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Paul M. Bessel, 32°, K.C.C.H.
(current address: 3700 Marble Arch Way, Silver Spring MD 20906 -
paulb'at' )

Armed with the facts, Masons should have no difficulty responding to alleged
Masonic connections in the Jack the Ripper crimes.

How should Masons respond if told the following "facts" found in books and films, such as Murder by Decree and the current movie From Hell, about the Jack the Ripper case?

Alleged Evidence

  • Five women were murdered, all within nine weeks, so this appears to have been a plot with a specific purpose.
  • All the victims had their throats cut, often from ear to ear. One victim's tongue had apparently been torn out by its roots. One had her breast torn open, and her heart and vitals were taken out.
  • Four of the victims had their abdomens cut open and their intestines or bowels taken out and, in one case, burned to ashes.
  • Near the body of one of the victims were the words, scrawled in chalk, "The Juwes are the men that Will not be Blamed for nothing." Masonically, this can be seen as a possible reference to three ruffians whose names all begin with the same two letters. Charles Warren, the head of London's police at that time and also a prominent Freemason, quickly erased this message despite the strong protests of other police investigating the case.

  Sir Charles Warren, head of the London police at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, and also the first Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 

Could reasonable people conclude that there was a pattern and a specific reason for these Jack the Ripper murders? There is circumstantial evidence of possible Masonic involvement, so some say all that is needed is an explanation to connect these facts or allegations.

Alleged Explanation

Photo: Prince "Eddy," the Duke of Clarence, Grandson of Queen Victoria
Some authors and films claim to have an explanation that solves this case. They claim that Queen Victoria's grandson, who was known as "Prince Eddy," then 24, secretly fathered a baby and married the mother, an illiterate Catholic "shop-girl" named Annie Crook. Supposedly, Walter Sickert, a friend of Prince Eddy, hired a nanny, who was a witness at the secret marriage, to care for the illegitimate royal baby.

Britain was then in great political turmoil, and it is claimed that if word got out that the second in line to the throne had married and had a child with a lower-class, illiterate, Catholic commoner, then the people might have toppled the monarchy, taking with it all those in power—including Freemasons—who were in influential positions.

According to this story, the nanny turned to prostitution and shared her information about Prince Eddy's marriage and child with three other prostitutes, who all threatened to go public with the story. The Prime Minister or Queen Victoria supposedly called on Sir William Gull, physician to the Queen—and a Mason— to eliminate this threat.

The story goes on to allege Gull was mentally unbalanced and decided to kill all these women using Masonic ritual, calling on Masonic Brethren to assist him.

Walter Sickert, Prince Eddy's friend and witness at his marriage to Annie, is said to have told this story to his son Joseph, who later told it to the author Stephen Knight, who claimed to find additional supporting evidence. Others, including the authors of the graphic novel From Hell and the recent movie with this same title, rely on Knight's story to claim that the Jack the Ripper murders were not random, but a careful plot to protect the English royal family and the prominent Freemasons who supported them.

The Real Facts

Every allegation of Masonic involvement in the Ripper murders is based entirely on a story that Stephen Knight claims he was told by Joseph Sickert. But in The Sunday Times of London, on June 18, 1978, Sickert said of this story: "It was a hoax; I made it all up," and it was "a whopping fib," a pure invention. All the evidence confirms this: "Those parts of Mr. Sickert's story which can be tested have been be untrue." (See Rumbelow's Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook, pages 212, 213; and Begg, Fido, and Skinner's The Jack the Ripper A to Z, pages 411, 412.)

