This year marks the 125th anniversary of the murders of at least five women in London’s Whitechapel district in the fall of 1888 at the hands of elusive serial killer Jack the Ripper. A bound manuscript sheds new light on one of the greatest cold cases in history.
The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper: In His Own Words, the Confession of the World’s Most Infamous Killer, was recently discovered among the estate of British author and illustrator S.G. Hulme Beaman. In it, James Willoughby Carnac confesses to the murders and provides a detailed account of the events and circumstances that led to the killing spree.
Carnac set about writing his memoir in the 1920s, nearly 40 years after the murders. The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper is divided into three parts: Part 1 accounts for Carnac’s childhood and formative years, which were shaped by a family tragedy, and describes the role heredity played in Carnac discovering his true nature; Part 2 details the event that unleashed the killer within and recounts how each victim was selected and each murder was committed; and Part 3 explains why the killings suddenly ended and how Jack the Ripper eluded detection for nearly four decades.
Explanatory remarks at the beginning are made by Beaman, to whom Carnac allegedly bequeathed the document with instructions to have it published upon his death. Beaman, whose curiosity got the better of him, read the document and was horrified by its contents. He claims to have omitted certain “particularly revolting” passages from the original text and expressed his personal opinion that Carnac was indeed Jack the Ripper.
Beaman died prematurely in 1932 at the age of 45, and the manuscript collected dust until 2008, when Alan Hicken, who runs the Montacute TV, Radio & Toy Museum in Somerset, England, purchased a lot from the Beaman estate. He discovered what appeared to be the confession of Jack the Ripper, and after checking the validity of the manuscript with Beaman’s last surviving relative, his niece Jean Caldwell, Hicken set about finally fulfilling Carnac’s wish and publishing his memoir.
Sound like fact or fiction? The book’s publisher is asking YOU, the reader, to weigh in with your impression of it. Voting is now open at Sourcebooks.com, and results will be released on November 9th (the same day the last Ripper murder allegedly took place).
Before you vote, note that The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper also contains analysis by Ripperologist Paul Begg, who claims the descriptions of the events and geography of Whitechapel in 1888 are accurate. Begg writes, “What is so frightening about Jack the Ripper and is so frightening about serial killers in general is that they move among us unrecognized, killing with no discernible motive…the autobiography cut across the grain and presented a murderer who is today far more real. The question is: Was he real?”
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