At the end of the 19th Century, Jack the Ripper took the world by storm. His murders changed the world forever, giving us the first famous serial killer and giving tabloid journalism it’s first big story, altering the way we receive news even to this day.
So powerful is the idea of Saucy Jack that his story has crept into the pop culture landscape time and again, often in places you may not expect. Here, for your amusement, is a look at five of the spots Old Jack has shown up that left many of us scratching our heads…
Jack the Ripper in Stardate 3614.9
What if Jack the Ripper wasn’t a person, but a demonic entity that has existed for all of time and feeds on the fear of sentient beings? That is the concept WOLF IN THE FOLD, the 14th episode of the second season of STAR TREK.
In it, Scotty – the head of engineering for the U.S.S. Enterprise, is possessed by Jack the Ripper and goes on a killing spree on a sex planet. When Scotty is brought back to the Enterprise, the evil spirit leaves him and takes over the ship’s computer system. The spirit, called Redjac, starts to torment the crew of the ship, feeding on their terror and getting all fat from it. Finally, Spock is able to trick Redjac out of the computer system and teleports it into space, dispersing the spirit into millions of little pieces.
What’s great about this is the idea that Jack the Ripper is an undying evil that will haunt humanity for all time – that we as a species will never be able to escape the darker side of our minds, the side that lets so many of us commit murder. What isn’t so great is how the episode treats women. While STAR TREK has become an icon of equality, this episode has all the hallmarks of 1960s misogyny, from Bones bringing Scotty to a planet sized brothel so he can get his confidence back by having sex with a slave woman to the way Spock’s claim that “women are more easily and more deeply terrified, generating more sheer horror than the male of the species.”
Still, it is such a crazy concept that the whole of the episode is worth checking out.
Jack Takes an Island Vacation
If you’re old enough to know what “De plane! De plane!” is referencing, you’re pretty old. FANTASY ISLAND was a show that could only exist in the early 1970s when TV execs were so coked up every idea seemed genius. The show centered on Mr. Roarke, a seemingly magical being, and his assistant Tattoo as they ran a resort on a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean where your greatest desires could come true, but sometimes at an unexpected cost.
In the 6th episode of the 4th season, Mr. Roarke (played by the amazing Ricardo Montalbán) helps a Lynda Day George (who you may recognize from the cult classic PIECES or as the Nazi Wonder Woman from WONDER WOMAN) get a better feel for Jack the Ripper for the book she’s writing. How does Mr. Roarke do it? He sends Lynda back in space and time so she can be in Whitechapel while Jack is walking around killing women. In true FANTASY ISLAND style, Jack sets his sights on Lynda, looking to make her his next victim, following her back to the present and causing a bit of a bother on the island. Things look dire for Lynda until Mr. Roark shows up and beats Jack the Ripper in a staring contest (that isn’t a joke – Mr. Roark just stares at the killer until Jack runs away. It is honestly kind of awesome).
Not unlike the STAR TREK episode, this one has a fair share of misogyny going for it. Along with the Jack the Ripper story is a tale about a guy whose fantasy is to have sex with a whole lot of women. I mean, it is a pretty realistic fantasy, but the way the show presents it is… creepy.
Jack Loves Drac
One of Jack the Ripper’s first appearances in video games was in MASTER OF DARKNESS for the Sega Master System. The game, done in a similar style as CASTLEVANIA, puts the player in the shoes of Dr. Ferdinand Social, a Ouija board loving psychologist who is hunting Dracula, who he believes is really behind the Jack the Ripper murders.
As you learn while playing the game, Dracula isn’t Jack the Ripper, but they are connected! Jack is killing women as sacrifices to bring Dracula back to life and only Dr. Social can stop him! If you get your hands on this 8-bit classic, you’ll be able to play through three stages, taking you from the Thames River to Castle Dracula as you battle Jack, a psychic girl possessed by an evil spirit, and Dracula himself.
It’s only fitting that Jack the Ripper is in some way connected to the Dracula myth. Both have played the boogeyman for children at some point in their histories, and both are so ingrained into the idea of Victorian London that not having the fictional monster cross paths with the factual monster would just be wrong.
Jack Goes to Gotham
Here’s the idea, and it is a great one – in 1889, the mysterious Batman makes his first appearance in Gotham City. At the same time, someone is going around killing women seemingly at random. While the police and good people of Gotham believe that Batman is the killer, the Dark Knight Detective knows the truth, Jack the Ripper has come to America.
Before he can find the killer, Bruce Wayne is arrested for the murders. A bloody knife hidden under Bruce’s bed seals the deal, and the hero is sent to Arkham Asylum. While locked up waiting to be hung for murders he didn’t commit, Bruce does his detective thing and discovers the true identity of Jack the Ripper, and the killer’s connection to the death of Bruce’s parents!
Written by Brian Augustyn with art by HELLBOY creator Mike Mignola and inks by SANDMAN artist P. Craig Russell, GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT was an instant classic and drove DC comics to create a new imprint called Elseworlds where strange stories could be told about their characters.
Jack the Ripper Knows Kung Fu
Well before Jack showed up in DC Comics, his story was being told over in Marvel’s own books. In the Marvel Universe, Jack the Ripper is way weirder than any other spot in fiction.
The story of this Jack starts in the late 19th Century when Dormammu, who you may remember from the end of DOCTOR STRANGE, got bored and decided to send a monster to possess the body of a hunchback named Tom Malverne. The monster pushed Malverne, who hated anyone who wasn’t a hunchback, to kill. Malverne found a coven of vampires who agreed to turn him into an immortal bloodsucker, but only if he killed and drank someone before the end of the year to prove that he was really into it.
To show just how committed he was to becoming a creature of the night, Malverne killed five women in Whitechapel, but he could never bring himself to drink their blood. Before Malverne went back to the vampire to tell them that he failed, he was pulled into the future by an evil wizard called Terdu who wanted the famous serial killer to take out Captain America! Once he lost that fight, Terdu sent Malverne back to 1888 where he was killed by the vampires for failing to complete his quest. Malverne’s soul ended up in Hell, and the evil spirit that possessed him went off to find a new host.
Over the years, the evil spirit possessed a bunch of different people, making them take as many innocent lives as they could before getting killed themselves. The spirit almost always chose its hosts, but there was one time when the evil Fu Manchu (comics could be super problematic in the 1980s) had it possess his daughter’s lover, a dude named Phillip. If it wasn’t for Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu and son of Fu Manchu, the possessed boyfriend would have done a whole lot of killing!
Not to be outdone by a racial stereotype, Thor also fought the evil Jack the Ripper spirit when it had taken over some poor sap and went around calling itself “The Zaniac” which I can only hope was short for “Zany Zodiac”
There are endless tales about Jack the Ripper, and some of them, like the comic book FROM HELL or Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG, are truly great. Still, we have to enjoy the weird stuff too, right?