This Day in History – October 15th, 1888

George Lusk

George Lusk

On this day in 1888 an infamous package was mailed to a Mr. George Lusk, the then head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, a group of local volunteers who patrolled the streets of London’s Whitechapel District. Lusk, by trade, was a builder and decorator, but the brutal murders committed by “Jack the Ripper” elevated Lusk into one of the lead investigators on the trail of the notorious killer.

Lusk was elected Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee by other local businessmen who made up the Committee on September 10th, 1888. His name was printed on the numerous posters pasted up around Whitechapel appealing for information during the murders. He and the Committee’s Treasurer, Joseph Aarons, wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph, addressed to the then Home Secretary Henry Matthews, stating that the offer of a substantial reward from the government would “convince the poor and humble residents of our East-end that the government authorities are as much anxious to avenge the blood of these unfortunate women as they were the assassination of Lord Cavendish and Mr Burke.”

The package arrived on Lusk’s doorstep on October 16th, but was postmarked for the 15th, and contained a letter and half of a human kidney. The letter has became known as the “From Hell” Letter and supposedly was from the Whitechapel killer known as “Jack the Ripper.” At first Lusk dismissed the package and letter as just being a practical joke, but fellow Whitechapel Vigilance Committee members convinced Lusk to take the kidney to a local doctor for inspection, and then in turn submit it as evidence to the police.

The “From Hell” Letter was not the first to be delivered to Lusk, but it was the kidney that separated this one from all the other hoax letters. There has been continued debate whether the author of the letter was genuinely of limited education, thus the spelling and grammatical errors, or whether the killer was trying to disguise his level of learnedness. Either way, this letter is widely accepted as being penned by the same hand that murdered at least five women in Whitechapel.

640px-FromHellLetterFrom hell

Mr Lusk
Sor
I send you half the
Kidne I took from one women
prasarved it for you tother pirce
I fried and ate it was very nise I
may send you the bloody knif that
took it out if you only wate a whil
longer.

signed
Catch me when
you Can
Mishter Lusk.

Flourish 3

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