London has many ghosts. Just like any other area, the East End of London is full of tales and legends of apparitions and spectres. Today we are going to look at several of these stories that are connected to the notorious Jack the Ripper and his victims. The Ripper murders occurred in Whitechapel and Spitalfields in the autumn of 1888. So, most of these ghost stories are connected to the murder sites and the surrounding area. If you dare to visit these sites, you can take the Self-Guided Jack the Ripper Walk by LONDON BEYOND TIME AND PLACE. Now let us go to some of these haunted places and see if we can meet a ghost or two.
The ghost of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols
The first canonical victim of the murderer known as Jack the Ripper was Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols, a 45-year-old woman who was murdered in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel on the 31st of August 1888. Buck’s Row was renamed Durward Street after the murder. The author Elliot O’Donnell – famous for writing about and seeing ghosts – described an apparition that was often seen in Durward Street as a “huddled figure, like that of a woman, emitting from all over it a ghostly light, frequently to be seen lying in the gutter”.
The ghost of Annie Chapman
The ghost of Annie Chapman, the second Ripper victim, seems to be the most active of all of them. Her ghost was seen in various spots in and around Hanbury Street, where she was killed on the 8th of September 1888. In the twentieth century, a Mr Chapman, who shares the same name with the victim, lived at Hanbury Street 29, where the murder took place. On several occasions spread over a number of years he saw a man and a woman disappearing along the passageway and it was always the same pair. He also said, that these apparitions would usually occur in the very early hours of morning during the autumn months, which would fit the time, the 8th September, when Annie Chapman was killed and disembowelled at this place. The fact that she and Mr Chapman share the same name is even more fascinating.
It is also said that in the 1930s, a witness could hear her being murdered, but could see nothing at the site. There was also the sighting of a headless phantom, but these apparitions have stopped since 29 Hanbury Street has been demolished. Since then, workers in the Truman Brewery buildings that occupied this site, reported a strange chill on the anniversary of Annie’s death and saw the ghostly figure standing on the spot where she was killed.
If you cannot meet Annie’s ghost there, you can find her haunting another site that is still standing today: The Ten Bells pub on the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street, where she allegedly had a drink on the morning of her murder. In the 1970s, the landlord of the pub reported of strange gusts of cold wind that came out of nowhere and a radio that switched on and off. He claimed that it was Annie Chapman’s ghost. She or whoever that poltergeist may have been did obviously not like the 1970s radio programme. Annie did the pub a good favour marketing-wise, as the pub had changed its name to “Jack the Ripper” during that time. Nowadays it is called “The Ten Bells” again. The pub had had trouble with other Victorian ghosts throughout the last century, among them a ghostly old man, but there was probably no or little connection to the Ripper.
The ghost of Mary Jane Kelly
Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper’s last canonical victim was also said to have drunk there and to stand outside The Ten Bells in order to attract customers. She lived in Miller’s Court off Dorset Street, just opposite Christ Church. Dorset Street is no more, there is now a building standing on where the street and Miller’s Court, where she had a room, used to be. She was killed on the morning of the 9th of November 1888 and it is said that in the following months, her ghost could still be seen entering Miller’s Court. A strange aspect of her murder is that several witnesses claimed to have seen and spoken to Mary Kelly on the morning of the 9th of November, when in fact she must have already been murdered. So, did they talk to the ghost of Mary Kelly, who began walking the streets hours after her death?
Adjacent to The Ten Bells pub is Christ Church, Spitalfields, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. Each of the Ripper’s victims and the murderer himself have looked at this building on a daily basis. Hawksmoor’s buildings have become famous for their pagan symbols and their connections to mystery and crime. There have also been ghost sightings at Christ Church and the other Hawksmoor churches. If you are interested in the connection of his churches to the Ripper murders and other crimes, as well as other mysterious and gruesome stories, subscribe to the website, because very soon we will be offering a self-guided walk along his churches.
The ghost of Elizabeth Stride
The night of the 30th of September became known as the night of the “double murder”, as the Ripper murdered two women that night. The first woman killed on the night of the 30th of September 1888 was Elizabeth Stride. Elizabeth was not mutilated, as the murderer was probably disturbed when committing the crime. It is believed that this is the reason why he killed another woman that night and mutilated her. Liz Stride was killed in Berner Street in Whitechapel and seemed to have struggled with the murderer. It is said that in the months after she was murdered, her screams could be heard in Berner Street. Unfortunately, nobody had helped her when she had screamed for her life on the night of her death.
The ghost of Catherine Eddowes
The second victim that night was killed in the City of London, just on the border to the East End. Her name was Catherine Eddowes. She died in Mitre Square and it is said that her mutilated body can still be seen on the anniversary of her death in the gutter. This may have been before Mitre Square was redeveloped in recent years. The cobblestones of yore are gone, the square has changed beyond recognition since then, including the former “Ripper corner”, where Catherine became the killer’s fourth victim. But if you dare to visit Mitre Square on a dark September night, you might glimpse a spectral figure lying on that very spot. And if you go there on the night of her death, you might see the corner where she died, glow red.
The ghost of the murderer
But not only the Ripper’s victims are said to haunt the area. Several suspects have been seen or sensed. In the cellar of the “White Hart” pub on Whitechapel High Street, a medium once sensed the presence of a man who had a lot of hatred against women in him and the name “George” was picked up by the medium. That “George” was George Chapman, whose real name was Severin Kloswoski. He worked as a barber in the cellar of the White Hart pub in the 1890s and became famous for poisoning three of his wives. Some believe that he might have been the Ripper. The White Hart pub is also close to the former George Yard Buildings, where Martha Tabram was murdered on the 7th of August 1888. Though not considered a Ripper victim, some believe her to be murdered by the same man as the canonical five.
The final spot is not in the East End; in fact, it is a couple of miles west: Westminster Bridge. On New Year’s Eve a figure is said to emerge from the shadows and throw itself into the Thames. Where is the Ripper connection, you might ask? The legend goes that Jack the Ripper killed himself there on New Year’s Eve of 1888 by plunging into the river and was therefore never caught. There is a true story behind that: Ripper suspect Montague John Druitt drowned in the Thames. Montague John Druitt was first mentioned as a likely suspect for the Whitechapel murders in 1894, by Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten, who wrote in his memorandum that Druitt was
“said to be a doctor […] of good family who disappeared at the time of the Miller’s Court murder, & whose body […] was found in the Thames on 31st. Decr., or about 7 weeks after that murder. He was sexually insane and from private inf. I have little doubt that his own family believed him to have been the murderer.”
From nowadays point of view, it is difficult to believe that Druitt was Jack the Ripper for various reasons, which would be too much to be explained here in detail.
I hope you enjoyed these ghostly tales. If you are interested in visiting all these sites, you can take the Self-Guided Jack the Ripper Walk by LONDON BEYOND TIME AND PLACE. Do you have any ghost stories that you want to share? Is there any Ripper-related ghost sighting that you want to mention? Leave your story in the comments below. If you go to these haunted places and meet a ghost or two, drop me a line. Or let me know and we can visit these sites together.
Title photo: Philipp Röttgers
Ghost: Tea Imamovic