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Serial killers are often compared to one another. Perhaps because what they do is so heinous it cannot be compared to anything else. Entire professions are devoted to learning why killers kill and how to find patterns in their behaviors to help catch them when they do. Two of the most infamous killers of all time are Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper. Their stories have both been the subject of film and literary adaptations as well as the subject of numerous studies on the psychology behind serial killers. These killers, although a world apart, have proven to be very similar. Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper were very similar killers in their victim selection methods, their charming personalities, and their notoriety. Although they are often compared, they also have a couple of key differences. Jack the Ripper didn’t rape his victims like Ted Bundy did, and he was also never caught or identified.
Most organized killers go through a victim selection process to choose who their next target will be. This does not necessarily mean that the person is stalked for months on end, but the killer’s victims seem to have similar characteristics. This can be physical traits, psychological traits, demographics, relationships, etc. Bundy and the Ripper both had very similar methods of victim selection. Firstly, both killers only targeted women. This could be because they deemed women to be the weaker sex and knew they would put up less of a struggle in their capture, or in Bundy’s case, for sexual enjoyment. Both killers also frequented the same areas to choose their victims. Jack the Ripper abducted all of his victims from the same neighborhood in the East End of London. This was a very poor neighborhood that was well known for prostitutes. The profession of these women, coupled with the “outcast” area they lived in made them easy targets. Ted Bundy did have many different locations for his abductions and killings, but they all shared a common theme. Bundy lurked around college campuses, dorms, and known hang outs for young people. Although his location varied, his method of selection stayed the same. Bundy would either use his charm, or the guise of needing help to young, naïve, college aged girls and then kidnap, rape, and murder them.
Both Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper were known to be very intelligent. Bundy was a studying law student and Jack the Ripper, although never identified, proved to be extremely knowledgeable about the human anatomy. Their intelligence helped them fly under the radar and enabled them to continue committing crimes. Bother killers are also though to have been charming to their victims. Bundy was always described by witnesses to have been good looking and charming. Bundy would often feign injury to solicit help from his victims, putting them in a position for him to abduct them. He would often hit them over the head with an object like a crowbar and then tie them up to prevent escape. This was the case with victims Janice Ott and Denise Naslund. They were both kidnapped from Lake Sammamish State Park in the middle of the day after feigning an injury to his left arm and asking for help hitching a sailboat to his car. Jack the Ripper was assumed to have also charmed his victims in order to get them away from other people and in a vulnerable position to commit his crimes. This may have been easier for the Ripper because all of his victims were prostitutes. All but one of his victims was soliciting customers at the time of their disappearance. This made it fairly easy for the Ripper to charm the victims, with the promise of money of course, into being alone with him. After forensic analysis of the crime scenes, it was discovered that the women were all hit from behind, while their skirts were raised. This tells us that the victims were likely awaiting sexual intercourse when they were knocked unconscious, and then according to reports, gently laid on the floor rather than being allowed to fall. Jack the Ripper took great care with his victims.
It has been a commonality among serial killers to take “trophies” of their victims to help relive their crimes after the body has been dumped and neither Ted Bundy nor Jack the Ripper are exceptions. Bundy decapitated many of his victims after he killed them and often kept the heads for a while. He told investigators that he would wash their hair and apply make up to the faces of his victims, saying that “if you have time, they can be whoever you want them to be.” Bundy would reportedly keep the heads until they started to deteriorate and then he would discard them. Police found the heads of four of his victims on Taylor Mountain in Utah, while Bundy revealed that he had burned one of the heads in his then girlfriend’s fireplace. Jack the Ripper was a bit more gruesome in his butchery. The Ripper, after killing his victims, would totally mutilate their bodies, often disemboweling them. He would take kidneys and uteruses as his trophies. Many theories have come up about why he did this. Many believe he was a doctor of some sort and used these killings as research due to the lack of medical technology in his day. Others believe he may have hated prostitutes, or even women in general and would take their uteruses as a symbol of taking away their “womanhood”.
