Archive for the ‘The Chicago Whitechapel Club’ Category


[FOR THE SUNDAY HERALD. By Special Arrangement with the author.]
Toward the Gladsome Spring.

no institution of the great, throbbing, chin whiskered west is more
unique or more distinctive than the Whitechapel club of this city. It
is a bright, cheery little crypt, which is reached through a narrow,
somber stab in the still blacker blackness, and soon to be called
Whitechapel Alley, opening off La Salle street. Inside all is cozy and
bright. You enter by going down several steps, and find yourself in an
anteroom on the left of which is the tap room and on the right the
reception vault or general sarcophagus.
Bright and cheery skeletons
hang up wherever the pleased eye rambles o’er the walls, and blood
spattered garments, torn by the coroner from murdered innocence, soften
the harsh outlines of the bony decorations. Skulls with phosphorescent
eyes in them stand upon the whatnots – or whatsnot, perhaps I should
say – here and there.
All is cheery and appetizing, especially to
the weary mind and the tired and spent brain. Here we see several
white, ghost dance garments from Wounded Knee, upon which the blood yet
looks nice and fresh. Here is a large westward hoe with which an
irritated farmer killed several of his children in an unguarded moment.
Over yonder is the somewhat battered and knockneed charger formerly
belonging to Herod’s somewhat morbid daughter.
Many relics, from the early history of crime and horror to that of the
present day, are here – here to please, to beguile and to perpetuate.
Yonder is the cloven helmet of a Haymarket policeman, and back of it a
model of the gallows on which the anarchists were hanged.
Comfortable solitude is said to be the object of the London club, and
in this respect it is doubtless modeled after the Whitechapel club of
Chicago. Solitude, surrounded by a wealth of brass knuckled,
highbinders’ knives with fresh gore on them, freshened each day by the
Armour abattoirs, and skeletons from which ever and anon a vertebra, a
patella or a few phalanges fall with a startling yet sodden plunk on
the deadened floor, may surely be found here.
The Whitechapel club of Chicago was endowed some two years ago by Jack
the Ripper for the purpose of engendering a more fraternal feeling
toward humanity, and also to advance intellectual refinement and to
encourage thought waves. Realizing the uncertainty of life, he desired,
he said, to perpetuate his name in this way. "I might be cut down at
any time," said he, "as my night work, of course, is one of constant
exposure to the unwholesome atmosphere of London. Besides, "he added,
"there is a growing feeling of antagonism toward me here. Sometimes I
think I would like to try the climate of America, but I am afraid I
would get run over and killed by the professional drunkards who drive
drays over people in New York, or if I came to Chicago I might get
"bindged" and die of pneumonia. So perhaps I am as well off here among
friends, suppressing vice and evading the keen eyed police, as I would
be in America, where the social evil does not as yet own the town.
"Do all that you can," he said, "to make the club cheerful and bright.
I send by this steamer a gray plaid shawl, stiff with the gore of No. 3. It will make a nice piano cover, I think. Could you not arrange with the city morgue, so that rent could be saved and your dining hall have about it a homelike air which money alone cannot procure?
"I am almost discouraged at times when I see how slowly I am getting along with my great work looking toward the suppression of vice,

but I will not give up. I am determined to press on and carve my way to fame. Keep up the kindest club spirit, and yet admit no one who has ever led a life of shame. We cannot be too careful, I think, in this regard.
"I am going out again this evening to see if I can catch up a little with my work. I am now way behind. When I get this job done I am thinking of operating on a few titled Englishmen who need killing very much. I am very anxious to be through with my work, for, as I say, it keeps me away from home so much at night. Fly swiftly round, ye wheels of time, and bring the welcome day!
"Miss Bompard, of Paris, wishes to contribute to the club a trunk, scarf, etc., for our dining room. They will be sent within a few weeks."
I wish I had more time to speak of the bric-a-brac of the Whitechapel club, but have not, of course. Suffice it that, with the walls covered over with bones, blood stained cleavers, knives and sling shots, with a loaded door spring billy here, and over there the dried and weatherbeaten boot of a soldier from the Custer battlefield, in which the bones of the foot could still be seen, the president apologized for the absence of eleven skeletons which had been loaned to a well known physician for scientific purposes. He said that to him the absence of these eleven skeletons seemed to leave the room sort of bare and inhospitable.

Source: The Salt Lake Herald, April 5, 1891, page 20


A Weird Scene on Lake Michigan’s Southern Shore.
The Whitechapel Club, of Chicago, Obeys the Last Request of a Suicide and Incinerates His Body.


CHICAGO, July 19. – Mirrored in the waters on the south shore of Lake Michigan at the base of a great ridge of glistening white sand that marks the limit of the ebb and flow of the tide there was lighted Saturday night a funeral pyre and all that was mortal of Morris Allen Collins, president of the Dallas (Tex.) Suicide club, was, by his own written request, reduced to ashes. The Whitechapel club, of this city, had charge of the strange ceremony.

A Weird Scene.

The torch was applied to the mighty pile of pitch-soaked wood at 10:50 o’clock. During the five hours the body burned impressive ceremonies were enacted about the blazing pile, weird music and recitations, interspersed with addresses replete with personal reminiscences and spoken by friends of the dead man, filled time with deep interest and added to the strangeness of the scene. When at last the consuming flames had done well their work the ashes of the man who in life had found stony pathways and briar-strewn playgrounds were gathered together with reverential care and placed in an urn on which loving hands had traced in many hues pictures symbolic of the principles which had once animated the life of him who was no more.
Not since the day nearly seventy years ago, when Byron and Trelawny stood in the glare of blazing driftwood that cremated the remains of their friend, the poet Shelley, has a stranger funeral ceremony marked the flying time. Never in the history of Illinois have the events of Saturday night had their precedent.

It Was His Own Wish.

Morris A. Collins blew out his brains with a revolver in a lodging house at 457 West Madison street, July 8. He left a note willing his brain to Dr. H.N. Moyer, and asking of the Whitechapel club that it burn his body over a funeral pyre. Honore Joseph Jaxon, the Indian half-breed who was Louis Riel’s secretary during the half-breed revolt in Canada, attended to the arrangements for carrying out this latter request. Dr. Moyer was absent from the city, and the post mortem was not held.

Preparations for the Cremation.

The Whitechapel club had been engaged in preparing to carry out Collins’ wishes, made in writing. Eminent legal counsel had been taken to discover if any objection could be found in the statutes to the fulfillment of the wishes of the dead man. That the morbidly curious might not disturb the solemn rites the utmost secrecy was maintained.
The place finally selected was in that dreary waste of sand and bog in Indiana at the end of the lake. There was a secret trip from the great city to the Baltimore & Ohio train, a hurried run to Miller’s, a small junction village 30 miles southeast of Chicago, a dismal funeral march through the uninhabited region that separates the hamlet and the lake shore, and then while the northern sky was pulsating and trembling in the strange tints of the aurora borealis the monk-robed chaplain bade the dead farewell and Mr. Jaxon touched the torch to the huge pile.

Placed on the Pyre.

When the dreary spot had been reached the body of Collins was removed from the casket. About the form was draped a Grecian robe of finest linen and purest white. The head remained uncovered. The corpse was laid upon the topmost oaken plank of the funeral pile and then the Whitechapelers lighted their torches.
Chaplain Thompson went to the foot of the dark pyre at 10 o’clock and recited the "Submission." A little band of villagers, huddled like sheep on the slope above them, uncovered in the cool night air. Other friends spoke kindly of the dead. The last to speak was Jaxon, who stood upon the top of the pyre until it had burst into flame.

Destruction of the Body.

In less than five minutes after the pyre was lighted the flames had snatched off the winding sheet as if it were gun cotton and left the rigid corpse sharp and black against a background of red. The wind was off shore and blowing the flames and smoke toward the lake. It left the process of destruction plainly visible, while apparently not interfering with the effect of the heat on the body. For a few minutes the imperfect combustion of gases, or the draft, or some other cause which the expert medical men there might explain, cushioned the corpse so that it seemed protected from the flames that began at a distance from the body, as they do sometimes from a match which one lights at the top of a lamp chimney. Then with a lively flash the fire ran along the flesh and in a few seconds the corpse was burning like walnut.
The rapid course of the flames was short. It was followed by a slow destruction which lasted for several hours. The right arm, which had lain outstretched across the legs, raised slowly until it seemed flexed by the muscles to wave good-by to the little group on the knoll. Then the legs drew up, and presently the remains, now but a shell of bone, powdered with the black ash of the flesh, began to slip toward the corner of the pyre, which had been weakened by a great rush of flames whipped by the wind. The legs first sank with a flurry of coals, then the frame of the trunk disappeared, leaving the skull resting on the pillow of a big, warm log. The men had just begun their closing march, and the refrain, "Hurrah for the Next Who Dies," was floating over the trembling beachcomb when the skull rolled down among the bed of coals on which the other fragments crouched.
The cremation was practically the first American attempt at a public burning without the use of the modern crematory appliances. The heat of the pitch and wood burning was remarkable, and a comparatively small portion of bone remained among the ashes. The weight of the mass carried to the club-rooms was less than seven pounds. All who saw the cremation were struck with the singular nobility of it. There was no perceptible odor, and the picture of the body, motionless and stately amid the flames, was grand beyond description.

