The Jack The Ripper nee The Ten Bells as it appeared on the souvenir postcard available at the bar throughout 1988
"Paranormal probers are claiming that a victim of Jack the Ripper is haunting an East London Pub. The American TV team says the spirit of Liz Stride, the third victim of the notorious Victorian mass murderer, has been sighted at The Ten Bells, Commercial Street, Spitalfields. Former pub guv'nor Jim O'Donnell claims to have witnessed the ghost of Long Liz. He said "It was just something I couldn't explain. It gave me quite a fright. I was really frightened" he added. Liz Stride, who was a 45-year-old prostitute when she was murdered, is said to have frequently drunk at The Ten Bells. Psychic Marion Dampier-Jeans also visited the pub as part of the investigation carried out for an American programme Sightings which looks into paranormal events. Speaking from the pub cellar, she said "I know spirits have shown themselves to landlords here." But the current manager of the pub Fyfe Johnston has not witnessed any ghostly apparitions. He said "We get hundreds of tourists coming in here every day because of the Jack the Ripper connection."
- THE PUB HAUNTED BY RIPPER VICTIM'S SPIRIT East London Advertiser, August 18, 1994
Early nineteen nineties, and, by way of publicising their recently opened restaurant, the owners of the Sheraz tandoori house set to carpet-leafleting the immediate vicinity. Their promotion took the form of a menu, on the cover of which, a photo of the premises and beneath this the legend “Sheraz Restaurant, 13 Brick Lane. Previously Frying Pan pub famous as drinking den of JACK THE RIPPER and his first VICTIM."
Meanwhile, a few hundred yards away in Spelman Street, Steve Kane, fifty year old landlord of The Alma, was vehemently refuting allegations that he’d earmarked a £12,500 grant from the City Challenge funds to convert his beer garden into a “Ripper Museum." Speaking in the East London Advertiser (18 March 1993), Mr. Kane explained “I think that would be a little gruesome." The Advertiser’s journalist admirably set the record straight as to the squeamish guv’nor’s true intentions. “Steve plans to start serving up traditional grub in May. One speciality is set to be fish ‘n chips wrapped in copies of the original 1888 newspapers carrying stories of the Ripper murders ...”
No business premise has had its Ripper links flaunted quite so brazenly as The Ten Bells, Commercial Street, Spitalfields, which, like The Alma, is currently seeking a buyer (it will set you back a cool £1.2 million). An opportunist landlord with some kind of tact and diplomacy bypass, changed the name to The Jack the Ripper in 1974 by virtue of the place having been a reputed watering hole of the Whitechapel Demon's tragic victims, and a hairs breadth from Hanbury Street where the mutilated remains of Annie Chapman were discovered. Chapman, he claimed, haunted the pub, messing with the radio and causing cold breezes to blow through the bar. Perhaps, as did several Women's Groups, Annie took exception to successive guv'nors turning the place into some kind of shrine to her murderer, plastering the walls with facsimile copies of several macabre pages from the contemporaneous Police Gazette, flogging souvenir T-shirts, lighters, postcards, books of matches, etc., keeping a signed copy of Screaming Lord Sutch's notorious 12" on the counter where everyone could see it and concocting the gory "Ripper Tipple". Whatever, Dark Annie's spectre is evidently not averse to a spot of moonlighting. Her wan, and, for reasons never satisfactorily accounted for, suddenly headless shade once held down a residency in Hanbury Street where she could be found sitting on a wall "night after night." As Emily Anne Chapman was the maiden name of said landlord's wife, we admit his satanic reign at the place did at least have the merest hint of strangeness about it.
