FROM THE MORGUE
Copyright 2010 by William A. Mays, Proprietor
May 16, 1896
There is every reason to believe that when Warden Sage, of Sing Sing prison, gave the signal for the execution by electricity of Carl Feigenbaum he legally killed the man who was responsible, not only for the awful series of Whitechapel murders in London, but for similar butcheries in other parts of the country as well. The men who, as legal witnesses, saw him die, knew that the miserable, shambling old hulk strapped and trussed in the big oaken chair before their eyes like a sheep, had been convicted of plunging a murderous butcher-knife into the throat of Mrs. Julia Hoffman, a New York woman who had given him a room almost as an act of charity, and that the woman's son had witnessed her death. Among the group of witnesses in that dreary death-chamber was William Sanfor Lawton, the lawyer who for eighteen months had tried to save his client from death, and who had been the recipient of a confession of a most startling character. And it is this confession--which, by the way, had nothing whatever to do with the killing of Mrs. Hoffman--which serves to show that the man died only after a long and bloody career, and that in all probability it was he who for more than a year terrorized the Whitechapel district in London, and murdered twelve wretched women of the street.
The execution of the old man was very much like the other executions which preceded it. There was a crowd of doctors, newspaper men and lay witnesses. They assembled in the cozy office of Warden Sage and exchanged reminiscences of former "affairs" to while away that awkward half hour before they were summoned to the chamber of death.
Downstairs the decrepit, consumptive-looking old man, in list slippers and a nightcap, was responding to the exhortations of the priest or clutching wildly at his straggling gray hair in the ecstasy of despair. He had neither eaten nor slept in the last twenty-four hours of his life, and he looked more like a thing of the grave than a living being.
When the hands of the clock pointed to the fatal hour the witnesses sauntered down to the death chamber.
The witnesses sat on the little stools in a semi-circle, with the grim-looking death chair as a centre. A minute passed while the current was tested with the usual row of electric lights, and Warden Sage who, on these occasions, generally suffers more accutely than the despairing prisoner, went into Feigenbaum's cell.
All the manhood in the hapless fellow was roused at the sound of the summons. His crying and sobbing ceased. He stood up firm and erect as a dart. Something of the old fire with which he had marched twenty-six years ago up the hill at Gravelotte under the awful rain of bullets from the French entrenchments now possessed him. He strode forward without a tremor, actually ahead of the priest.
Unaided he stepped up to the chair, took off his glasses, kissed the crucifix and calmly sat down. Once or twice he mopped his clammy forehead with his handkerchief. The straps were binding him when he seized the Warden's hand and kissed it, saying:
"You have been good to this poor fellow, who had no other friend." A priest held the other hand, murmuring the prayer for the dying.
Feigenbaum looked up and around as the mask was put over his face to shut off his sight.
The crowd around the chair stepped back. The bound figure in it slid outward and upward with dreadful force, and Feigenbaum was dead. Eighteen hundred and twenty volts of electricity coursed through his body for two periods of five seconds each. But the first shock had carried out the behest of the law.
The first surprise came when the Warden announced that the dead man had left considerable property. It had always been supposed he was penniless, and that he killed Mrs. Hoffman for her money, but he not only left a house in Cincinnati, but money in the bank as well.
Then his lawyer spoke:
"I have a statement to make," he said, "which may throw some light on this case. Now that Feigenbaum is dead and nothing more can be done for him in this world, I want to say as his counsel that I am absolutely sure of his guilt in this case, and I feel morally certain that he is the man who committed many, if not all of the Whitechapel murders. Here are my reasons, and on this statement I pledge my honor:
"When Feigenbaum was in the Tombs awaiting trial I saw him several times. The evidence in his case seemed so clear that I cast about for a theory of insanity. Certain actions denoted a decided mental weakness somewhere. When I asked him point-blank, 'Did you kill Mrs. Hoffman?' he made this reply: 'I have for years suffered from a singular disease, which induces an all-absorbing passion; this passion manifests itself in a desire to kill and mutilate the woman who falls in my way. At such times I am unable to control myself.'
"In pondering over this statement of Feigenbaum's I began to wonder whether the sensation he described might not form an explanation of other cases. I already knew that he had been working for many years as fireman on the Atlantic liners, sometimes on the Bremen boats, sometimes on the White Star, and at others on the French and Inman lines. He ceased to follow the sea about six years ago.
"On my next visit to the Tombs I asked him whether he had not been in London at various times during the whole period covered by the Whitechapel murders. 'Yes, I was,' he answered. I asked him whether he could not explain some of those cases on the theory which he had suggested to me, and he simply looked at me in reply. When I asked him again whether he was or was not guilty of Mrs. Hoffman's murder, he said: 'I'll affirm when I go on the stand and God will believe me just as well.'
"You will remember the cases of murder and mutilation of women in Wisconsin some years ago. On the trial we had some evidence that this man had frequently been in Wisconsin. The long knife with which Mrs. Hoffman was killed, and the whetstone produced at the trial bore the marks of a Wisconsin firm at Madison, I think. These both belonged to Feigenbaum, and he had carried them for some time.
"Now we had no money and could not employ experts on insanity. To admit that Feigenbaum committed the crime in view of the motive alleged by the prosecution was fatal unless I had expert testimony to back it. And accordingly we went to the jury on the theory that Weibel, Feigenbaum's unknown companion, that night, had committed the murder."
In support of the remarkable theory set up by Mr. Lawton there are these facts:
The throat of Mrs. Hoffman had been gashed across again and again. Feigenbaum stood over her, with the bed-clothes pulled down and the knife upraised, so as to begin mutilation of the body, when young Hoffman awoke and saw him.
In every case of murder in Whitechapel the throat of the victim had been cut with a long, sharp knife, which might have been of the kind carried by Feigenbaum. In every case the body was horribly mutilated.
Feigenbaum admits that he was frequently in London at different periods during the time covered by the murders, which extended from 1887 until the summer of 1891. His description as he was seen yesterday fully answers that of the man seen with two of those unfortunates, Mary Jane Kelly and Elizabeth Stride. Only on these occasions was the Whitechapel murderer ever seen.
In the case of old Shakespeare, who was butchered in this city, the description of the man who went with her into the room in the East River Hotel corresponded with that of the Whitechapel mutilator. And Feigenbaum's appearance without his beard, which he occasionally wore, exactly corresponded with that description.
The testimony of the witnesses at the Inquest on the Whitechapel women and on Shakespeare agreed on this point, that the murderer spoke German or with a strong German accent, and seemed to belong to the sea.
The story is a most remarkable one, and it may be the famous Whitechapel fiend is dead.
The following article is from the long lost "Volume 68" of The National Police Gazette, and is only available through William A. Mays. It discusses in detail the execution of Carl Feigenbaum, a suspect in the Jack-the-Ripper case, and contains his lawyer's statement of his opinion regarding his client's guilt in that case.
|Feigenbaum, Executed at Sing
Sing, Had Been in London.
|HAD A MANIA TO SHED BLOOD
|Made a Startling Confession to His
Lawyer Before He Paid the Penalty.