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  • Cause and Effect or Coincidence

    Quite often in the study of the Ripper murders, we come across seemingly extraordinary coincidences. Sometimes these coincidences are seen as actions of agency and not coincidences at all. Individually each coincidence can be accepted as such, but when these form a pattern, are they telling us something? I have been thinking about a couple of these coincidences and would like to suggest that perhaps the Ripper victims were possibly not all as random as is commonly believed and that possibly the murderer was playing with the police.

    The coincidences I am specifically referring to are:
    a) Mary Ann Nichol's funeral route to a funeral director's in Hanbury Street through the back entrance in Chapman's Court two days before Annie Chapman is murdered in Hanbury Street.
    b) The finding of the bloodied apron piece in Goulston Street underneath gaffitti potentially referencing the murder at the Jewish club and blaming the club members for a second victim.
    c) The murder of Mary Jane Kelly in Dorset Street/Miller's Court after the murderer's previous victim's use of the names Jane Kelly and Mary Ann Kelly and the address 6 Dorset Street.

    Do these coincidences, taken together, point to the Ripper choosing certain of his victims to taunt the police or are they just coincidences? I wonder if he was playing cat and mouse with the cops.


  • #2
    Hi etenguy,

    I think we can get misled by some of these coincidences. For example, in Tabram's case we have the witness Pearly Poll, and low and behold the next victim in the Whitechapel murders is "Polly" Nichols. Was she chosen for that reason? Does that make Tabram a victim of JtR? Or did JtR at least note that name and then decide to find a victim to connect to that case at least?

    I think, though, that when we step back and look at the situation around each case, it seems unlikely that JtR could have found victims based upon their names. With all of the reports of men bothering women in suspicious ways (i.e. the "Bethnal Green Botherer" that gets mentioned in a few threads connected with the Kelly case is one example), never is there any mention of a man acting suspicious who also is asking about the woman's name. There are a series of 3 unsolved child murders in Rochester from the early 1970s called the "alphabet murders", where the victims all had the same first and last initials in their name (not between each other, but just each of them had names like "C.C", "W.W.", and "M.M.". Each victim's body was found in an area that started with their corresponding initial as well (i.e. "C.C." was found in Churchville, etc.). I don't know much about these, though, so I've just checked the Wikipedia page on them to see what sort of general information is out there, and by the looks of it there were different suspects for each case that have not been satisfactorily rule out, suggesting there is a good chance they aren't linked at all.

    Basically, for JtR to have selected his victims based upon finding a victim with a name associated with a previous murder, in the short amount of time between when that name becomes associated with the previous murder (the Chapman link, for example, only gives him 2 days, and finding someone with the name of Chapman in that amount of time, and being able to entice them to go with him, etc, seems unikely. But, Annie's name and Mary "Ann" Nichols, gives us yet another way to make that connection I suppose.

    And as for the GSG, well, it doesn't specifically refer to the club associated with Stride. That is one possible interpretation, but like horoscopes, it is easier to form connections when you can than think of the potential connections it could have referred to but didn't happen. Anti-semitism was not exactly rare at the time. If JtR wrote it, he may just have been antisemetic, he may have been referring to ideas stemming from Pizer or Leather Apron (the idea that JtR was foreign was a well known rumour), he may have been referring to Lawende and company, or just taking advantage of the general antisemitism of the day. Or, he didn't write it, but coming across it as he left the scene it appealed to him, or he didn't even see it and just tossed the apron there, in a dark location, which was also suitable for someone else's literary handiwork. Regardless, the important point is that we cannot say that message only can refer to aspects of Stride's murder, and given there are many other possible interpretations, we need to view it in that light.

    But what are we doing? For Tabram -> Nichols, we're going "Witness -> victim", for Nichols -> Chapman we're going "building -> victim" or maybe "Victim's other name -> victim", nothing about Stride's name seems to connect her to Chapman, so why was she chosen, or is she not a JtR victim maybe? But we're saying the GSG refers to Stride, so she is, but where's her link? Eddowes, we form the link to "Mary Ann Nichols" but only because the name she gave the police upon her arrest has "Ann" in it, but how does JtR know about the name Eddowes gave the police? and so on. We're skipping over cases (Stride) where we can't find a link, and where the links are in the names are for two very very common names (Mary, and Ann), which can be used singularly and appear in any form (i.e. in a false name given to the police which would be unknown to JtR, unless we think JtR is one of the police officers at that station I suppose).

