Rob's Reviews > Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders

Jack the Ripper and Black Magic by Spiro Dimolianis
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To be honest, this is quite possibly actually a 4-Star rating work, a 5-Star rating if you are interested in the history and culture of the period, are a lover of conspiracy theories, or are a 'Ripperologist.' In a somewhat odd moment, I found myself rating it lower than I believe that the work may actually deserve, not because of the writing style, or the author's personal agenda, but because the book is simply so densely packed with information and detail that it feels like the author has gotten lost in his material. (I said it was an odd moment)

Dimolianis' research is nothing less than exhaustive, and his presentation of it is, while of necessity a bit dry, nevertheless readable. I now know more about the way hospital schedules in Victorian London charity hospitals worked than I ever believed I would, as well as more about the freewheeling personal lifestyles of some of Helen Blavatsky's theosophist followers, and the publicity-seeking 'occult' volunteers seeking to make sense of the Ripper murders by offering their ideas to the Metropolitan Police and the press.

Most Ripperology works that I've read are focused on putting forth the author's specific candidate for committing the crimes and defending their hypothesis, frequently by attacking other potential candidates. Dimolianis doesn't go that route; instead he works his way through a list of individuals relating to the Ripper murders in great detail discussing how they intersect the crimes. Some are potential suspects, but others are simply publicity-seekers, or honest believers in the occult. His weakness (if you want to call it a weakness) is that in examining his array of historic individuals in the level of detail presented, he seems to have delved into each of their lives to such an extent that the idea of 'black magic' hinted at in the title (for me at least) falls away.

Not being a dedicated member of that field of study, I don't know that this work will change the landscape of Ripperology, but if all of the people studying the subject were this thorough and dedicated in their research, I can't see how the field would be anything less than well-respected in academic circles. I don't regret reading it by any means, but I can't recommend this work for a casual reader. To someone with an interest in period history, and especially the Ripper crimes, it might be a gold mine, though.

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