Tumblety – Certainly Queer But Not The Ripper

Posted: July 24, 2009 in The Non-Rippers
AH THERE! TUMBLETY.

The Notorious Whitechapel Suspect and His Ways and Manners.

Tumblety has tumbled to himself, and the detectives are "onto him" in America.
But he isn’t "Jack the Ripper," the Whitechapel murderer, by a long tumble.
Neither is he the accomplice of Dr. Blackburn, who was accused of a conspiracy to introduce yellow fever into northern cities, nor is he an accomplice of Wilkes Booth, or of Guiteau, though he has been accused of all these and many other bad things. The very curious fact about Tumblety is that he is two totally different men; that is, he has lived two totally distinct lives, and there are are two irreconciliable histories given of him, each by witnesses who are positive they are correct.
This much, however, is certain, that he has sought notoriety persistently in many parts of the United States and in England, and has finally got altogether too much of it and of a kind that he does not enjoy; so he now seeks solitude as earnestly as he once sought publicity.

Two or three times in his life he has had plenty of money, and enjoyed spending it; but he has outlived that, and since his arrest by the London police and escape for forfeiting his bail he has lived as retired and economically as police surveillance would allow. His real history is coming out by fragments here and there, but as to his origin there are two accounts; one makes him the son of a poor laborer, born in Canada and reared in Rochester, N.Y., with very little education; the other, which is direct from one of his former intimates, makes him the son of a wealthy Irish gentleman in Dublin and a well educated physician.
In 1866 he was an "herb doctor" in Cincinnati and made lots of money, though he privately confessed that all his pills, powders and tonics were made of tanbark. He cured everything, from tetter and pimples to cross eyes and Bright’s disease, and had many certificates of his success. He attended high mass at the cathedral, and was preceded to the service by a colored page in gorgeous livery, carrying a big prayer book in a velvet covered stand. This scandalized the worshipers and the "doctor" was requested to worship less ostentatiously or go elsewhere.
He spent his early years of the war in Brooklyn, where his odd dress and the immense dog which accompanied him on the streets attracted much attention. His intimate companion there was young Harold, the same who was with Wilkes Booth after assassination of President Lincoln and was hanged for it. Several years later he was an associate in New York of Charles J. Guiteau, who murdered President Garfield. At the close of the war he was arrested on a charge of complicity with an attempt to introduce yellow fever into New York, and he still claims that the authorities robbed him of several thousand dollars in United States bonds.
He calls himself "Doctor Francis Tumblety," and though the oddity of the name suggests that it is assumed, he has been called by it ever since he was first known in America, though the Rochester witnesses think it was there spelled Twombletey. His "herb doctoring" finally became unprofitable in America; so he went to London, located near the Whitechapel road and for a while did a big business. His oddity of manner, dress and speech soon made him notorious as the "American doctor"; but he enjoyed notoriety and turned it into money, till the Whitechapel horrors caused a general overhauling of suspicious characters.
He talked a great deal about the butcheries, dropped mysterious hints and was arrested – probably what he wanted – but it proved unprofitable, for the London courts made it very expensive for him and put him under bail for $1,500 as a fraud and suspicious character. He forfeited his bail, fled to France, and early in December came to New York, traveling very light in the matter of baggage. He is a tall, dark, queer looking man, with a regular hussar mustache, and certainly has had rare luck in acquiring notoriety.

Source: The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, December 26, 1888, page 2

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