    Basically, I wouldn't put any stock in the name overlap, and I worry we get too distracted about how the GSG could be interpreted in a way that involves the Stride case and overlook the fact that it is entirely possible to interpret it without a connection to the Stride case, or even in ways that do not connect it to the JtR series at all.

    We are pattern recognizers, and we look for connections between things, and we often see pictures in the TV snow (well, when TV's used to have snow after they went off the air; perhaps that's too dated now as a reference). I would suggest that these are curiosities, but would strongly warn off spending too much time looking for causal links - in part because I have absolutely no doubt one will be able to find some. We're creative that way. Finding a way to link them, however, won't make that link true, but it will convince the finder.

    - Jeff

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post

      I think we can get misled by some of these coincidences. For example, in Tabram's case we have the witness Pearly Poll, and low and behold the next victim in the Whitechapel murders is "Polly" Nichols....
      Hi Jeff.
      Along the same lines a detail that struck me many years ago was, as you know, that Eddowes used the name Kelly, the next victim is Kelly, who had used the name Davis/ies. The next victim was a Davis but more commonly known as Mylett.

      It can't be anything else but coincidence, can it, I mean, really....
      Regards, Jon S.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Wickerman View Post

        Hi Jeff.
        Along the same lines a detail that struck me many years ago was, as you know, that Eddowes used the name Kelly, the next victim is Kelly, who had used the name Davis/ies. The next victim was a Davis but more commonly known as Mylett.

        It can't be anything else but coincidence, can it, I mean, really....
        I wonder what the odds of the probability of such a thing?
        "When the legend becomes fact... print the legend"
        - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Wickerman View Post

          Hi Jeff.
          Along the same lines a detail that struck me many years ago was, as you know, that Eddowes used the name Kelly, the next victim is Kelly, who had used the name Davis/ies. The next victim was a Davis but more commonly known as Mylett.

          It can't be anything else but coincidence, can it, I mean, really....
          Hi Wickerman,

          It's a curiosity, and we delve into the details here in so many directions, and in so much depth, we have to start wondering about the odds of not finding some really odd coincidences. The probability of finding something that looks really improbable is actually very high, although one might not be able to predict what form that improbable data might look like. But once "found", it can be very misleading to make too much of it.

          Now, there's nothing to stop us from forming a hypothesis based upon that observation, but a hypothesis is just a guess, either we guess there's something other than chance involved (i.e. JtR selecting by this information) or we attribute it to coincidence.

          If there is something to it, then we can focus our efforts of research, we look for the other types of things that should arise as a consequence of the story we come up with that includes our guess at the link (obviously, the coincidence hypothesis indicates we're not likely to find anything further based upon our story). That's why I mentioned the Bethnal Green Botherer. That's one person who has been reported as creating suspicion amongst women of the area, and there are other reports too (Leather Apron was an example of such, for example). Ok, but I cannot recall any such report ever indicating that these men were asking about names. That kind of thing never turns up.

          And Stride's name, as far as I know, has never been suggested to have a link with Chapman's case. And if the next victim is supposed to somehow be linked to the previous one, then it is Stride's case that should show that link. If Stride is not a JtR victim, then the GSG cannot refer to events around Stride's case, making our seeing that connection clearly a case of "horoscope interpretation error". But if the GSG does refer to the Stride case, we're left with her not showing the link we're claiming is JtR's selection process.

          And if JtR is selecting victims based upon a name link with the previous murder, then what is the link between Eddowes and Chapman (if Stride is not the series) or between Eddowes and Stride (if she is). And if Stride is a JtR victim, and we simply don't know what name Stride gave (making up an excuse for not finding that information), what are the odds that he could find a 2nd victim within an hour who conveniently matches up with that name we have to assume existed but for which we have no evidence?

