Jack the Ripper savagely murdered and mutilated as many as eleven prostitutes in London starting in the spring of 1888. Now, 125 years later, he is tweeting about it.
Nobody knows, to this day, the true identity of the serial killer who claimed the lives of at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London, starting with prostitute Mary Ann Nichols on August 31, 1888. But now, a group of British historians is recreating Jack's season of blood with a Twitter account that will follow the killer's movements in real time through the crowded streets of London. Reports BBC News:
Since the start of the year, historians, some calling themselves Ripperologists, have been pulling together documents and photos that paint an evocative and lurid picture of happenings at the time. From Saturday, their tweets begin to go live, tracing events as they unfolded over a harrowing four months.
The Ripperologists will tweet using hash tagged names of people involved in the case including Det Con Frederick Abberline - a prominent police figure in the investigation. There will also be tweets from reporters at the time, and local people, for example workers from the nearby Shadwell Docks.
Jack the Ripper has an appropriately dark Twitter homepage and isn't following anyone — just yet.
While the project will surely attract true crime buffs, it is also intended to shed light on the living conditions of the time:
His antics were horrific and a microcosm of the horrors of Victorian London. It was a lawless place, with great division in society."
The tweets should also provide a window into life in Victorian London itself.
"Living conditions were pretty grim," Mr Halliday added. "In the East End, you had people living in squalor, no running water, no lavatories and rat-infested flats.
Moreover, while crime stories travel through the byways of Twitter today, the fires of curiosity were stoked by newspapers in the 19th century. As such, the Ripper project is an intriguing take on crime reporting and public hysteria. Or, as the blog Londonist muses:
The Jack the Ripper murders are London’s most notorious, but it’s easy to look back on it now with the luxury of hindsight. We know how many victims there were, we know he vanished without trace. But imagine living through it, with taunts sent to the media whipping up hysteria even further, not knowing what lurid details would be revealed next.
Nor is Jack the only historical figure to take to Twitter in order to shed light on the past for today's audience. Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, has found 140 characters the perfect medium for his dispatches from the 17th century:
After dinner my wife went and fetched the little puppies to us, which are very pretty ones.— Samuel Pepys (@samuelpepys) August 19, 2013
Meanwhile, John Quincy Adams is tweeting from St. Petersburg, having been appointed the ambassador to Russia in 1809:
8/19/1813: Took Charles to School. Called on Gallatin. Conference with Romanzoff in the City. Dined with my Colleagues at Meyer's.— John Quincy Adams (@JQAdams_MHS) August 19, 2013
Even T.S. Eliot, that famous traditionalist, has taken to Twitter:
Radio is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.— T. S. Eliot (@TSEliotDaily) July 9, 2012
All this is in good fun, of course. Someone might even learn something! We eagerly await Jack the Ripper's first tweet. Look out, Mary Ann. He's coming.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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