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The Phantom Of The American Ripper
The Phantom Of The American Ripper

The Phantom Of The American Ripper

Franc68Lorient Montaner

There are multifarious cases and investigations that are shrouded with a latent mystery that often is accompanied suddenly, by the palpable truth that evades the mere perception of the public. It is, unfortunately, a common tendency found amongst them, when murders are perpetuated daily, without their innate clairvoyance. Thus, what should occupy our grave concerns are those murderers, who are always duplicitous and are found scheming within our modern society of conspicuity. There are irrevocable criminals whose notorious names have remained hidden in the profound abyss of time and are found only in the undetermined intervals of that time exposed irreversibly. Therefore, they are forgotten with undoubted impunity, but remembered, when their names are elicited and their presence transparent, along with their irremissible deeds.

Murder can be a surreal or factual implication conceivable, and manifest to us in such a Mephistophelian manner that we fail completely to discern its facile disposition. My inquisitive question is what do we call an impenitent murderer, who is perceived to be dead, but is not actually dead in the eyes of those who magnify that murderer, through an allegorical admiration? Is the apparition of a lone individual who is presumed dead, so dreadful and haunting to the world? What if that daunting entity is not a praeternatural being, instead a living representation of an extrinsic evil on this earth? At least, this was the unimaginative presupposition that was determined then, with the illustrious case that was known as, 'The phantom of the American Ripper'.

The year was 1898, and I was at 23 Whitehall Place in London, when a certain gentleman had entered the building through the front door. He had introduced himself as an agent from America; in particular, from the American Detective Agency known as Pinkerton. His name was Clarence Livingston, who was a stout man of average height, and his mien was proud and reflective of his occupation. After the amiable introductions, he promptly proceeded to inform me the reason of his visit to England. It was of a very serious nature that I could tell, from looking into his circumspect eyes. I knew that the reputation of Pinkerton was distinguishable and impeccable, throughout America.

According to the hearsay that had reached England, the Pinkerton agents were associated to such infamous western outlaws as Jesse James, The Reno Gang, and the Wild Bunch that included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The most brutal of all culprits was being sought by the Pinkerton Agency, and was supposedly here in England seeking refuge. That was not the most unexpected element of his disclosure, instead the renowned name of the culprit Dr Herman Webster Mudgett—more commonly known as, H H Holmes the murderer.

I had admitted that I knew very little of this man, but from what I did know he was presumed dead and executed in a prison of Pennsylvania two years ago, within the year of 1896. I had no photograph of him to know much of his physical appearance. The Pinkerton agent had explained that there was sufficient evidence to believe that Mr Holmes was executed, but there were credible witnesses who stated that Mr Holmes was alive, and had been spotted in New York City taking a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. That was not all, because an informant of Pinkerton had apprised the agency that Mr Holmes was most likely in England. Consequently, he was told by the informant that Mr Holmes had been in contact with an English banker, whose acquaintance he knew. I usually did not fully heed the mere testimony of others even if they were competent informants, but I realised that this sober declaration had to be factual, because it seemed illogical and impractical for Agent Livingston to have come all the way from America, for a senseless vagary. He had presented other significant facts that were demonstrative, but in the end they were still insubstantial and refutable. I was not certain where to commence this investigation, but I would have a probable intimation to search from.

During our prolonged conversation, a telegraph had been sent from Manchester to the building of 23 Whitehall Place, informing me that a murder of a brutal nature had occurred there last night. According to the contents of the telegraph, the Manchester City Police had stated the murder was committed in Corporation Street, one of the main streets of the centre. From the contents I had perused, there was nothing out of the ordinary of this murder, with the exception of one major detail that could perhaps be linked to the same individual that was Mr Holmes, and that was a witness had stated that a mysterious man with an American accent had been seen fleeing the scene.

'Agent Livingston, I have been informed by the Manchester City Police that a murder was committed in that city, and that an unidentified American had been seen by a witness leaving the scene. Surely, you must know that this interesting detail does not form the conclusion that the killer was American or in particular, Mr Holmes’, I said to him.

'I am fully aware of that Inspector Cauvain. Naturally, I understand your premise, nevertheless, until we have investigated that murder and spoken to the witness, then I can’t return to the United States just yet', Agent Livingston had responded.

'Of course I comprehend your point and believe me when I say that we shall assist you in whatever endeavour that may be necessary to discover whether this aforementioned Mr Holmes is in our country or region Agent Livingston'.

'I am grateful for your assistance and cooperation, and I hope that this conundrum with Mr Holmes can be resolved as soon as possible, so that I can return back to the agency to put to rest at last any rumors of Mr Holmes being alive'.

