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The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper: In His Own Words, The Confession of the World's Most Infamous Killer Paperback – September 3, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402280580
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402280580
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating read! I couldn't put it down! Each reader must decide on their own - is this truly The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper." - dbettenson

"The Ripper's story and his obsession with knives and blood make for interesting reading, as it deals with the man and his stalkings more than his atrocious acts...Fiction or not, a decent book, easily read and worth it for the ending. " - Kirkus

"Readers will be left wondering if Carnac was indeed the Ripper, or if this was his idea for a fictionalized story about the killings. Mesmerizing." - Cayocosta72-Book Reviews

"The way the plots are intertwined in the book, the way the narrative traces the genealogy of this criminal and the way it portrays the heady mixture of cold violence inside and lust for blood makes this book worth reading by every book lover. It does not really matter whether it is another Ripperature or a genuine story of Jack the Ripper, what is more important is the racy, teasing and explosive details it offers. I foresee floodgates of inquisitiveness and debates as soon as this book hits the market." -

"A definite must read if you have wondered who Jack the Ripper was, or wanted more information. A well written and very compelling." - My Book Addiction Reviews

A very interesting addition to the canon of Jack the Ripper literature or "Ripperture" as it were. I would definitely suggest this book if you are looking for something with a little bit of scariness and a bunch of intrigue.

"Even if it's merely a cleverly-written novel ("Ripperature" ), the book is well done. And if there's a remote, outside chance that it's a real account by the gruesome killer, the thought is enough to cause nightmares while reading it." - Valerie Talks Books

It is up to you as the reader of course to decide if they believe this original manuscript, The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, to be true or not. Has the greatest cold case in history finally been cracked? We will never truly know.

Carnac (no affiliation given, because he's supposed to be the Ripper) recounts the story of a childhood marked by the signs that he was going to become the Ripper, at the time of the murders. He apparently was sane enough to remember in gory detail the five murders, and the few weeks in which he anxiously searched the streets for his victims. The descriptions of the murders cross closely with what is now known of them; the Ripper then has the presence of mind to disappear and leave the autobiography, with which he was engaged at the time, behind him.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


When a man has attained to any degree of note or notoriety, he becomes afflicted by the itch to write his autobiography. I question whether the months of labour involved in carrying out such a task are often justified by the result, unless we regard as that result the mere satisfaction achieved by the autobiographer in writing continuously about himself to the extent of some seventy thousand words. So few of these autobiographers have anything of interest to say apart from the more or less technical interest attached to the narration of the steps and line of conduct which led the subject to eminence.

It is true that certain autobiographers may mildly amuse us by retailing the witty thing Sir Herbert Tree-or some such famous person-said to the autobiographer, and so forth; or it may pander to our love of scandal by vilifying the autobiographer's contemporaries. But, on the whole, I feel that the frame of mind in which the autobiographer sets about his thankless task is the frame of mind in which the club bore button-holes me and tells me of the wonderful things he has done, the witty things he has said and what a clever fellow I must understand him to be.

Why then am I setting to work, at the age of nearly sixty-nine, to write my autobiography? Mainly, I think, because I have been nursing an exciting secret for forty years; I have had to guard that secret during my lifetime but there is a certain satisfaction in feeling that I can arrange for its disclosure after my death. And there have been so many speculations regarding the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper that I feel it to be almost a duty finally and definitely to put those questions to rest. And I may also be influenced by another matter. In several of the numerous articles which have appeared from time to time Jack the Ripper has been dogmatically described as a homicidal maniac; this statement has been made so often, in fact, that its truth seems now to be almost universally assumed. I recently observed an article in a popular encyclopaedia which refers to: "Jack the Ripper, a homicidal maniac who..." etc. It may be that I grow touchy as the years increase, but I must admit that statements of this nature tend to irritate me.

The fact of this matter is that the writers of articles on Jack the Ripper-and I have heard that a story about him need never remain unsold-have either too much imagination or no imagination at all. In the former category are those who weave theories of extraordinary ingenuity; in the second are those who, being unable to apprehend any human actions which depart from their own standard of smug normality, fall back upon the old phrase-a homicidal maniac.

