Major Crimes in History

Jack the Ripper Suspect: Francis Tumblety

Francis Tumblety

Francis Tumblety

The serial murder case of Jack the Ripper is one of the most infamous in history. It was the first serial killer case that set off a media frenzy that crossed borders and oceans. It was such a horrid series of crimes (that went unsolved) that the case is still popular more than 120 years after the murders occurred. This is partly because there has been so much speculation into the identity of the killer, nearly all of which cannot be proved or disproved. However, there are a few extremely likely suspects and Francis Tumblety is one of them.

As mentioned above, the murders committed by Jack the Ripper were horrid. They were sadistic, calculated, hateful and very much disgusting. (Click here to learn more about the case and crimes.) Francis Tumblety had numerous characteristics that seem to fit these crimes. Furthermore, he was in London at the time the murders were committed and may have been staying in the Whitechapel district, where the murders were committed.

Who Was Francis Tumblety?

Francis Tumblety is thought to have been born in Ireland, though it is not certain. However, he was certainly of Irish descent. He was the youngest of James and Margaret Tumblety’s eleven children. Wherever he was born, he wound up in Rochester, New York within the first few years of his life. Evidence of his unsavory personality and career choice go back to his childhood there. A neighbor of the Tumblety’s took note of his dirty, unkempt appearance, his lack of education and his propensity for trouble. It is also known that Tumblety began selling pornographic material of some kind and working for a druggist of ill repute sometime in his teenage years.

Within a few years of working for the druggist, Francis Tumblety began practicing as an “Indian herb doctor,” or as authorities would later call him, a “quack doctor.” This is important because, while he had no medical training, he could have picked up some basic anatomy knowledge while he was posing as a doctor, which he did for many years. Many experts believe that Jack the Ripper had a basic knowledge of anatomy. That is because Jack the Ripper managed to extract organs from some of his victims, while working in the dark. His ‘surgeries’ were by no means neat, but they would not have been possible had he been completely ignorant of female anatomy.

Unorthodox Medicine

By 1857, Francis Tumblety had made his way to Montreal. There, he posed as a doctor again. In September of 1857, he was arrested for trying to abort a fetus by giving a prostitute pills and liquid medication. He was released about one week later. Sometime in the following three years, Tumblety made his way to St. John. In September of 1860, he was questioned in the death of his one his ‘patients’ who had died while taking medicine prescribed to him by Francis Tumblety. He fled the area and went to Maine and on to Boston. All the while, Tumblety was making a lot of money with his scam. Some experts believe that Jack the Ripper was at least moderately wealthy.

Francis Tumblety began dressing in pseudo-military uniforms when he was in Boston. He would wear medals he had not earned and wear pieces of possibly authentic military clothing that, when worn together, really were not uniforms at all. He also took to riding around on a pure white horse. He obviously had a false sense of self-importance or was too flamboyant with his ruses. While this is not a characteristic that one could confidently apply to Jack the Ripper, it is certainly possible that the methodic, dominant and hateful Jack the Ripper was a self-important man like Tumblety.

A Hardcore Misogynist

Francis Tumblety moved around a great deal after he left Boston. The Civil War saw him in Washington, D.C., where he posed as a surgeon in the Union Army. While Francis was there, he, like other swindlers before and after him, claimed to have rubbed elbows with some of the most famous men of his time, even President Lincoln. Another interesting fact about Tumblety allegedly came out while he was in Washington, D.C. He hated women with a passion. This was a definite trait of Jack the Ripper.

A man named Colonel Dunham was invited to a dinner party by Francis Tumblety one evening. Colonel later said this of the event, “Someone asked why he had not invited some women to his dinner. His face instantly became black as a thunder-cloud. He had a pack of cards in his hand, but he laid them down and said, almost savagely, ‘No, Colonel, I don’t know any such cattle, and if I did I would, as your friend, sooner give you a dose of quick poison than take you into such danger.’” and “. . . . . (He) fiercely denounced all women and especially fallen women.” The Colonel went on to claim that Tumblety had been asked why he hated women so much and he had replied with a story about his marriage to a woman whom he later found out was a prostitute. What happened to this marriage or Tumblety’s wife is not mentioned.

A Collection of Uteruses

The Colonel also took note of a macabre collection belonging to Francis Tumblety. He had numerous jars containing the uteruses of humans. Each of the jars was marked not by age, medical condition or any other such common medical categorization. They were marked by the social class of the women whose bodies they had once resided in. This sounds precisely like something a serial murderer of the Jack the Ripper class would do. Of course, it does not make Tumblety the killer, but it is certainly suspicious.

After leaving Washington, Tumblety went to Missouri, where he was arrested twice for wearing medals that he had not earned. From there, his life took many odd turns from being arrested in regard to the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (he was innocent) to having homosexual affairs (this is likely true) and being arrested in Liverpool in 1888 for indecent exposure and indecent assault. Jack the Ripper committed the crimes we are aware of in 1888. Francis Tumblety was one of the most likely suspects in the case at the time and was even arrested on November 12, 1888 concerning the murders. He was bailed out on November 16 and he fled the country eight days later.

Similarities of Tumblety to Jack the Ripper

There are obvious similarities between the Jack the Ripper criminal profile and Francis Tumblety. However, there has also been conjecture that some things simply do not add up. There is no conclusive evidence that Tumblety was ever violent toward women. That does not mean that he was not, though. There is also some speculation as to whether a homosexual would have committed the Jack the Ripper crimes. That is because most homosexual serial killers prey on men. Francis Tumblety may not have been strictly homosexual, however. He very well could have been bisexual, especially if he had really been married. Furthermore, we cannot make assumptions that a woman-hating homosexual would not kill women. Serial killers can be unpredictable.

Unfortunately, there simply is not enough evidence to condemn or exonerate any of the Jack the Ripper suspects, including Francis Tumblety. Unless new evidence comes to light, we will never know for sure who Jack the Ripper was.

Related Articles:
Jack the Ripper: The First Celebrity Serial Killer
Other Victims of Jack the Ripper

Sources
Casebook, retrieved 7/29/10.
Bardsley, Marilyn, Jack the Ripper, retrieved 7/29/10
TruTV

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Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter. Shelly was a professional cook for 10 years and still has a passion for food. She cooks and writes about cooking nearly every day. She produces a wide variety of content, on top of her niches. Shelly is a stepmother, a former military, current veteran wife, sister of four and aunt of seven (so far).

Historic Mysteries