I’ve spent a lot of time in London over the last couple of months on training courses so I’m always looking for things to do in the late afternoon and early evening to take full advantage whilst I am away from home!
During my last training course I was staying in the Whitechapel area and came across the Jack the Ripper Museum which was only a few minutes walk from my hotel. I am an absolute crime story fanatic and of course the Jack the Ripper story is one of the oldest and most famous unsolved crime stories so I knew I had to pay a visit. I did it just in time too, as it was closed towards the end of May for a refurbishment!
I am not sure whether I timed my visit perfectly or not as I was the only person in the museum the whole time I was there! At first I thought how fantastic, I can get up close to all the exhibits without having to wait, but as soon as I had been walking round the eerie and haunting exhibits for a few minutes I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea…..
In 1888, Jack the Ripper committed a series of murders in the east end of London which shocked the entire world. The Killings spawned hundreds of theories, with each one trying to solve the crimes which, to this day, remain a mystery.
The museum is at 12 Cable Street, and is set in a beautiful Victorian terraced house. It is set across the six floors of the museum and each floor has a different setting;
First Floor – The Murder scene in Mitre Square
This scene relates to the 30th September 1888, the most famous date in Ripper history. In here are two waxwork figures, one of Catherine Eddowes, the second woman who died on this date and Police Constable Watkins, who discovered her body. On one side of the room is a worker’s cart under a street light. These carts were used to move the bodies of the murdered women to the morgue.
One of the morgues used to store Jack the Ripper’s victims was only a few streets away from the museum. On the wall there is a replica of original graffiti which was left at the murder scene.
Second Floor – Ripper’s Sitting Room
This room is set up to show how Jack the Ripper may have lived during these times and where he may have planned his murder.
In this room are newspaper clippings which were written in 1888 and chart the progress of the serial killer’s awful crimes.
Hanging over the fireplace is an original drawing by the person who was the prime suspect in the Jack the Ripper killings, Walter Sickert. To this date there is a debate on whether the subject of the drawing is sleeping or if something more sinister is actually going on…..
On one of the tables are medical instruments, poison, drug bottles and a skull belonging to the killer.
On the desk, medical books on surgery and dissection are displayed, along with a letter addressed “from Hell” which may have been written by the Ripper.
A Doctor’s bag which contains knives similar to those used to kill and mutilate the Ripper’s victims is on the floor by the desk.
Third Floor – Police Station
In this room you will find all the evidence and the profiles of the suspects.
A crime board shows the sites of all the murders and the evidence the police collected.
In the display case is the actual whistle Police Constable Watkins blew to call for help when he found Catherine Eddowes’ mutilated body in Mitre Square.
Also here is Police Constable Watkins’ notebook, handcuffs and truncheon he was carrying that day.
By the desk is a waxwork of Chief Inspector Abberline, the detective in charge of leading the hunt for the Ripper in 1888.
Fourth Floor – Victim’s Bedroom
Up a steep and eerie staircase you can find the fourth floor, which has been arranged as the victims bedrooms may have looked in these times. The walls up this staircase are not decorated in newspaper headings and stories like the others in the rest of the house.
Jack the Ripper’s victims would have lived in rooms just like this one, in one of London’s most poverty stricken areas.
A small metal bed with a straw mattress was all the comfort these women would have had. Gin was often the drink of choice in those days, with a bottle costing only a few pence.
There are rare photos of the victims on the wall of this room, as haunting music quietly plays in the background.
In the display case in this room are some original Victorian bonnets. These would have been worn by women to cover their hair, which would have rarely been washed in those days.
Basement – The Mortuary
This room details the violence of Jack the Ripper’s crimes which still shock everyone today. Note, this room is deemed unsuitable for the under 16’s.
On the walls of this room are original autopsy photos of the horrific murders which some people may find disturbing. I was really worried about going in here after I read this but most of the photos do not show much detail and, due to when they were taken, are not clear. Having said that, I am a true crime buff and have looked at lots of photos like this so I am quite immune to this type of thing, so please exercise caution if you do get to visit the museum.
The body of Elizabeth Stride was taken to the parish mortuary of St George-in-the-East. The building, which is only moments from the museum, was once a chapel. On the far wall is a Victorian stained glass window from the mortuary.
Next to the stained glass window are drawers that were used to store the bodies of the dead until they were collected for burial.
Some of the murdered women had no families to collect their remains. They were buried in mass paupers’ graves and their last resting place unmarked.
and of course, as with most museums, you exit through the;
Gift shop on the Ground Floor
In here you will find a large selection of gift, ceramics, prints and memorabilia which can only be found at the Jack the Ripper museum.
If you would like to read more about the museum or book tickets online you can find their website here.
If this is a case which particularly interests you, you can become a Ripperologist by joining through the museum’s website. The Jack the Ripper museum is the official home of the International Society of Ripperologists and this worldwide community is dedicated to the study of the Whitechapel murders and in solving the ultimate question – who was Jack the Ripper?