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James Brame's story - A New Suspect?

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  • James Brame's story - A New Suspect?

    The account below - although having all the hallmarks of an old sailor's yarn - I thought worth posting. This was published in 1927, and reminded me in some respects of the Dr Stanley story which appeared in 1929, albeit that this suspect died in Chile and not Argentina.
    I checked out the basic facts about Brame. He was born in Lowestoft in 1848 and was the son of a surgeon named Samuel Brame, so those facts he gives about his own background do check out. Of course, that does not make his story true!
    He only appears to be listed in the 1851 and 1861 censuses, and again that would fit with his story of going the US in the 1860s. But his dates do seem to be amiss in one respect - he says he went to the US in 1866 and fought in the tail end of the Civil War, but I thought this conflict ended in 1865.

    The Canberra Times (Australia)
    20 December 1927

    The Canberra Times (Australia)
    20 December 1927


    There is at present an old man in the hospital of an institution in Essex who may have known "Jack the Ripper." He is Mr. J.E. Brame, a bronzed old salt of eighty, whose head is still covered by a thick growth of hair that many a man half his age might envy.
    In his time Mr. Brame has been everything from a seaman to a qualified chemist. He has fought Red Indians on the plains of America, acted with a "barn storming" company in Canada, and served as a soldier in India. But none of his adventures is stranger than that which brought him face to face with the man who may have committed the "Jack the Ripper" murders.
    "It happened when I was sailing on one of the old windjammers from London to South America," said Mr. Brame, in an interview which he gave to the Sunday News. "Just before, the world had been shocked by the mysterious series of revolting murders of women in Whitechapel, London, which were known as the "Jack the Ripper" outrages. The murders, which terrorised the East End of London, had stopped as mysteriously as they had begun.

    "About half way out I was called to attend to a man who was in delirium in one of our cabins, and as I did my best for him I was horrified to
    hear him raving about the murders of women which he had committed. He gave full and revolting details of the atrocious crimes, but whether he was the real murderer or was reproducing in his dementia the stories which he had perhaps read in one of the papers, I do not know, and no one is ever likely to know now.
    "Still, the fact is that this unknown man - he was, by the way, a man of superior appearance and spoke in an educated voice - confessed in his fever to the murder of a number of women in the East End of London. I was tremendously excited by what I heard, and thought that I was going to be the means of clearing up the most baffling mystery in the history of crime. But the man died at Iquique, in Chile, and his secret went to the grave with him.
    "I am the son of a Lowestoft surgeon, and I was trained as a chemist. But the call of the sea was too much for me. I sailed to the United States in 1866 in an old wooden ship which took 45 days to make the crossing. In America I enlisted in the United States Army and fought in the closing stages of the Civil War. Then I was sent out to Dakota Territory with the 22nd Regiment of Infantry to fight the Sioux Indians, who were in revolt, under their famous chief, Sitting Bull.

    "I spent three years of my life there in Fort Stephenson, which is now called Bismarck. We were completely out of touch with civilisation, our mails being brought to us by Esquimaux dogs, which ran over the 800 miles of snow covered wastes that separated us from St. Paul's. Once, in an attack on the fort, I was wounded in the hand by a tomahawk which a 'brave' hurled at my head, while I was trying to rescue one of my comrades who had been wounded outside the stockade. I still carry the scar.
    "In 1870 I was back in this country enlisted in the old 'Fighting Fortieth,' with whom I went to India. I deserted in a fit of impatience,
    and stowed away in the hold of an outgoing ship, only to be discovered. I was finally arrested at Woolwich, but, strange to say, I was acquitted and sent back to my regiment in India. I dare say there is hardly a parallel to that in army history.

    "But the most trying part of my life was still to come. I returned to merchant service in 1880, and began to tramp across America. I arrived at a small town in Ontario without a penny in the world and found a small travelling stock company who were in need of a general utility man. I jumped at the opportunity and became a 'barnstormer,' playing most parts in the company from mending the properties to playing the grave digger in Hamlet.
    "But the travelling booths were scarcely doing good business in those early days in Canada. We often came to the end of a week to discover that there was nothing for us in the cash box. On one occasion, I and a low comedy man, an Irishman, who had varied his life between acting, tramping, and goldmining on the Coolgardie field in Australia, got thoroughly sick of the starvation diet of the stock company, and made an attempt to 'jump' the freight trains and get to the seaboard.
    "Unfortunately, we were beginners at the game, and we sought refuge in an empty freight car, with the result that we were jolted unmercifully for about four days and when we got to Halifax, every bone in our bodies was aching. The last I saw of Pat was when he had found a theatrical job and a bottle of whisky. I set sail for Rio that day, and never saw Pat again.
    "People talk a great deal today of the Cutty Sark, the famous old tea clipper. Those, who, like myself, have seen the Cutty Sark under full
    sail are never likely to forget the gallant sight she was. Once when I was on another clipper we thought we had every chance of winning the 200 guineas bonus that waited for the ship that brought home the first cargo of tea of the new crop. We had rounded the Cape of Good Hope and were bowling merrily home with the aid of the trade wind when suddenly the lookout man gave a shout, the captain levelled his glass at a small white speck on the horizon and uttered a curse.
    "It was the Cutty Sark. In a few hours she was sweeping past us, while we could only admire her graceful lines and grit our teeth at the thought of the 200 guineas. As she passed she ran up the insulting signal, 'I shall report you on arrival.' She got into dock 11 days ahead of us and when we berthed near her we saw the figure of a crowing c*ck prominently displayed on her poop."
    Last edited by Chris Scott; 08-01-2008, 02:15 AM.

