Picture of Buck's Row Whitechapel in London's East End (now Durward St) - site of Jack the Ripper's first murder on 31 August 1888. Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols' body was discovered 3 metres back from the corner of the tall brick building.
Take a Ripper virtual tour from the first murder scene. Click on the map below to view all 5 murder scenes and other key locations in the hunt for the world's first recognised serial killer.
Jack the Ripper's London 1888
This link will take you to the key points in London where Jack the Ripper carried out his 5 murders
over 71 days from 31 August 1888 to 9 November 1888. You can use this map to make your own Jack the
Ripper walk around London or to trace the movements of the Whitechapel killer whose identity has
never been established.
Jack the Ripper: Notorious serial killer is out of place in modern London
As the familiar neon sign of the Tower Hill Tube station glowed brightly against the backdrop of the setting sun, a male figure loomed ominously in the shadows. He wore a cavernous trench coat and a brown fedora, giving me the distinct impression that it had been lifted straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
The darkness — coupled with the intermittent sprinkles and the howling wind — made the man, who managed to make the garb of an archaeological professor intimidating, appear as though I should rush back home and snuggle beneath my comforters.
It didn't help that just minutes before I had dashed into a taxi to try and meet him on time, all along thinking that I was setting myself up to be spooked.
Wind-blown and with my stomach in knots, I looked around in a frazzled daze. A large group had already assembled around the mysterious figure, and as I neared, his face came into view. The menacing shadow-lurker turned out to be Donald, our guide on a Jack the Ripper walking tour.
Donald Rumbelow, upon closer inspection, is not the fearsome character I had aggrandized from afar. His monstrous size could be attributed to the plastic stool he stood on, and his sinister appearance was more from a lack of sleep and an overactive imagination than any real threat.
The anticlimactic buildup to our first encounter was the first of many that would continue throughout our two-hour journey.
That night, proudly resting atop his woolly, multicolored scarf was a prestigious Blue Badge, a fixture awarded by the Institute of Tourist Guiding that lent him additional credibility that had nothing to do with the bookish spectacles sitting on his face.
The process to become an official Blue Badge Guide in London is rigorous. Guides undergo training courses, that take approximately two years to complete. And that's in addition to all the exams and mock tours they have to pass.
Rumbelow, having written two books on the infamous prostitute-murderer, is indeed very knowledgeable. But as he steered us a few steps to the side — centering our view squarely on the Tower of London — he prefaced his story by revealing that the building behind him had nothing to do with the Jack the Ripper murders.
With a somber look and an official tone, he told our group of about 50 to 60 walking enthusiasts that the fortress, known for a history of torture and gruesome executions, was just a theatrical backdrop for the violence to come.
From there, we moved outward through the cobbled streets on which Ripper committed his gruesome crimes. His name, a pseudonym describing the method in which he killed his victims, is attributed to a fake letter the media claimed to have been written by him. Despite its being based on a false source, however, the name stuck.
In 1888, Ripper was able to move between the City of London and Scotland Yard jurisdictions. In doing so, he evaded both forces by scattering the murders throughout each territory.
Because the two police forces were not allowed to investigate past their areas of authority, and they lacked the communication necessary for true cooperation, Ripper was able to pick up his victims wherever he pleased.
As we followed in Ripper's footsteps, tracking back and forth between the invisible boundary lines, Rumbelow intertwined stories of the five murders — all East End prostitutes, most in their 40s — with a dramatic air, revealing the attitudes and ineptitudes of law enforcement at the time.
However, just as he began describing Ripper's narrow escape from two incoming search parties, a heckler rode by on his bike shouting indecipherable obscenities, breaking the mood that Rumbelow had tried so hard to craft.
The highlight of the walk came when Rumbelow, while describing Jack the Ripper's second victim in one night, asked for a volunteer. Silence seeped through the crowd, until a brave woman sporting a sleek ponytail and plastic-framed glasses offered her services.
In the confines of Mitre Square, he raised her hand high above her head and proclaimed, "This is the spot to where the body of Catherine Eddowes was found!"
Yet the streetlights shining brightly on the redeveloped buildings and the once narrow passageway widened to the width of a monster truck proved to be insurmountable barriers to imagining what was once a prostitute's nightly haunt.
The story that ended the tour, however, was the account of Jack's first victim, Polly Nichols, whose last known words as she confidently strolled out of the lodge house — a cheap hotel where many of the destitute stayed — were, "I'll soon get my doss money! See what a jolly bonnie I've got now?"
Back in the 1880s, prostitutes were cheaper than one night at a lodge house, but Nichols believed her hat would attract enough customers to put her up.
She did manage to get the attention of a man. Unfortunately, that man was Jack the Ripper. And we all know how that ended up.