          Also, the name links are not even consistent, as I mentioned above, we've got witness alias names connecting to victim's alias (i.e. Pearly Poll; Polly Nichols; maybe nicknames is better than alias here, but let's not quibble) being, we have place names to connect to victims, we have victim aliases ("Mary Ann Kelly", etc) connected to victims, victim real names connected to other victims, and so forth. We're just seeing names, that have some degree of common use (i.e. we have victim boyfriend "Kelly", and later victim "Kelly" to name another). In other words, we're casting a huge net, collecting lots and lots and lots of names, and then sifting through them to see if we caught any duplicates. What are the odds we wouldn't?

          I've never seen any new evidence get uncovered, and lead anywhere, based upon the hypothesis that these name overlaps reflect JtR's behaviour. It doesn't seem to lead us anywhere solid, and at best, all that ever comes out of sifting through further name examinations by casting our net wider and wider, are more duplicates, but we never get an idea of how many potential names are being discarded because they do not pair up.

          If we went through all the cases, pulled all the witnesses together, all the local taverns associated with victims, all the place names associated with the murders, doctor's names, street names, and so forth, we would have a huge collection of names, many of which are not going to pair up with the victim.

          But others will pair up randomly (i.e. Joseph Lawende -> Joe Barnett; two Joe's, sequential crimes; oh, and Joseph Leve too, another one. I believe Lawende's wife's name was Annie, connects to Annie Chapman: do we count that? If not, why not? Aren't we selectively throwing away data that would give us a better idea of how common, or rare, it is to find randomly matching parts of names?)

          Grab everything you can, every possible name associated with these crimes in anyway, and you will find some pairs. Probably a lot of pairs. Some of those pairs will involve victims, but finding pairs will be common, so finding pairs with some of the victims isn't unlikely.

          If we didn't discard, and forget about, the pairs that don't tickle our fancy, we would probably end up concluding that such combinations are actually pretty common.

          - Jeff

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by erobitha View Post

            I wonder what the odds of the probability of such a thing?
            Hi erobitha,

            I rather suspect it is a lot higher to find name pairs than it may at first appear.

            - Jeff

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post

              And Stride's name, as far as I know, has never been suggested to have a link with Chapman's case. And if the next victim is supposed to somehow be linked to the previous one, then it is Stride's case that should show that link.
              Liz Long vs Long Liz?

              Comment


              • #8
                Was Martha Tabram killed by someone that knew her or was it a coincidence that a 39 year old was stabbed 39 times
                Regards

                Sir Herlock Sholmes



                "Tis but a part we see, and not a whole."

                ”Baroni licitum est dicere troglodytam”

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post

                  Hi erobitha,

                  I rather suspect it is a lot higher to find name pairs than it may at first appear.

                  - Jeff
                  Hi Jeff

                  Thank you for adding some perspective to the observation, and of course coincidences occur all the time. The biggest coincidence quoted here is the jane kelly/mary ann kelly/dorset street one. That just seems so improbable a coincidence that it sets off all sorts of thoughts. But these types of things do happen by chance and I have come across this at work. I work in a team of four people, including myself. All of us have December birthdays, myself and one other have our birthdays on the same day and were born in the same year. That must be incredibly improbable, and I'm pretty sure date of birth was not a recruitment criteria.

                  With regards to Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride, Annie Chapman's first name was Eliza even though she went by her middle name Ann. Elizabeth Stride used the name Annie Fitzgerald at some of her Court appearances. So the swapping of Eliza(beth) for Annie by both is a coincidence but seems even to me to be a stretch as a connection. I don't know about a name coincidence between Stride and Eddowes, but potentially Eddowes was a random victim if the killer was disturbed in his attack on Stride.

