Monday, August 8, 2011

Saucy Jack is back.


Let’s talk about murder. Grisly, gruesome, and seriously bloody murder. Everyone loves a good murder tale. They’re like train wrecks and Disney Channel shows, you can’t look away.  I’m sure all of you have heard of Jack the Ripper. Now I know what you’re thinking…’hey hold up there Courts. Jack the Ripper ain’t American history. He’s British.’

Oh, really?

Suppose the reason Saucy Jack’s murders stopping happening in London was because our intrepid psychopath had crossed the pond. We will call this a speculative blog then. Because no one knows for sure who Jack the Ripper was or if the murder of Carrie Brown in a seedy New York hotel in 1891 was the handy work of Jack or some other nut job. That said many Ripperologists (That’s what they call us crazies who are obsessed with the knife wielding weirdo. I’m one of them.) believe the murder in America is connected to the Whitchapel murders.

Edward Fitzgerald was pulling double duty at the East River Hotel in New York on April 24, 1891 when he found the mutilated body of Carrie Brown in room 31. Poor old Carrie was completely naked, a deep gash extended from the lower part of the abdomen upward to the breast, which disemboweled it completely. (Grossed out yet? No...keep reading then. Yes, look away foolish mortals.) The entrails, yep all of Carrie’s stomach-y parts, were torn from her body and scattered over the bed. There were also two deep slashes crossing each other on her back, forming an exact cross.  According to the New York Herald there was a missing organ, most likely the uterus but the paper never said what it was specifically. 

News of the slaying spread through the city like wildfire. Now the murder of a prostitute, which little Miss Carrie was, or violent crime in general wasn’t all that strange of an occurrence in New York’s fourth ward. It was the violent nature of the crime that scared the city. Its striking similarity to the Ripper Murders had the police scratching their heads and the public screaming for safety.

There was a certain irony to the police involvement in the case. During the hunt for Jack in Whitechapel three years prior, Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes of the New York Police Department had made some comments via the papers, stating that if Jack the Ripper ever decided to leave London and come to NYC, he would be caught in two or three days.  Basically Thomas was being a man and having a pissing contest with Scotland Yard. Not in so many words he called them incompetent boobs. When Scotland Yard heard about the Carrie Brown case I can imagine they stood, pointing and laughing at Inspector Byrnes.

Some facts about the murder quickly emerged. Carrie and an unidentified gentleman entered the East River Hotel around 10:30 and 11:45 on the evening of the 23rd. Edward was busy tending bar so he asked a local prostitute, Mary Minter, who lived and worked out of the hotel to show the couple to room 31.

Mary quickly became the police’s prime witness. She stated the man was about five feet eight inches tall, about thirty years old, with brown hair, a moustache, sharp nose, and wearing a derby and a cutaway coat. She said the man had a strange accent.

Now here’s where things get tricky…or sloppy police work is more like it. Two suspects emerged commonly referred to as Frenchy 1 and Frenchy 2. The local working girls told Byrnes of two ‘cousins’ who liked to abuse the streetwalkers. Both men were questioned. Frenchy 1 was questioned at length and Byrnes seemed to determined to convince the press that he was the killer.  After much deliberation and searching, Frenchy 1 was arrested. However, Mary Minter kept repeatedly telling Byrnes Frenchy 2 was the man she saw entering the hotel with Carrie Brown. So desperate to be right and to say he had closed the case, Byrnes dismissed her calling her an opium fiend.

The press and the public weren’t as accepting as Byrnes would have liked, especially when some startling revelations about Frenchy 2 began to make the rounds. Frenchy 2 was noted for his physical strength and prowess. As a sailor of a cattle steamer he was constantly back and forth from London to New York. The other sailors on the ship told stories of how Frenchy 2 took unholy delight in slaughtering the animals that had obtained an injury that required they be dispatched. (Translation…he liked to carve up the cows that had hurt themselves.) Also the most damning thing was that Frenchy 2 had been arrested by Scotland Yard on suspicion of being Jack the Ripper. Yet, Byrnes never arrested La Bruckman – Frenchy 2’s real name.  Frenchy 1 was eventually released after public outcry of his innocence had worn away Byrnes.  Carrie Brown’s killer was never caught.

It was worth noting that La Bruckman’s ship was docked in London during each and every time Jack the Ripper stuck.

Historians can’t say the La Bruckman was Carrie Brown’s killer, nor can they say he was Jack the Ripper.  Because we will never really know who Jack the Ripper was. (No matter how many books are written or how many famous criminologists come along and say they have new evidence.) The mystery surrounding the man who is considered to be the world’s first serial killer is what has kept the story alive all these years.  It sure makes a tantalizing tale doesn’t it? 

2 comments:

  1. I just watched a documentary on National Geographic about detective Trevor Marriott's search for Jack the Ripper. He also traced the killer to New York due to Carrie Brown and then to another similar New York murder of Julianna Hoffman on East 6th St. not long after Carrie Brown. Marriott's suspect of choice was Carl Ferdinand Feigenbaum who was actually convicted of Hoffman's murder. He was a merchant seaman who had been in London at the time of the Whitechapel murders. He was found with a long knife of the type used to commit both New York murders and all the Whitechapel murders. He's also on record as stating he had an uncontrollable compulsion to murder and mutilate women especially to remove their sex organs and intestines. Marriott further found a trail of murder/mutilations of women in all of the port towns where Feigenbaum's ship had visited including several in Germany and Nicaragua. He died in the electric chair at Sing Sing in 1896.

    I came to the internet to try to find out the location of the East River Hotel and see if it still exists. I live 1 block from South St Seaport and love to read about the history of Lower Manhattan. By any chance do you know the address of the East River Hotel? Is it still around? I've googled and can't find anything about its location. Feel free to email me: kwalstedt@gmail.com.

    Thank you for your blog. I just found it in my search for the East River Hotel, but I can see that there is a lot more interesting stuff here for me to read.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Kirsten,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. I loved that NatGeo documentary.
    As far as I could discover in my research is that the East River Hotel no longer exists in New York. It was located on the southeast corner of Catherine Slip and Water Streets. There is an apartment building near the site, but the hotel itself has been leveled. There is a playground on the same side of the street where the hotel used to stand.

    ReplyDelete