, dowsing rods can also pick up on cremated bodies and animal remains

Dowsing Forms
So how does it work?  Better still, why does it work?  There are no true proven answers.  Theories abound that there may be a physical connection made between the dowser and the item sought.  It could possibly be an energy vibration that the dowser tunes into and the diving rods amplify, causing them to move.   Scientists say that the rods are not picking up on soil disturbances, metal in the ground, magnetic fields, or decay.  But as many have proven, believing in dowsing is not required for it to work.

Not everyone can dowse.  Just as we don’t know why it works, we also don’t understand why some people have the ability and some don’t.  As a water witcher, I felt compelled to try grave dousing.  I have always used peach or willow branches as Y dowsing rods, but discovered that the metal L rods work fine.  Cajoling my husband to assist me, we went to Richmond Cemetery in Richmond, Kentucky so I could see if I had, as my grandma would have said, ‘the touch.’  Grandma would be proud - I do.

Albert Einstein
Be skeptical, if you like.   After all, many consider this to be based on folklore, superstition, placing dowsers in the same category as charlatans and with doctors. Albert Einstein explained dowsing as a way of using the human senses to perceive something that is “unknown to us at this time.”     And since he had a good grasp on things being ‘relative,’ I can buy that! 

To learn more about dowsing visit these web sites:

International Society of Dowsers
American Society of Dowsers
Appalachian Dowsers      
Canadian Society of Dowsers

~ Joy

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cross By the Side of the Road

We’ve all seen them – those crosses and shrines along the side of the road, marking where someone has died in an accident.  Many drivers find them offensive and dangerous, others find them touching and thought-provoking; some just ask “Why?”
Roadside memorials have had a place on our highways and byways since man began traveling.  It was only practical, and necessary to bury someone where they fell on a journey. 

The Spanish brought the tradition of descansos (meaning ‘place of rest’) to America. Coffin bearers would place a stone on the route each time they set the coffin down to rest, from the church to the cemetery.  This was a reminder for others to pray for the deceased.

Today, these memorials are set up to mark the place where someone has died.  Family members express a universal motive for creating roadside memorials: To mark the spot where their loved one drew their last breathe: where their spirit departed.

Memorials vary in look and feel, some may be made up of a bunch of flowers stuck in the ground, or a simple wooden cross with a name painted on it. Others are more elaborate, a plaque with an inscription placed on a tree, or personal mementos edged with brick or rock along the side of the road.

Opinions about these roadside shrines are mixed.  Many people see them as places of healing for families who lost a loved one in an accident. Others say they represent a startling safe-driving message for passersby. 

Those opposed find the memorials to be ghoulish, a distraction, and a road safety hazard to drivers; the shrines create problems for road workers trying to maintain the right-of-ways.  Many also oppose special exemptions that are given for roadside memorials when the law bars all others from placing signs, advertising or promotions on public property.

Problems also stem from a public space being used for personal mourning.  Many feel it is the state’s responsibility to keep roadways and right-of-ways clear of debris, and distractions. 

States around the country are discovering that roadside memorials are becoming too numerous. With over 50,000 travel-related deaths occurring each year in the U.S., memorials have started appearing everywhere, and if not constantly attended to, quickly dissolve into attention-getting eyesores.

Although there are no federal laws concerning roadside memorials, many states in the U.S. are enacting laws to limit or eliminate them. Others are trying to find a balance between a family’s desire to express grief, and the public’s right to safe roadways.

Roadside memorials remain a sensitive issue – one that each state will have to eventually come to terms with. But the bottom line must remain safety first, or the end result could be another roadside memorial ...

~ Joy