Marched Around with Lighed Torches.

Three times with lighted torches the little band march round the pile. The torches were applied to the tar and pitch and inflammable wood. At 10:50 o’clock the flames burst into a mighty glare, lighting up the desolate shore lines and the dark, wooded hills. As it blazed, fanned by a southwest wind, the club joined in a weird dirge that thrilled the little group of awed countrymen above them.
It was 2:16 o’clock when the center of the great pyre fell in and incineration was complete. Only a mass of glowing embers remained out of which, with trowels, the ashes of the dead were taken. At 4 o’clock the club left the place for the station, leaving Jaxon to watch the fire and collect the last of the ashes. These ashes will be sealed by the club and entered in its cabinet.

Relieved in Suicide.

Collins was a Texas man. Forced to depend upon his own abilities from an early age he became a profound student of sociology, eventually becoming a writer of some note on them and suggested by the relations of capital and labor. Collins met with many reverses which embittered his nature and made him an advocate of suicide as an honorable means of ending mortal woe. In Dallas he established a suicide club, of which he was president to the day of his death.

Credit: The Quincy Daily Journal, July 19, 1892, page 2


The most whimsical of all clubs, the most desperately foolish, the most beguiling and impossible, was the Whitechapel Club, which once made Chicago its footstool. It was organized in rather a haphazard way by a gay band of young reporters, who dined together now and then in an obscure chop house, where they had a way of taking forcible possession. Their dinners grew more and more frugal as the week progressed, but they made up for it with great splendor on pay day. Then over the beer the spirit of mischief would break loose among them, and all sorts of devices were invented to puzzle the wise and fool the unwary. Their favorite method was to send telegrams to any man or organization that happened to be prominent at the moment. The question of a signature came up nearly in the game, and it was then that the cognomen of the club was hit upon. Jack the Ripper was at that time carrying things with a high hand in the Whitechapel district in London, and the absurd idea entered some one of these addled heads of making him permanent president of the club. From that moment until its extinction, Jack the Ripper held that honorable position, and the officer in actual command was known as the vice president. Then every pay day, when the club was flush, a stream of telegrams was poured forth – telegrams of congratulations or criticism or rebuke, as the case might be. And the mysterious name of the club became familiar long before it had a local habitation. The telegrams were always taken seriously, moreover. A solemn protest to some congressman against his vote on the tariff on tin plate would be answered by a serious and long explanation, followed by a bombardment of Congressional Records. The women’s federations would defend their position at great length, and the fittered diplomats whose incomprehensible course was elaborately commended would send complacent assurances of their distinguished consideration. Sometimes the arguments of the Whitechapel Club would be refuted, scorned or repudiated, but they were always accepted as genuine. – Lippincott’s.

Credit: The Quincy Whig, January 17, 1901, page 3



CHICAGO, June 4. – Chauncey M. Depew was entertained by the Whitechapel Club today. The Doctor was dragged from the Auditorium Hotel with Mr. Baillie, Mr. Depew’s companion on his Western trip. The clubrooms, fronting on an alley, wore a pleasant and homelike appearance. The gaslights were wagging in the skulls which are used as globes. The skeleton of a one-legged woman was wobbling from the ceiling in the most joyous manner imaginable. The President of the club was filling a corn-cob pipe out of a skull formerly used for other purposes by a Chicagoan named Roxy Brooks, when in stumbled the doctor on the pleasant scene.
He seemed to like it. He took off his glasses and stretched his legs under the table. "Doctor," said the little red-haired President, "were you in New York when that woman was murdered by a so-called Jack the Ripper?" "I was," replied the doctor.
"Then why did you not send some testimonial of that event to your club?"
The doctor bowed his head meekly and said: "It was a neglect of duty for which I beg your forgiveness. I shall make it my business when I return home to make the acquaintance in New York of the janitor of Bellevue Hospital, and through him in some measure atone for my fault."
The doctor was then presented with the skull of a cabman, and was told to present it at the door of the club whenever he wanted to be admitted. Other features of a grewsome nature followed.

Credit: The New York Times, June 5, 1891

A Secret Society Item.

