Annie Chapman Relative Speaks Out Against Jack the Ripper Bar
Annie Chapman’s relative speaks out against “Ripper & Co,” a Jack the Ripper-themed bar in Southsea.
This isn’t the first time people have traded on the infamy of the serial killer, and it won’t be the last.
The difference this time is someone with a personal connection to the murders has come forward.
A Jack the Ripper-themed bar opened today in Southsea, England. It’s not the first Jack the Ripper bar, and it likely won’t be the last. This time, however, a descendant of Annie Chapman, the second of the five canonical victims, spoke out against the new self-proclaimed “classic cocktail horror bar.”
According to Yahoo News UK, the 62-year-old relative who used to live in Portsmouth and wishes to remain anonymous, said the following:
“You wouldn’t want a Moors Murderers or Fred West themed pub. It is extremely offensive. Five ladies were murdered by this man. And (the bar’s owner) is paying tribute to him.”
He added: “If it was a fictional character I would not object, but it’s glorifying a mass murderer.”
Jack the Ripper Iconography
That last part is the crux of it. Jack the Ripper was a real person, or people, who committed real murders. But our culture is so steeped with “Jack the Ripper” that a murderer is elevated to iconography: the top hat, the Gladstone bag, the long blade, and the cape. It’s a Halloween costume, not a serial killer.
The fact that he was never caught adds to the mystique that makes him seem less real. We have mugshots of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. Jack the Ripper, by contrast, is a faceless historical figure, a phantom, a conspiracy theory, which makes it easier for us to keep him at arm’s length, turning him into a fictional character.
Other Serial Killers
Time elapsed also plays a factor. Sutcliffe was active in the late seventies. So was David Berkowitz, “Son of Sam,” in New York City. The Whitechapel Murders, however, took place in 1888-89, nearly 100 years before Sutcliffe and Berkowitz. Many of us were alive during these murders, or at least our parents were. That’s a level of intimacy we don’t have with Jack the Ripper.
I suspect a Yorkshire-Ripper–themed bar in Yorkshire or a Son-of-Sam–themed bar in Manhattan would be met with vehement resistance. Relatives and friends of those victims are likely alive and living in the area. It would be an outrageous affront to them, and I doubt people would stand for it.
Jack the Ripper exists as a movie, a graphic novel, a cartoon villain. The relatives and friends of those he killed are long gone, as are the detectives, the inquest coroners, the witnesses, and anyone else involved. That’s why this descendant coming forward to express his outrage is compelling. He’s a reminder that Jack the Ripper was real. His actions had dire consequences that reverberated down the generations.
Not a Criminal Mastermind
I suppose people are morbid. They’ve long been drawn to murder, hence the obsession with serial killers and true crime. Jack the Ripper is merely the best-known version of this phenomenon. Except it feels different. There’s an element of lionization.
Jack the Ripper is portrayed as this criminal mastermind with an extensive knowledge of human anatomy. He’s portrayed as a dapper figure with a cape, possibly an educated, wealthy man putting his knowledge and resources to nefarious use. But the reality is most of those details are in dispute.
His image is based on an eyewitness account that was later proved to be false (because of the timing and location of the sighting). His ability to evade the authorities may have less to do with his skill as a serial killer and more to do with the fact that police hadn’t had experience with this kind of killer before, one with no apparent motive. Fingerprinting wasn’t yet in use, not for another couple of years. In other words, the authorities were at a great disadvantage with this new brand of murderer.
As to the question of his skill as a surgeon, that has long been debated, starting with the inquest coroners. Some insisted the killer had medical training. Others thought a butcher would’ve had sufficient anatomical knowledge to perform the actions of the killer. Either way, there is no definitive proof that he was a skilled surgeon.
All of which is to say he wasn’t a man of import. He was a coward who preyed on women who’d been pushed to the outskirts of society. He stalked the lanes of East London, and he killed them. They weren’t feats of surgical skill. It wasn’t a brilliant plot that stumped the authorities. It was disgusting and barbaric. He doesn’t deserve his exalted place in history. And he certainly doesn’t deserve having another bar named after him.