Saturday, April 24, 2010
Carl Panzram
I just finished the book Panzram:  A Journal of Murder edited by Thomas Gaddis and James Long.  The intro is by Harold Schechter, one of my favorite authors.

The Panzram book is mostly the letters and other writings of Panzram to a guard named Lesser that Panzram struck up a friendship with during one stint in prison.  Panzram's life is fascinating, and the brutality and torture he experienced while in prison, whatever his innate failings as a member of society, could not have helped but make him a worse person outside of prison.  Panzram's writings are striking because, while he lacked a formal education after about age 11, he was conversant on many theorists and writers of the time, and even tried to get into Kant during his last incarceration.  He suffered no delusions as to his lot in life and blamed himself for his crimes, but he did at least raise the issue of prison brutality as counterintuitive to rehabilitation, which it took us many years to embrace.  Panzram spent about 20 of his 38 years behind bars, and all that time did was make him more vicious and more vengeful toward anyone and everyone.  

All that said, he was a particularly brutal and sadistic psychopath of the kind that makes us wonder if there isn't another class of people besides human amongst us--those without ability to co-exist with society and doomed to always run afoul of what society demands until paying the ultimate price, with no hope of redemption.  What Panzram forces us to do is to question whether these people merely exist alongside us or are they manufactured by deficiencies in upbringing, contradictory societal teachings, and other environmental factors.  In short, he is the ultimate test case for nature versus nurture.

A movie was being cast about Panzram's life, with a website looking for actors to fill the roles of Panzram at various stages of his life, but it was last updated in 2008.  This would make a great movie if done right.

posted by Unknown @ 6:20 PM | 2 comments

Friday, April 23, 2010
Nessie wasn't Jack the Ripper: But another Reptile Was!
The Smithsonian Magazine reviews a direct-to-video release of Sherlock Holmes timed to capitalize on the blockbuster starring Robert Downey Jr. In the cheap version, Holmes and Watson battle "Spring-Heeled Jack," who turns out to be a mechanical (and miniature) Tyrannosaurus, which
violently interrupts a business transaction between a prostitute and a client in the infamous Whitechapel district of London which “Jack the Ripper” prowled. While the actual case was much more convoluted, so much so that the killer has never been conclusively identified, in the film it is clear that at least one of the notorious Whitechapel murders was carried about by a robotic Tyrannosaurus.

Strangely, the magazine states that the movie is set in 1882, six years before the Ripper. The movie stars Dominic Keating and Gareth David-Lloyd.

I would still plump for Nessie over a T-Rex.

posted by Unknown @ 8:23 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 18, 2010
USC student's Jack the Ripper Walk/Question for Ripper Tour Guides
A student from the University of Southern California recently went on a Ripper Walk in London led by the legend Donald Rumbelow.  Melissa Leu writes:
Wind-blown and with my stomach in knots, I looked around in a frazzled daze. A large group had already assembled around the mysterious figure, and as I neared, his face came into view. The menacing shadow-lurker turned out to be Donald, our guide on a Jack the Ripper walking tour.

Donald Rumbelow, upon closer inspection, is not the fearsome character I had aggrandized from afar. His monstrous size could be attributed to the plastic stool he stood on, and his sinister appearance was more from a lack of sleep and an overactive imagination than any real threat.
It's funny that there is the sense of a "haunted house" tour to the Ripper Walk. I wonder, do Ripper tour guides feel pressure to liven up the tour to compete with other types of tours?

Another question comes out of this quote by Leu:
As we followed in Ripper’s footsteps, tracking back and forth between the invisible boundary lines, Rumbelow intertwined stories of the five murders — all East End prostitutes, most in their 40s — with a dramatic air, revealing the attitudes and ineptitudes of law enforcement at the time.

However, just as he began describing Ripper’s narrow escape from two incoming search parties, a heckler rode by on his bike shouting indecipherable obscenities, breaking the mood that Rumbelow had tried so hard to craft.

Do Ripper guides find it difficult to conduct the tours amidst the general public, especially as incidents like these occur? How often do people disrupt the tours?
posted by Unknown @ 9:26 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, April 17, 2010
Kosminski--Jack the Ripper's London Class
Last year, in my second class on Jack the Ripper's London, I had groups choose suspects and present their findings on each. The group that chose Aaron Kosminski used this as a prop for the presentation:

The group used the brush to flag Kosminski's profession of hairdresser.  Kosminski also had at least a tangential medical connection, as he was employed at one time at a hospital as either an orderly or hairdresser.  In 1988, the centennial of the case, the FBI opened an investigation along with Scotland Yard to determine the most likely suspect, and Kosminski was the top choice.  He was named in the McNaghton Memorandum and the Swanson Marginalia as a contemporary suspect as well.  Kosminski was committed to an asylum in 1891 where he later died. 

I'm impressed by the amount of work my students put in and hope to put up more of their props periodically.
posted by Unknown @ 8:46 PM | 0 comments

Jack the Ripper and Me in Ripperologist Journal
My blog is featured in the latest Ripperologist journal! Many thanks to Mike Covell for the write-up, including questions on why I keep the blog going and what I would tell others who wish to start or continue a blog. One thing I would add is to write about what you are interested in--I don't expect or anticipate a large audience for my blog, as it deals with a very specific and select topic. But that's the point--it's what I'm interested in, and what I like to explore. As I tell my writing students, passion for your topic will always make for better writing.

Go to to subscribe to Ripperologist for all the latest on the case, the Victorian Era and Ripper-related news of the world. Rates are about $18.50 per year for beautiful, downloadable color PDFs of the magazine.
posted by Unknown @ 1:56 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 16, 2010
Phil Howard, a film-maker in Brentwood, announced that he plans to make a movie about Jack the Ripper, hoping to have "Ray Winstone and Danny Dyer, as well as Geoff Bell, Ian Virgo and Sebastian Street in its cast."

Howard tells a newspaper that ""I always liked the story and have seen all the different interpretations of what happened on TV. But no-one's ever done it big. I'm intrigued by the fact no-one has ever known who did it." I thought From Hell was big...

Howard states that his source is "a crime book we think is the most true and correct called Jack the Ripper Crime Book. There are five suspects, five prostitutes and we follow them on a day to day basis." I wonder if this is the Jack the Ripper Crime Archive by Val Horsler? If not, I'm not familiar with the work. Maybe it's a title exclusive to the UK or a re-titled work?
posted by Unknown @ 8:13 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 03, 2010
Jack the Ripper in America Reviewed by Murder by Gaslight Blog
The blog Murder by Gaslight takes on nineteenth-century crimes through straightforward retelling of the tales and, in this instance, a review of the Discovery Channel Ripper documentary Jack the Ripper in America. The narrator, former NYPD detective Ed Norris, seeks the Ripper in New York by trying to connect him to the death of Carrie Brown (Old Shakespeare). Intriguing enough theory, overall, but Norris is laughable in this documentary, seeming like a parody of a New York detective. Check out Murder by Gaslight for his review (including some interesting details about Norris's career) and more cases.
posted by Unknown @ 10:17 PM | 0 comments

Thomas Neill Cream
Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Frederick Deeming
The Bravo Case
Madeleine Smith
Constance Kent
William Palmer
My Ripper Inventory
Ripper Notes
Hollywood Ripper
Jack the Ripper Forum
Archives: Jack the Ripper
The Whitechapel Society
Largest German Jack the Ripper Site
The Victorian Web
Victorian Dictionary
Victoria Research Web

The Final Solution by Walter Harmidarow
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