Chicago has a curio in secret society organization. It is called the "Whitechapel club" and its president is regularly known as "Jack the Ripper."
The Whitechapel club is a semi-literary organization which a few months ago duly applied to the secretary of state for a license to incorporate, and with characteristic Chicago audacity handled in the name of Jack the Ripper as its president. The state authorities fell in with the humor of the thing and granted the incorporators a charter. If the redoubtable Ripper should ever turn up in Chicago, there exist no legal formalities against his taking the chair of an institution which has considerable assets and which perhaps has the queerest membership of all clubs in the world. Only two of a kind can belong to the Whitechapel club – two murderers, two singers, two hard drinkers, two infidels, two burglars – two anything, in fact – so that it’s range of eligibility to membership is indefinitely vast. But one black ball will exclude. It has several queer rules. While opposed to theft on general principles, it is permissible to steal for the benefit of the club, and anything that once gets into possession of the club is beyond the reach of the law. Around the long tables where the meetings are held every Saturday at midnight, continuing until daylight on Sunday morning, are placed at regular intervals human skulls. They are the club’s tobacco boxes. At the head of the board sits, week in and week out, an immense skeleton, whose grisly grin is inviting and whose fleshless hand grips tightly a stein of beer, anticipating a drink the delights of which are never to be realized by him. In the rear, near the window, is another grewsome guardian whose mortal mantle of flesh has long since departed.


Among the most prominent articles of vertu which decorate the rooms of the Whitechapel club are diverse skeletons dangling here and there on the walls; grinning skulls, each with its ghastly history; knives and pistols which have played parts in various famous crimes; a slipper, half filled with clotted blood, which was worn by the Chinese merchant recently murdered by Highbinders in San Francisco; the shackles which held Martin Burke during his little pleasure trip from Winnipeg, and dozens of other pieces of bric-a-brac quite as attractive in appearance as those already enumerated.
The club is formally incorporated under the laws of the state of Illinois. It was organized by certain frisky young newspaper men. They called a meeting, and after they had decided on the musical and suggestive name which the club now bears, they proceeded to the election of officers. In a spirit of gratitude to the man who has made Whitechapel famous enough to play godfather to such a distinguished organization, they elected Jack the Ripper president of the club. For some reason or other this gentleman has so far failed to appear at any of the meetings of the club, and, moreover, he has failed to even give the secretary his address. In these circumstances his duties have, of course, devolved upon the vice president.
The club is thoroughly democratic. It is asserted that "under the constitution two members of any profession may belong to the club – two bank presidents, two burglars, two preachers, two actors, etc. – and the ranks have been much increased by additions to membership under this rule."
Notwithstanding the blood curdling interior decorations and the skull and crossbones on the envelopes and letterheads, the Whitechapel club rooms make a very good place to visit for a person, particularly a newspaper man, who is looking for a crowd of jolly good fellows – fellows whose jollity has not been attained at the expense of their brains.
The idea is a unique one and has "caught on" with the "newspaper boys" of Chicago, and police officials and others have donated their collections to bring about the present picturesque appearance of the rooms.
Several artists have the honor of belonging to the club, and their membership is made apparent on the walls by portraits carefully drawn from fancy of the president of the club, and illustrations of incidents which, if he lives up to his reputation, could hardly fail to meet with his heartiest approval.
The accompanying cut is copied from The Chicago Tribune.

Credit: The Quincy Daily Herald, February 16, 1890, page 6

Does any part of this article or it’s accompanying photo remind you of anything pertaining to the Ripper case? (Hint: Ripper Letters)

Here is a picture of the club along with a few of its members (taken in the early 1890’s)
       Whitechapel Club
The Whitechapel Club, an offshoot of the Chicago Press Club, 1889-1895, named after the London district where Jack the Ripper operated.
Among the prominent members: Finley Peter Dunne (standing, right; Chicago Journal); Charles Seymour (seated, extreme left) and Brand Whitlock (seated, foreground right), both of the Chicago Herald.

Credit: International Press Club Of Chicago

A Unique and Pastoral Society Organized by Chicago Newspaper Men.

When a certain Chicago newspaper man went home not long ago there were five blood red finger marks on his shirt front. Had he made way with some rival journalist in his efforts to get a beat? Had he played leading man in some gory tragedy? Oh, no. He had simply been inititated into the mysteries of the Whitechapel Club.
The retreat of this society with a blood curdling nature is located in a grewsome alley, running from Fifth avenue to La Salle street, in the block between Madison and Washington streets, Chicago. It was once known as Gamblers’ alley. Should a stranger who was not posted blunder into the rooms of the Whitechapel club without some one to explain matters to him, he would probably decide that the alley should be named Horror Lane.

Source: The Auburn Bulletin, Friday February 14, 1890