It’s widely agreed that we do not know the true identity of Jack the Ripper, but one author has claimed that he was actually from very close to home.
This claim comes from an author called Richard Patterson, who wrote a book titled ‘Jack the Ripper: The Works of Francis Thompson’ – with Francis hailing from Ashton.
In case you’ve got no idea what or who ‘Jack the Ripper’ is – I’m not entirely sure how you’ve got this far in your life without knowing – I’ll clear some things up for you.
Essentially, Jack the Ripper is what we now know as a serial killer. Jack famously stalked the streets of Whitechapel in London in 1888, and brutally murdered five sex workers.
The true identity of Jack the Ripper was never discovered. Even back then people were desperate for fame and claimed to be The Ripper, but nothing was ever concluded.
It was the level of gruesome horror of the murders that was shocking at the time – and now – with the killer removing internal organs, and mutilating the genitals, face and abdomen of the women.
What was often noted was the intricate surgical skill and knowledge of the killer which indicated they knew what they were doing, perhaps they were a surgeon or even a butcher?
Well, Richard certainly thinks so. He claims that Francis Thompson was a poet that grew up in Ashton, attending Owens Medical College in Manchester as a surgeon, before moving down to London, living on the streets in Whitechapel and then becoming famous for his ‘works’.
Richard makes a few main points in his book to argue his case; the childhood of the Ripper; the skill required; and finally, fame and fortune.
So we’ll kick off with the skill because we’ve already touched on that.
The accuracy, speed and expertise required to do the horrendous acts the Ripper did means they needed to have some pretty high skills with a knife or a scalpel.
The poet Francis Thompson, Patterson is very keen to note, would have been very proficient in the use of knives and scalpels. Thompson also had extensive knowledge of the human anatomy due to his six-year long medicinal studies at Manchester’s Owens Medical College.
Next, the Ripper’s childhood and how the heck he became a dab hand with a surgical knife.
It’s now known that serial killers often are categorised as ‘psychopaths’ and have a very particular set of behavioural traits that often show from a young age.
Of course, Patterson has got good reason to believe that Francis Thompson had all these behavioural characteristics.
From bed wetting to animal cruelty and arson – which even made it to the Ashton Reporter newspaper – Thompson had all of these.
He also had an unhealthy attitude to women and has been quoted as writing the following about a doll: “With another doll of much personal attraction, I was on the terms of intimate affection, till a murderous impulse of scientific curiosity incited me to open her head, that I might investigate what her brains were like”.
The book concludes that Thompson’s childhood ‘that included fire-starting, mutilation of dolls and refusal to communicate’, showed he was unsound and most likely a psychopath.
And finally, fame. Thompson completed his studies at Owens Medical College and headed for the bright lights and big city to pursue a career of writing in London.
Many argue that he pretty swiftly had a ‘mental breakdown’ when he discovered that the streets of London were pretty unkind to a Northern poet.
He became destitute and homeless, living in shelters in the East End. During this time he became outrageously addicted to opium, he also entered a relationship with a sex worker whose identity was never revealed, who looked after him.
Patterson attributes the later breakdown and failure of this relationship as the main motive for Thompson killing sex worker on the streets.
What was also important, Patterson points out, is that Thompson was similar to his victims, i.e. ‘destitute and undesirable’ so he would be ‘invisible’.
The book states: “They needed to be like Francis Thompson. When the murders happened, Thompson, then an ex-medical student, lived just a 15-minute walk to where all five women were knifed. The bed of this man, whose writing shows a hatred of prostitutes, was only 100 metres up the road from the last victim. At this time Thompson was carrying, under a long coat, a knife, which he kept razor sharp. All while he was hunting for a prostitute after their failed relationship.”
The Ripper murders ended abruptly with little fanfare but Patterson has got a reason for that too.
Around the time of the murders in 1888, Francis Thompson sent his poetry to a magazine, Merrie England, and was somewhat ‘discovered’.
From there, Thompson was off the streets and writing, out of trouble and less likely to get caught.
There are about five other people that it could be according to this blog, but Patterson makes a pretty convincing case for Jack the Ripper being Francis Thompson from Ashton-Under-Lyne.
You can get his book here and come to your own conclusion, I’ve got it on good authority that it’s an interesting read (It’s also only £3.50 on kindle – bargain).
One of the UK’s most haunted places is a pub in Greater Manchester
The scariest pint you’ll ever have…
The Ring o’ Bells pub in Middleton is actually one of the most haunted places in the whole of the UK and it’s bustling with paranormal activity.
The land that lends itself to the pub was once the site of an ancient Druid temple in the Bronze Age, where dark rituals and human sacrifices often took place.
From the off, this little patch of land has been home to spirits. The pub itself goes back to the 12th century and has been a hot-bed of eerie happenings ever since.
Ring O’ Bells resident ghost is nicknamed Edward, also known as the ‘Sad Cavalier’. He’s often found moving glasses along the bar, stomping with heavy footsteps upstairs, moaning and groaning and even throwing the occasional rock at the landlord and regulars.