Early in the afternoon of the next day we left to Manchester. When we had arrived at the Manchester Police, we were told by one of the officers that a Captain Charlesworth would be waiting for us at the crime scene that was located on Corporation Street within the centre of the city. We took a hansom cab to that location then, and were immediately informed, by the assiduous captain of the details surrounding the murder; including the gender of the victim. The victim a Victoria Bounsall was a young woman fair and fain, but met her unfortunate death at the hands of a sadistic murderer. She was found by a waggoner, who was passing by that late hour, at the corner of one of the buildings near the street. He was questioned by one of the officers, but was not able to provide any valuable information about the murder nor the culprit.

I was given the report and the murder described was so horrendous in nature that it made me recall the 'Whitechapel Murders', ten years ago, when I was a part of the Metropolitan London Police. The victim’s entrails were eviscerated and her body was dissected and had left a vivid impression in my mind.

Afterwards, Captain Charlesworth had described to us the few clues that were retrieved. When I had asked about any witnesses who may have seen the culprit or any stranger leaving the vicinity of the crime, he told me that there was a pertinent witness, who mentioned the fact that she had spoken before briefly, to an American. When I had pressed him on the specifics, he revealed to me that this same witness had seen him afterwards fleeing the crime scene quickly. Verily, that was not abnormal to descry in a sequence that would ensue of that magnitude, but Captain Charlesworth was strongly convinced that the stranger who was apparently American was either the murderer, or he was most definitely at least, a feasible witness to the crime. It was highly important that we spoke therewith to this witness, who had made that precise accusation before. The tenable preconception of this murder had to follow a natural and apposite pattern of logic and credibility, or we would be dealing with mere arbitrary suppositions totally unfounded.

'The witness Captain Charlesworth, where is that person at, and what is the name of this witness?' I had queried.

'I believe the individual is a woman by the name of Nancy Pollock, and from what she had informed me, she is a young governess by occupation who commutes from her home to the city. She is presently travelling from her home in Salford to Manchester I imagine. I have spoken to her already inspector', Captain Charlesworth replied.

'And what else did she mention about this mysterious American chap?'

'Not much, but perhaps it would be better, if you spoke to her in person and see if she has recalled any more relevant details about the murder'.

'I shall, but I want you to head to the train stations now and locate the young woman and bring her to the Police Station as soon as possible'.

'I shall go to the train station of Manchester Oxford Road located in the centre of the city, whilst I shall have my officers go to the other train stations, such as Manchester London Road and Manchester Victoria'.

'Good Charlesworth! In the meantime I shall remain here, with Agent Livingston to search for more notable clues'.

We had begun to examine more the crime scene, for any other crucial intimations of the composition of the murder, when Agent Livingston stated, 'Maybe I am incorrect in my presumption inspector, but from reading the report, the manner in which this young lady was killed brings suddenly, an eerie reminder of a phlegmatic maniac who could be H H Holmes. What we need to confirm from the witness is the description of this murderer. If she can describe to us his appearance, then I can know whether or not Holmes is alive or not'.

'I concur with that thoughtful analogy Agent Livingston, but since we are here what I must speedily know is the essential nature of this horrible murder committed. Until we speak to the forensic pathologist of the autopsy and observe the body, we shall not be truly cognisant of the ghastly dismemberment. We must proceed regardfully, from that importance'.

'Do you think we will find something relevant in that report?' Agent Livingston asked.

'Yes!' I replied.

He paused and had continued, 'It appears to me that the murderer had a reasonable route of escape, if you look at the composition of these narrow streets that I am not acquainted with, and the structures of these buildings'.

'Indeed so my good fellow and the junction provided of Whitworth Street West and Oxford Street allows that plausible escape. The street also runs from Dantzic Street to the junction of Cross Street and Market Street. Therefore, the criminal in his haste had scurried through these streets, but we are not positively certain that the criminal escaped on foot nor escaped on carriage'.

'Do you believe he had assistance?'

'It is too premature to make that analysis, but I somewhat doubt that, because as you alluded to before in the composition of these streets and buildings, he could have easily disappeared without much of a trace. In my ample experience in dealing with the criminal mind, I have often discovered that the criminal is very meticulous in his crime'.

'I must agree with you, and from my experience tracking down dishonorable crooks they are only tenuous in their first murder. If our criminal results to be Holmes, then we are confronting a categorical masterful swindler!'

After examining the crime scene more, Captain Charlesworth had returned with the young governess Miss Pollock, who had arrived to the city. She was a charming young woman, but she was obviously still discomposed by the terrible murder and its circumstance. When I spoke to her, she was candid in her affirmation that the stranger fleeing was indeed American. Agent Livingston was insistent in his interrogation of the witness, and had asked her to describe the potential assailant. The young governess proceeded to respond to his enquiry, and what she had recounted of this individual was troubling to Agent Livingston and me. Hence, her description was the following; the man was of average height 5 feet 7, and was of a slender built. He appeared to be a man in his mid-thirties, and he had a thick moustache and a slight beard. His clothing was that of a dapper gent, but the one thing that was the most distinguishable was his alluring eyes that had exuded a conspicuous hauteur.