  • Donald Rumbelow is one of the most respected researchers of the Ripper murders. Commenting on Stephen Knight's book that identifies the murders as a Masonic conspiracy, he says: "Where is the evidence? The answer, of course, is that there isn't any…. The book becomes more and more frustrating as one searches for hard facts….Whichever way you look, there is not a shred of evidence to back up Knight's theory." (The Complete Casebook, pages 207, 209, 212.)
  • Those who are familiar with Masonic ritual know that the mutilations of the Ripper murder victims' bodies do not reflect any Masonic practices, rules, rituals, or ceremonies. Any seeming similarity is only slight, inaccurate, and circumstantial.
  • Knight claimed Masonic penalties (which are purely symbolic, not actual) mention having the heart removed and thrown over the left shoulder. But he admits it was the intestines, not heart, that were placed over Jack the Ripper's victims' right shoulders.
  • Whatever was meant by the "Juwes" message found on a wall near one of the murder scenes, that term has never been used in Masonic ritual or ceremonies.
  • The erasure of the "Juwes" message near a murder site was almost surely a well-meaning attempt to prevent anti-Semitic mob violence against innocent people, since some were already thinking of blaming Jewish immigrants for these murders.
  • Even more significantly, the baby girl said to have been the child of Prince Eddy was born on April 18, 1885, so she was likely conceived between July 18 and August 11, 1884. During that whole time, Prince Eddy was in Heidelberg, Germany, while Annie Crook, the alleged mother, was in London.
  • Stephen Knight's story says that Eddy and Annie met in 1888 in Walter Sickert's studio. But that building had been demolished in 1886, and a hospital was built on the site in 1887.
  • Dr. Gull is supposed to have been the key man in the Ripper murders. But he was 72 at the time and had already suffered one heart attack and, possibly, a stroke. Yet he is alleged to have brutally murdered five young and reasonably strong women in a carriage on public streets and discarded their mutilated bodies in public areas.
  • British laws, then and now in effect, say that any marriage of a member of the royal family can be set aside by the monarch and that any who marry a Catholic cannot inherit the crown. So, no murders were necessary even if the story of Prince Eddy's marriage to Annie Crook were true. In any case, Annie Crook was not a Catholic. (Begg et. al., The Jack the Ripper A to Z, page 95.)
  • The supposed police cover-up was probably simply due to lack of experience with murders such as these as well as some degree of police and government incompetence. When carefully examined, there is not a single piece of solid historical evidence to support Stephen Knight's claims of Masonic involvement in the Ripper murders, a theme central to several books and films, including From Hell, the recent graphic novel and film by the same title. On the contrary, there is considerable evidence refuting these allegations. Armed with the facts, Masons should have no difficulty responding to alleged Masonic connections to the Jack the Ripper crimes.


Comments about each book are from "Casebook: Jack the Ripper," the most detailed Internet web site that deals exclusively with all aspects of the Ripper murder cases—located at

The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, by Philip Sugden (Caroll & Graf, New York, 1994). Required reading for anyone interested in the case.

From Hell, by Alan Moore, writer, and Eddie Campbell, artist (Eddie Campbell Comics, Australia, 1989).

The Jack the Ripper A to Z, by Paul Begg, Martin Fido, and Keith Skinner (Headline Book Publishing, London, 1991). This is a must-have book for anyone doing a serious study of the case.

Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook, by Donald Rumbelow (Contemporary Books, Chicago, 1988). This is highly recommended for all students of the case, well researched and intelligent, a wonderful introduction. It has been considered the "bible" of Ripperologists.

Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, by Stephen Knight (George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., London, 1976). The conclusions of this book have been disproved numerous times, but it is still one of the most widely read books on the subject. Recommended only to those interested in a good fictional read.

The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper, edited by Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund (Carroll and Graf Publishers, New York, 1999).

The Ripper and the Royals, by Melvyn Fairclough (Duckworth, London, 1991). Yet another Masonic Royal conspiracy theory, which even the author has now disavowed.

Editor's Note: A more detailed and fully referenced version of this paper will appear in Heredom vol. 9.

  Paul Martin Bessel
is in the progressive line of the Grand Lodge in Washington D.C., where he is active in Masonic recognition, jurisprudence, and education activities. He is a Contributing Member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and webmaster of the award-winning Washington, D.C., Scottish Rite Valley web site. He is also President of the Masonic Library & Museum Association, Librarian at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Fellow of the Philalethes Society, Past District Deputy Grand Master for Research Lodges in Virginia, and a Founding Member and Past Master of the Civil War Lodge of Research No. 1865 and General George C. Marshall Lodge No. 55 in the District of Columbia. He is also active in "computer Masonry," as moderator of the Masonic Education and a New York Masons e-mail group, and webmaster of hundreds of Masonic information web pages at

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