George Chapman’s imaginary childhood in America

Portrait of George Chapman
George Chapman (a.k.a., Seweryn Klosowski), Jack the Ripper suspect and convicted Borough Poisoner

In the Shadow of the Seven Stars
Hunting the Ripper

From the Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times, Australia
13 March 1903

Despite the fact that at the Southwark Police Court, George Chapman, who was identified by a Polish woman as her husband, Severino Klosowski, a Polish Jew, now declares that he is an American citizen, he denies that his name is Klosowski or that he ever resided in Warsaw. He first communicated by letter with the American authorities in London, stating that he is an American citizen, without living relative or friends, and asserting his innocence of all the crimes of which he is accused.

Subsequently he placed information in the hands of the American authorities to the effect that he was born in America. His father, he alleges, was born in England. Chapman has no witnesses to substantiate his story, and is even unable to remember the name of single person or family who is mentioned in what he sets forth as his life history.

13 O’Clock podcast episode discussing the George Chapman’s poisoning murders and some of the theories that support Chapman/Klosowsi being Jack the Ripper.

It is a remarkable story that Chapman recounts of his career. It was on a farm in near a small town in the State of Michigan, U.S.A., that thirty-seven years ago, he states, he was born. His mother died when he was bu eleven months old, and his father, who bore the name of Alfred Chapman and was a carpenter by trade, moved to New York, when Chapman was still a baby.

Chapman’s first recollection goes back to his sixth or seventh year. It was then that his father died, and though he remembers the incident of his death, his memory of his father is very vague. Most of his information on the subject of his parents was gathered from a German family in Hoboken, New York, in whose care he was left at the time of his father’s death.

This family kept a general and grocery store in what Chapman describes as the main road near the Hoboken ferry. Among other early memories are his duties as errand boy in this store, which he left to take a similar position in another German grocery store in Thirty-fourth street, New York City. Later he worked also as an errand boy at a grocery between Sixteenth and Eighteenth streets east. When 12 or 13 years of age Chapman fell in with an American who dealt in horses and lived in Jersey City Heights. He took employment with this man as a sort of general utility boy and hostler, and stayed with him for three or four years.

At first he enjoyed the work, as the man went about New York State trading and selling horses, an occupation which was productive of sufficient change to fascinate Chapman until the novelty wore off and he decided to learn hairdressing. He was by this time about sixteen years of age, and had had no schooling whatever. He had no knowledge of any living relatives, and had come to regard himself as the only member of his family left since his father’s death.

He started his hairdressing experiences in a shop in Ninth avenue, between Thirty-fourth and Fortieth streets, New York. This shop was owned by a German, whose Christian name – Friedrich – is all Chapman can recall. Here he remained for six months, and then went to another German barber in Fourteenth street west, where he stayed for a year. Later he worked for a barber whose shop was at the corner of Bleeker street and Seventh avenue.

Thus, we are told, he spent his young manhood. He did not drink or smoke, never went with any set companions, never frequented any particular places of amusement, and lived with private families, sometimes German, sometimes not. He formed no attachments, and had no close friends among either sex. Generally he went by the name of George Chapman, but on some occasions he used the name of Smith.

In addition to his work as a barber, Chapman sold such articles as appertain to the hairdresser’s business, and thus made some extra money. He was economical and saved all he could, and his expenses were of the lowest. One of the best known places in which he claims to have been employed was in Fulton street, just round the corner from Broadway. This was in 1890. The man a who kept this shop was, he states, a dark-complexioned German, short of stature.

In 1893, having gathered together some L300, Chapman decided to come to England. He crossed the Atlantic in a cattle-boat, the Westerland, he thinks her name was paying L2 and doing some odd work for his passage. Shortly after his arrival in London he attempted to return on the same boat, but was unable to do so, and before he found a way of getting back to America that suited him he was induced to invest his little capital and remain in this country.

Such is Chapman’s account of his life, and although he admits that the fact that he can remember no names is no inconsiderable bar to any substantiation of it, he asserts his confidence that if the story is given sufficiently wide publicity some of the people who knew him in America will come forward and prove its truth.

Chapman’s description is as follows: Age, 37; height, 5ft.5in;. weight, 10st. 31b; blue eyes, brown hair and heavy brown moustache; high and slightly receding forehead; nose slightly turned up, and features generally small. The American authorities have given Chapman to understand clearly that should he be found guilty of the commission of any crime in England the fact that he was born in the United States, and was therefore an American citizen, even if clearly proven, would have no effect whatever upon the course of justice. — “Daily Mail.”

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