Fortunately, Agent Livingston had brought a photograph of H H Holmes with him to England, and the governess paused for a brief moment, before she confirmed that the stranger she had seen that night was no other than H H Holmes. Agent Livingston’s expression was of utter disbelief and amazement, as he listened to the exact words of the governess. He had asked her if she was absolutely definite in her averment.

'Yes, I assure you inspector, that he is the same man I saw the night before!' The governess replied.

'Once more, Miss Pollock, at what hour did you see this stranger last night?' I asked her.

'I believe it was close to ten o’clock, because I was heading towards the train station to catch my train to Salford', the governess had expressed.

'That is all for now Miss Pollock, you may go. If we need more information, then we shall contact you'.

In spite of the substantiation of the culprit’s similar appearance to H H Holmes, we were not totally prepared to acknowledge that the murderer was him, based on the mere testimony of one witness. It would require more circumspect exploration of the area, and more importantly determining, where Mr Holmes was at within the city, if in the end he was in Manchester. The incredible implication of the involvement of Mr Holmes was only circumstantial evidence that had an interesting dynamic, but the process of effectuating that task would be determined, by coherent analysis of that evolution. We had to decipher the succession of the events, with conscientious observation, not allowing our minds to be distracted so easily, within the minutiae of every witness account. Even though the murder was heinous in the manner it was perpetuated, our clues were not sufficient enough to construct a viable antecedent to base, an a posteriori foundation of sound facts to conclude nor preclude anything.

Therefore, I had instructed Captain Charlesworth to have the centre and its circumjacent areas patrolled, but I was reluctant to the idea of enforcing a curfew upon the residents of the city. My main priority was the safety of the public, and the ultimate capture of the criminal, who was at large. When Agent Livingston had asked me, why I did not make the decision to impose a curfew I answered straightaway.

'I have seen many murders and murderers come and go in England. Ever since the Whitechapel murders in London, there have been several copycat murderers, who have claimed to be Jack the Ripper. I must be cautious and not permit the newspapers to dictate to the public the details of the investigation, when it would only stir the public into a wild panic. There is no need for a curfew'.

'I duly respect your concern, but if this killer is indeed H H Holmes, then what this city will be facing will be something much more epidemic than the supposed return of a nightmarish criminal'.

'I am fully aware of that, and I would hope for the sake of this metropolitan city that neither of us shall have to attest, to the return of either one of these bloody villains!'

That night I had slept in one of the chambers of the Arora Hotel on Turner Street, troubled by the gruesome chance that an anonymous or an international madman was loose, and murdering innocent persons at will. This murder had occupied my mind, and the Whitechapel murders were ever present in the recollection of my thoughts. I had ruminated with absolute resolution, the eventuality of the murder being associated to Mr Holmes. If the murderer was indeed this Mr Holmes, then the contemplation of that contingency would present a dramatic consequence.

For the next two days and nights, there were no murders to be reported that were of the identical pattern of the murderer; although it was common for brutal murders to occur in large metropolitan cities, such as Manchester. We had continued to patrol the area thinking that perhaps this was an isolated murder, but we did not believe that was the case. Agent Livingston was what they called a maverick detective in America, and a very perseverant fellow. He was perceptive and percipient also, and the reputation of Pinkerton Agency I had perceived was the prime determinant in coming to England.

We had returned to headquarters, where the pathologist Dr Weston was waiting for us there. I had instructed Captain Charlesworth to send one of the officers to speak to him, concerning the recent murder of Victoria Bounsall. Once there, Dr Weston had informed us that the likely weapon utilised was a scalpel that was sharp enough, to slice into human flesh and bones. It was foreseeable that the weapon that had caused the mutilation of the body was either a scalpel or a whetted blade, but what interested my good American compeer was the approximation of the time of death. Naturally, this was of an exigent interest of mine as well. Dr Weston had notified us that the probable time of death was close to 9.45 p.m. at night. This was in accordance with what the young governess Miss Pollock had reported seeing afterwards.

Thus, this presented a factible approximation of the profile of our murder. After another day had elapsed, the murderer had killed again. Unlike the previous murder, the victim was not mutilated, instead, she was burnt to death. The body was badly burnt that it was beyond any visible recognition. The murder had taken place, approximately three miles north east of the city centre outside of the Bank of England on King Street, and the victim was another poor woman, who was found by the conductor of a horse-drawn tram, who was travelling from Rochdale Road.

