With this “Extras” offshoot of his acclaimed “Dead Men Do Tell Tales Series,” author Troy Taylor expands on his more than three decades of research into American crime with a true, unsolved mystery from Atlanta in the early 1910s. During the decade that followed the first murder, more than 25 women became victims of a serial killer that would earn the name of the “Atlanta Ripper.” It became one of the most prolific murder sprees in American history and yet few people have heard about it. These savage crimes not only remain unsolved, but they are largely unknown more than a century later.
Why? That answer is both simple and tragic – because all the women were black.
At first, when young black and mixed-race women began showing up brutally slain, it wasn’t cause for much concern in the local newspapers. Circulated largely among white readers, and staffed exclusively by white reporters and editors, the three city newspapers were far more concerned about other things. Neither the press nor the police paid much attention, at least not as first.
But after one mutilated body after the next began to be found along streets and railroad tracks in the poor sections of Atlanta, they began to take notice. The press called the killer “Jack the Ripper,” ignoring the fact that the body count was four times higher than the original “Jack” who had wreaked havoc in the squalid alleys of Whitechapel in London in 1888.
As the body count continued to rise, terror rippled through the local black community. For years, young women were afraid to leave their homes after dark, and some feared to even walk the streets during the daytime. Black community leaders began to unite in their insistence that the Atlanta Police Department commit as many resources as possible to tracking down the killer – or killers – and bring an end to the murders.
But they were helpless to stop the slaughter. As months turned to years, the murders continued, although with less frequency as time passed. By the time it was over, two dozen women were dead, and their killer had vanished into history, leaving a mystery behind.
If you’re a fan of true crime shows, podcasts or stories (especially historical) I would recommend picking this one up. Taylor’s writing style is easy to read and follow, while delivering carefully researched accounts of what happened in Atlanta in the early 1900s. This book is not just about the brutal murders that were committed in Atlanta at the time (at least a number of them by the “Ripper”) but also about the ripple effects of the systemic and constant racism at the time, which really played a part in how these murders were handled by the press, those in authority positions and the differing reactions from the white and black communities respectively.