I certainly don’t think the answer would be at all interesting. I mean, in our stories, serial killers are often portrayed as evil geniuses with some type of deranged cultural message, inherently intriguing just for that fact, while the truth of the matter is that in real life they’re pretty much always just dumpy animal trash. Actually, the dregs of dumpy animal trash. Uninteresting as people, barely interesting as aberrations. We study them to stop them, not because there is anything of value to glean from their existence.
Since that time, he has somehow passed from mere infamy to mythology. We use him regularly in our fictions, and he is still as much a part of contemporary popular culture as Superman, Elvis, and Darth Vader, despite the facts that he prowled some 120 years ago and that in the intervening years we’ve had more than our share of monsters that out-monster'd him. Heck, we've pretty much thrown the entire weight of our anorexic popular culture at the fiend, siccing H.G. Wells, Maxwell Smart, Sherlock Holmes, Johnny Depp, Kolchak the Night Stalker, David Hasselhoff, Captain James T. Kirk, and others on him at one time or another. I think even the Fantasy
Island guy got involved once. The tall one.
There are basically two facts in the Jack the Ripper murders. One, a bunch of prostitutes were killed in the Whitechapel area of
in the Fall of 1888. Two, we don't know who did it. From there, history and its too-many experts guess that it was a single killer, that there was no one killer, that the killer sent letters and part of one of the victim's kidneys to the media, that the letters were fake and the organ was from a medical cadaver, that he was a media invention anyway, that the nature of the wounds pointed to the subtle skill of a doctor, that the nature of the wounds pointed to the unsubtle skill of a butcher, that he killed five women, that he killed more than five women, that he hated “juwes,” that he was a “juwe.” On top of that, literally hundreds of suspects have been pushed forward over the years. Heck, even Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, has been suggested...badly. London
Of the many Whitechapel suspects, a few had American roots. And in this case, when I say suspects, I don’t merely mean random name thrown out by a researcher to sell books a hundred years after the fact. I mean suspects, as in pulled by the scruff of their necks into Scotland Yard and questioned brusquely by someone with a British accent.
One such suspect was Francis Tumblety, notorious children's show host. Just kidding. Comical name, though. Tumblety is buried in
, making his grave one bit of Ripper lore that us Yanks can see firsthand. Well, if we’re near Rochester, NY , anyway. Rochester
Tumblety was born sometime in the early 1830s, after which time his family settled in the
area. He was a crazy kind of cat, traveling all over Rochester and America Europe impersonating doctors and military men. Apparently he would truck around in an unearned military uniform on a white horse led by a pair of greyhounds, while collecting human uteri and making a nice little fortune selling snake oil. The one picture of him that shows up the most on the Internet depicts a guy in a Sergeant Pepper outfit with a moustache the size of a ferret.
For the reasons outlined above (impersonations, snake oil, ferret moustache) and more, Tumblety regularly got in trouble with the law on both sides of the ocean. On our side, the biggest mark on his rap sheet was being arrested for conspiring in
’s assassination. In Lincoln , it was the Whitechapel murders. Obviously, he was either England Mr. Wrong Place at the Wrong Time or legitimately the subject of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil.
He was cleared of the
accusation within a few weeks, but he just plum ran from the Ripper one, eventually coming back to the Lincoln and somehow avoiding extradition. Some say that’s because he wasn’t really a serious suspect, in addition to the fact that his arrest in U.S. was actually for being homosexual, a crime punishable by imprisonment back then and there, but not one worth pulling someone back across the ocean for. London
After dying in
, in 1903, he was buried in the family plot in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in St. Louis, MO . The large cemetery can be found on Rochester Lake St., on both sides of Lake St., in fact. You’re going to want to enter the east side of the cemetery, which is the one with the gothic-looking chapel right through the front gates. His grave is pretty easy to find from there. It’s located in Section 13, which is right to the left of the aforementioned chapel if you’re facing it. Right to the left. Got that? Right. Here’s a map, then.
The family grave is marked by a single pinkish urn-topped pillar that, for some reason, is jammed up against the slab of the adjoining Dunn plot. On the pillar, Tumblety’s name is spelled “Fransis Tumuelty,” but that’s the guy you’re looking for. People were less retentive about a lot of things back then, names especially. It also marks him as a “Dr.”, although it seems there was more evidence supporting him being a serial killer than a genuine man of medicine.
I admit that visiting the grave of a Ripper suspect who probably was only a weak one at that (and good thing, because who wants their Rippers with ferret moustaches) is a bit of a mundane experience, given the mythology surrounding it. However, I can also tell you that I did that aforementioned after-dark Jack the Ripper tour while in
a few years back. The grisly locations where the bodies of the eviscerated prostitutes were found are now modern office buildings, parking spots, and random bits of asphalt, which, according to my math, is 1.3 million times more mundane than a 100-year-old grave. That said, both are probably more interesting than the identity of the Ripper himself. London