The Unexplained: What did he know about Jack the Ripper?
April 18, 2020
Did he have Jack the Ripper committed to an insane asylum under an assumed name?
In recent years, the town of Hinckley, England, in Leicestershire commemorated one of its obscure sons to semi-prominence. The Hinckley Civic Society has had one of its familiar round, blue, plaques made up, with a name in relief. It is Robert James Lees, 1839-1931. It further states that Lees was an author, journalist, philanthropist, and spiritualist. He was also a Congregational minister.
When Lees was a two-year-old tot living with his family on Upper Bond Street there in Hinckley, he became rudely awakened by his spiritualist powers for the first time. He had been born there in 1839. It was the only home he had known thus far in life.
When the plaque was dedicated, the treasurer of the Hinckley Civic Society, Greg Drozdz, described Lees as a fascinating character—one who had many important ties to the area.
The plaque was attached with the permission of the current owner of the building which had been Robert James Lees’ birthplace and early home. The owner of the building is also the owner of the adjacent pub, The Queen’s Head Pub. The Hinckley Civic Society had been raising plaques to honor its most prominent citizens of the past. They are hoping to establish role models for the area’s young people.
When Lees found out he was psychic, he could not keep himself from being interested in and developing his abilities further. He was eventually so highly thought of as a psychic medium that he was consulted by Queen Victoria with regular appointments. He was also a consultant to Scotland Yard—they were at first reluctant.
These last two developments are juicy in themselves, but what makes them more titillating, is that Lees was doing this consulting during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. Bizarrely and largely unknown, it seems there was an actual arrest made in the Whitechapel Murders in 1888, and it is said that Robert James Lees, clairvoyant, was instrumental in bringing the suspect to apprehension.
Lees is given at least a small paragraph in most books about Jack the Ripper and he is characterized in several Ripper Movies as a small side story. He is well-known among devout Ripperologists.
Lees was living in London when the Whitechapel Murders began happening. There was a break in the murders in the month of October and Lees was getting such strong vibes that he went to Scotland Yard to offer his help. He had also offered similar help to The City of London Police.
Both organizations gave him a polite brush off. They promised to drop him a note if they thought they could use his help. Behind his back, they hinted he was balmy, no doubt. The offer of help was not on a whim. Lees had been receiving vibrant visions of the murders before they happened. The visions drove him to distraction and frustrated him because he could do nothing. He felt drawn to go live in London, and when he did, the visions stopped.
One day, Lees and his wife were riding on a London omnibus. Lees whispered to her that one of their fellow riders was indeed, Jack the Ripper. The vibes were overpowering. When the man got off, Lees told his wife to stay put on the omnibus and go home. He would follow the man. He got up and left. During the pursuit, Lees chanced upon a policeman and tipped him off about his mission.
Again, he was brushed off by an officer of the law. Lees continued. When the man went home and was inside, Lee made note of all he could—then, he did further research about the man who lived there. The man was a prominent physician and had even treated members of the royal family. If his identity were learned, it would be a big scandal. Lees was able to get someone at Scotland yard to finally listen to him, but now, all who were involved had to proceed with a secret mission.
Dr. Benjamin Howard, a prominent West End physician, had to commit one of his own eminent fellows to an insane asylum—Islington Asylum. They gave the asylum resident a fake name, Thomas Mason. Then a fake death was arranged for the committed man and he was laid to rest with dignity in an equally fake ceremony too.
The committed doctor had often practiced at Guys Hospital where he was unkind to the animals in the lab. His wife could not reconcile his moods of cruelty. He was so nice at other times, but she knew. She knew he was off, but was frightened and did not know what to do. He was a true Dr. Jekyll and Hyde.
Robert James Lees was a modest man and did not ever seek attention for himself. He truly wanted to help. It is rumored that he was awarded a life pension for maintaining his secrecy about the whole episode. He died at his home, Hazelhurst on Fosse Road, South Leicester. He was 81 years old. That would be the end of it if a Chicago newspaper had not printed a story about Lees’ doctor visions.
Who was the eminent doctor who was incarcerated in Islington Asylum? There was no doubt that he was dangerously insane at that period of his life, but was he Jack the Ripper? There are over one hundred candidates for that dubious distinction, including several doctors, the most famous being the physician, Sir William Gull. Will we ever know the answer? There are many Ripperologists who believe Robert James Lees’ candidate is the real deal, the Ripper. They have speculated and think they know his name. What do you think? You can hear a recording of Lees’ actual voice on some BBC sites about the spiritualist. –SMH
Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.