A Tale Weaved by Twisted Circumstance
Tales, myths, and legends have an unearthly way of introducing real life personalities to far-off communities where they are unknown. National heroes were no exemption. They can become victims of their own bloated fame. Or maybe by other strange circumstances that surround their moment in time.
One such hero was Romania’s Vlad Tepes, brutally famous as ‘Vlad the Impaler’ whose reputation as a warrior had a spine-tingling effect on the Ottoman Empire. I am not certain if it was Bram Stoker’s doing that Vlad became known to be the supernatural blood-sucking monster villain. My suspect is Hollywood.
The Philippine national hero too, Jose Rizal, was not spared from urban ‘mythologisation.’ There are at least a number of myths about him. Some of these were of provincial invention but some were of urban origin. One such example is that Rizal was Adolf Hitler’s biological father. Despicably comical. But I am more interested to touch on the wicked tale that Jose Rizal was Jack the Ripper!
RIZAL IN LONDON, MAY 1888 – MARCH 1889
According to numerous write-ups, Rizal arrived in London on 24 May 1888. He did not. He arrived in Liverpool, not London. The next day Rizal went to London.
His main reasons for going there were to manually copy and then annotate the Sucesos de Las Islas Filipinas by Antonio de Morga and to carry on his literary crusade against Spain without the fear of censorship or imprisonment. He first stayed at the home of a certain lawyer Dr. Regidor until early June. Afterwards he lived at 37 Chalcot Crescent, Primrose Hill, North West London (where a plaque was installed in 1983 to serve as a memorial that the dear doctor lived there).
Rizal spent a great deal of time at the library section of the British Museum copying Morga’s masterpiece and studying other historical materials. Then for about a week, September 4-12, Rizal went to Paris to study more materials at the National Library of France. He also went to Spain, December 11-24, to hear the latest news about the Philippines and there he met Marcelo H. Del Pilar and Mariano Ponce, fellow revolutionaries.
After that he went back to London to spend the remaining days of the year at the Becketts. And on 19 March 1889 Jose Rizal left London and went to Paris. Mentioning the dates and the places he visited are crucially important in order to establish his innocence or his guilt. Now let’s turn our attention to Jack.
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS, AUGUST – NOVEMBER 1888
Perhaps the most popular name associated with serialised murders is ‘Jack the Ripper.’ His real identity is still unknown up to this day. His victims were found in and around Whitechapel, a local government district within London’s metropolitan area.
The name was said to have originated in a letter written and signed by the murderer himself. But the public in general and the authorities in particular believed this to be a hoax forged by ‘media’ to boost newspaper sales. That is why in crime case files and contemporary legal journalism, infamous Jack was legally called the Whitechapel Murderer or Leather Apron.
There were eleven murder cases associated with the Ripper’s name within the span of nearly three years, from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891. But we will only concern ourselves with the five “canonical” victims, all of whom were murdered between 31 August 1888 and 9 November 1888.
Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly were names believed to be the Ripper’s actual victims.
- Mary Ann Nichols was found dead on Friday 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row Street.
- Annie Chapman was found dead on Saturday 8 September 1888 in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
- Elizabeth Stride was discovered dead on Sunday 30 September 1888 in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street in Whitechapel.
- Catherine Eddowes was also discovered dead on the same day, 30 September 1888. Her body was found in Mitre Square in the City of London.
- Mary Jane Kelly was found dead on Friday 9 November 1888 in the room where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields.
RIZAL: CRIME SUSPECT BY TWISTED CIRCUMSTANCE
The suspicion that Rizal was undoubtly the Ripper was based on five clues.
- When Rizal arrived in London in May 1888, the Whitechapel Murders started.
- The murderer was thought to be a surgeon or at least someone who exhibited certain surgical skills. Our beloved Jose was a doctor!
- Jack liked women, and so did Jose.
- When Rizal left London in January 1889, the Whitechapel Murders also stopped.
- Many think that the most revealing clue of all is they both have the same initials! JR?
To many people these clues are imaginatively playful, sinister, and even laughable. Well that’s the problem. These clues were simply products of unguided imagination. Is there someone out there who sincerely believes that these theories are credible?
Anyway, allow me to expose the silliness of these clues.
- The Whitechapel Murders did not start when Rizal came to London. Remember the dates 3 April 1888 and 31 August 1888? Scroll up to find out.
- Doctor Jose Rizal was an ophthalmologist. Not a ‘body’ surgeon. If he were the Ripper, he would render his victims sightless not lifeless.
- Jack ‘likes’ to murder women. Jose on the other hand likes to fall in love with them. And besides, Rizal was in Paris when Ms. Chapman was murdered.
- Again, the Whitechapel Murders did not stop when Rizal left London. And again, remember the dates 19 March 1889 and 13 February 1891? Scroll up again.
- Same JR? Theorists think that’s the clincher? JR and JTR are not the same. Was there even a serial killer stupid enough to leave a conspicuous trail such as initials?
In July 2015, The Telegraph published the article “Who was Jack the Ripper? The suspects so far.” Fifteen names were mentioned as candidates. Author David Barrett commented:
Some were favoured by police who led the investigation, some have emerged only in recent years and some are downright ludicrous.
I was a bit surprised to discover that Lewis Carrol was included, certainly downright ludicrous. Not surprisingly, señor Jose was not in the list. The closest name to link is Joseph Barnett, a fish porter at Billingsgate Market who knew Mary Jane Kelly. If his name were Joseph Greenfield, that could spell hope for the conspiracy theorists. I guess some ‘urban-tale-tellers’ will be disappointed to read the list.
The theory that Jose Rizal was Jack the Ripper will perpetually fascinate the imagination of tall-tale believers in the years to come. And don’t be surprised if another urban legend will be concocted about Rizal being the great-grandpa of one of The Beatles however remote is the possibility.
For more interesting information about Jack, watch the videos:
Jack The Ripper – An Introduction To The Murders
Jack the Ripper Victims – The Canonical Five
- Filipinas Heritage Library, The Travels of Rizal.
- Ocampo, Ambeth R., A Calendar of Rizaliana, UST Publishing House 2011, pp. 67 -85.
- Ocampo, Ambeth R., Looking Back 5: Rizal’s Teeth, Bonifacio’s Bones, Anvil Publishing Inc. 2012, pp. 12-19.
- Jack the Ripper 1888: The Whitechapel Murders History Resource, Jack the Ripper Victims
- Barrett, David, Who was Jack the Ripper? The suspects so far, 31 July 2015