Jack the Ripper Dossier, XVII – 1888, the Year of the Psychopath

Welcome to the 17th episode of Richard Walker’s weekly podcast series on Jack the Ripper.

In it, Richard takes us further down the highway called Who Was Jack the Ripper?

Even in its bare outlines, it’s a powerful, disturbing story. But what we’re getting here – what Richard’s walkers get – isn’t a snack, it’s a feast. It’s a feast because of Richard’s profound knowledge of the case, including its wider context and historical background. Here, after setting the scene – “was Jack the Ripper a royal prince, a lawyer, a doctor, an artist, a writer, a butcher, a barber, a lunatic? Whatever else he was he is certainly famous…among the world’s serial killers Jack the Ripper is by far the most recognisable name” – Richard ranges back across the nineteenth century and indeed across a continent, everything from the history of the press to a wrongfully beheaded gypsy in Westphalia to Sherlock Holmes to something that was completely new to the police – motiveless killing, killing for pleasure – and how the police, out of their depths at something inexplicable and completely new to them, perhaps mistakenly focussed on motive instead of opportunity.

It’s a fascinating listen, whether you’re a neophyte or somebody like myself (I used to guide the walk) who has some familiarity with the case.

And the usual refrain here, it’s not just what you’re told, it’s how you’re told it. It can’t be said enough in Richard Walker’s case, this is a great storyteller at work. We see the superb craftsmanship of the writer-editor-storyteller in the selection and ordering of detail – every last word is perfect and perfectly placed; and we hear the superb craftsmanship of the entertainer-storyteller in the rustling, dry leaves quality of Richard’s voice and especially in the pacing and cadence of the presentation. This is narration – storytelling – at a very high level. It’s speech with many of the qualities of music.

And, as ever, an important takeaway from the podcast is: “my god, this guy knows his stuff, if I have any questions – either background questions or questions that hug the belt of the subject – I’ve found my guy, this is the man. I’m on the right walk.”

Richard is the actor, adventurer (he sailed across the Pacific in a tiny two-man skiff) and masterful Ripperologist performance artist who’s created a new version of the Ripper Walk. His walk is called Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel. It’s an exclusive VIP Ripper walk (it’s a guaranteed small group tour – the numbers are strictly limited).

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