Robert Bloch’s Ripper—From Short Story to Star Trek Episode
A look at the short story and various
adaptations of “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”
report and analysis by David Eversole
If you have not read Robert Bloch’s classic 1943 short story, read it now. Don’t read it just because this article will spoil the story, read it because it’s a bloody classic! Pun intended. The story is published online here: Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Robert Bloch: Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (talesofmytery.blogspot.com)
John Carmody, a psychiatrist, is visited by an Englishman, Sir Guy Hollis, who believes that Jack the Ripper is alive and well and murdering in 1943, in Chicago, to be exact. Carmody is incredulous but hears Sir Guy out.
FROM THE SHORT STORY:
"I could show you clippings from the papers of half the world's greatest cities. San Francisco. Shanghai. Calcutta. Omsk. Paris. Berlin. Pretoria. Cairo. Milan. Adelaide.
"The trail is there, the pattern. Unsolved crimes. Slashed throats of women. With the peculiar disfigurations and removals. Yes, I've followed a trail of blood. From New York westward across the continent. Then to the Pacific. From there to Africa. During the World War of 1914-18 it was Europe. After that, South America. And since 1930, the United States again. Eighty-seven such murders — and to the trained criminologist, all bear the stigma of the Ripper's handiwork.
"Recently there were the so-called Cleveland torso slayings. Remember? A shocking series. And finally, two recent deaths in Chicago. Within the past six months. One out on South Dearborn. The other somewhere up on Halsted. Same type of crime, same technique. I tell you, there are unmistakable indications in all these affairs — indications of the work of Jack the Ripper!"
When Carmody asserts that the Ripper would at the very least be well into his 80s, Sir Guy theorizes that he could be a sorcerer, or one who has been making sacrifices based on an astrological cycle in order to remain young. And he will kill again in two days if Doctor Carmody doesn’t help find him.
Sir Guy has learned that Carmody moves amongst an intelligent, but eccentric circle--writers poets, painters—“the lunatic fringe of the near north side.” Exactly the type of people the Ripper is attracted to, Hollis says.
Despite his misgivings, John Carmody introduces Sir Guy Hollis to his friends at a party. They openly scoff at the pistol-carrying man but finally agree to a test. Sir Guy will turn out the lights for one minute to see if the Ripper strikes. He does so, someone screams and Carmody says he felt something brush his face. Something thuds on the floor, and the lights are turned back on. Hollis is lying on the floor, unmoving. They are sure he is dead, but suddenly he smiles, jumps to his feet.
The Ripper must not be amongst Carmody’s eccentric friends, Hollis says, otherwise he’d really be dead.
The following night, the night of the predicted murder, Sir Guy talks John into wandering the Chicago back streets, looking for the Ripper. Hollis finally reveals what is driving him. His mother was one of the prostitutes killed by Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel, London, in 1888. His father accepted him as his son and they both began tracking the Ripper. His father was killed in Hollywood, California, in 1926, stabbed by an unknown assailant the police report said, but Guy Hollis knows who killed him.
They stop at a bar for drinks, and John convinces the drunken Hollis to allow him to carry his loaded revolver. As they wander the streets, Hollis becomes more alert.
FROM THE SHORT STORY:
"Let me carry the gun, now, John," he mumbled.
"All right," I said.
I reached into my coat, brought my hand out.
"But that's not a gun," he protested. "That's a knife."
I bore down on him swiftly.
"John!" he screamed.
"Never mind the 'John,'" I whispered, raising the knife. "Just call me . . . Jack.”
Short, sweet, and the ending was not as cliched in 1943 as it might read in 2022. It was adapted to radio several times. Here is the February 27, 1945 “Mystery Playhouse” version (with unnecessary tacked on extended ending): Mystery Playhouse – “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” by Robert Bloch – Tangent Online
The television series THRILLER (1960-1962, hosted by Boris Karloff) adapted the story as Season One, episode 28, on April 11, 1961. John Williams played Scotland Yard psychologist (and Ripper expert) Sir Guy Hollis. Donald Woods as American police psychologist Dr John Carmody. At an hour’s length it is somewhat padded, and would have worked much better as an episode of, say, “The Twilight Zone” or “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” but, as directed by actor Ray Milland, it is a very stylishly shot fog-filled black and white noir. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hL1q8IgcBk&t=84s
Bloch only drew on the basic plotline that the Ripper was seemingly ageless for his Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold.” Redjac, there, is an alien entity, not a man committing murders in the thrall of Black Magic. The most notable similarity is between the minute of darkness at the party and the séance scene in the episode.
The story lists cities where Jack has killed. The episode does as well, and adds a few planets:
On Earth and Mars:
1888: several women as Jack the Ripper
1932: Seven women in Shanghai, China
1974: Five women in Kiev, USSR
2105: Eight women in the Martian colonies
Outside Sol system:
2156: Ten women in Heliopolis on Alpha Eridani II
Interim: several women (as "Kesla") on Deneb II.
2266: several women (as "Beratis") on Rigel IV
2267: several women (in the form of Hengist) on Argelius II
Finally, a comic book adaptation was released in 1972 and can be found here: Diversions of the Groovy Kind: Scarier than Doing Your Taxes Week! (P)Raising Kane: "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper!" by Bloch, Goulart, Kane, and Reese
ROBERT BLOCH (1917-1994): Truly legendary writer of horror, fantasy and science fiction, who is undoubtedly best remembered for his novel Psycho, filmed by the equally legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in 1960. Bloch wrote over 200 short stories ("Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper" is constantly reprinted), twenty-two novels, and dozens of teleplays, and film scripts, including episode for Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I Spy, Night Gallery, Tales of the Unexpected and Tales from the Darkside.
For Star Trek, Bloch wrote "What Are Little Girls Made Of?," "Catspaw" (loosely based on his short story "Broomstick Ride") and "Wolf In The Fold." More on Robert Bloch can be found at http://mgpfeff.home.sprynet.com/bloch.html. There is also an interview with Robert Bloch available on this website: An Interview with Robert Bloch and David Gerrold.