It is thought that Edward is the son of Lord Stannycliffe and he died during the Civil War in a brutal massacre.
At this time, Middleton was a strong Parliamentarian camp and a group of Royalists, including Edward, were using the pub as a secret base.
There have been tales of a tunnel that ran directly from the pub to the local parish church as a means of escaping the Roundheads if they were ever caught plotting against Cromwell.
Many people have speculated that the sitting room on the upper floor is where Edward did his secret plotting. It’s not uncommon to experience sudden, spine-tingling temperature drops in this room.
One dark wintry night, Edward and his Royalists were going along as they normally did, plotting their revenge – but the Roundheads were waiting for them. What followed was a brutal massacre where they were not only killed but dismembered and buried in the cellar of the Ring O’ Bells pub.
The only remains of this night were helmets, spears and other historical artifacts. There have yet to be any bodies found and the tunnel to this day remains undiscovered.
That’s not the only haunting murder that has happened at the Ring O’ Bells though, no no no.
A pair of serial killer landlords lived in the pub in the 17th century. The legend goes that over 60 murders were committed by the landlord and his wife.
Their targets were the wealthy guests, disposing of the bodies in a specially hinged bed of boiling liquid. They made a fair bob or two from the victims’ valuables too. Creeps.
It’s safe to say, ever since there have been ghostly figures wandering the walls of the Ring O’ Bells pubs.
Some of the scariest encounters include a cold invisible hand pulling at the pockets of punters, could it be that the serial killing couple are still after your valuables?
There’s also plenty of cold spots, sightings of figures and generally a feeling of ‘not being alone’ in this pub, even after the doors close.
If you think you can handle one of the scariest pints you might ever have, put the Ring O’ Bells pub top of your places to visit after lockdown. While you’re there, say hello to Edward from us.
Five things a scientist wants anti-vaxxers to know about the coronavirus vaccines
The most common myths debunked
A medicine cell biologist has cleared up some of the popular vaccination myths.
More than 30 million people in the UK have received their first vaccine dose so far, with more than 4 million also having had their second jab.
However, there are a number of people not convinced about the safety of the vaccination. In the UK, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate suggests 5.4 million people believe in the ‘anti-vaccination movement’.
The anti-vaccination movement is based upon three major claims – all of which remain unsupported by facts: ‘Covid is not dangerous’, ‘vaccines are dangerous’ and ‘experts cannot be trusted’.
HuffPost UK spoke to UCL medicine cell biologist Dr Jennifer Rohn to debunk vaccination myths that are currently circulating.
MYTH: ‘Vaccines alter your DNA’
Some rumours have circulated that the vaccine can modify your DNA, this is not only not physically possible but also not backed by a single piece of evidence, like many of the anti-vaccination myths.
Jim Corr, guitarist of Irish group The Corrs, wrote on Twitter: “The vaccine is a novel experimental RNA vaccine which will alter the very DNA of the recipient.”
The key problem with this statement is that it not only represents a complete misunderstanding of how vaccines work, but it is being Tweeted by a ’90s pop star who has no scientific or medical qualifications.
Firstly, DNA and RNA are different things. DNA is a long molecule containing unique genetic code – what we call genes – that are responsible for development, function, growth and reproduction of proteins in each cell of the body.
RNA is of a similar structure however it essentially tells the proteins how to behave. It does this in three ways, including acting as a messenger between DNA and proteins. Here it is called ‘messenger RNA’, known as ‘mRNA’.
Dr Rohn explains that those made by Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines that use a part of Covid-19’s RNA to tell our cells to produce antigens. The antigens are then recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.
RNA cannot physically change the coding of DNA, Dr Rohn confirms.
Instead, she thinks people are confusing vaccines with gene therapy, an experimental technique that can be used against cystic fibrosis and some cancers but – crucially – has nothing to do with vaccines, how they are developed or how they work.
MYTH: ‘You don’t need the vaccine if others have one’
Back to unqualified musicians on Twitter for such rumours, like Ian Brown, who tweeted: “So if you want a vax and you believe it works and you’ll be protected then you wont mind if i dont have one because you will already be protected. [sic]”
Firstly, the former Stone Roses singer has no scientific or medical qualifications.
Secondly, not everyone can be vaccinated, some have compromised immune systems and others are undergoing certain medical treatments and cannot safely take the vaccine. These people will be relying on the wider population to take the vaccine and therefore indirectly protect them.
Herd immunity, however, is typically only achieved when 70-90% of the population is vaccinated.
Dr Rohn says: “It’s quite a shocking thing to say: ‘I’m going to sit back and reap the benefits of vaccination without actually getting the vaccine myself.
“I think that’s completely selfish because not everyone can get vaccinated. There are people who are too vulnerable and they’re immunocompromised and they’re relying on everyone else to do the right thing.”
MYTH: ‘Vaccines contain tissue from aborted foetuses’
This rather horrifying myth is completely untrue. Dr Rohn explains: “You would never put human tissue into a vaccine because it might cause an immune reaction that you don’t want.”
Where the confusion lies, she believes, is with the fetal cells that were used in the early 1960s from legally and electively aborted fetuses for research purposes.