I had instructed Captain Charlesworth to immediately take the burnt corpse to the pathologist, who carried out the postmortem examination afterwards. I had attempted to not cause any unmerited trepidation and consternation amongst the public, but this death was impossible to conceal. The newspapers had been informed about the death and had spoken to the conductor, a Mr Cropley. Indeed, as I had explained to Agent Livingston, this was something that I intended to avoid, but apparently, I was unsuccessful in that wishful endeavour. The tidings would soon be published by all the major newspapers of Manchester in printed form, and the reporters were in front of the Police Station of the Metropolitan Police of Manchester. This did not forebode well for us, but we could not afford to be dissuaded nor persuaded by the impetuous press.

I had the impending need to speak to the conductor Mr Cropley forthwith. When he was located we spoke to him about the incident and the actual description of the culprit. He was very informative with his details, and as with the young governess Miss Pollock, he had seen a stranger fleeing from the scene. His description was accurate to that given by the governess, and once Agent Livingston had shown him the photograph of Mr Holmes, the conductor nodded his head in affirmation. Thereafter, we had a viable clue to proceed with the investigation, and another witness, who had claimed to have seen a man resembling Mr Holmes. I would have wanted for this to be nothing more than an erroneous coincidence, but we had at that precise moment in time, two credible witnesses who had described the criminal, as being Mr Holmes.

There was another piece of evidence that was conjunctive to the case, and that was a matchbox that was found by one of the officers near the vicinity of the murder. The matchbox had the brand name that was not British and was fabricated in the United States. Captain Charlesworth had showed me the matchbox, and I could read the letters of the trade name, 'The Gamblers' Mirror', and 'Made in Chicago, Illinois, USA'. The only thing missing was the year of the fabrication.

Agent Livingston had more conclusive information about the modus operandi of Mr Holmes, because he was American. Mr Holmes was known to kill by either burning, disseveration of the torso, and poisoning. Two of the murders were directly clear examples of these methods of implementation, following the logical pattern of Mr Holmes. According to Frank Geyer, who was the detective who had arrested H H Holmes in the year of 1893 in Chicago, he was reported to have killed in the end, between twenty and two-hundred persons. His alias names were Henry Gordon, Alexander Bond and other numerous names untold. Pinkerton Agency had become famous for the foiled plot to assassinate then president-elect Abraham Lincoln.

The component in solving the mystery was comprehensible, the criminal mind of Mr Holmes. This was a determinable factor to unmask his untamed deviance and deportment. If we could achieve this task, then we could surmise the comprisable totality of the murderer's propensity to abscond our presence. I thought introspectively about the practical incentive why he had chosen these particular women to kill, and if there was any tangible similitude in the composite features of these two murdered women. I had asked this peculiar question to Agent Livingston, who had mentioned that Mr Holmes had been married three times previously, which was somewhat uncommon in Victorian England.

'If you are suggesting that Holmes killed these two women, because they were similar in appearance to any of his deceased wives, then you might have an argument for his killing. In fact, inspector, looking at the photographs of these two women, they do resemble his first murder, that was his mistress Julia Smythe. Holmes was a classic charlatan, bigamist, and a masterful conniver without a doubt', Agent Livingston had acknowledged.

'In the short interval since these two murders have occurred, I have concluded that the murderer must follow a logical pattern in the murders. Therefore, it is highly ratiocinative that we surmise the inducement of the murderer and calculate with effective acuteness to appose a perceptive theory that we could assent on the concrescence of facts established. We must investigate that concrete reference to his definite inclination of women, who bear the striking characteristics of this former lover mentioned', I replied.

'But where do we start from?'

'In the areas where his crimes were committed I sense. It is there where perhaps we could find more evidence. Surely, in these areas so busied with people, there must be more witnesses, who have seen this anonymous stranger interacting within the proximity. We shall begin on the main streets in the centre of Princess Street, Cross Street, eastward to Mosley Street, Portland Street and Whitworth Street, until we continue to Brook Street'.

'It does seem to be a reasonable and rational notion', Agent Livingston agreed.

We had headed towards the centre of the city to explore the streets, hoping to locate amongst the sundry residents of Manchester, any crucial witnesses that spotted the criminal, who remained slippery and deft in his disparate realm of thoughts and exploits. My intuitive cogitation had processed well, the amalgamation of these principle actions that denoted the element of surprise that was conducive to the antagonistic reaction of the culprit. Once there we had divided the officers into a pair of groups, who would walk the main streets we had concurred to visit, in search of a potential indicator of the killer’s identity. It had seemed to be a fair inference to assume we would find one decisive witness, who would identify the criminal, and after several hours of combing the area for witnesses we found our witness.

