Jack the Ripper, the infamous murderer who stalked London in the 19th century, drew attention to the city's other serial killer--the "neglect" of the city's poor.

Illustration by John Tenniel

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  • On November 9, 1888, a collections agent discovered the mutilated body of Mary Jane Kelly, widely believed to be the final victim of London’s notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Beginning in August 1888, four other women had been killed in the same manner, leading law-enforcement officials to link the crimes to a single perpetrator. The nickname “Jack the Ripper” came from a letter originally credited to the killer himself, although most experts now believe the letter was a hoax.
     
    Jack the Ripper quickly became the first celebrity serial killer. Thousands of people followed the case in London’s inexpensive, widely circulated tabloid newspapers. Even today, investigators from all around the world—both “Ripperologists” and tourists—continue to be fascinated by the gruesome case, which was never solved.
     
    In addition to covering the grisly details of the crimes themselves, journalists also brought attention to the filthy, overcrowded urban slums where the killer found his victims. Public opinion forced the government to clean up the poorest areas, with many “Ripper” sites entirely demolished due to sanitation and safety concerns.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    celebrity Noun

    famous person.

    gruesome Adjective

    gross or violent.

    hoax Noun

    object or event meant to deceive or fool observers.

    inexpensive Adjective

    not costing a lot of money.

    law enforcement Noun

    individuals or organizations that make sure people obey government rules.

    sanitation Noun

    promotion of hygiene, health, and cleanliness.

    victim Noun

    person or organization that suffers from the act of another.