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  #1  
Old 12-16-2009, 12:53 PM
Archaic Archaic is offline
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Thumbs up Philadelphia Gynecologist's Oct. 13, 1888 Letter To Medical News

How is this for a coincidence?

On the 'October 15th, 1888' thread we've been discussing Coroner Baxter's tale of the Philadelphia gynecologist who wished to purchase
uterine specimens, and I just came across this letter which was published in the Medical News on October 13th, 1888.

Its author describes the Whitechapel murderer in unusually frank terms as being an extreme example of a sexual pervert-
and when I got to the end I found that it was written by a Philadelphia gynecologist!

His name is signed " Howard A. Kelly, Assoc. Prof. Obst. Univ. of Penna "

This is an abbreviation of Howard A. Kelly, Associate Professor of Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania.

The University is located in the city of Philadelphia.

I feel I should state at the outset that don't believe that Dr. Kelly had any connection to the Ripper crimes beyond having written this letter to a medical journal, but I thought others would also find the coincidence intriguing.

Dr. Kelly offers what I feel is quite an insightful exploration into the nature of the Whitechapel Murders. He describes the perpetrator as being what today we would term a Sexual Psychopath. He also addresses the crucial issue of Motive.

In the course of gathering these articles I've often been surprised by the quite 'modern' knowledge of Psychology some doctors displayed over
120 years ago. There are almost always certain elements of the more old-fashioned Victorian-era attitudes mixed in with it, but I think it's still quite remarkable. They must all have read Krafft-Ebing.

Best regards, Archaic
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Last edited by Archaic : 12-16-2009 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 12-16-2009, 01:04 PM
Archaic Archaic is offline
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Default Philadelphia Gynecologist's Oct. 13, 1888 Letter To Medical News

Here is the text of the letter.

Best regards, Archaic

> Oct 13, 1888 Medical News:

THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS.

"It has been a source of no little surprise to the writer that, considering the universal attention and numerous conjectures raised by this dreadful series of crimes, no clear idea of the character or purpose of the perpetrator seems to have been obtained. While one writer conjectures that the murderer may be a woman, another sees here but a general lesson, and exemplification of the well-recognized law that filth will breed filth, and this is but the natural consequence of the pestilential moral atmosphere in which the inhabitants of a part of London are reared, and in their turn raise their children.

To the writer the probabilities in the case seem to point overwhelmingly to the mainspring of sexual perversity, which, in an aggravated form, seeks to gratify its morbid desires by victimizing women of the same class, who have at one time been the source of gratification of the normal instinct. Instances of this kind are not rare in literature, and the instinct to victimize the object of the passion is shown in a scale of progressive crime, from the simpler forms in which the sexual pervert finds it necessary to bite, or scratch, or stick pins into the woman to excite his desire, or to cut or injure in such a way as to draw blood, all the way up to those frightful cases of fiendish barbarity, in which the life of the victim is demanded as a sacrifice to secure the full enjoyment of the sexual act.

The writer has thus been, from the very first reading of the peculiar nature of the Whitechapel crimes, fully in accord with the views of Dr. Mills, expressed in the Philadelphia Press of October 3d.

The great liability to error on the part of the officers of the law, in the investigation of such cases as the present, lies in the fact that they are misled in their effort to appreciate the motive, and invariably attribute it to an ordinary criminal instinct. Such, however, is not the case, and it is as impossible for a sound healthy man to conceive the nature of the impulse which impels the pederast, or other sexual pervert, as it would be to conceive a new color.
The following examples serve to illustrate the peculiarity the instinct exhibits in these cases of adopting and adhering to one particular mode of expression as well as several grades in the criminality.

Tarnowski quotes from Eulenberg ( Vierteljahresschr. J. gerichtl. Med., 1878, Bd. 28, S. 61) a curious case, which is but a type of a large number exactly similar in character. Cases in which the sexual instinct is roused by white objects, more particularly the white underclothes of women. The victim of the passion steals these, and retires to his room with the white garment for the purpose of pollution. Sometimes he will wear the wash for awhile.

