Was Jack the Ripper an American?

Jack the Ripper terrorized the Whitechapel district of London for a few months in the fall of 1888, exactly 125 years ago. No one has ever been officially identified as the murderer of at least five women that autumn, but many have been named as possibilities. As part of their 31 Days of Halloween series, Atlas Obscura looks at one of those suspects, an American named Francis Tumblety. Tumblety passed himself off as a doctor, although his education credentials were nonexistent. He'd been arrested several times, but never convicted for anything serious. He was also known to despise women.

Tumblety traveled frequently to London and often stayed in the posh West End hotels. However, despite his wealth, he was known to often “slum” in the unsavory East End. On November 7, 1888 he was arrested and charged with eight counts of gross indecency (homosexual activities) with four other men, and released on bail. Then on November 12 he was arrested on suspicion of the Whitechapel murders. He posted bail again on November 16 and fled under the alias Frank Townsend to France where he boarded a steamer ship and returned to New York City. An investigator from Scotland Yard was sent to New York and Tumblety was hounded by the American press, but no conclusive evidence against him was found regarding Whitechapel, and the gross indecency charges were insufficient cause for extradition back to England. Later, investigators scoffed at his being a likely suspect.

There were plenty of other suspects, but never enough evidence to tie any particular person to the murders. And just like the other suspects, there's a long list of clues that point to Tumblety as the Ripper. Read that list at Atlas Obscura.

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