Jack the Ripper suspect Francis Tumblety once lived in Hamilton


Published April 21, 2023 at 3:35 pm

francis tumblety hamilton
Jack the Ripper suspect Francis Tumblety, seen here in 1870, reportedly lived in Hamilton.

Jack the Ripper suspect Francis Tumblety lived a turbulent life that took him on the road living in communities in the United States, England and Canada – including Hamilton for a short time.

Well before the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888, Tumblety had established himself as an “Indian Herb Doctor” who offered cures for a wide array of afflictions.

Known as a “quack” doctor and con artist, Tumblety lived or stayed in Hamilton in 1856, according to Hamilton Tourism.

There are differing reports on Tumblety’s early life. Some reports say he was born in Ireland in 1833, and others suggest he was born in Canada or the U.S. He appears to have grown up in Rochester, New York but left home when he was just 17 years old and didn’t return for 10 years.

Tumblety appears to have had no formal medical education despite the label doctor, according to a study from Saint Mary’s University.

And while it’s not clear how long he lived in Canada, advertisements offering his services printed in many newspapers, including Hamilton, indicate he travelled extensively around southern Ontario in 1856 and 1857.

francis tumblety hamilton

An ad for Dr. Tumblety’s “Pimple Banisher” from a Washington newspaper in 1862.

The book A Few Passages in the Life of Dr. Francis Tumblety, The Indian Herb Doctor, published in 1866, by Tumblety details his work as a “doctor” and includes testimonials from Hamilton residents.

One resident of Ancaster supposedly wrote that she was cured of cancer in 1856.

“I had a cancer on my lip for nineteen months,” Eliza Duffy wrote. “I spent much time and money in the use of the most popular medicines, and the practice of physicians, but to no avail.”

Duffy then says she used two bottles of Dr. Tumblety’s medicine and was eventually cured.

francis tumblety hamilton

On July 18, 1856, Miss. B. Ready praised Tumblety for restoring her “to perfect health” after an illness reduced her to “a mere skeleton.”

Ready said she visited Tumblety at the Burlington Hotel in Hamilton.

francis tumblety hamilton

Tumblety didn’t stay long in Ontario. He was in Montreal by 1857 and New Brunswick by 1860.

In Montreal, he was reportedly arrested on Sept. 23, 1857, on the charge of attempting to induce a miscarriage. Police alleged he sold sex worker Philorntme Dumas a box of pills and a bottle of liquid for $20 in cash. He was released and left Montreal.

A patient who took Tumblety’s herbal medicine died in New Brunswick in 1860, and he fled for the United States.

The infamous murders in London happened nearly 30 years later. Serial killer Jack the Ripper is believed to have murdered at least five women in or near the Whitechapel district of London’s East End between August and November 1888.

Tumblety was in London in 1888 and he did face gross indecency charges at the time.

Chief Inspector John Littlechild, head of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, who wasn’t directly involved with the case, considered Tumblety a suspect in the Whitechapel murders.

In 1993, retired Suffolk Constabulary police officer and crime historian Stewart P. Evans found a private letter dated from Littlechild revealing Tumblety was an important suspect after the Mary Kelly murder.

There were also reports that Tumblety had a collection of uterus specimens, and he exhibited “extreme misogyny.”

After getting out on bail from the gross indecency charges, Tumblety left London and ended up in New York.

Some of Tumblety’s acquaintances in London allegedly thought he was the killer. But his New York landlady told the New York Herald: “Dr. Tumblety…is a perfect gentleman. He wouldn’t hurt anybody.”

The Jack the Ripper murders remain unsolved.

Tumblety died of heart disease in St. Louis on May 28, 1903.

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