Jack the Ripper and The Zodiac Killer: How the Media Made Them Famous


Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

In 1888, Jack the Ripper sent half of a kidney preserved in wine to the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and claimed to have eaten the other half. Jack the Ripper was the epitome of the grim reaper during the late 19th century of London. His five confirmed killings of prostitutes were extremely gruesome and have now been dubbed the “canonical five”. He operated in the poorest region of London-the Whitechapel District. 

In 1969 the Zodiac Killer sent a piece of one of his victim’s bloody clothes to the police. The Zodiac Killer operated during the 1960s of northern California. He also has five confirmed killings but has claimed to have killed thirty-seven people. His name was self made through different taunting letters sent to the press. The Zodiac’s case remains open today.

Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer are two of the most notorious serial killers. However, they would not be famous without the media’s consistent coverage, time period, and greed for money.

Jack the Ripper’s notoriety was due in part to his time period. During the 1890s in London, photography became popular. This revolutionary technology allowed people to document different aspects of life through photographs, including the gruesome victims of the ripper. It allowed the brutality of these savage murders to be revealed. 

These images were coupled with the morbid curiosity of the public because of the increase of literacy at the time, which encouraged journalists to write sensational stories about the ripper and make him well known throughout all of London. Newspaper sales skyrocketed in an effort to feed the publics’ morbid curiosity.

The Zodiac Killer had a similar path to fame. During the 1960s in America, there was political tension due to the Vietnam War, mass migration of young people to the west, and prevalence of psychedelic drugs on the west coast. California, the epicenter of all of this change, already had the attention of the media. This attention would be followed by the story of a serial killer who seemed like he could only be real in movies or books.

In addition, the Zodiac had a grip on the newspaper industry by threatening different publications to comply with what he told them to report. This allowed the Zodiac to become famous because the media would show the public anything the Killer wanted them to show. Through different ciphers and threats, the Zodiac gave the public something to fear, and the public became constantly on alert for updates. This also caused the sales of newspapers to rise tremendously.

Both of these influential serial killers would not still be talked about today if not for the overwhelming news attention. However, the path to making these killers famous proved to benefit both the newspaper company and the killer. The company was able to make huge profits while the killer enjoyed instilling terror in the public. 

Today, the news media has a major influence on what sticks in our brains. Most of the time, how the media chooses to portray an event has an effect on how we end up perceiving and understanding what is happening in the world. To a certain degree, the media can choose what we’re exposed to and help shape our opinions. If it was not for the media, we would not even know about Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer.