The History Channel’s American Ripper series promised to reveal the identity of Jack the Ripper. However, the eight-part series, which concluded its airing at the end of August, completely failed to deliver on any level.
American Ripper advertised the existence of credible evidence linking Jack the Ripper to H.H. Holmes, an American serial killer who is believed to have committed as many as 200 murders in the late nineteenth century.
American Ripper was spearheaded by Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’ great-great-grandson, who has spent more than twenty years trying to prove his theory that Holmes and Jack the Ripper were one and the same. However, American Ripper provided no solid evidence to support this.
Did American Ripper prove that Holmes was in London during the Ripper murders in 1988? No. Did the series produce any evidence that linked Holmes to any of the Ripper victims? No.
On the contrary, the series demonstrated that the pathology and psychology of Jack the Ripper is completely different than that of Holmes, who was careful, secretive, and not at all fond of advertising, of taking responsibility for, his gruesome deeds. Also, a handwriting expert virtually dismissed the possibility of any match between the Ripper’s handwriting and that of Holmes.
American Ripper should have been called H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer. All the series proved was that Holmes was a despicable human being, a conman and monster, who constructed a “Murder Castle,” a diabolical torture factory in Chicago, where Holmes hunted and tortured victims then disposed of their bodies in a cremation furnace. While Holmes’ back story is certainly compelling and gruesome, it failed to bring the series any closer to establishing a link between Holmes and Jack the Ripper.
American Ripper unfolded as a series of blind alleys and rabbit holes. It was embarrassing at times, completely exploitative and shameless, and it represents an extreme example of false advertising.
After more than 125 years, it seems impossible that the Jack the Ripper case will ever be solved to any degree of legal certainty. The biggest question left over by American Ripper is: Why did it promise so much to begin with?
Images courtesy of the History Channel.