Brierre de Boismont (Gazette Med., July 21, 1849, Tarnowski) cites a case, a type of another class, in which the victim of the appetite seeks to gratify his passion by violating the corpses of young females recently dead, which he accomplished in more than one instance, by heavy bribes to the watchers.

Another case of violation of the dead was one in which a soldier escaped periodically from his garrison, and dug up recently buried corpses, and with great frenzy tore them open and pulled out the entrails and there polluted himself.

The case of the Marshal of France, Gilles de Rayes (S. Jacob, Curiositis de L'lustoire de France. Causes Celebris. Paris, 1859), is well known, and has a more direct bearing on the horrible instance under consideration. He was condemned to be burnt to death, in the time of Charles the Seventh, for the violation and murder of more than eight hundred children in the course of eight years. He had lived in retirement in his castles in Bretagne, where he had practised the most frightful cruelties upon children of both sexes.

He had first been brought to a desire to commit his crimes by reading Suetonius's description of the orgies of the Emperor Tiberius, Caracalla, and others. He was in the habit of burning the bodies of the children, keeping the prettier heads as mementos. " I enjoyed," says the Marshal in his defence, " in this practice the most indescribable pleasure." He confessed to the King that he had left court on account of this irrepressible desire to violate children, and his fear that he would be guilty of carrying out his practices upon the heir apparent.

The conjecture of the writer seems to be supported in the instance before us by a variety of circumstances. A desire to murder without any apparent motive, a desire which practises its cruelties invariably upon women, and that of a certain class; added to this the mutilation of the genitals of the corpse, and, in at least one instance, the peculiar practice of slitting open the belly and drawing out the entrails. In addition to this it is of importance to note the periodic outbreak of the crime, in some measure corresponding to the time necessary to recuperation from violent sexual exhaustion.

It would be of importance to search the corpses, when freshly found, for evidences of violation of this kind, although such is not necessary to establish the truth of the supposition. Sexual perverts of this character never begin by the commission of crimes of such frightful atrocity, but yielding to impulses to do slight injury to their victims, find, as time goes on, that it is necessary to practise greater and greater cruelties, to arouse their desires and gratify passion, until a stage like the present is reached. Such has with probability been the history of the present murderer.

Aside from the truth or falsity of these views, the lesson is a valuable one. Such cases have repeatedly occurred, and the tendencies which produce them are, not only in Europe, but even in our own midst, rife to-day. While much that has been previously written on this subject has served more to gratify the fancy of the curious, Tarnowski has shown that there is a definite law pervading the whole, producing the more or less frequent appearance of these monsters, as definite as the law of gravity. The victims of the disease are not confined by any means to the debauched lower classes, but circulate in every social circle. They are mostly children of psycopathic parents, of drunkards, and men who have sowed their wild oats in their youth, who vainly imagine that with their resolution to reform and marriage, all evil consequences are left behind them.

Such men either generate women who have no sexual instinct at all, or boys who become masturbators or seek by paederasty or some other abnormal way to gratify their unchaste feelings. They are wretched, nervous, excitable children of a depraved parent. Excess of wealth and excessive poverty breed such diseases. Men who have no need to work, seek pleasure in excesses in which one vies with another to outstrip him in crime. Men who cannot find work they seek, are driven likewise to excesses to drown despair.

What more can the guardians of public health and morals do at present than vigorously stamp upon every appearance of such crimes however slight in their beginning, and elicit a full, free, and healthy discussion of this whole subject by medical men?

Howard A. Kelly,
Assoc. Prof. Obst. Univ. of Penna
"
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Old 12-16-2009, 01:18 PM
Phil Carter Phil Carter is offline
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Hello Archaic,

another gem. Well done.
Firstly, I noticed this...