The witness was a Mr Millard, a banker from the Bank of England on King Street. Yes, exactly where the body of the last murder was discovered. Mr Millard had come to the centre of the city to speak to another banker of a nearby bank, when he stopped to converse with one of the officers. He would give us the most dependable clue yet to trace, and that was that a strange American fellow had recently made a deposit of a large sum of money into his bank two days ago and had returned to the bank the very same day Miss Victoria Bounsall was murdered. Supposedly, he had been informed that he would be at the bank in a latter hour. Mr Millard was at the bank at his desk perusing documents and transactions of the bank at a late hour. When he had finished it was close to nine o’clock at night.

Afterwards, Mr Millard had departed the bank, and it was then that he encountered this unique American in front of his bank. I had asked him at precisely what time did that encounter take place, and he responded by telling me that it was at nine o’clock, because Mr Millard was a punctual man. Generally, I would investigate the assertion of any witness, but he was a banker by trade. I had felt that he was genuine in his admission about the facts of the succession of the events. He told me then that his colloquy with the stranger lasted only five minutes, and that he was a bit skittish and fretted, as if he was aware about something or someone.

Eventually, his conversation abated, and they went on their separate ways. He had told him before that he would be at the bank the next morning, but he did not appear at the bank. He had not seen this American chap since then. When I had asked if he knew the name of the American, he told me that he believed his name was Mr Gordon. As for his description of Mr Gordon, it was basically the same as other witnesses. Agent Livingston had mentioned that one of the false names that H H Holmes used was Henry Gordon. Mr Millard did reveal another important piece of information.

What the banker told me was that his accent appeared to be Northeastern in tone and pronunciation. When I had asked if he was New Yorker or Bostonian, he was not certain. He told me that a young woman appeared the next day and had deposited a large sum of money that was 500 pounds. When I asked her name and description, he said that she was young, fain, and well-educated. As for her name it was Mrs Webster, but he was not able to know much about her except her name. I had asked him, if she was American too, and Mr Millard said that she sounded definitely British. He did recall before we ended our discussion that the American had then entered the local pub on Rochdale Road that same night afterwards.

The information given by Mr Millard had begun to piece together the sequence of events that befell on that night of the murder of Victoria Bounsall. It was of extreme urgency that we located this local pub and speak to any of the individuals, who were at that particular pub that night of the murder. The local pub was called the Farm Yard that was on the corner of Rochdale Road. We went to the local pub and spoke to the proprietor, a Mr Denton, who was surprised to see us. I had identified myself and promptly asked him numerous questions. The most important was, if he had seen a man resembling Mr Holmes.

We had showed him the photograph of Mr Holmes, and he acknowledged that he had seen a man, who bore the likeness of Mr Holmes at the pub, but did not know his name. Naturally, the questions were lengthy, and a corollary to my enquiry. I sought to make the connective basis to my argument. The disclosure of Mr Denton would reveal the fact that the murderer be it Mr Holmes or not had entered that night into the pub, before the murder was committed. Mr Denton had confirmed as well that the stranger was an American. When I had asked him if he was sure that the man was definitely American, he mentioned the stranger's accent. Like Mr Millard he too made a distinct mention of a Northeastern American accent. The concurrence of that admission was more than a mere coincidence that could connote the truth.

We knew at least that the stranger was identified as an American, and that he was debonair in his propriety. Until we saw the confirmed stranger, then we were left still with impending doubts. The uncertainty had begun to engross my curiosity by the minute, and Agent Pinkerton had suggested that if the killer was the renowned Mr Holmes, then it was incumbent upon us to prevent his next recreant act of murder at whatever cost. We then departed the pub and had returned to the headquarters, where we received finally the absolute confirmation of the identity of the burnt victim, who was killed unmercifully.

The victim was a young woman by the name of Suzanne Arscott, who was from Manchester like the other victims. The dreadful manner in which she was ruthlessly killed was yet fresh in my mind, and having then the identification of this woman emboldened, my resolution to solve this case therewith. I had insisted that Captain Charlesworth did not impose a curfew on the residents of the city and its boroughs, as he acquiesced with a slight reservation. That night we had patrolled the streets of Manchester, and the pressure from the newspapers was gradually increasing. It would take another murder of a young woman to cause complete pandemonium in the city. At around ten o’clock at night, a horrendous scream was heard coming directly, from behind one of the red brick Victorian buildings on Brook Street.

The nearest officer in the neighbourhood had scurried to succour the woman, who was terribly frightened. Unfortunately, when the officer had arrived, the woman was found dead lying on the ground. It was apparent that she was murdered, and her throat was slashed. There was a transparent clue left behind by the murderer that was recognisable to Mr Holmes, and that was a black stiff felt bowler hat. To Agent Livingston it was the indicative reference of the typical hat that Holmes himself wore on several occasions. It was becoming more of an adducible conclusion of the impossibility of the extrication of Mr Holmes from the murders.

