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Sean Boyle, Ripperologist
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Ripperologist

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

…according to Sean Boyle, 72.

The London weather helped Jack the Ripper get away with murder

‘In 1888 the East End of London was absolutely permeated with fog. It came down from the chimneys and filled the alleyways: the visibility was maybe three or four feet. This is one of the reasons why no one was ever caught.’

For Victorians, death was a spectacle

‘Although they were poor, all of Jack the Ripper’s victims received big important funerals with horse-drawn hearses, because the Victorians – no matter who you were – were buried in style.’

Tourists think Sherlock Holmes actually existed

‘The locals know their stuff, but there’s the occasional tourist on my tours who says: “Excuse me, Sean, why didn’t Sherlock Holmes take this case?” I’m not joking. This happens.’

The West End is grubbier than the East

‘If I’m doing a Sherlock Holmes tour around Covent Garden, I’m up to my knees in chewing gum. People going in and out of the theatres are throwing their chewing gum in the street. But in the East End? None at all.’

The Ripper tours are… controversial

‘Some people think Jack the Ripper tours celebrate sexism. I don’t think so. Our tour tells it how it is, from the point of view of a historian. This case is important due to the time it happened: the 1870 Education Act had allowed more people to read, and technological advances meant that printers were able to produce papers on the street almost as quickly as they can today. Okay, the tours are a little like street theatre, but I don’t think we’re glamorising the story.’

Find out the things you only know if you’re a Crossrail engineer.

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