Jack the Ripper and other Monsters: how did the Whitechapel Murder case impact the Lives of ordinary Victorians?

How did contemporaries view the Whitechapel murders and the rapid rise to infamy of the mysterious ‘Jack the Ripper’? How did the presence of a supposedly ‘superhuman’ killer impact Londoners who found themselves sharing a city with a murderer the police were powerless to catch? The idea that one might be murdered by a stranger, seemingly for no reason at all, must have terrified contemporaries. Speculating on what sort of person might do this must also have played a part in how people tried to come to terms with what was happening. Given the lack of comparators, this must have been particularly difficult and perhaps inevitably led to a merging of fact with fiction. This talk will explore the reactions of Londoners and others to the Whitechapel murders and reflect on the extent to which the character of ‘Jack the Ripper’ merged with previous terrors, like ‘Spring Heeled Jack’, to haunt the dreams of late nineteenth-century Londoners.


Dr Drew Gray is the Head of Culture at the University of Northampton, where he also teaches the history of crime and supervises PhD candidates. Drew has written several books and articles, including London’s Shadows: The Dark Side of the Victorian City (Bloomsbury, 2010) which places the Ripper murders in their social context, and Murder Maps: Crime Scenes Revisited (Thames & Hudson, 2020). His latest book, Nether World: Crime and the Police Courts in Victorian London was published by Reaktion in 2024.

Image title

‘London’ by peterock72

Curated & Hosted by

Marguerite Johnson is a cultural historian of the ancient Mediterranean, specialising in sexuality and gender, particularly in the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, and Ovid, as well as magical traditions in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, with a regular focus on Australia. In addition to ancient world studies, Marguerite is interested in sexual histories in modernity as well as magic in the west more broadly, especially the practices and art of Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton. She is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Queensland, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

15th Aug 2024 8:00 pm - 09:30 pm

£6 - £10 & By Donation

Thank you for your support