Bundy and the Ripper have become household names. Morbid household names, but famous nonetheless. Many serial killers gain fame and national or even worldwide recognition for their crimes. People are fascinated by how a person could dream up the gruesome things acted out by a serial killer. Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper are no exceptions. In fact, they were both the most famous killers of their respective times. Ted Bundy’s crimes stretched from one side of the country to the other. The United States had never experienced anything so deranged and Bundy was the first widely known killer from his region. Bundy’s trial was the first televised trial in the United States which only further added to his fame. Bundy gained a sort of cult following of young women. He even married and had a child with one of his followers while he was incarcerated. Ted Bundy’s interviews and subsequent trial first sparked the term “serial killer” by FBI investigator Robert Ressler who had interviewed Bundy and was giving a criminology lecture about his crimes during the time of his trial. Ressler, in response to killers that he interviewed, helped set up Vi-Cap, a computer program that can help law enforcement connect crimes in different jurisdictions and help with early detection of serial criminalists. Ressler’s work also helped legitimize the work of criminal profiling.
Jack the Ripper is still considered to be the most terrifying killer in London’s history. The deaths of prostitutes were something that was widely overlooked during his time, but the manner and frequency of the deaths caught the publics attention. Because Jack the Ripper was never identified or caught his crimes were even more frightening. The Ripper’s crimes stopped just as suddenly as they began, leaving the public with an unrelenting fear that he could strike again at any time. Both killers were the first of their kind in the regions that their crimes were committed, heightening the fear of the public and jeopardizing the feeling of safety and justice not being provided by law enforcement officials due to the lack in evidence.
While Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper have many similarities in their crimes and victim selection patterns, there are also several very notable differences in the two serial murderers. One of the things that investigators could be sure to find at the scene of one of Ted Bundy’s victims was signs of sexual assault on the victim. Ted Bundy maintained a normal relationship with longtime a girlfriend, but notoriously raped his victims before gruesomely killing them, and sometimes engaging in necrophilia after their deaths. Bundy was likely fulfilling some psychological or physical need through the rape and torture of his victims. Jack the Ripper, on the other hand, notably left no sign of sexual activity with his victims. All of the Ripper’s victims were prostitutes, so it would come as no surprise if there were evidence of sexual intercourse before or after their deaths. There was evidence that the Ripper used the profession of his victims to his advantage during their death. It is thought that many of his victims were attacked from behind, while awaiting sexual contact from the Ripper when their throat was slashed. Although the Ripper commonly took organs from his victims, he abstained from sexual gratification.
Lastly, the biggest difference in the two killers was their identification and apprehension. Ted Bundy was named to police as a potential suspect several times before law enforcement actually gave him a closer look. Bundy was a law student and had no criminal record, so he was initially brushed off as a suspect. In February 1976 Bundy was finally convicted of kidnapping and assault, but had not yet been officially charged with any of the string of murders he was responsible for. In June of the following year he was finally brought to Colorado to be formally charged with murder. During his preliminary hearing Bundy acted as his own legal counsel. Because of this he was given access to the law library in the courthouse where his hearing was being held. When the guards were not looking Bundy jumped from the window and escaped. He was rearrested six days later. He escaped again in December of that year and made is way to Florida where he brutally attacked three college women and killed three more. He was finally caught for the last time on February 12, 1978. Bundy was eventually tried and found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. He was killed in the electric chair in 1989. The announcement of his death set off celebrations outside the prison.
Unlike Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper was never caught. Beyond this, he was never even identified. Whitechapel investigators interviewed over 2,000 people and compiled a suspect list of over 300 people. During the investigation over 80 people were detained, but they were all released due to a lack of evidence in the case. This has been one of the most perplexing cases in criminal history, and authors and researchers are still providing new theories as to who the assailant really was. DNA evidence was collected years after the murders from a piece of chewing gum used to seal a letter sent to law enforcement, but due to the amount of time that had passed and the number of hands the evidence had passed through, it was deemed to be contaminated. Some theories, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s is that the suspect is actually a woman (Jill the Ripper) and others have suggested that there was likely more than one killer. We may never know who the famous murderer of Whitechapel was. He (or she) has been dead for decades and has escaped justice on this side of life. Perhaps the mystery is what make these murders one of the most famous series of crimes of all time.
Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper are two of the most infamous killers in the world. Although their crimes were committed nearly a hundred years apart, they are strikingly similar in their victim selection, their charming personalities, and the fame that has entranced the world following their crimes. The biggest difference between these two is the fact that Jack the Ripper is still unidentified nearly 150 years later while Ted Bundy was served justice a long time ago.
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