Archive for the Victoriana Category

Casebook: Jack the Ripper

Posted in Mystery, Victoriana with tags , , , on January 6, 2012 by mike k

The world is full of psychopaths and serial killers but no murderer has intrigued criminal historians more than the unsolved case of Jack the Ripper.

Considered to be the world’s first serial killer, “Jack the Ripper”, is a psuedonym used by journalists in 19th Century London to describe the killer of at least five prostitutes in grisly fashion. I say “at least” because no one is quite sure how many women “Jack” actually killed. The murders occurred in Whitechapel, a notoriously overcrowded, extremely poor section of London known for its poverty and its seedy nightlife,  with the first happening on August 31st (Mary Nichols) and the last on November 9, 1888 (Mary Kelley). Despite the best efforts of London’s Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard, “Saucy Jack” was never captured. The murders shocked the ‘morally upright’ society of Victorian England and helped usher in a wave of social activism to alleviate the plight of the poor in Whitechapel and to aid ‘women of the night’ in finding a better vocation for themselves.

Whitechapel, London, 1905

There have been dozens of films and television series about the Jack the Ripper case (most recently BBC’s Whitechapel and Johnny Depp’s From Hell) and even more books and websites to be found throughout the World Wide Web.

In 2003, I was lucky enough to participate in a walking tour of Whitechapel sponsored by Premium Tours complete with a stop at the Sherlock Holmes Pub for dinner and drinks (English beer, by the way, is superior to our American brands). The tour picqued my interest in the Jack the Ripper case (okay, it became a slight infatuation for a turn) and got me searching the Internet for information.

I don’t usually provide advertisement for websites but in this case the website is well deserving of its accolades.

THE BEST website I found during my search for Jack the Ripper is Casebook which has some of the most amazing files and photographs I have ever seen concerning the murders. There is also a forum you can join but I must warm you the ‘Ripperologists’ in this forum really know there stuff so don’t go in there unprepared for they do not look upon ‘lurkers’ and ‘amatuers’ lightly. Just about anything you would like to know about Jack the Ripper can be found on this website including a nifty little “Jack the Ripper” online store.

So … if you’re willing to take a stroll down the dark, mysterious and somewhat seedy part of Victorian London, Casebook is the place for you.

Advertisements

A Christmas Carol (1951)

Posted in Victoriana with tags , , , , on December 24, 2011 by mike k

It is only fitting and appropriate that, in honor of Christmas, I talk about one of my favorite Christmas films; the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol.  With nods towards other actors who have portrayed the miser Ebeneezer Scrooge, namely, Sir Seymour Hicks, Albert Finney, George C Scott, Patrick Stewart and Jim Carrey, I believe that Alistair Sims portrayal is perhaps the finest of them all.

Set in the mid-19th Century and written byVictorian-era novelist and social activist, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol tells the tale of a miser named Scrooge who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley warns Scrooge that his miserly ways and mistreatment of  the poor and needy will lead him, ultimately, to an eternity of damnation, never knowing the glories of heaven or earth, and to be condemned to wander the world dragging an enormous chain built with the cruelty of his life. Scrooge refutes his ghostly visitor as a “bit of spoiled potato” and a figment of his imagination but he is soon convinced otherwise. My favorite line during the meeting of Marley and Scrooge is when Scrooge tells Marley that he was a good businessman whereby Marley, in a fit of rage, replies, “Business! Mankind was our business!”. Marley departs Scrooge but not before warning him that he will be visited by three ghosts: the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future where will they teach him the true meaning of Christmas.

Each encounter Scrooge has with the ghosts weakens his cruel heart until, finally faced with the truths of his life, he learns to fully embrace Christmas, and his fellow human beings, into his heart.  Scrooge, before his haunting by spirits, was increasingly cruel to his clerk, Bob Cratchett, and it is joyfully tearful to learn, as the story moves on, how Scrooge accepted his sister’s nephew as his own family and took care of the Cratchetts by improving Bob’s salary and seeing that  his lame boy, Tiny Tim, would receive the medical care he needed to live.

The story was very popular during the 19th Century and, especially in the trying times of today, its message should become even more important.

… even to the cold hearted members of the Tea Party.

If you can find a copy on Amazon.com, I highly recommend the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.

A Merry Christmas to you all and as Tiny Tim declared, “May God Bless Us, Everyone!”