Monday, May 21, 2012


In the year 1888 the Whitechapel district of London was being terrorized by a brutal serial killer preying on prostitutes, who are among the most vulnerable among us. The unknown murderer was called Jack the Ripper. Other nicknames included "The Whitechapel Murderer" and "Leather Apron." He was never apprehended.
Some fourteen years later, in 1914, New Orleans had its own version of the miscreant who was running around the city terrorizing schoolgirls, albeit not as brutally. The following report appeared in the New Orleans States:

           Three New Orleans girls have fallen victim to Jack-the-Clipper, who
            was abroad Friday, snipping the plaited locks of young schoolgirls.
            Many other girls were said to have lost their hair, but are suppressing
            it because of the resultant unpleasant notoriety. Superintendent
            Reynolds has detailed special officers to watch for the miscreant,
            who has been operating mostly on street cars and in moving-picture
            It is not thought that any hair dealers are guilty, for the tresses were 
            slashed but a few inches from the end, while the guilty parties had an
            opportunity of cutting off two or three feet of hair.

One week later the same newspaper reported this story:

           Since stories have begun to appear in the papers regarding the
           unmentionable thief who has been cutting off hair, New Orleans girls
           have come to realize that they wear wealth on their heads. Not only
           that, but they are taking great pains to guard it.
           A chattering group of school girls boarded a car Thursday at the
           corner of the Sophie B. Wright High School. Thick braids of black,
           brown and golden hair hung down their backs. As soon as they had
           found seats, giggling stopped long enough for them to reach round
           with the trained precision of a comic opera chorus and bring their
           braids to the front and tuck them carefully in the front of their coats.
           One whose hair wasn't long enough to reach worked with her
           refractory curls until she had them all safely tucked from sight in
           the crown of her hat.

His fetishism apparently satisfied, Jack-the-Clipper disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared on the scene. However, during the years 1921 to 1923 a new epidemic cropped up. Bobbed hair was coming into fashion. This new evildoer invaded boudoirs and lopped the tresses into rough-cut bobs. It should be noted here that the victims were all young women who wanted nothing more than to be "thoroughly modern," but who had been forbidden to adopt the new style by old-fashioned  parents or husbands. Perhaps feminism was alive and well in the earlier part of the last century. And maybe Jack-the-Clipper was a convenient scapegoat .

I found this charming little story in Gumbo Ya-Ya: Folk Tales of Louisiana.

Writing Prompt:
What is the worst thing you would do if you knew you could get away with it? Write about it.


  1. Your posts intrigue me. I really like that you include a little writing assignment at the end of each. Maybe visiting your blog will inspire me to pick up a pen and writing journal again and see what happens.

    1. That prompt at the end was an idea I came up with in the class we just took. I need to try them out myself. Good luck.

  2. Fascinating. Wonder what happened to Jack the Clipper. :)