Ecosystem lesson takes a walk on the wild side

Ecosystem lesson takes a walk on the wild side

The Millersburg Elementary fifth-grade students took a morning to go explore the woods and learn about nature during an ecosystem walk that included Paul the Bear.


In 1888 a series of gruesome murders were carried out in London, England. The perpetrator was given the pseudonym “Jack the Ripper.” The crimes remain unsolved to this day, and “Jack” was never identified. The stories were carried in newspapers worldwide, not withstanding Wayne County newspapers.

Local newspapers began paying attention to the serial murders when copycat crimes started taking place in the USA. New York City, for example, suffered a series of murders remarkably similar to those committed in England. Some newspapers of the time speculated the London and New York murders were committed by the same person. That has never been proven, but it sold newspapers. Fortunately, Wayne County was spared the worst of the serial criminal’s deeds, but that didn’t stop our local newspapers from cashing in on the notoriety.

Between 1902 and 1927, the Wooster Republican and the Wayne County Democrat reported occasional instances of a man in Wooster following women walking on a sidewalk at night. He would close the distance, and once close enough, he would lunge forward, grab the woman and hug her. Then he would disappear into the darkness. Both newspapers referred to him as “Jack the Hugger.” Most likely there were more than one responsible.

In 1899 Canal Fulton was besieged by a man seeking brief but affectionate rendezvous with a variety of women, young and old. As reported by the Stark County Democrat, the man first accosted a middle-aged woman, “prominent in church and society circles,” and while embracing her, he whispered in her ear, “Is that you, darling?” Upon releasing her, he disappeared into the night. The same man, it is assumed, performed his dastardly deed twice more in short order — once with two young school girls and a final time with a “plump, little maiden of about 18.” The newspaper named him “Jack the Hugger.”

In 1902 a New Philadelphia woman was walking home along Tuscarawas Avenue and was confronted by a man asking to walk with her. She refused and tried to get around him, but he blocked her. She was able to make her escape down Fair Street to safety. That same evening a young couple was walking along West Ray Street. In a dark spot, they were confronted by a man who, realizing the woman was not alone, apologized and disappeared into the night. The New Philadelphia Democrat and Times referred to the man as “Jack the Hugger.”

In 1896, as reported by the Wooster Republican, Blachleyville was troubled by a man who hid in the shadows, waiting for innocent maidens to come near to him. At once he would emerge from his hiding spot, grab the woman and kiss her. Once he had finished his deed, he dashed off into the night. It is not known if he was ever apprehended. The Republican referred to the perpetrator as “Jack the Kisser.”

In 1906 the Freedlander store in Wooster was the unfortunate recipient of damage from a vandal who would enter the store and secretly slash fine men’s clothing using a very sharp knife or a straight razor. This happened on at least four occasions, destroying men’s dress jackets and pants. Although a suspect had been identified, no evidence can be found that the culprit was ever brought to justice. The Wooster Republican tagged this criminal “Jack the Clothing Slasher.”

In 1908 Wayne County had an administration building in downtown Wooster. In front of that building was a public well, where Wooster visitors could quench their thirst. Back then there was a community tin cup. The custodians of the county building were responsible for the well and would inspect it daily.

One day the custodian noticed the cup had been punched through, so he replaced it. This repeated over the next couple of days. Before too long the commissioners complained about the persistent cost of cup replacement and demanded that it stop. At that point the custodian began taking the cups in at night. The perpetrator was never caught and became known as “Jack the Tin Cup Slasher.”

Clearly, the “Jack the Ripper” crimes in London have inspired other “Jacks” to become part of history. What is not clear is which came first, the criminal behavior or assignment of the name “Jack.”

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