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Who Was Jack The Ripper: Could It Be James Kenneth Stephen

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Who Was Jack The Ripper: Could It Be James Kenneth Stephen essay
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James Kenneth Stephen – Was He Jack The Ripper?

James Kenneth Stephen was an English poet. He was born in 1859, in London, to James (a barrister) and Mary Stephen. He died in 1892 at the age of 32, confined in a mental hospital. He has also been put forth in the last century as a suspect for the Whitechapel murders, committed by the killer (or killers) known as Jack The Ripper. This is a heavily debated topic.

Between April 3rd, 1888 and February 13th, 1891, eleven women (mostly prostitutes) were murdered in the Whitechapel district of London.. At least five of them were killed by Jack the Ripper, and the remaining six have been attributed to him but not proven (although the likelihood is that Jack’s body count is just the original five). Many suspects have been put forth in the century since the murders, but no one has been conclusively pinned as the murderer. Suspects range from poor dock workers to princes in line for the British throne. James Stephen is just one man in the discussion.

In reality, there is very little chance that James Stephen was Jack the Ripper. His “links” to the case (if they can even be called that) are very iffy and reliant on his connections with others suspected to be Jack the Ripper. There are several suspects who can be properly linked to the case, like Aaron Kosminski, Walter Sickert, Karl Feigenbaum, and Montague Druitt – Stephen is not really one of them. Initially put forth as a suspect by author Michael Harrison in 1972, Stephen’s links to the case are very weak and don’t hold much credibility. His connection to the case comes from Prince Albert Victor, who Stephen tutored, became friends with, and eventually became somewhat obsessed with, to the point that he refused to eat after hearing of the former’s death and died of starvation. It has even been suggested that they were in a secret relationship, but this has never been proven. For what it’s worth, both Stephen and Albert had several public love affairs or crushes with women. Albert has been touted as a possible suspect, but government records show that he couldn’t have committed any of the murders as he was not in London on any of the dates involved in the case – and even if he could have been, Jack’s methodology suggests a knowledge of Whitechapel (a very poor district in London) that someone of Prince Albert’s social status would not have had. Albert was in places like Scotland, Sandringham, and Yorkshire while the murders were committed, but never London. Stephen himself, then, is looking less and less likely as the man detectives were looking for. At six feet tall, he towered over any of the men spotted by witnesses, all of whom were in the 5’5-5’8 range. Other “evidence” cited by Harrison is Stephen’s misogyny demonstrated in certain poems, (although it can be argued that his statements, such as those on the perceived inconsistency between the amount of problems caused by women and men, are satirical and should not be taken seriously) and his mental instability possibly brought on by a head injury in his mid-20s, which of course can’t be taken as proof. It should be noted that Stephen was not known to be violent, especially murderously so. Additionally, he was not known to have been in the area at the time of any of the murders, although of course this doesn’t necessarily mean he was not Jack the Ripper. As a professor at Cambridge (which is sixty miles away from London), he would have had to have been in two different places at once to be able to commit murder in London and return to Cambridge to teach the next morning – sixty miles in a night is not doable without a car, especially with the less well-maintained roads of the nineteenth century. Generally, it is agreed upon by experts that the murderer was a local to Whitechapel.

A letter addressed to George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee (a group of men who patrolled the area in an effort to stop the killings), supposedly written by Jack himself, suggests that Jack could not write or use a pen very well, which would not apply to Stephen. The dates of the killings (weekends and holidays) suggest that Jack had a regular job which would not apply to Stephen either. Overall, Jack’s literacy (or lack of) in letters, his knowledge of anatomy (demonstrated by his dealing with organs in the attacks), and the dates of his killings suggest to me that he could have been an uneducated butcher or another similar occupation that lived in the poor Whitechapel area, far removed from an upper-class poet who lived a long way north.

To be fair to Stephen’s accusers, he cannot be completely ruled out as a suspect by the dates of the murders – he was committed to a mental hospital in November 1891 and died there a few months later after starving himself to death. The last murder investigators are sure was committed by Jack was committed in November 1888, and the last murder that has been suspected to have been committed by Jack was committed in February 1891. In 1896 he was struck by one of the blades of a windmill while on vacation at Felixstowe on the eastern coast of England.. While there were no serious effects immediately noticed, anecdotes from people who knew and dealt with him afterward suggest he sometime became belligerent, strange, and generally very different to his usual behavior. He became prone to sudden outbursts and bizarre actions, although he was never known to stoop down to murder. He suffered from bipolar disorder and it may have been aggravated by his injury. He has also been called a misogynist due to some questionable poems. While I agree with the sentiment that he was a sarcastic person and these poems are mostly in jest, he has some poems with suspect lines such as ones that describe his indifference to the murder of an annoying woman. Michael Harrison suggested that that Stephen was acting out one of his poems, “Air: Kaphoozelum”, where ten women are murdered (although Harrison did not properly fact check and named a woman who was not even murdered). Generally, though, the likelihood is that Jack’s victims are limited to the first five women, and with each victim added afterward, it becomes more of a stretch.

Graffiti located near one of the crime scenes with anti-Semitic sentiments suggests a connection to Freemasonry, but there is no proof that Stephen was a Freemason and he had not been known to express any anti-Semitism. Connections to a leather apron wearing criminal active around the time of the murders have been established, which of course could be connected to Freemasonry (which has received confusingly different accusations of anti-Semitism and a massive Jewish conspiracy), but since the apron was leather it’s more likely that it was not white like has been suggested. A leather apron may have been owned by a butcher, or an artist like Walter Sickert. While Stephen certainly did and thought some questionable things, no single one is really a good, conclusive link him to the murders. Michael Harrison’s accusations never really made sense and have unfortunately been given credence by lots of “Ripperologists” in the years since he initially suggested Stephen’s part in the murders.

In short, there is no real aspect of Stephen’s life that properly connects him to the Whitechapel murders, let alone paints him as a suspect to be seriously considered. It seems as if aspects of his life

such as his mental instability are forcibly linked to Jack the Ripper in an attempt to justify suspecting him, rather than to support a strong accusation against him using actual evidence and logic. Other suspects have even been retroactively linked with DNA and other serious evidence, but the only basis supporting accusations at Stephen is his association with another suspect who can be easily cleared using government records. There is just not really any evidence to suggest he was even in the area as Jack took hold of the city There are rumors of a coverup involving the prince and a local shop worker but these have mostly been discredited. Mostly, accusations against Stephen are based on the idea of him having a secret relationship with the prince, which concluded, sending him further off the deep end. Ideas surrounding his behavior and opinions are shaky at best and obviously can’t be used as evidence. Although mental illness plagued his family (his cousin Virginia Woolf’s descent to suicide being one heavily documented example), it goes without saying that most of the world’s mentally ill are not murderers. After researching Stephen’s life and Jack the Ripper, I can say with confidence that he was not the killer. There is no real proper support of the case against him, especially when compared to other more reasonable suspects. A great mind, it is unfortunate that his legacy is tarnished by the circumstances of his death and accusations of murder in the years afterward. His poetry was actually interesting, despite it having been written over a hundred years before I read it during my research – and given the nature of his personality, the accusations of misogyny in his poetry mostly come off as missed sarcasm to me. There are several better suspects to be considered who can actually have reasonable cases made against them.

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Who was Jack the Ripper: Could it be James Kenneth Stephen. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from
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