Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Jack the Ripper - Case Closed?
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Jack the Ripper - Case Closed?

Nancy Sundstrom - March 20th, 2003
“No doubt there will always be skeptics, and critics tainted by self-interest who will refuse to accept that [Walter] Sickert was a serial killer, a damaged diabolical man driven by megalomania and hate. There will be those who will argue that it’s all coincidence. As FBI profiler Ed Sulzbach says, ‘There really aren’t many coincidences in life. And to call coincidence after coincidence after coincidence a coincidence is just plain stupid.“
—Patricia Cornwell, Portrait of a Killer

Bestselling author Patricia Cornwell, the creator of a series of acclaimed crime novels featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, has never seemed at a loss for either words or confidence. So when she announced not too long ago that she had irrefutable evidence solving the case of Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who murdered at least seven women in London in 1888, most of the world took notice. This was, after all, a case that has been widely speculated upon for more than a century, yet a firm answer as to the identity of the killer has baffled and eluded experts.
So does Cornwell deliver the goods in “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed?“ She certainly believes so, and many readers will, as well. USA Today once said that “No one depicts the human capability for evil better than Patricia Cornwell,“and that along with her considerable forensic and storytelling skills combine to build a highly compelling case for the fiend being one Walter Richard Sickert.
Sickert was an impressionist artist and apprentice to Whistler who was also a deeply disturbed psychopath whose hatred of women, especially the lower class prostitutes of the day, was one of the factors that led him to brutally butcher his victims in the slums of London’s East End. Cornwell links Sickert, who died peacefully in his bed in 1942, at the age of 81, to the Ripper letters that were written to the Metropolitan Police and the press, provides a detailed analysis of his paintings that depicted the horrific mutilation of his victims, and examines how his birth defects and subsequent genital surgical interventions were all part of turning him into a serial killer.
In the first chapter, “Mr. Nobody,“ she whets the reader’s appetite by setting the stage with a vivid description of the era and place in which Sickert lived, as well as lead character himself:

“Monday, August 6, 1888, was a bank holiday in London. The city was a carnival of wondrous things to do for as little as pennies if one could spare a few...On this bank holiday there were horse and cattle shows; special “cheap rates“ on trains; and the bazaars in Covent Garden overflowing with Sheffield plates, gold, jewelry, used military uniforms. If one wanted to pretend to be a soldier on this relaxed but rowdy day, he could do so with little expense and no questions asked. Or one could impersonate a copper by renting an authentic Metropolitan Police uniform from Angel‘s Theatrical Costumes in Camden Town, scarcely a two-mile stroll from where the handsome Walter Richard Sickert lived.
Twenty-eight-year-old Sickert had given up his obscure acting career for the higher calling of art. He was a painter, an etcher, a student of James McNeill Whistler, and a disciple of Edgar Degas. Young Sickert was himself a work of art: slender, with a strong upper body from swimming, a perfectly angled nose and jaw, thick wavy blond hair, and blue eyes that were as inscrutable and penetrating as his secret thoughts and piercing mind. One might almost have called him pretty, except for his mouth, which could narrow into a hard, cruel line....
Walter Sickert was an actor by nature more than by virtue of employment. He lived on the center stage of his secret, fantasy-driven life and was just as comfortable moving about unnoticed in the deep shadows of isolated streets as he was in the midst of throbbing crowds. He had a great range of voice and was a master of greasepaint and wardrobe. So gifted at disguise was he that as a boy he often went about unrecognized by his neighbors and family...But in the late summer of 1888 he gave himself a new stage name that during his life would never be linked to him, a name that soon enough would be far better known than those of Whistler, Irving, and Terry.
The actualization of Jack the Ripper‘s violent fantasies began on the carefree bank holiday of August 6, 1888, when he slipped out of the wings to make his debut in a series of ghastly performances that were destined to become the most celebrated so-called murder mystery in history. It is widely and incorrectly believed that his violent spree ended as abruptly as it began, that he struck out of nowhere and then vanished from the scene.
Decades passed, then fifty years, then a hundred, and his bloody sexual crimes have become anemic and impotent. They are puzzles, mystery weekends, games, and “Ripper Walks“ that end with pints in the Ten Bells pub. Saucy Jack, as the Ripper sometimes called himself, has starred in moody movies featuring famous actors and special effects and spates of what the Ripper said he craved: blood, blood, blood.“

In May 2001, Cornwell took a tour of Scotland Yard that interested her in the Ripper case, and in Sickert as a suspect. After she looked at Sickert‘s paintings, she was convinced she was onto something, and applied, for the first time ever, modern investigatory and forensic techniques to the Ripper crimes.
The amount of evidence she compiled, on everything from the life of the London poor to every piece of information that could be found on Sickert is exhaustive and was meticulously conducted. By enlisting the help of forensic experts, Cornwell poured over thousands of documents and reports, fingerprints, crime-scene photographs, original etchings and paintings, items of clothing, artists‘ paraphernalia, and traces of DNA. She refutes every previous theory ever held about the identity of Jack the Ripper. Without a doubt, this woman did her homework, in spades.
So does she build a rock solid case with a smoking gun? Each reader will have to draw their own conclusions, but let’s just say that if he were being tried today and this evidence was being offered up in court, he’d most likely be a goner. This is an intriguing, well-constructed, and page-turning read, and one can easily see why this has generated the buzz that is has in both the literary and investigative crime worlds.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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