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Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Jack the Ripper and Vincent Van Gogh were all active in the fall and winter of 1888. How strange is that — coincidence? What a famous bunch of cut-ups all doing pretty much the same thing at the same time. Here it is some 121 years later and those folks are still famous for their sharp “wits”. Van Gogh used his upon himself and cut off his left ear and gave it to a hard-working girlfriend Rachel for a Christmas present. Now that’s a weird gift to find under your tree! It’s perhaps the most memorable thing Van Gogh ever did in the public’s mind, even though it’s his marvelous emotionally vibrant paintings which interests the more artistically inclined. Clearly this self-mutilation was an intentional act because one’s ears don’t tend to just suddenly drop off for no reason at all. If Vincent didn’t want the event to be noted and remembered he wouldn’t have given the ear to another person but just tossed it into the garbage or maybe a fish pond. Or alternatively perhaps, being an artist, to have incorporated it into his painting, to have physically stuck the ear under the bandage in his famous self portrait with the bandaged ear. That would also be memorable and certainly increase the present value of the painting. Some people would love the yuck factor and pay a lot of money to have a real piece of and by Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh painting with bandaged earVan Gogh self portrait with bandage. His ear went to Rachel.

The Dracula story is a little different but it was dated to that same time period, although the book about Dracula’s bloody activities in the East End of London weren’t published for another decade. But the events do have similar plot twists of bloody bodily mutilation about the neck with a sharp object, in this case a bit lower than the ear but also with a seeking for immortality and a lust for acknowledged fame but also without the usual human need for monetary compensation.

How similar this set of motivations is to Jack the Ripper’s. In his case the identity of the blood-letting, the cutting person, must remain secret or he will be prosecuted and executed.  For Jack, that would be carrying his little joke a bit too far, but clearly he wants to be famous and immortal. That motivation is indicated not only by his horrific actions but by his taunting of the police, and the newspapers and the public and making it into a rollicking good story. Ha Ha. He challenges all of them to try and prevent him from using his sharp little knife to strike again and again at women’s throats and other personal parts. The police were helpless. The newspapers were shown to be disgusting exploiters of the public’s emotional weakness. The public is terrified! They are all helpless pawns, victims of this exploitation — and they know it.

Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character like Dracula, seems unrelated until you notice that the very first word of this entire canon of sixty stories is pictured in the word Rache which is linked early in the story by the not too bright police detective to the word Rachel. The first edition of the book Study in Scarlet was in the bookstores at the same time these other events were in play. The blood on the wall forming the word Rache was taken from the slashed throat of the victim, Enoch (John) Drebber — Jack the Ripper was slashing throats for his Rache at the same time. And so was Vincent for his Rachel.

121 years later and all of these very similar events have never been repeated so dramatically and yet in a short time, in the fall of 1888, they all were purported to have happened. It appears there was some sort of tangled skein woven into a doilie linking them all together. But what could those strings be and can they be discovered and proven after more than a century of perplexed years later. I will prove they can.

Keep your eye out and see what you can see.