The 13th Floor

4 Possible Theories on Jack the Ripper’s Identity

For over 100 years, people have pondered over the true identity of Jack the Ripper, the man (or woman) responsible for the brutal deaths of five prostitutes in Whitechapel, London in 1888. Countless people were considered suspects in the slayings. Given that at the time DNA evidence was a laughable pipe dream and with opium running rampant, many people were viewed as particularly suspicious individuals (including author Lewis Carroll).

Now, over a century later, people continue to publish books and make movies featuring theories about the true identity of the Ripper, a mystery that may never find a solution. Below are four of the most gruesome, strange, and downright creepy suspects in the Ripper killings. Who do you think it could be?

Nikolay Vasiliev 

Nikolay Vasiliev was the leader of a sect of Eunuchs and also a romantic at heart.  He spent most of his days poring over books and at night he wandered the streets, hoping to save any poor souls he came across. One night, he encountered a beautiful woman named Madeleine, a prostitute living in squalor. Vasiliev immediately fell in love with the girl and took it upon himself to set her up with a place to stay with a local tradeswoman, no doubt hoping that the girl would pick up the woman’s work ethic. Alas, Madeleine’s loyalty was to the streets, and much to Vasiliev’s sadness, she soon ran away.

After two months of searching for his love, Vasiliev finally found her, not far from where they had first met. Thrilled to be with his love again, something snapped, and he stabbed her  in the back with a knife. Madeleine’s betrayal set him loose on a murderous rampage and after only two weeks had passed, he had murdered seven more prostitutes in his fiery, misguided love rage.  The number was almost eight, but Vasiliev was caught when the girl he was trying to murder called out for help. At his trial, Vasiliev pled insanity and was sent to a mental institution in France. I would think the 1880’s were not a great time to be sent to a mental institution.

From this point, not much is known of Vasiliev’s whereabouts, but somehow two different periodicals stated that Vasiliev owned property in London in 1888 and that he was a suspect in the killings. After that point, Vasiliev drops off the radar for good, and was never heard from again.

Frederick Bailey Deeming

Much like Jason Voorhees and Norman Bates, Frederick Bailey Deeming was described as having a unnatural relationship with his mother. When she died in 1873, Deeming began acting strangely, and when asked why he was behaving so erratically, he told family and friends that it was simple: the ghost of his mother was telling him to do it. Duh.

After apparently getting his life back on track, Deeming married, and he and his wife had four children together. It was then that all hell broke loose.

It wasn’t long before the new neighbors noticed that Deeming’s wife and children hadn’t been around in a while. Deeming claimed that they had left him and then, suspiciously, he up and moved back to his native Australia, where he married again. After his second wife mysteriously disappeared, Deeming claimed to his neighbors that she had left on business, and then he left the home they had been renting.

The owner of the home began showing it to interested renters, but wasn’t finding much luck as they complained of a nasty stench emanating from the floor. After the neighbors told the landlord of the disappearance of Mrs. Deeming, police lifted the floorboards of the house and found Mrs. Deeming, whose throat had been slashed.

Police in England were then notified of the horrific discovery and lifted the floorboards of Deeming’s previous residence in England where they found the first Mrs. Deeming and all four of their children, whose throats had also been slashed. Deeming was arrested in 1892 and was hanged shortly thereafter. 

Jill the Ripper

Mary Kelly, the Ripper’s final victim, was killed between 3:30-4:00am on November 9th, 1888. Yet a witness claimed to have seen her at 8:30am and then again an hour later, looking ill.  She said she knew that it was Mary Kelly because she recognized her clothing.  

One of the running theories was that the killer could have dressed in Kelly’s clothing after the murder, hid his or her face, and walked around town to confuse the investigators.  Another theory was that Mary Kelly was pregnant at the time of her death, and may have been in contact with a midwife or abortionist.  This woman could have been called to Kelly’s home, murdered her, and not aroused any suspicion given that midwives were frequently called upon at all hours of the night. A midwife would also have enough knowledge of the human body to remove organs expertly.

It also makes a sort of sense that the killer could be a woman, as the letters to inspectors were signed “Jack the Ripper”, the killer could have taken on a male pseudonym to throw investigators off of her scent.

A top suspect in the “Jill the Ripper” theory was a brutish woman named Mary Pearcey who was executed in 1890 for brutally killing her lover’s wife and child by stabbing them and slitting their throats.  The manner of execution, and the fact that Pearcey killed her victims elsewhere before discarding their bodies in the streets was oddly similar to the MO of the Ripper and makes her a pretty viable suspect.

Francis Tumblety

Not much is known about the early years of Francis Tumblety. Described as “awkward… good-for-nothing” and “utterly devoid of education” by his peers, we can assume that he was not generally liked or appreciated by the people around him. Tumblety began his career in medicine, eventually becoming a physician. He got into trouble a couple times, first for trying to abort the pregnancy of a prostitute and then again when a patient under his care died from taking medicine he had prescribed. Each time he was let off his charges.

Things finally got downright creepy when, while hosting a dinner party, Tumblety lamented to his guests about his hatred for women, or “cattle” as he referred to them, citing a specific hatred for prostitutes. He brought them into his office and showed off a collection of curious medical specimens, including, drumroll please…  More than a dozen jars containing human uteri. Yes. Uterus. Women’s uteruses… Lock him up we found a winner, right?

Tumblety eventually fled (surprise) to Liverpool, and was actually charged on suspicion of being Jack the Ripper. While awaiting trial, Tumblety fled (again) to France, where he adopted an alias, and then eventually travelled back to the United States. After he left, the Ripper killings ceased, yet because of his flighty nature and agility, he was never apprehended by police.

It boggles the mind how many people were off of their homicidal rockers within the span of a couple of months in the East End Whitechapel district. Maybe the true identity of the “Leather Apron” will never be known for certain, and people like me and you and the freaking awesome people over at will always have this mystery burning at the base of our skulls. But honestly my money is on Tumblety. 


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