Donald K. Hartman
As the sub-heading suggests, The Hypno-Ripper contains two primary source fictional stories linking the murders of Jack the Ripper to hypnotism. However, this fairly small volume also contains a Preface, Foreword, Conjectural Note and Biographical Profile of Edward O. Tilburn who wrote the first tale and may have penned the second.
I have always been intrigued with Jack the Ripper and will never pass up an opportunity to read anything regarding the murders, especially if contemporary, so The Hypno-Ripper is right up my street.
The first tale, ‘The Whitechapel Mystery’, regardless of the Ripper connection is a really first-rate Victorian horror/thriller. The prose is lovely; light and intricate with some beautifully elegant sentence construction. It’s a pleasure to lose yourself in, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tilburn ably switches between the rather avuncular voice of Dr. Lucas to the nervous, alternatingly rapid and hesitant voice of John Dewey. There is more than a whiff of Jekyll and Hyde about the story and I found it nicely captivating.
The second offering, ‘The Whitechapel Horrors’ was a touch slow to get going but became incredibly atmospheric and again, absorbing. Although modern day audiences may, to a certain extent, dismiss the idea of someone carrying out actions as horrendous as the Ripper’s murders while ‘mesmerised’; both tales do give pause for thought. Clearly, whosoever carried out the slayings was not in a right frame of mind but it’s quite how their mind was impaired, and why, which are the interesting questions and are touched upon in the Foreword by Rebecca Frost. The Hypno-Ripper offers a window into a one of the theories at the time. It’s interesting stuff, and both narratives are so convincingly well-detailed that they lend some weight to the approach.
However, the two are set within a book whose Editor has given utmost thought to the reader and their experience; the illustrations and contemporary engravings well-chosen and complementary. Care is taken in both the Preface and Foreword to set the scene for the two stories in an appropriately objective manner. The Conjectural Note was a nice touch and the Biography of Edward Tilburn is really interesting. Notwithstanding the lack of credible information about him, or much detail at all, Hartman has managed to dig deep and put together a fascinating account of a curious and riveting individual whose journey through life raises almost as many questions as the actions and identity of The Ripper himself.
Readers who have an interest in Ripperology and late-Victorian literature would do well to read The Hypno-Ripper; an entertaining, intriguing and thoughtfully put together volume.