Monday, July 21, 2008

Ripper Conference

I was eating breakfast this morning and reading the newspaper, when a sentence caught my eye: "the couple . . . are organizing this year's U.S. Jack the Ripper Conference in October to be held here in Knoxville." Say what??? Not only is there a Jack the Ripper Conference, but it's going to be held just down the street from me this year??? Goodness, how exciting!

One of the scheduled speakers for the conference is the author Martin Fido, author of the excellent Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper and Jack the Ripper A to Z. Of course, I signed up right away. It will be interesting to hear what the experts have to say, and to speak with other "Ripperologists." Undoubtedly, he main factor which makes the Jack the Ripper case so intriguing is that it was never solved.

In my opinion, one of the most shocking crimes in the U.S. has to have been the murders of Frank Lloyd Wright's mistress Mamah Cheney, her children and four others. This story is told in the book Loving Frank. One day in 1914, while Wright was away, a servant set fire to the house and attacked people with an ax as they tried to flee. The killer was immediately caught, tried and executed. I happened upon a reference to this one day while reading something about Wright, and I was surprised that I hadn't heard of the case before. Not only was it sensational and horribly violent, but Wright was and remains a well-known figure. In celebrity-obsessed America, the more scandalous and disturbing an individual's life is, the more we love him or her.

I think the main reason that this case isn't well-known (as opposed to the Jack the Ripper story), is that there was no mystery involved -- the guilty party was caught immediately and made to pay for his crimes. His motive even turned out to be quite simple: he was crazy as a loon.

While we will probably never know what motivated Jack the Ripper, speculating and pouring over the evidence will keep Ripperologists entertained for many years to come.

Final Verdict for Jack the Ripper A to Z and Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper: Four Gherkins for being well-researched, comprehensive accounts of the case

Final Verdict for Loving Frank: Three Gherkins for being an interesting treatment of an all but forgotten incident

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