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  • Catherine's kidney

    I'm relatively new to the site (past few months) and this has probably been discussed in depth before, but in the interest of starting fresh since the crash-- what is the consensus here on how likely it is that the kidney received in the mail by George Lusk was really the one taken from Catherine, which would also mean that the "From Hell" letter was indeed written by the Ripper? It seems likely to me that it was, with Dr. Openshaw's conclusions that it had come from an alcoholic woman of Catherine's approximate age, with one inch of the 3-inch renal artery while the other two inches remained in the body, and that it had been preserved for a time in "spirits," i.e. liquor, rather than in formaldehyde, suggesting it had been kept in someone's home rather than in a hospital. I would really like to have a clear understanding of this so if anyone can explain why it couldn't be so I am very interested to hear it.

  • #2
    Hi Kensei

    and that it had been preserved for a time in "spirits," i.e. liquor, rather than in formaldehyde, suggesting it had been kept in someone's home rather than in a hospital.
    The kidney was said to have been preserved in 'spirits of wine' (ethanol) which was in medical use during this period. If I remember rightly the head of Hannah Brown, Greenacre's dismembered murder victim was preserved in spirits of wine by the medical men, as were some parts of the torso victims.
    ,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸, Debs ,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,

    I am not DJA. He's called Dave.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by kensei View Post
      with Dr. Openshaw's conclusions that it had come from an alcoholic woman of Catherine's approximate age, with one inch of the 3-inch renal artery while the other two inches remained in the body
      Openshaw did not claim any of that, although they were falsely reported as being his opinions in some sloppy news articles at the time and repeated by books that took the reports at face value.

      See Christopher-Michael DiGrazia's article on this topic from all the way back to Ripper Notes #4 (March 2000).

      Dan Norder
      Ripper Notes: The International Journal for Ripper Studies
      Web site: www.RipperNotes.com - Email: dannorder@gmail.com

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      • #4
        Hi Kensei

        It seems likely to me that it was, with Dr. Openshaw's conclusions that it had come from an alcoholic woman of Catherine's approximate age, with one inch of the 3-inch renal artery while the other two inches remained in the body, and that it had been preserved for a time in "spirits," i.e. liquor, rather than in formaldehyde, suggesting it had been kept in someone's home rather than in a hospital. I would really like to have a clear understanding of this so if anyone can explain why it couldn't be so I am very interested to hear it.
        Actually, none of the above is correct.

        At least one newspaper (The Morning Advertiser, 19 October, 1888) stated that Openshaw gave the opinion that the kidney was human, female, aged 45, that it was “ginny” (showed signs of alcoholism), and that it was taken from the body in the last three weeks. Several other papers said that Openshaw had also stated that it was a left kidney and they pointed out that the left kidney of Catharine Eddowes had been removed. However, Openshaw quickly denied that he had said anything of the sort, telling the press that all he could conclude was that the specimen was the anterior of a left human kidney and that it has been preserved in spirits of wine for about 10 days. There was no medical way to tell either the sex or age of the kidney in 1888 or to find evidence of alcoholism.

        Questions of the length of renal artery still attached to the kidney were first brought up in the Evening News (20 October, 1888) and, more famously, by Major Henry Smith in his autobiography. Smith also wrote that the kidney showed signs of Bright’s disease, as did the remaining kidney in the body of Eddowes. However, Dr. Gordon Brown stated that there was no renal artery attached to the Lusk kidney therefore it could not be compared to the length of artery left in the body.

        Brown also observed that the kidney showed no signs of decomposition so it must have been placed in the preservative soon after extraction. This point is important considering Brown’s opinion, given on the 20th of October, that the kidney had not been in the preservative for more than a week. Add to this Openshaw’s opinion, given on the 19th, that the kidney had not been in spirits for more than ten days and it seems, on the face of it, impossible to have belonged to Catharine Eddowes.

        Wolf.

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        • #5
          If it was not Catherine's kidney, I guess it then begs a couple of questions. One, if it came from someone in a hospital (a medical student or whoever) as a joke, was a good enough inventory kept of such things at that time that the kidney would have been eventually noticed missing, or would it have been easy to steal one without it being noticed?

          The second question is pure speculation. Just what did the Ripper do with the kidney, and indeed all the organs he took? Eat them? Keep them preserved long term as souvenirs? Dispose of them as trash when they started to go bad? On the night of the double event, the very image of the Ripper skulking along avoiding the police with a uterus and a kidney in his coat pockets or stuffed down his pants has always been just absoluely bizarre to me.

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          • #6
            The short article "Lusk Kidney Revelation: A London Hospital Surgeon Speaks" by Tom Wescott (from Ripper Notes #19) tackled the question of how easy it would be for a medical student to steal part of a body. A surgeon at the London Hospital said it was pretty common: "They often take away a foot or a hand..."

            Dan Norder
            Ripper Notes: The International Journal for Ripper Studies
            Web site: www.RipperNotes.com - Email: dannorder@gmail.com

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