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October 31, 2017 | Stories from the road

London, a trench coat, and murder

By Emily B.

Last time I was in London, Filippos, our Tour Director, asked me this question. The next thing I knew, I was in the middle of a busy shopping center, waiting for someone who I had never met before to take me on a tour of Jack the Ripper’s reign in East London. As I stood there, I felt the people around me start to quiet down as they passed. Towering above the crowd was a man dressed in a wide-brimmed hat (not so unusual) and a trench coat (also not so unusual). No, what was unusual about this man was the look on his face—a contorted mix of pain, skepticism, paranoia, and mischief. This was a man who was up to no good. When we made eye contact, I got this feeling that I was potentially about to be murdered while on a quest to find out about London’s most historic murderer. Instead of panicking, I rationalized that this would at least be fitting, and stood my ground as he approached.

Who was this mysterious and well-dressed man? Well, I still don’t really know, but he gave us a hell of a tour. Walking through the damp East London night, with only a lantern to light the way, we squeezed through alleyways and huddled together on empty streets. And let me tell you, Jack the Ripper was no joke. Even 130 years after the gruesome murder, standing in the spot where Mary Nichol’s apartment once stood sent chills down my spine.

The most haunting echoes of Jack the Ripper are the ones that go unanswered. A mystery still yet to be solved and a killer still yet to be caught. No one knows what he truly looked like, but what do you picture when you think of Jack the Ripper? Personally, I think of a tall man, cloaked in black with a wide brimmed hat. All of this topped off with an unmistakable look of pain and confusion on his face as he wanders the streets of London... Could it be? Nah, couldn’t be.

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