These cells have been reproduced over the years to provide a consistent genetic make-up for conducting vaccine research.
Dr Rohn says: “There are cell lines that we use in the lab all the time that are derived from stem cells.
“Some of them are 50 years old and they’re an essential part of the research arsenal. It’s not like we’re going out and aborting foetuses to do research on them.”
The mRNA vaccine is synthetic and made from a DNA template in a lab, such as the Moderna vaccine – a synthetic vaccine sequenced in a lab. The AstraZeneca vaccine, however, used the cell line from an aborted fetus to develop the vaccine.
Even the seriously anti-abortion Catholic Church said ‘one is morally free’ to use the vaccine if it has been developed using the cell line, despite its historical association with abortion. They add: “This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”
To be clear though – none of the Covid-19 vaccines contain cells from aborted fetuses.
MYTH: ‘Vaccines cause autism’
There is zero scientific evidence to back up this anti-vaccine and ableist conspiracy theory.
This myth is believed to be based upon a fraudulent paper from 1998 that has now been retracted due to clear evidence of falsification of data.
Simply put – vaccines absolutely, scientifically do not cause autism. Anti-vaxxers should also consider why they think so negatively of autism.
MYTH: ‘The vaccine isn’t safe because it’s been developed so quickly’
The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine smashed the previous record for vaccine development from four years to under one. ‘Understandably, there is concern’, Dr Rohn explains.
Adding: “Usually it takes 10 years and this time it’s taken 10 months, so of course people are going to wonder if any shortcuts have been taken.”
However, the speed at which the vaccine has been developed is simply due to the amount of money and effort put in – the UK alone spent £6 billion to develop and procure the vaccine.
Additionally, vaccine development did not start from scratch. Dr Rohn says: “There’s been an enormous amount of groundwork on these prototypes so we were quick off the mark from a research point of view.
“The actual trials are taking a long time and that’s where nothing is being compromised.
“No reputable regulatory body will approve this without a completed and successful series of clinical trials.”*
*This interview was done before any vaccine was rolled out in the UK.
On vaccine misinformation, a government spokesperson said: “Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost British lives.”
Some people think the Trafford Centre has thousands of body bags hidden beneath it
Have you heard this one?
There were reports a few years back that the Trafford Centre is not only home to designer shops and water features but also thousands of body bags in the basement.
As a kid, the Trafford Centre was almost on par with Disneyland. Not only did it feel like the size of a small country, but it was also so decadent there was even a ship in it.
Looking back I think this is mostly just my childhood imagination running wild and creating a fantasy dreamland in the Trafford Centre. Going now is actually pretty stressful and that roundabout induces panic attacks.
Way back in 2002, when I was a bright-eyed and blissfully ignorant 6-year-old, a rumour circulated that the government had bought 5,000 body bags in case of a ‘terrorist chemical attack’, according to The Telegraph.
This article reported that the body bags would be stored at ‘16 locations’, meaning they could be ‘distributed within minutes of a terrorist attack’.
The orders of the equipment reportedly came after the Home Office received a warning about ‘dirty’ bombs or poison gas that would cause large numbers of casualties in British cities. The alert was retracted to avoid fears and widespread public panic.
According to Philip Ward, the managing director of the country’s leading manufacturer of emergency and rescue equipment at the time, Ferno UK, orders were for ‘huge’ quantities and were increasing by the day. The first big contract was in excess of £50 million worth of gear.
These reports were completely unrelated to the Trafford Centre at the time, but could offer us an explanation as to how this urban myth was created.
The report called for 16 unnamed locations which would house the 5,000 body bags.
Now, shopping centres are considered a prime target for terrorism. The 1996 IRA bomb occurred on a busy Saturday morning in Manchester’s main shopping area.
Across the world there have been numerous occurrences similar to the Manchester IRA bomb. There was the Omagh car bombing in 1998 which tragically killed 29 people and left 220 people with serious injuries.
A terror incident in Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi killed 67 and wounded 175 in 2013. While a non-terror related event killed 10 people and injured 36 in a shopping mall in Munich in July 2016.
So there is a significant threat to shopping centres for whatever reason that may be. Perhaps it’s a hatred of Western capitalism, something that is significantly highlighted by shopping centres, or just because they’re almost guaranteed to be full of people.
The Trafford Centre isn’t the only shopping centre that has been rumoured to house hundreds of body bags beneath shoppers feet.
In the early nineties, rumours spread that management at Meadowhall in Sheffield kept a stash of them in case of an ‘IRA outrage in the centre’. There have also been near-identical claims in Cribbs Causeway and Bluewater.
So is it true, does the Trafford Centre really store something between 400 – 5,000 body bags in the basement?
Well, like most other shopping centres, The Trafford Centre has widely denied these reports on Twitter and Facebook, stating that they simply have ‘no truth to them’ and are an ‘urban myth’.
There’s also the small problem of not a single photo or video surfacing of them. With the number of workers in The Trafford Centre who bob down into the basement, from cleaners to caretakers to retail assistants, surely someone would’ve seen something and snapped a picture?