In London, you can take a walking tour through the various sites where Jack the Ripper murdered women, became super famous, and then disappeared forever, never to be identified. Even for murders that happened in 1888, it’s still distinctly terrifying to walk the same cobblestone streets where they happened.
After the tour it’s not unusual to find yourself peering around dark corners carefully, heart racing. Jack the Ripper was like a ghost story, but one that truly, undoubtedly happened. Jack has to be dead by now, but you don’t really know.
Well, now it looks like we know. After DNA testing a shawl stained with blood from one of the victims (and semen, because that’s just how serial killers do), it turns out Jack the Ripper was just some crazy guy named Aaron Kosminski. He emigrated from Poland in the early 1880s, did a lot of murdering, and then died in an insane asylum in 1899 from gangrene of the leg. He probably didn’t even have a British accent, and that’s just not okay.
We’ve all met a crazy Polish guy with a stupid mustache, and they’re not very terrifying. Aaron Kosminski sounds like he plays small forward on your rec league basketball team that always loses. Maybe sometimes he rides his bike to work, you know, to get some exercise in. Not a dude capable of brutally murdering prostitutes and capturing the imagination of millions of people through generations.
And this sucks.
Once you get past the allure of the gore and fanciful idea of Victorian-era London nights and top hats and cloaks, the reason why Jack was so fascinating was that we didn’t know who did it. Everyone had theories, the more out there the better.
Did Lewis Carroll, the guy who wrote “Alice in Wonderland” also like to murder hookers? Maybe!
When Prince Albert Victor wasn’t busy doing royalty stuff was he slitting throats? Sure!
Maybe you like the idea that Jack the Ripper was H.H. Holmes of “The Devil in the White City” fame, who would go around murdering on both sides of the ocean.
Really anyone other than an anonymous loser who died in an insane asylum would have been better. It just makes too much sense. And that’s never fun.
In many ways it’s like “True Detective.” The story immediately drew you in, but the best part was thinking about theories and talking about it with friends and obsessing over details and losing sleep over it because you were convinced Maggie HAD to be involved and had nightmares about those twig sculptures. And as the theories got more and more intricate, we were left with just a regular crime solving cop story of just good guys fighting bad guys.
In modern times, the reason people like Jack the Ripper and the likes of D.B. Cooper and Son of Sam remain so intriguing is because we just don’t know a lot about them.
Today we probably know more with our phones and the Internet than the smartest man who ever lived before. We know everything and without really trying. Seriously. Think of anything. You can get the answer in like three seconds. So those few mysteries that do remain in life make it so much more interesting. It’s why people want a JFK Assassination conspiracy or a Loch Ness Monster or the Illuminati. What they don’t want is to find out that someone with a nickname like “Deep Throat” is really just a random dude named Mark Felt.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s damn interesting that science may have solved this case. It’s just unfortunate that it had to happen in the least interesting way imaginable.