Jack the Ripper’s identity may finally be revealed, bringing a new level of horror to the story.
I should preface by saying that my attitude toward the recent mitochondrial DNA evidence is one of cautious optimism. Disregarding for the moment that the evidence has yet to undergo peer review, it’s a bit shocking to have a face and name for what was, for over 125 years, an unfathomable monster. Aaron Kosminski may be the name, the face of whom is a mentally ill survivor of yet another type of horrific violence: the pogroms of Tsarist Russia (which included modern-day Poland).
“Pogrom” is another word for a massacre; it’s like a riot that erupts in violence that targets a specific ethnic or religious group. In Kosminski’s homeland, anti-Semitic demonstrations and mass murders took place throughout most of the 1800s; Kosminski and his family were impoverished Jews who fled in the 1880s to Whitechapel, London.
This was less than a decade before Jack the Ripper terrorized Whitechapel, which was, at that time, a slum. Its population consisted mostly of Irish and Jewish immigrants, who were deemed the lowest of the low in Victorian England, possibly lower than the 1200 prostitutes who worked Whitechapel’s streets. What I’m saying is, Kosminski may have led the most pathetic life imaginable in post-Medieval Europe.
Man, the more we find out about this guy, the more of that sexy edge we lose from the story of Jack the Ripper. Kosminski was a refugee, with stints in mental hospitals, and, according to testimony from his day, had a history of “self-abuse” (the 19th century euphemism for jerking his chicken, or stroking his bishop, or masturbating at every opportunity even if it involved horrified onlookers). I’m starting to understand why this guy was a chief suspect for over a century.
The DNA evidence, by the way, was in the form of ejaculate found on a shawl belonging to one of the Ripper’s final victims. So even if a match is confirmed, there will always be detractors who say that Kisminski’s DNA could have ended up on Catharine Eddoews’ shawl due to circumstances unrelated to her murder. After all, the man apparently had a habit of leaving his semen in every corner of Whitechapel. He and Eddowes may have even had consensual sex hours before she died.
What this news story brings us, however, is not the possibility of a resolution to one of the world’s most famous cold cases; it is just another piece of the puzzle that is the human mind.
Kosminski was a mentally troubled person (to say the least), targeted in his homeland with anti-semitic violence, which likely exacerbated his issues. He lived in a time when the mental health industry was not remotely a thing. There were no psychologists or therapists or counselors; if you were weird, they locked you in a building far away, whether you were an epileptic or liked to fingerpaint with your own feces.
So the horror of the Jack the Ripper story has not diminished, but the nature of it has changed. Now, instead of a faceless demon, Jack the Ripper represents the evil within the mind, kept in check only by mental processes that are immeasurable and unquantifiable; an evil that is unleashed and fed by nonsensical violence in perpetuity.
Jack the Ripper’s story will never be over. He was not a man, but the personification of human psychosis. And he’s still out there.
M. N. Hanson has been published previously in Vine Leaves, Burningword, Revolver, and Gothic Blue Books I & II. M is a student of the absurd bordering on the grotesque. Favorite word: Diapsalmata. Second favorite word: Ithyphallophobia. Please visit http://mnhanson.com to complain.