  • #2
    Hi Chris,

    Yes, the last engagement of the American Civil War occurred in June of 1865 if I remember correctly and in effect the conflict had ended months before that. In 1866, it would have been an army of occupation sort of business.

    Thanks for sharing your find. It does have the air of a tall tale, not that it should be summarily dismissed. The story is pretty short on details so I'm not sure if it could be fleshed out any but who knows. Any records would likely be lost even if it wasn't a lie.
    This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.

    Stan Reid


    • #3
      Hi Stan
      Many thanks for that
      One surprising thing is that Brame gives absolutely no indication of when this alleged incident took place - whether shortly after the murders or years later


      • #4
        I think this story was first discussed on casebook in 2003 when I first joined, I remember there were people doing research into John Anderson at the time but I'm not sure of where the research led as nothing seems to have been posted since. (Anyone know anything further?)
        The story originally appeared in an Ipswich newspaper (I think the Ipswich Evening Star?) and then Brame gave an interview in Lloyd's weekly.
        Brame claims the confession happened in Oct 1894 when he was taken ill aboard ship with diabetes and Anderson had bronchitis at the same time.

        Apparently Anderson worked aboard a vessel sailing weekly between London and Rotterdam at the time of the murders, and Brame claimed he had lodgings in a farmhouse in the Bromley area. He was also said to have had an accomplice who would carry some sort of butchers smock with him for Anderson to cover up his bloodstained clothing after each murder.


        • #5
          Hey Debs,

          The John Anderson suspect story had been going around the boards since at least back when I joined in 2001. People did try to look into it more, but the tale is kind of airy and there really wasn't much to go on.

          Dan Norder
          Ripper Notes: The International Journal for Ripper Studies
          Web site: - Email:


          • #6
            Chris, this is a fascinating story, and I would be interested to know where you accessed the interview with James Everard Brame.
            Indeed, everything he has narrated checks out with the family history details I have assembled for James.
            Emigrated to the United States in 1866, the son of surgeon Samuel Brame.
            On 16 Apr 1867 James enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was aged 21 with brown eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion. Occupation chemist. He re-enlisted on 9 Jun 1870 aged 23, a druggist. Notes state he deserted in New York City, date unknown. (1)
            In 1900 he is aged 54, a patient in Ward 7 at Mobile Hospital, Mobile, Alabama. Listed as married, occupation cook.


            • #7
              A quick follow up
              Below is an article that gives details of John Anderson

              Hampshire Telegraph
              24 October 1896
              Attached Files


              • #8
                Wow, for sailor's yarn this guy quite fits the Ripper's profile - scarred complexion, wronged by prostitute, anatomical knowledge from working as a hospital assistant, age 30 in 1888 ...

                He also fits the description of Lavende's sailor. Also Mary Jane's visitor 'Blotchy Face', if we equate blotches with scars, and regard Hutchinson as impostor.

                Maybe Hutchinson was the confederate with the smock. Would explain his standing around in Dorset Street.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by K-453 View Post
                  Wow, for sailor's yarn this guy quite fits the Ripper's profile - scarred complexion, wronged by prostitute, anatomical knowledge from working as a hospital assistant, age 30 in 1888 ...

                  He also fits the description of Lavende's sailor. Also Mary Jane's visitor 'Blotchy Face', if we equate blotches with scars, and regard Hutchinson as impostor.

                  Maybe Hutchinson was the confederate with the smock. Would explain his standing around in Dorset Street.
                  Bromley to Whitechapel 9 miles no wonder he killed when he got to Whitechapel bet his feet were killing him


                  • #10
                    Hiring a cab and getting out at Whitechapel High Street?
                    The article says he had money ....

                    To be more serious, yes, you have a point - the question would be: Why killing in Whitechapel, not somewhere else?
                    Maybe he knew the area from growing up there?
                    Last edited by K-453; 12-26-2011, 06:05 PM.


                    • #11
                      Eastern Daily News, 24 August, 1896.Click image for larger version

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