Mysterious Stories Podcasts

Has Jack the Ripper come to New York? A Gilded Age hysteria

PODCAST It’s time for a Gilded Age murder mystery, true-crime podcast style!

The Whitechapel Murders of 1888 — perpetrated by the killer known as Jack the Ripper — inspired one of the greatest cultural hysterias of the Victorian era. The crimes were so publicized in newspapers around the world that many believed that the Ripper could appear anywhere — even in New York City.

The usual vicious crimes of gang members and roughs on the Bowery were not only compared to those of the Ripper, they were often framed as though they were the Ripper himself, an omnipresent specter of evil.

The sordid misdeeds of other criminals were elevated by the press in comparisons to Jack the Ripper.

But then, in April of 1891, a crime was committed on the East River waterfront that was so brutal, so garish, that comparisons to the London killer were inevitable.

The victim was named Carrie Brown. But people along the waterfront knew her by her nickname Shakespeare (or Old Shakespeare).

This is a tale of an infamous crime, a controversial detective and an unjust conviction of an Algerian immigrant named Ameer Ben Ali.

Who killed Old Shakespeare?

PLUS: A very special announcement at the start of the show!


THE TAKEOUT — A bonus after-show podcast for those who support us on Patreon. Greg reveals more details about a couple other bizarre New York City crimes associated with the Jack the Ripper hysteria. Subscribe at the Five Points level and above to receive this bonus show.

The East River waterfront, South Street, 1890
Frontispiece of Professional Criminals of America (1886), Thomas Byrnes; New York
Carrie Brown, NYC Municipal Archives
New York Evening World, April 24, 1891
The East River Hotel, New York Evening World illustration
The key to Room 31, New York Evening World illustration
Ameer Ben Ali
New York Evening World, May 2, 1891

Further Listening

After taking in the story of the murder of Carrie Brown and the American Jack the Ripper hysteria, revisit these past Bowery Boys episodes for a fuller context of the events recounted on this program.

Who Killed Helen Jewett? A Mystery By Gaslight

Corlear’s Hook and the Pirates of the East River

Case Files of the NYPD

Further Reading

The American Murders of Jack the Ripper by R. Michael Gordon
Big Policeman: The Rise and Fall of America’s First, Most Ruthless and Greatest Detective by J. North Conway
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
Gotham by Edwin G Burrows and Mike Wallace
Low Life by Luc Sante
New York Exposed: The Gilded Age Police Scandal that Launched the Progressive Age by Daniel Czitrom
Ripper Notes: America Looks at Jack the Ripper/”The New York Affair” by Wolf Vanderlinden

This episode was inspired by a Bowery Boys article from 2018.

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