Jack the Ripper bores me. Maybe it is pure over exposure. The first time travel movie I remember involved H.G. Wells tracking down jack the Ripper in the 1970’s. The Ripper, or an explanation, has appeared in a lot of occult fantasy shows and quite a few science fiction ones. There are dozens of short stories that speculate the Ripper is everything from an alien, to a Royal Family member to your mom. Okay, probably not your mom and I would read that one, but you get my point.
I think a big part of the reason I am bored with the Ripper is that he was one sick bastard. He cut up women in gruesome ways. There is debate on how many of the Ripper murders were actually done by him. He is never caught and we are in doubt over whether the most likely letter that was sent to the press is even by him. He is a shadow without personality.
These are the reason I haven’t read Alan Moore’s From hell until a few weeks ago. I love Moore and have read 90% of his work but From Hell never tempted me. It is a giant ass book and that seems like too long of a time to spend with one of History’s least interesting monsters.
Thankfully, From Hell is about a lot more than Jack the Ripper. Oh, there is a Ripper, and he is fleshed out with motives and some explanations for his sick ways, but it is not about him. From Hell is about London. It is about the kind of place where five women can be murdered so easily because of their poverty and the way society treats sex workers. It is about the kind of society that makes the Ripper into a celebrity in his lifetime and forever more. It is an examination of the people that spawn a Ripper and makes it possible for him to kill.
That is not to say that the Ripper himself is not interesting. He is a Freemason doctor called upon to murder four women because of Royal intrigue, but he takes it upon himself to act out a magical ritual designed to oppress women and stop irrational female instincts from ruining his ideal patriarchal society. There is an entire chapter on the magical architecture of London that was a delight to read. This ritual of his gets out of control and he starts to see the future. These future glimpses unnerve the Ripper as he realizes that everything he does has been futile.
That was a nice touch and what really cinched the book for me. I have always been annoyed that the real Jack the Ripper never paid for his crimes that we know of. This fictional Ripper is locked away by the Freemasons and dies in an asylum, but he also suffers the full horror of knowing that he has failed. After so many pages of this monster and his deeds, it was cathartic to see him realize the depths of his failures.
I found the appendices that Moore wrote afterwards to be equally interesting. He shows his work and his research for his plot. Moore readily admits that his Ripper is based on a discredited theory but he didn’t care. Who the Ripper was is not nearly as important as what kind of scar it left on our society and folklore.
so if you are like me and you are bored with the Ripper, I still recommend giving From Hell a read. In fact, I feel like it is the only Jack the Ripper story you will ever need.