'I am afraid that it appears that either the murderer wants us to believe it is Holmes who is behind these abhorrent murders, or it is Holmes himself, who is the mastermind behind this sickening game of cat and mouse', I said to Agent Livingston.

'What do you exactly mean by that?'

'It is very simple. The murderer is no doubt killing individuals, but to him he is attempting to distract us from these murders, in order to achieve some financial gain or profit. Of course, there is always the cheapest and vilest form of that ascertained in fame. However, after reading all the information that you have given me and what I have then perused of this Mr Holmes, he is not a normal madman that one would suspect, but a cunning man of intellect. Indeed, a killer of his nature would not be befitting of any sublime edification and commensuration'.

'Holmes was a gambler, and as a gambler he was always synonymous with taking a risk and taunting his foes, with a devilish smirk that only he possessed inspector', Agent Livingston responded.

'The conflation of the pattern of the murders tends to pertain to the antithesis that I experience perceptively, when I attempt the situation at hand', I conveyed.

'You are speaking in layman's terms of a lingering doubt that is contradictory to the principles which we are taught as men of the law to adhere always’, Agent Livingston had remarked.

'Exactly, you see we are not that vastly different in our process of apprehending the criminal, we only differ in the fundamental application of our approach. I am more analytical and you are more direct in that function, but this does not conclude the basis that we are tendentious partisans to doubting authority'.

He had agreed and offered a token mulcible gesture of affirmation and said, 'I will take that as a compliment inspector, and let me reciprocate by saying, I have worked with countless men of the law, and you are one of the finest detectives I have seen'.

'And you my good American chap are a prime example of a good detective'.

Whilst the officers had examined the area for any germane sign of the killer, we checked the building where the victim was located and had noticed the extrusion that protruded over the substrate of the enclosure of the chromatic brick building. I perceived that the stealthy murderer most likely had been hiding behind this brick edifice and was there lurking until he came in contact with the unfortunate victim Miss Arscott. It was evident that the criminal was actuated by malice, and by a passionate obsession for dark hair women as well, who resembled the description of his once mistress. The killer was traipsing within the city of Manchester free and causing illimitable terror amongst the citizens. According to Agent Livingston, who was not an expounder of extemporised expositions, Mr Holmes was a coxcomb, who had eschewed an admissible guilt amidst the advent of the murders.

The disseverance of the torso was the first method implied, and an indomitable urge to murder. It was an unthinking intrepidness manifested, in his unconquerable delusions, but we were confronting a man, who would circumvent any form of expostulation given. Thus, inductive reasoning and least apothegmatic apotheosis was needed, for the eventuality of his capture.

Regrettably, the officers who had roamed the area in search of the culprit did not locate him nor retrieve any discrete clues to form a productive rudiment of a contemplative muse. Therefore, we were forced to confront our limited options, with a meditative precision and proficiency that had surpassed our normal efficiency.

'I believe we have done all that we can do here Agent Livingston. Perhaps it would better, if we left the area and had allowed the officers to finish the tasks of recovering more clues and controlling the crowd that are increasing', I said.

'Where will we go next inspector?' Agent Livingston had asked.

‘To the Police Station and tomorrow, we shall go to the Bank of England on King Street to pay a visit to Mr Millard'.


'We must speak to Mr Millard, about the inexplicable stranger or woman’.

We headed to the bank the next morning to speak to Mr Millard thinking perhaps, the surreptitious man or woman would reappear at the bank. Once we had arrived at the bank we saw that there was a sign on the front door that said closed. I thought that it was odd, since it was not a day of festivity. Therefore, I was baffled to understand the reason the bank would be closed. It was possible there was an internal audit that was being effectuated, or for some unknown reason the bank was going to open within a later hour of the day.

We waited for several minutes before one of the employees of the bank had arrived and opened the front door. It was a young man, who seemed to be flummoxed as he saw us standing outside, and a sign that had closed written on it. We had entered the building and, we discovered poor Mr Millard dead within the soundproof bank vault. Apparently, it was locked and he had suffocated, but how? It had appeared that the banker was coerced to his death, and a note was found in one of the pockets of his trousers. The note that was found referred to a deed and the purchase of a property on Sion Street in Radcliffe, which was a borough of Manchester. We were extremely fortunate as well that the counterfoil of that check was retrieved. I had examined then effectively the counterfoil, and the date of the transaction.

