Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders

By Mulligan, Rikk | Extrapolation, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders


Mulligan, Rikk, Extrapolation


We Don't Know Jack, the Magician. Spiro Dimolianis. Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. 228 pp. ISBN 978078644547. $40.00 pbk.

Reviewed by Rikk Mulligan

Over the past 125 years theories regarding the identity and motivations of Jack the Ripper have metastasized as new advances in forensic science, criminal profiling, and digitized records have been combined with the study of serial killers to engage this very cold case. Professionals and amateurs sleuths who focus on the Whitechapel murders-Ripperologists-have benefited from police files and official documents as they have been released (and sometimes lost) to the public since the 1970s, as well as the writings of Robin Odell, Stephen Knight, Colin Wilson, Judith Walkowitz, Stewart Evans, and Patricia Cornwell, among others. Even with such technical advances and the attention of scholars, journalists, and other writers, however, the identity of the Ripper remains not only unknown but also increasingly enshrouded in misinformation, myth, and fantasy. The figure that terrorized London has become a character in genre fiction and media in crime thrillers, horror, science fiction, and, more recently, urban fantasy, all of which may interest scholars of the fantastic in the arts, particularly since Stephen Knights' more esoteric theories involving the royal family, ritual magic, the occult, and secret societies in Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (1976) began to influence popular culture. In 2001 the film From Hell, itself loosely based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel, borrowed from Knight and added its own drug-induced psychic visions and Freemason plots within the Victorian government. Guy Ritchie's much better received Sherlock Holmes (2009) incorporates secret societies and the occult, even if it uses anachronistic "steampunk" technology to explain away its "magik" as conjurors' tricks.

Spiro Dimolianis' Jack the Ripper and Black Magic offers the perspective that Victorian society and police investigators held beliefs that "embraced fortune-telling, gypsies, the demonic, political and occult secret societies, ritualized or religious murder and the supernatural" that directed and perhaps limited their hunt for the murderer (7). Whereas some chapters consider the occult, ritual magic, and the belief in psychic powers, the rest are part of Dimolianis' attempt to create a "definitive reference on alleged Whitechapel murder conspiracies and theories on ritual homicide, occult crime, political slayings and the supernatural mystique of Jack the Ripper" (6). In his preface he references Judith Walkowitz and Sir Christopher Frayling, both noted cultural historians of Victorian England who have performed Ripper research, and suggests that his monograph is intended to create another such cultural history by considering overlooked aspects of the Ripper investigations objectively (without antiquated class or social bias), particularly the existence of secret societies, the rebirth of occult societies and theosophy, and contemporary urban myths and conspiracy theories. Dimolianis argues that the beliefs and attitudes of police officials and investigators must be taken into account to understand their approach to the investigation-what they assumed and excluded about the possible identity and motives of the murderer, no matter how exotic or unlikely to the audience of today. More importantly, he says that this mentality is critical in contextualizing the biases of newspaper reports and editorials that form so much of the primary research into the Whitechapel murders. Jack the Ripper and Black Magic is meant to be a corrective for "suspects conjured without reference to primary sources and with little regard for historic traditions of non-mainstream subcultures and personalities" (8). It is partially successful in that it contextualizes a number of obscure articles and official documents, but because Dimolianis requires readers to have a strong foundation in the current Ripper discourse and be more than passingly familiar with Victorian culture in general much of the discussion is fairly opaque for the uninformed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.