In the spring of 1905, members of an exclusive club of crime enthusiasts known as Our Society were taken on a guided excursion through Whitechapel, one of London’s most notorious districts, by Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, the chief police surgeon for the City of London. But this was no ordinary sightseeing tour. The focus of the outing was Jack the Ripper's reputed murder sites, and among the guests that day was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. Historian Daniel Friedman joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) for a discussion of Jack the Ripper and how the gruesome killings attributed to him may be connected to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
"His life is pretty bizarre and dangerous when you're looking at it without Sherlock Holmes involved," Friedman suggested, noting at age 25 Doyle argued for locking up women with syphilis, accidentally poisoned a man, and sent fake invitations to a Mayor's Ball. Doyle grew up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father who spent time in mental hospitals and a mother who was having an affair with a lodger, he added. Friedman described Doyle as "an emotionally tortured child" who was sent away to live with a neighbor.
Friedman spoke about his research into Doyle which included looking into his time in medical school and getting a copy of his thesis. Doyle's thesis contained many of the clues Friedman used to connect Doyle and the Ripper. The thesis dealt with syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection that was very personal for Doyle as his father suffered with the disease and was institutionalized because of it. "[Doyle wanted] revenge for the woman that gave his father the ailment that made him go into mental hospitals and broke his family," Friedman proposed.
The first four victims of the Ripper were prostitutes in their mid-40s, Friedman reported, noting how the killer left behind handkerchiefs and thimbles purposely placed near the bodies. An intellectual like Doyle understood the Shakespearean meaning of the handkerchief as a symbol of infidelity, Friedman noted. "Doyle was bathing in Shakespeare as a child," he added. Taken in sum these clues for Friedman point to Doyle as Jack the Ripper.
During the first half hour, environmental consultant and industrial safety expert Jim Poesl provided a brief update on the 30 tons of explosive chemical that disappeared from a train. In the latter part of the first hour, Ian talked about and played a sample of his new podcast, Vaudeville for the Frightened.