We were not totally persuaded that this clue was central to our investigation, nevertheless it was evidence to process. I sensed through my empirical conspection for the first time that the criminal and his accomplice perchance had committed their first blunder. We had proceeded to explore that possibility, and we headed towards the nearest train station and took the next train to Radcliffe. I had noticed during the trip to Radcliffe that Agent Livingston was a bit restless. When I had queried about his concern he promptly told me that he was not prepared to discover the truth. What was that truth, whether H H Holmes the scandalous fiend was alive or dead, as it was believed in America.

'You seem occupied in your thoughts Agent Livingston. What has caused this alarm in you?'

'To be frank inspector, there is so much at risk and jeopardy. I am sure that you understand what this could mean to not only to your countrymen, but to mine as well, if we trap that scoundrel, and it is after all Holmes in person’, he had reflected.

'I am fully aware of that feasibility of that unwitting peril, but for now we know that this Mr Holmes if it is him is a very vulpine fellow and possesses a great hardihood of a man', I paused and then continued, 'We possess even more hardihood than this fiend'.

'There is an expression in my beloved country that is, 'I was not born in the woods to be scared by an owl'.

'You are indeed a regular brick, as they say in London. That means that you are the best of good fellows'.

Once there at Radcliffe we had located the street nearby a mill. We then reached Sion Street and saw the poor areas that were manifest. Radcliffe was once well known for its paper industry, and local cotton mills, but had since seen a conspicuous decline in its laborious contributions and productivity. The address that was written on the note was nothing more than an old dilapidated manor that was in some form of restoration. Seemingly, the manor was being refurbished and replenished with furniture, but the question was who was doing all of this, and who was this accomplice?

We had several constables of the local constabulary watch the manor, and for any stranger that entered. Meanwhile, we returned to the heart of Manchester and resumed our interrogation of other witnesses that had seen or knew any significant information about the criminal. The newspapers were following every lead, and following our officers and us, wherever we went to and fro from place to place.

During the night for the first time, the curfew on the residents was imposed and enforced. We had officers from the art gallery known as the Athenaeum on the north side, to the Central House on the south side and the Portico Library, on the corner of Mosley Street. There were officers also by the Gothic Albert Square on the north side Princess Street with a fountain surrounded, by the large Victorian buildings that included the Manchester Town Hall, the Memorial Hall in Albert Square, the Opera House, the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street, on the north-east corner of the intersection with Whitworth Street. We had every junction and access road serving the main artery, the railway line that extended through Collyhurst to Hunts Bank watched.

As we were preparing the night for another horrid murder, we had received a report from one of the constables in the neighbourhood of Gorton in the south of Manchester that there was another murder inside of a small terraced house, off a main thoroughfare out of the city. The murder had occurred near the corner of Mount Road and Matthews Lane. We were told that the murderer had been arrested, and that he fit the description of our killer. I left the city to reach Gorton, as Agent Livingston had remained behind. I was confronted with a rabble that had pummeled the man.

According to the constable, the man was seized by Scuttlers who were members of youth gangs and hooligans in the slums of central Manchester, within the townships of Bradford, Gorton, and Openshaw to the east and in Salford to the west of the city. The crime perpetrated was of a heinous nature, but the modus operandi was not identical to the killer. The woman murdered was killed due to an infidelity, and this was disconcerting. We had managed to save the culprit and take him with immediacy to Burnage, until he could be taken to Manchester the following day. There at Burnage I had interrogated the suspect and quickly discarded him, when I realised he was not American but Canadian, but as my interrogation proceeded there were tidings of a new murder.

The new murder took place in the slum of Angel Meadows, beyond the Rochdale Road, and the victim was the young Governess Miss Pollock. I was shocked to hear the tidings, and along the way I had pondered the connection between the governess and the murders. I left Burnage and headed towards Angel Meadows, and there I had arrived afterwards, as evening was approaching. I could not avoid the obnoxious stench of the River Irk and the River Irwell. The smell of the conglomerative aromas from the tannery, the iron foundry and the brewery were strong, as the street gas had darkened the landscape of the industrious area, within the destitute men, women and children.

Once I had arrived at the location, I was met by another constable who had informed me that the victim was burnt to death, and there was a fire that caused major damage to the home. This callousness had bestirred our efforts to stop the madness of the murderer and apprehend him. The only manner that we were able to identify the young governess, were her accessories and the items that were found in her home. It was apparent that she was living in that cottage house, but the question was with whom? We had discovered that night that Miss Pollock was the exact woman, who had entered the bank of Mr Millard, as Mrs Webster. It was proven afterwards that she was the accomplice of the murderer and his mistress.