                  I'm persuaded that these are coincidences resulting from the large amount of data and trying to see patterns across the data, but there is still a part of me that wonders.
                  Last edited by etenguy; 07-25-2021, 11:50 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post
                    Was Martha Tabram killed by someone that knew her or was it a coincidence that a 39 year old was stabbed 39 times
                    Hi Herlock - point made, but when you come across some of the coincidences, it is easy to be drawn in by them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by etenguy View Post
                      a) Mary Ann Nichol's funeral route to a funeral director's in Hanbury Street through the back entrance in Chapman's Court two days before Annie Chapman is murdered in Hanbury Street.
                      Do you happen to know where Chapman's Court might be? I've not been able to locate it on maps nor in census listings. As far as I can tell, the rear entrance to the mortuary would have been accessed via Pavillion Yard.
                      The mention of Chapman's Court was I think first printed in the East London Advertiser 8th September, which wasn't published until a few hours after Annie was found dead (too late for her murder to make it into that issue). Unless anyone knows different? So it seems that the killer would have had to have seen the hearse enter the court (presuming it existed), but the whole idea of taking the back route was to avoid the crowd at the main entrance, so this seems unlikely.
                      ​​​​​​​

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Joshua Rogan View Post

                        Liz Long vs Long Liz?
                        yah! Well spotted!

                        - Jeff

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by etenguy View Post

                          Hi Jeff

                          Thank you for adding some perspective to the observation, and of course coincidences occur all the time. The biggest coincidence quoted here is the jane kelly/mary ann kelly/dorset street one. That just seems so improbable a coincidence that it sets off all sorts of thoughts. But these types of things do happen by chance and I have come across this at work. I work in a team of four people, including myself. All of us have December birthdays, myself and one other have our birthdays on the same day and were born in the same year. That must be incredibly improbable, and I'm pretty sure date of birth was not a recruitment criteria.

                          With regards to Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride, Annie Chapman's first name was Eliza even though she went by her middle name Ann. Elizabeth Stride used the name Annie Fitzgerald at some of her Court appearances. So the swapping of Eliza(beth) for Annie by both is a coincidence but seems even to me to be a stretch as a connection. I don't know about a name coincidence between Stride and Eddowes, but potentially Eddowes was a random victim if the killer was disturbed in his attack on Stride.

                          I'm persuaded that these are coincidences resulting from the large amount of data and trying to see patterns across the data, but there is still a part of me that wonders.
                          Hi,

                          Yah, we spot patterns all the time, it's what our brains do. As for birthdays, ignoring the year part, if you've randomly collect 30 people in a room together, there's just under a 30% chance they will all have different birthdays (so you're pretty safe in betting two or more will have a common birthday). That's a bit simplistic as it presumes that births are equally divided over the year (and they're not quite, August, in the northern hemisphere at least, tends to have the most, etc, but for betting purposes it's not going to change your winning odds against you). It's around 46% chance that (again, not adjusting for real birth rates, just treating each month as being 1/12 likely), and you end up with something like 46% chance that 2 will have the same birth month, but all 4 is really rare (like 0.05% of 1%! so that's pretty cool).

                          And, as your Eliza -> Elizabeth, we're just showing how easy it is to find what we're looking for. And that is what should twig us to the idea that maybe it's not as unlikely as it first seems like it should be. We can find that link if we look hard enough, so should we be surprised when we do?

                          - Jeff

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by etenguy View Post

                            Hi Herlock - point made, but when you come across some of the coincidences, it is easy to be drawn in by them.
                            Hi Eten - certainly true. I recall making this point to a friend years ago though when we were discussing Tabram’s murder. I wasn’t pushing the idea with any weight at all but I did comment that what if Tabram’s killer was someone that knew her well and that in a previous drunken argument her age had been mentioned “I’m 39 and still hanging around with a waste of space like you!” for eg? Then in a drunken rage….
                            Regards

                            Sir Herlock Sholmes



                            "Tis but a part we see, and not a whole."

                            ”Baroni licitum est dicere troglodytam”

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I've always thought that the dates form an interesting pattern:

                              7th Aug
                              31st Aug
                              8th Sept
                              30th Sept
                              9th Nov (although 9th Oct would technically have fit better, so I'm using a bit of artistic license here admittedly!!!).

                              So, following this pattern you would expect the next murder to be on 29th November, then 10th December......

                              To clarify, I don't actually believe that this is anything more than coincidence.

                              I'm confident that it's just my homo sapien brain doing what comes naturally and creating patterns out of chaos, but it's another of the funny little quirks which one observes in this case.

                              Comment

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