Forty years have elapsed since a mention of Jack the Ripper was sufficient to cause a shudder, not only in the East End of London, but in all parts of this country. A shudder based not altogether upon a horror of murder-as it is technically called-for many murders have been committed which have aroused no more than a rather pleasant excitement; but based more upon a shrinking awe of the unknown. For J.R. was not only a killer; he was a mysterious and bizarre killer, and in his efficiency (though I say it myself), his ubiquity and yet his uncanny invisibility, he appeared to the popular imagination to embody in his unseen personality the attributes of a ghoul. From my own recollection of the period I am able to say that, incredible as it may now seem, J.R. was actually regarded as a supernatural being by the less enlightened members of the community.

Now when a personality takes on this apocryphal aspect it is very difficult for the ordinary unimaginative person to conceive of him as a human man who was born, eats, loves and laces his boots. He cannot realize that that being has his thoughts and feelings and his own personal perception of the universe; being incomprehensible, the unknown must be a maniac.

And so it may come as a surprise to some that J.R. was a human man and that what he did was due to reactions which simply differed in some respects from the reactions of his fellows.


I need hardly say that my name is not Jack. I have given some thought to the question whether I should disclose my name at once or reserve it as a bonne bouche for the end of the record. But I have decided, mainly by the thought that I may never live to complete the work, to enjoy in imagination the sensation which the early mention of my name will afford to my associates. My name is James Willoughby Carnac.

"What, our Carnac!" I can hear old So-and-so saying at the club. "It can't be!" And then he will scrabble over the pages until he perceives my portrait (which I hope will be reproduced in the book). "Why it is!" he will cry. "But it can't be! This is a joke. Why, I have sat opposite Carnac in this smoking-room every day for years!"

But I assure you, my dear old friend So-and-so (I feel it would be unfair to specify your name and so fling your body to the reporters), that it is no joke. At least, not the kind of joke you have in mind. You may hardly be able to credit it at first, perhaps because you have read that J.R. was a homicidal maniac, and old Carnac was obviously sane. Why, he could play bridge! But, leaving out this question of lunacy, surely you must realize that J.R. did actually exist? That he met people; sat next to them in trams and theatres; bought things in shops. And he became prominent only forty years ago, you know. What possible reason can you have for assuming that he did not live out his three score years and ten? People do; you are no spring chicken yourself, my dear So-and-so, if you will forgive my mentioning it.

When you have read this account and discovered that it contains nothing incongruous nor, in fact, anything you cannot yourself confirm with a little trouble, will you, I wonder, feel horrified? No; I suspect your sensation will be pride. You have had the extraordinary privilege of talking almost daily to J.R. for nearly fifteen years without knowing it; what a topic of conversation is now presented to you!

I think, by the way, I should enclose with my manuscript a request that the six complimentary copies, which I understand are usually presented to an author by his publisher, be sent to the club. Otherwise my autobiography may never penetrate to that backwater.


Since this autobiography will not be published until after my death I can allow myself entire freedom in writing, bearing in mind, however, that convention has set certain bounds upon what is permissible. This book is not intended to be read aloud to the family circle, but on the other hand I do not want it impounded by the police. But although I may have to touch delicately upon one or two matters, there is this point: I have no relatives and no one need suffer, therefore, as a result of the obloquy which (society being constituted as it is) will attach to my name. And I have been careful not to refer by name to any person who is, to my knowledge, at present living.

As regards the ultimate publication of the manuscript: this has cost me much thought. But I am not without resource and a little ingenuity will, I think, overcome the difficulty. After all, there are such things as literary agents, and if my executor does not get involved over some difficulty with probate I see no reason why the plan which I have dimly evolved should not be successful. At least the manuscript should get as far as a publisher's office if my executor honourably fulfills my instructions and does not allow curiosity as to what it is he is dealing with to master him. As to any profits arising from publication, these must go with my other assets which, having no relatives, I am leaving to a charitable institution connected with animals. At least that has been my intention; but recently it has occurred to me to alter my will and to leave everything to the Police Orphanage. The idea rather appeals to me.


Before closing this somewhat rambling preface it is necessary for me to say a few words regarding conversations in this book. Truthfully to reproduce these verbatim after a lapse of forty or fifty years is obviously impossible; but a book devoid of conversational matter is, to my mind, dull; it lacks anything approaching vividness. The conversations here are therefore "reconstructed," being based upon the gist of the matter spoken of and clothed in the characteristic dictions of the people concerned as I recall them. In some special instances, however, the words actually used have remained fixed in my memory despite the passage of years; Mrs. Nicholl's remarks about her canary, for example. And when I mention Martha Tabron's ejaculation of "Oo Gawd!" which she managed to utter through my clenched fingers when the light caught the blade of my knife, I am reporting actual fact. She said exactly that, no less and-no more.


