Friday, 2 March 2012

 Bram and the Ripper‏.

    The Whitechapel murders of 1888 sent shock waves around the country, but what effect did these events have on the mind of Bram Stoker and did Jack the Ripper have an influence on the novel Dracula?

    First we must examine Stoker’s knowledge of the murders up to the publication date of Dracula in 1897, obviously he would have read the newspapers of the time in all their lurid detail. 
    But of those involved in the case Stoker met Dr Forbes Winslow at the Cab Drivers benevolent fund dinner on 17thJune1895. 

    Winslow, like his father before him, was a doctor of lunacy and he went on to become an alienist (a doctor who assesses the mental state of witnesses in criminal trials). 
    Winslow joined his father at his practice in a large asylum and by the 1880’s he had gained many qualifications in both medicine and law and was quite outspoken in his opinions concerning sanity and legal responsibilities.
Dr Forbes Winslow

    In 1889 Winslow was approached by a Mr Callaghan who told him of a suspicious lodger who had resided with him and his wife at 27, Sun Street, Finsbury Square  during the time of the murders. 
    The suspects name was G. Wentworth Bell Smith. Mr Callaghan told Winslow that Smith had a religious mania and was obsessed with prostitutes. 
    After the murders Smith was thought to have fled to Canada but during 1889 he was seen back in London and Callaghan went to the police, but Inspector F. Abberline could later find no record of this report. 
A still from the film The Lodger

    Feeling let down by the police Callaghan then went to Winslow and told him the whole story. Soon letters began appearing in the press from Winslow declaring that he knew the identity of the killer and with a little help he would catch the Ripper.
    Winslow was interviewed by Chief Inspector Swanson and the story was investigated but soon dropped, and no further action was taken. 
    But Winslow would tell anyone who would listen that he knew who the Ripper was and that his investigations had caused the man to flee the country. With Dr Forbes Winslow’s back ground in the field of sanity and his stories of pursuing Jack the Ripper through London could Bram Stoker have used him as a template for Dr Jack Seward?

    Our next character with a story to tell is Thomas Henry Hall Caine who met Bram Stoker on 30thDecember 1878 at the opening night of Henry Irving’s management of the Lyceum. 
    Hall Caine was born in Runcorn, Cheshire but his family were from the Isle of Man, a place Hall Caine would see as home and he would write several books with Manx themes. 
Hall Caine
Hall Caine married his wife Mary in 1886 and they had a son, Ralph, his family lived in Keswick but Hall Caine had a flat in Victoria Street, London.
     As he was always worried about his health Hall Caine would sometimes come into contact with doctors of dubious character, one such doctor was Francis Tumblety with whom Hall Caine had an affair.
    Later during that autumn of terror Tumblety was arrested for being caught in an “act of gross indecency” with a man, he was put on bail for £300 (£24,000 today) but he fled the country on 20thNovember 1888. 
    He was suspected of being Jack the Ripper by Scotland yard and when Tumblety arrived in New York he was put under surveillance, but as there was no proof he could not be extradited.
Francis Tumblety
    If Hall Caine knew anything he certainly did not “go public” with his story as his double life would have impacted on his family not to mention his liberty. 
    But did he tell Stoker his suspicions, as one good tale deserves another is this the reason Stoker dedicated Dracula to his “dear friend Hommy-beg”.
    The fact that the Whitechapel murders were an influence can be seen in Stoker’s introduction to the Icelandic edition of Dracula in 1901, he writes;
     “This series of crimes has not yet passed from the memory, a series of crimes which appear to have originated from the same source and which at the time created as much repugnance in people everywhere as the notorious murders of Jack the Ripper”. 
    Tying in fact and fiction had happened before when, during August 1888, the Lyceum was staging the play “The strange case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde” by R. L Stevenson and starring the American actor Richard Mansfield.
Richard Mansfield

    Many people thought there was enough real horror in the east end already and so the play was cancelled. 
    We see in the book that Dracula chooses 197 Chicksand Street, Spitalfields, Whitechapel as one of his hide-a-ways, in reality this street is very short only going to number 67, but it places Dracula directly in the vicinity of what is now known as "Ripper country".
Chicksand Street today.
    After Dracula was published  Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten, who had taken over Scotland yard and the Ripper case in 1889, wrote to Bram Stoker saying that he had “revelled” in the book, he was particularly interested in Mina being forced to drink Dracula’s blood!
    Of course all that is published about Jack the Ripper is pure speculation and conspiracy theory at best and one theory actually ties in both Sir Henry Irving and Bram Stoker. 
    This theory relies on the findings of “Ripperologist” Stephen Knight who postulates that Prince Albert Victor married the Roman Catholic Annie Crook and had a child, which was and is still illegal.
    This child was secretly brought up by artist Walter Sickert while Crook is thrown into an asylum and Prince Albert is whisked away to Scotland
    Crook’s prostitute friends find out the truth and plan to blackmail the establishment, to silence this threat the Prince’s Masonic order, the Royal Alfa Lodge, decide to kill off the luckless ladies and so Jack the Ripper was born, with me so far!
    Master Mason at the Royal Alfa Lodge in 1890 was allegedly Sir Henry Irving and as master he would have known about and condoned the killings. 
Henry Irving and Bram Stoker

    Another member was Bram Stoker who was sickened by the murders and so from then onwards their friendship cooled dramatically. 
    It has even been suggested that in Dracula when Harker is waiting outside the castle doors it is described as the “darkness” then after meeting Dracula he is shown into a “windowless room” and then he moves into the light. 
    This, it is said, reflects Masonic ritual with Irving as Dracula who by the end of the book is responsible for five female victims, just like the Ripper! Or so they say............................................

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