Jack the Ripper is one of Britain’s greatest gruesome historical figures, and yet the mystery surrounding him and his crimes is one of the most enduring in popular culture.
The eighteenth Jack the Ripper Conference was held in Shoreditch Town Hall last weekend, commemorating 125 years since the infamous murderer’s last killing.
To mark the 125th anniversary of the murders, 125 Ripper enthusiasts paid a very apt £125 for the sought-after tickets, where they were treated to three days of screenings, tours and historical reenactments around the subject.
Richard Cobb, organiser of the event, said: “We incorporated everything about Jack the Ripper in one. We had actors, identification parades, documentaries, …we even had a marriage proposal!”
One of the people lucky enough to bag a ticket was 42-year-old Lee Hazel, an IT engineer from Reigate, Surrey. He described the event as: “a fun three days meeting like-minded people who share and, above all, respect each other’s theories.”
Hazel said: “I bought my first ever Ripper book for a long haul flight in 1990, and was hooked by the time the plane touched down!”
“What fascinates me is the letters that were sent to the police, the manhunt, and the way he simply vanished into thin air after each murder.”
He was full of praise for the conference, saying it was “remarkably historical, intellectual, factual, accurate, and well organised. I was surrounded by authors, historians, and lecturers.”
Among the experts was author, “Ripper-ologist,” and conference-regular Melanie Clegg, who gave a lecture on the Ripper’s final victim Mary Jane Kelly.
Clegg said: “I’ve been fascinated by the Ripper murders since I was a very little girl.”
She added: ”This is a brilliant way for all the different Ripper researchers to get together, have a bit of fun and discuss their theories about the case. I always come away feeling really inspired.”
Clegg has an alternative approach to the subject when compared to her fellow experts. She said: “I personally prefer to pay attention to the lives of his victims.”
She continued: “It disturbs me that whereas everyone knows about Jack the Ripper, the names of the women he killed are mostly unknown, so I try my best to make people more aware of them.”
Even though this was the 18th annual conference, Richard Cobb says that keeping them going has not always been easy. Cobb described how hard he worked after a drop in popularity in the mid-noughties.
He said: “I wasn’t prepared to let it go…My brother and I spent months making frantic phone calls, sending emails and gathering a team together.”
“We re-launched the official Jack the Ripper conference in York 2012, adding field trips, banquets and world class experts to the itinerary.”
Cobb is confident about the future of the event, after the success of last week: “Sixty-six people attended (in 2012) and all 66 returned this year followed by a further 50 people. So it looks like we are reborn.”
“We are taking a year off, and our next one is in 2016. Location to be announced, so watch this space!”