I was going to post more Rotten Apple. I really was, I promise. Then I got roped into moving a bunch of furniture. This was a task begun early in the day, and which did not finish until late. Given my own physical and health issues, this took a lot more out of me than I wanted or expected, and left me with little will to dig into Three Little Pigs and do enough cleanup and formatting to post any of it. I apologize to those of you who are waiting to find out what becomes of Officer Harris and his merry band of lifeist scum; it’s coming, I swear.
Was also sidetracked by helping out a fellow indie. Some of you may have heard of SKN Hammerstone; she’s a lovely young lady, author of the paranormal action/romance The Rift. The sequel to The Rift is coming up at the end of the month, and a storm of messages, marketing, advance readers and all the rest of the stuff that goes into a successful book launch is now brewing; given previous work with her on a collaborative anthology and her engaging personality on the Goodreads forums, I’ve signed on to help out. Keep an eye out for this one, folks; there’s stuff here that has broader appeal than one might suspect, and the sequel looks even more appetizing to me. XD
Shameless promotion aside, I’ll continue on to the meat of this post: Jack the Ripper and Zodiac.
While shuffling chairs and refrigerators back and forth, the lady of the house paused to nose into my latest bag o’ booty from the bookstore, acquired as I was on my way to this errand. Inside was the sequel to Zodiac, a book which had some interesting ideas and that I had remembered reading some time ago. I grabbed the second volume on random whim, as I am prone to do. Her noticing the book led to a discussion regarding Zodiac and other unsolved serial killer cases, which of course led to ol’ Saucy Jack himself.
Everyone’s got their own pet theory about such individuals; I expect in another 30-40 years, there will be “Zodiologists” with recognized journals, just as there are “Ripperologists” today. And there will be a string of unsolved homicides at that point that capture the dark side of society’s imagination and lead to some new -ologists a hundred years after that. Nature of the beast, and – if one steps back and puts it in focus that these things happened in the long ago – a somewhat fascinating phenomenon. Every society seems to need its boogeymen, after all.
I love conspiracy theories, especially when they are actually plausible. Ripperologists and Zodiac-chasers seem to love them, too; they churn out an astounding number of papers, books and art on the subject, often painstakingly researched and reasonably well thought-out. Unlike my next favorite conspiracy mill (the JFK assassination), there seems to be a remarkable lack of the tin-foil hat conspiracy types. Yes, some of the theories are outlandish (though, c’mon, you have to admit that idea that Bram Stoker was or knew the Ripper, or that the Black Dahlia killer was the father of the Zodiac or that they’re some kind of lineage of murdering sociopaths all have their “hmmm” moments…), but the thing I enjoy best is that they make you think.
Now, I’ve poked at the idea that the Ripper, the Dahlia Killer, the Zodiac and a handful of lesser-known murderers-at-large were actually the same individual, or were many individuals under the influence of a demon or spirit; it’s wonderful fodder for all manner of fictional tales. There’s also been theories I can accept as plausible, or closer to the “truth” than others, but I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth about some of these individuals… and honestly, I don’t want to.
I’m sure some of you are taken aback at that statement. There are gasps of horror and dark curiosity, the finger shaking and the “What’s wrong with you? Solving these crimes is important, for history and the victims or the families of the victims!” I’m sure that’s true, on some levels… and those are some of the same things the furniture-moving lady said, too. But think about it.
Think about the veritable goldmine of imagination and ideas, the fellowship brought on by the hundreds (if not thousands) of folks out there who are the Ripperologists of today and the Zodiologists of tomorrow, the muse granted to hundreds of writers, musicians and artists as they ponder these things. There’s a perverse curiosity at work here, a zeitgeist collective of creativity inspired by these things, a sense of community that would, I suspect, just fall apart if the actual, 100% verifiable truth was ever found. There’s a sense of the quest that permeates the literature on the subject, the feeling that the journey is the destination.
There’s an awful Canadian B-Movie, Blood and Donuts, that I love dearly. It’s campy, it’s got bad special effects, the actors are bad and the plot worse, but it has a sense of fun and humanity around it that’s lacking in many much “better” movies. I was unable to find a video clip of the moment that’s important here – because I’m sure some of you are assuming I jumped the rails somewhere – but the gist of it is that a vampire went to bed after the lunar landing and is rudely awakened about 50 years later to a world he no longer understands.
How is this relevant? There’s a scene about halfway through, when he explains why he went to ground and “gave up” on life. He’s watching the landing, a beautiful woman on his arm, money in the bank, rolling all sevens. And then man walks on the moon. The camera focuses on his face, and for one sadly brief, shining moment, you can see he’s heartbroken. Ennui has won. He whispers “They ruined it.” And he leaves. He thankfully avoids giving any long soliloquies on the subject, but the message I took from it – the one that seems implied, anyway – is that the moon was a dream. An inspiring vision that drove our curiosity, our determination… and now it’s just one more place we’ve walked on, one more thing to exploit. Now, I’m not saying that I agree with his assessment in total, that achieving the dream means there’s nothing left… but I can sympathize with him.
That’s kind of how I feel about the Ripper, about Zodiac, about other unsolved crimes. Sure, there’s the drive to know, to be sure. But if they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt who the Ripper was and why he/she/they did what they did, what happens to the Ripperologists? What happens to all the artists that have found something to mine and feed their creativity in the very question? If we had known who the Ripper was, would there be a From Hell or a Curtains of Blood? Would there ever be a chance for another, similar work? Probably not – or at least not as much of one – and if it did happen, I doubt it would be able to catch the intellect and curiosity of others, since we’d “know” the truth. If they turn up some 80 year old man who went on a murder spree in the 60s and 70s, sure, we’re closing the book on Zodiac… but you’re removing that screen of cultural fear, that mythos-inspiring image of a shape in a hood with a knife and a gun, probably replacing it with an image of an impotent old man in a wheelchair who looks about as frightening as your Grandpa Steve. Nightmares they may be, but nightmares are still dreams… and “killing” dreams by making them mundane, known qualities is something that hurts me a little inside.
So what do you guys out there think? Am I a misanthropic nutjob for my wanting these things to remain mysteries? Was Blood and Donuts really an awful movie? Have you read The Rift? What’re some of your favorite Ripper/Zodiac/Dahlia/other unsolved crime theories? Am I asking too many questions? 😉 Drop ’em in the notes below. (And I swear, the next post will be Three Little Pigs. I really really mean it this time. XD)