And a last word to the general reader. This is not put forward as a work of literature, but simply as a record of the main incidents of my early life. I make no pretence to any literary ability, and skilled writers are not made at the age of sixty-nine.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Richard Masloski on October 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
For famed Ripperologist Paul Begg to have sullied his hands with this ridiculous and ludicrous purported "Autobiography of Jack the Ripper" is very sad. On the back cover Mr. Begg is quoted as saying: "It is either a genuine confession by Jack the Ripper, or it's an extraordinary novel...Only you can decide." Mr. Begg knows better: it is NOT a genuine confession and it is NOT an extraordinary novel. What it is is a hoax, pure tripe, an absolute insult to anyone with half-a-brain.

Here goes an encapsulation of how this mystery manuscript came to be: in 2007 a chap who runs a toy museum in England buys a bunch of memorabilia from the estate of one S.G. Beaman who created Toytown and Larry the Lamb back in the 1920's. Amongst the items he buys is an unpublished manuscript by one James Carnac who claims he was Jack the Ripper. Carnac supposedly left his manuscript to Beaman, you see, and now the toy store gent gets the mystery manuscript published and backed by one-who-should-know-better Begg and what do you know, folks, ca-ching! Mirth and merriment, most likely, all the way to the bank!

So I read the transcript and our Jolly Jack Carnac comes out with a most ridiculous tale of his chats with X, some executioner ancestor in skin-tight black clothes who shows Carnac a fully functioning torture chamber on some apparently ultra-dimensional plane of existence and gives him a bow at the scene of the murder of Long Liz - and this Carnac also hears The Voice - and he can bore us to tears with descriptions of X and mention long talks with him but offer us naught of what was actually said or discussed - same as when he recounts his time with last victim Mary Kelly - he can recall all of the minute details of the room but remembers zip of what she said.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book was a horrible read! I tried many times to actually read it. The author starts speaking words.... just a bunch of garbled words and in those words you start piecing a small story . Its as if he starts talking about something that has nothing to do with the story and as an afterthought says oh yeah and this happened. I have read many books,this one was horrible!
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Format: Paperback
Jack the Ripper does not need any introduction. But does James Willoughby Carnac sound familiar? I guess not! But he is the man who claims to be the sadistic murderer of several helpless women of Whitechapel. Why he did what he did and why did he choose the most wretched of the lot are the questions that have haunted several generations of humanity. But never have we found the answers that would quench our thirst. In fact the mystery behind this man has kept him alive in popular memory that has only grown considerably in recent times.

Though ‘Ripperature’ has been in existence ever since Jack broke on to the crime scene but never ever in the history have we been able to know his full story. The surfacing of the autobiography of this murderer would certainly help in explaining the psyche of the man who became a notorious killer later. The autobiography may be challenged for its authenticity but one can never argue that it is easily the most credible piece of literature on Jack the Ripper that we can lay our hands on. The insights that it offers, the cold calculated way that it describes the murders and the way it mocks the law enforcement agencies seem to be the handiwork of a maniac. Such is the power of this autobiography that even with its subdued tone, while recreating violence, it still is potent enough to send chill down the spines.
The one question that this autobiography would open is the one asked by Jack himself: ‘the role of fate in determining a man’s destiny’. Are we just puppets at the hand of a malevolent omnipotent power that would make us do what it pleases? Is it necessary that our bloodline will determine what we become?
Even if we brush aside the claims of this being an autobiography, even then we must credit the writer for doing an amazing job.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By thewritersjourney on January 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
If it be true, this volume that purports to be written by Jack the Ripper himself is a historical document without equal in recent times. If fiction, it is a fascinating piece that allows the reader to follow the killer’s supposed footsteps, creating a compelling backstory and interesting postscript. The book is divided into three parts: the first detailing James Carnac’s youth, the second recounting the “Whitechapel atrocities” and the reason for the his abrupt retirement, and the final part laying out an interesting series of events that allegedly occurred four decades after the final Ripper slaying.

There is some question as to whether this Carnac person ever existed, and if he did, if these events are a truthful telling of his life or simply taking credit for another’s crimes through careful research. Paul Begg, a noted student of Jack the Ripper, doubts the veracity of the third part of the manuscript if not the entire work.

In truth, we will likely never know the true identity of Jack the Ripper, be it this Carnac character or some other suspect previously examined. But The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper is a gripping read, regardless of the truth of its contents.
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