More dubious by far is the claim attributed to Chicago-based ghost-hunter Richard Crome that it is poor Mary Kelly, generally agreed to be the last known victim of the madman, whose restless spirit haunts the establishment as customers reckon they've smelt her 'phantom perfume' wafting on the air [so how would they know it's hers?]. Perhaps Mary had repaired to the pub following her enforced eviction from the entirely demolished Millers Court where once "a shabby woman in black", i.e. vaguely answering to her description, would periodically be sighted entering number 13 and squinting through a grimy window before evaporating into nothingness. Better known, if perhaps no more likely is Elliott O'Donnell's account of the spectre of Durward Street [nee Bucks Row, where Mary Ann Nichols met her doom] in his 1948 compilation, Haunted Britain. O'Donnell had visited the scenes of the crimes in 1895 to interview the locals who "... told me that in the streets where the murders had been committed appalling screams and groans uttered by no living human being were sometimes heard at night, and that in Bucks Row, a huddled up figure like that of a woman, emitting from all over it a ghostly light, was frequently seen lying in the gutter".
Fancy dress fun and games! Peter Underwood's Jack The Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery (Blandford Press, 1987) and Richard Whittington-Egan's Weekend Book Of Ghosts No. 5 (Associated Press, 1985) featuring the excellent article, Jack The Ripper's Ghosts.
On the Ripper-Victims-As-Spectres front, only his fourth kill, Catherine Eddowes, doesn't really get much of a look in. Peter Underwood offers a "huddled form" of fairly recent vintage, slumped in the SW corner of Mitre Square, but that's about it for her as far as I'm aware. Underwood's centenary offering, Jack The Ripper One Hundred Years Of Mystery (Blandford, 1987) is, perhaps not unjustly, castigated by the authors of the milestone The Jack The Ripper A-Z for it's "haste" and "many inaccuracies", but elsewhere in the same volume, having acknowledged his status as "probably Britain's best known ghost-hunter", they commend him for resisting the urge to go over the top]: "He nobly confined himself to one chapter on Ripper-related ghost sightings and resisted the temptation to give more than a hint that Mrs. Caroline Maxwell saw Mary Jane Kelly's ghost" (at the inquest into Kelly's death, Mrs. Maxwell insisted that she had spoken to the deceased in Millers Court at some time between 8 and 8.30 am on the morning of November 9. 1888. Mary had indicated a pool of vomit on the pavement and complained of having "the horrors of drink" upon her. The evidence of the pathologist controverted this he had established the time of death as having occurred between one and two o'clock of that same morning. However, her sister did inform the inquest of her 'occult warning' concerning the catastrophe that had befallen 'Long Liz' "About twenty minutes passed one on Sunday morning I felt a pressure on my breast and heard three distinct kisses". ). Bloodcurdling screams were reputedly heard by several persons in the yard beside 40 Berner Street on the nights following Liz Stride's murder, but she only seems to have taken on a spectral form to assist in the terminal Ten Bells publicity drive.
As to the Ripper himself, one latter-day suspect, Dr William Evans Thomas, hailing from the remote village of Aberffraw in North Wales, lived in the Spitalfields district in 1888 (enough, it seems, to secure candidacy). He poisoned himself with prussic acid the following year, and yes, his spook is said to haunt the house he shared with his cleric father ever since ...
Fittingly, those who'd lobbied the council, Trumans Brewery and, not least, its landlords to have the Jack the Ripper revert to its former name eventually triumphed in the year marking the centenary of the murders. The pubs incumbent landlord, Mr Ernie Ostrowski, was ill-disposed to losing face over this one and sneered something to the effect that the petitioning, 'petticoat picketing' and sundry demonstrations had counted for nothing the name change was merely in keeping with plans to revamp the place (although, until very recently it was much the same as I remember it at the time), and besides, as he gloated to the Hackney Gazette (Jan. 2 1988): "Whatever the protesters say, the tourist interest in Jack the Ripper in 1988 is going to be fantastic". Over our collective dead bodies, decided Tower Hamlets Council, who forbade the shooting of footage pertaining to Jack on council property for the centenaries duration. The Ripper, for his part, took these minor setbacks on the chin, as well he could afford to. He was, after all, an old hand at the game, having been at it for one hundred years. There were always other outlets he might better exploit to keep his legend alive...
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.