5. The press and police received hundreds of letters identifying the killer
The police and press received hundreds of letters during the course of the Ripper investigation, the overwhelming majority of them hoaxes. Many came from persons claiming to be the Ripper. Jack the Ripper first appeared as the signature of one such letter, received by the police via the Central News Agency. The agency distributed news stories to London’s most sensationalist papers, and often found itself accused of embellishing its stories. The police received the letter, addressed to “Dear Boss”, on September 29. It went into the hoax file. Three days later the body of Catherine Eddowes was found, with a part of an ear removed from her body. The Dear Boss letter had referenced slicing off an ear from the killer’s next victim and the letter moved from the hoax file to one of considerable interest.
The Central News Agency distributed the contents of the letter to its subscribers, and the name Jack the Ripper entered the English language. Dear Boss preceded two other letters the police eventually considered to have come from the actual murderer. One came as a postcard, via the Central News Agency, and mentioned the double murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. The writer referred to the murders as “double event this time” and the term double event became a signature of Ripper lore. The handwriting on the card, which was signed “Saucy Jacky” was similar to the Dear Boss letter, and the police considered the correspondence genuine. Yet the most famous of the Ripper letters, known as “From Hell”, was not sent to the police or press. The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee received it through its leader, George Lusk. Accompanying it was a portion of a human kidney.