Introducing the Unusual Suspects (S1E0)
Updated: Jan 31
In 1888, Jack the Ripper murdered at least five women in the East End of London. More than a century later, we haven’t stopped talking about his crimes, nor have we given up on unmasking the perpetrator. In season 1 of The Art of Crime, we look at six artists who have been accused of the killings. Subscribe today wherever you get your podcasts! Full transcript below.
Above: Taken from the London edition of the satirical magazine Puck, printed on September 21, 1889.
London, England, 1888. An unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper prowls the streets of Whitechapel, a poverty-stricken district in the metropolis’s East End. Over the course of nine weeks, the Ripper claims the lives of five women, savagely mutilating four of their bodies before melting into the night. Each new homicide sends seismic waves across the British capital and indeed around the globe. Despite mounting pressure on the police to capture the phantom knifeman, one lead after another takes them nowhere. The culprit is never caught.
More than a century later, we haven’t stopped talking about the Whitechapel murders. Nor have we given up on unmasking the perpetrator.
Welcome to The Art of Crime, a podcast that explores the unlikely collisions between true crime and the arts. This season is titled The Unusual Suspects: Artists Accused of Being Jack the Ripper. It consists of eight episodes. The first looks at the lives and times of the five so-called “canonical” Ripper victims in addition to their murders. From there, The Unusual Suspects profiles six artists who have been suspected of the slayings, one per episode. A concluding episode wraps everything up and considers what we’ve learned—both about crime and about art.
All six artists worked in different media and were hailed as luminaries in their respective fields. Lewis Carroll—that’s right, the children’s author who sent Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole—is the one best-known to us today. Joining him, among others, are the master wigmaker and costume designer who reportedly supplied Scotland Yard with disguises while it was hunting the Ripper, the actor who originated the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and was playing it in London at the time of the killing spree, and the painter who scandalized critics with a series of works inspired by a salacious, real-life homicide. Several of these artists have aroused suspicion because of their involvement in other sensational crimes, including arson, fraud, blackmail, and “non-canonical” Ripper murders.
As we meet each artist, we’ll learn who they were, what made them famous, and why they’ve been nominated as Ripper candidates. Moreover, with each episode, we’ll find out more about the public’s reaction to the Whitechapel murders, theories about the killer’s identity (including a tangled web of conspiracies), as well as police efforts to bring him to justice.
The first two episodes are available right now. From here on out, a new episode will drop every other Wednesday. So subscribe today wherever you get your podcasts.