The conjecture of the writer seems to be supported in the instance before us by a variety of circumstances. A desire to murder without any apparent motive, a desire which practises its cruelties invariably upon women, and that of a certain class; added to this the mutilation of the genitals of the corpse, and, in at least one instance, the peculiar practice of slitting open the belly and drawing out the entrails. In addition to this it is of importance to note the periodic outbreak of the crime, in some measure corresponding to the time necessary to recuperation from violent sexual exhaustion.

It would be of importance to search the corpses, when freshly found, for evidences of violation of this kind, although such is not necessary to establish the truth of the supposition. Sexual perverts of this character never begin by the commission of crimes of such frightful atrocity, but yielding to impulses to do slight injury to their victims, find, as time goes on, that it is necessary to practise greater and greater cruelties, to arouse their desires and gratify passion, until a stage like the present is reached. Such has with probability been the history of the present murderer.


The period of time in between murders corresponding in part to the exhaustion of sexual gratification... which makes me wonder as the first two murders came along realtively quickly after each other (Nichols, Chapman), and the long 6 week period between Eddowes and Kelly. If the basis of this theory is correct, the more "violent and detailed" the crime, the longer it would take to do it again. In conjunction with that point...

that it is necessary to practise greater and greater cruelties, to arouse their desires and gratify passion, until a stage like the present is reached. Such has with probability been the history of the present murderer.

As this was written about the double murder night of the end of Sept and 4 weeks before the Kelly murder, one wonders what Howard Kelly would have said as to the NEXT state of the murderer's habits, and his thoughts on limits.

As far as the name is concerned, Kelly seems to pop up all over the place.
Popular, isn't it?

best wishes

Phil
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  #4  
Old 12-16-2009, 03:43 PM
JTRSickert JTRSickert is offline
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Archaic,

my thanks to you for discovering this article. As a Philly boy myself, I now hold you in high regard. I'm just sad I didn't come across it first. LOL
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:35 PM
Wolf Vanderlinden Wolf Vanderlinden is offline
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This has been posted here on the boards in the past. It was originally a letter that appeared in the Philadelphia Press, 3 October, 1888.

Wolf.
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Old 12-19-2009, 09:40 AM
Archaic Archaic is offline
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Hi, JT, glad you like the article. I don't recall having seen it before either.
Well, Philly's really on the map now; you can feel proud.

Phil, I have no idea how Dr. Kelly would have answered your question, but his theory of sexual addiction and escalating cycles reminds me very much
of what Ted Bundy described in his last prison interviews before being executed.

The Bundy interviews are on YouTube if you are interested.

It took me a long time to get up the nerve to watch them, but I forced myself do it because I wanted a better understanding of how a human being could ever commit such horrific acts of violence. It was hard to watch, but very very enlightening.

Best regards, Archaic
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Old 12-20-2009, 12:23 AM
ChrisGeorge ChrisGeorge is offline
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Hi all

This is Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly (1858–1943), who would later on become a Johns Hopkins Hospital physician and one of the "Four Doctors" in John Singer Sargent's portrait (Dr. Kelly was one of the four original medical professors when Johns Hopkins Medical School was formed). See below. Kelly was professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University from 1889 to 1899 and thereafter gynecological surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was a friend of H. L. Mencken and he and his wife Laetitia had a summer mansion built for them in 1899 called the Liriodendron, at Bel Air, Maryland, so named for the tulip trees growing on the property. The Liriodendron still stands and is now owned by Harford County. It is used for social functions. I have been there many times.



"The Four Doctors" by John Singer Sargent (1905). Left to right: William Welch, MD, professor of pathology; William Halsted, MD, professor of surgery; William Osler, MD, professor of medicine; and Howard Kelly, MD, professor of gynecology (and briefly, obstetrics).

See also Howard Atwood Kelly Biography (1858-1943)
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Last edited by ChrisGeorge : 12-20-2009 at 12:33 AM.
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