As I had stood outside observing the burnt home, I began to ponder in my mind the sequence of events, and every minor detail that could distinguish the killer. There near the burnt ashes of the home I found another familiar matchbox, and this had another name. I was then given a photograph of Mr Holmes by one of the constables, who had received it from Scotland Yard. The photograph was sent by the Pinkerton Agency, upon my request. With that revelation I quickly realised who the killer’s next victim would be. I left the area at once and had returned hastily to the centre of the city. When I did I was met by one of the officers of the Metropolitan Manchester Police, who had looked at me with a singular expressiveness. There was a rapid sign of discountenancing with my reaction.

'Where is Agent Livingston?' I had asked.

'I believe he is at the train station inspector. I recall him saying that he had received urgent news about a possible murder in Radcliffe', the officer replied.

'Good God, we must go then!' I had ejaculated.

'Go whither?'

'To Radcliffe!'

I had departed the centre and returned to Radcliffe where it was night, and I felt that the murderer was no stationary figure, nor a subjective fancy of my own creation. The pursuit had begun, and when I arrived I went to the immemorial manor and the constables there had informed me that there was a man inside who fit the description of the murderer. He was beset by our men, and his escape was inaccessible. The lights were turned off, and the manor was now dark, as we had called on the culprit to come out of the manor. When he didn’t, we quickly entered armed, and had prepared for a confrontation. As we had entered, we heard a loud bang and discovered that the man who was inside had been shot and was wounded. I examined the man and had discovered that he was Agent Livingston. The man who the officers had seen before on the ground of the manor inside the main hall was the killer, who had escaped. Agent Livingston was not seen by the officers, and he had been tricked to appear at the manor by the killer.

Whilst Agent Livingston was in discomfort, he had uttered the name of H H Holmes, before he was unconscious. He was taken to the local hospital, so that his gashing wound could be examined. Agent Livingston was indeed the killer’s next victim, and he had to be eliminated. When it appeared that the murderer had escaped and absconded justice, he would be ultimately apprehended in Portsmouth, as he attempted to leave the harbour and England. Naturally, I was there to arrest the murderer.

You see, the anonymous murderer was not H H Holmes, but the man who was assuming his identity. He had been wearing a perfect disguise that many failed to recognise completely. The prior photograph of Mr Holmes was somewhat vague, and the killer took advantage of our oversight. I had been given a correspondence as well, by one of the officers in Manchester upon my return that indicated that this individual had been seen in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Apparently, the murderer who was American had pretended to be H H Holmes and had altered his likeness to him to make people believe that Mr Holmes was alive and did not die on the day of his execution before that prison in Philadelphia, on the 7th of May in the year of 1896.

Miss Pollock was a willing accomplice of his actions and transactions, until she was brutally murdered and betrayed by him. His obsession for these particular women had consumed his diurnal habit of destructibility and castigation.

The murderer was soon identified as a Mr Somerville, who had escaped the same prison that H H Holmes was confined to. He was a cellmate of his during his stay in the prison and had befriended him. He had heard every little confession and discursive ranting of indiscretion of Holmes as well. Once Mr Sommerville had escaped he implemented his masterful dissimulation to deceive the public and the law. He came to England to carry on with the legendary horror of Holmes and to make the newspapers in America and England, believe that he was indeed H H Holmes. He had purchased with money what he had embezzled in America a manor in Radcliffe, and had intended to swindle banks and other important institutions of Great Britain. He almost got away with his deception and connivance, until he began to make mistakes including the greatest one, the matchbox.

You see, I had traced the trade name of the matchbox and discovered that although it was from Chicago, the year that it was fabricated was in 1897, one year after the death of Mr Holmes. I was still not completely convinced that it was this man presuming to be Mr Holmes, until I had learnt about the agent who had killed him Frank Geyer. The one omission of the account told in England that was erroneous in the details was the most important Detective Geyer had found the body of Nellie Pitezel, with her feet missing later afterwards. This disclosure, I had perused in a correspondence I had received from Agent Livingston after his arrival. Detective Geyer had eventually discovered that Nellie had a clubfoot, and had theorised that Holmes had removed it in order to prevent the identification of the body, as it was a distinctive body part.

The case known as ‘The phantom of the American Ripper', was finally solved, and the calm had returned to Manchester and its citizens. The newspaper had dismissed the murderer's identity, as a hoax or a cover-up by the police; although it was proven afterwards that the murderer was indeed a madman. Agent Livingston had congratulated me for solving the mystery to the case, and I reciprocated his noble gesture by offering my gratitude to him, for his involvement in capturing the criminal. We both shook hands at the port, and he had returned to Pinkerton Agency in America, where he continued catching illusive criminals. Perhaps, the one insoluble mystery that had remained, had H H Holmes truly met his maker on that memorable day in Philadelphia, on the 7th of May in the year of 1896?

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About The Author
Lorient Montaner
About This Story
22 Dec, 2017
Read Time
41 mins
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