From Hell [warning: spoilers]

By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

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[Warning: spoilers]

Okay, the next one is From Hell, with the evil Victoria in


What did you think of the most recent Princess of Wales dying on
the same date as Polly Nichols, the first Ripper victim?

Was it August 31st?


That’s interesting. Yeah, I hadn’t noticed really. It’s quite
interesting because I’d kind of connected the Princess of Wales into
that whole diabolic pentagram thing, just because, there was all that
stuff when they were originally getting married at Westminster Abbey
but at the last minute they changed it to St Paul’s, which is of
course a temple of the moon goddess Diana… and yeah, I think that
the main mystical significance of the death of Princess Diana is that
it’s probably not a great idea to go roaring round Paris at eighty
mile an hour when your driver’s coked out of his head.

[Laughs] I just thought it was curious.

It’s interesting. Which means also that that’s the same date that John
Bunyan died, I believe, because I think that Bunhill Fields, that the
grave, is it Bunyan or is it Defoe?

Are you talking about the one beside William Blake’s grave?

It’s right beside William Blake’s grave, Bunyan or Defoe, they died on
– yeah it was Bunyan.

Yeah, I remember the little picture in From Hell [chapter 4]
when they’re at Blake’s grave and you see Bunyan’s grave in the

And it’s got the same date on it.

Yeah, another interesting thing was that Elizabeth Stride, was it
her family that went down on a ship called the Princess Alice?

Well, she said they did.

And then Alice is the –

– The name of the little daughter. I had to research all of this. It
seems that perhaps she’d claimed that her family had been lost in the
disaster where the Princess Alice hit a steamer called the
Bywater Castle and no, I think that her husband had died by
completely different means. She was maybe hoping for compensation.

Right. Yeah, it’s a strange little thing.

Yeah, in that throughout the whole case there’s all these kind of odd
little connections, little coincidences, the same names, you know,
it’s a strange eerie little kind of area of information.

One little thing I thought was odd was the passer-by seeing Liz
Stride being flung to the ground.

Yeah. That was an eyewitness account. He saw a man struggling with a
woman. The man seemed to shout something at him that sounded something
like “Lipski”, which may have been a reference to the witness’ own
Jewishness. Lipski was the name of a Jewish guy who’d been, I think,
hung for murder a couple of years before and may have become a general
term of abuse for Jews. Yeah that’s – somebody saw – and this did
happen in the yard where there was this packing-case maker called
Walter Hindley and it was directly below the window of the socialist
club where William Morris used to regularly do readings. I tried to
put the mosaic together as thoroughly as possible and just get every
piece of information that I’d got in there.

The two Mary Kellys, like the two Lee Harvey Oswalds, can’t be
dismissed out of hand.

It’s a bit of a weird one, you know, that Katherine Eddowes gives her
name as Mary Ann Kelly and she leaves the police station having given
this false name and gets killed.

Oh, I was talking about the other two Mary Kellys. The witness
seeing her the next day.

Ah! Yeah, now that’s another odd one. Two witnesses who both said that
they saw her the next morning.

That gave you a direction, really, for the end of the story, didn’t

It did. I mean, I wanted to leave it covered up. Because obviously,
the simple truth of it is, how could anybody have identified what was
in 13 Miller’s Court? You know, I’ve seen the photographs, it’s
difficult to actually tell which way up she is for a while, let alone
who she is. There is no positive evidence. They didn’t have
fingerprinting or DNA fingerprinting or anything like that back then.
All they’d got was the word of a boyfriend in a state of shock. He
said “Yeah, that’s Mary.”

There’s no face, so –

She had no face. Bits of her were cut down to the bone. She had no
stomach. I mean, it was, it was sort of, um – So. Who knows? And by
that time I just wanted to give the poor
woman a happy ending, I wanted to somehow – without actually going
against what was possible, I wanted to sort of give her a way out,
just – and actually that, that final scene, with the ghost of gull,
descending to the hilltop in Ireland where there’s this woman that
he’s never seen before and there are four little girls, that’s one of
the most powerful scenes in the book to me. There’s something
spine-tingling in the bit where she tells him to get back to Hell
where he comes from. There’s just something in that which I – I find
really in – you know, it’s moving.

It’s kind of your anger as a writer then, isn’t it, as well?


Having to deal with this, for so many years writing about this
serial killer.

Yeah. It’s what, ten years. Ten years wading through the material, the
literature, not just Jack the Ripper but all of these fuckers. All
these miserable little apologies for human beings. They’re not
supermen. They’re not supermen at all. They’re not Hannibal Lecter.
You know, they’re Peter Sutcliffe, they’re a bloke with a dodgy perm.
And some horrible screw-up in his relationship with his mother or
something. They’re little blokes.

That’s what the FBI study showed, anyway, didn’t it?

And I read all of Robert Ressler’s, you know, books like Sexual
, which is probably the best of the books on serial
killers. But I’ve got all of them, all these awful Colin Wilson
compendiums of murder, I’ve got about thirty books on Jack the Ripper,
I mean Fortean Times kept sending me Jack the Ripper books
after I’d begged them to stop. The last two that they sent me were
Jack the Ripper – a Psychic Investigation, where some woman had
decided that she was going to psychically investigate the Ripper
crimes; and the other one was someone writing a book about what would
have happened to Jack the Ripper if we’d have had modern policing
methods in the 1880s. It’s a bit puzzling, because they’d got things
like Fred Abberline picking up the phone to ask if the DNA report had
come through yet and you think “Well, why bother to go through all
that trouble, why not just say that they caught him on the security
camera after the first murder and that was it?”

If you’re going to import that stuff to the 1880s you might as well
import nuclear weapons and microwave ovens.

Why not? The thing is, that there’s just absolutely nothing else to
say about the Jack the Ripper murders.

Have you put away all these books now?

No, I never put away any books, I more or less live in the small
spaces between piles of books. No, they’re never far away. I can still
see most of them from where I’m sitting here. Some of them, I could
probably do with just going through and throwing the lot of them out.
There’s a couple I’d keep. But my kind of book collection is the sort
that doesn’t look good if you get raided. The sort of thing where in
the write-up in the paper it’ll say “He had many books upon serial
murders, Nazis and the occult!” [Laughs]

[Laughs] You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a witch

Well, absolutely. Yeah, From Hell, I’m very proud of it. It’s a
big, black, monumental work. Victorian.

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