''From Hell'' tidbits, fact and fiction, revealed
by Scott Brown and Gregory Kirschling
Was the real Jack the Ripper a freemason? Was Inspector Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp) a dope-smoking psychic? Were Victorian vixens really as hot as Heather Graham? (On that last one: no.) Fox assures us the Hughes brothers’ ”From Hell” (based on the 1999 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell) is mostly fanciful; nonetheless, let’s separate Jack from fiction.
?REEL STORY Renegade flatfoot Abberline ”sees” the Ripper’s crimes in visions induced by opium and absinthe. REALITY CHECK Abberline was promoted following the 1888 investigation; there’s no evidence of drug use. But Robert Lees, a celebrated psychic of the era, reportedly claimed to have solved the case.
?REEL STORY The Ripper lures his victims with grapes. REALITY CHECK According to police and press reports from the time, grape stems were found at the scene of at least one murder.
?REEL STORY The Ripper murders are covered up by a shadow conspiracy of Masons protecting their own. REALITY CHECK That theory is based on Stephen Knight’s 1977 book ”Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution” and popularized in the 1979 film ”Murder by Decree.” ”There’s no evidence for it at all,” avers Donald Rumbelow, former London police sergeant and preeminent Ripperologist.
?REEL STORY Court physician Sir William Gull (Ian Holm) uses his expertise and Masonic ties to assist Abberline. REALITY CHECK Gull had no recorded involvement in the case — nor was he a Mason, according to the United Grand Lodge of England.
?REEL STORY Police chief and high-ranking Mason Sir Charles Warren (Ian Richardson) erases a chalk-scrawled message implicating ”Juwes” from a crime-scene wall. REALITY CHECK Warren was a Mason and did erase the message, claiming he feared anti-Semitic backlash. According to the Livingston Masonic Library of New York, ”Juwes” actually refers to an ancient group of rogue Masonic murderers. Voilà! The ”Jackie-Mason” theory lives!