The Unexplained: Monster on the Streets of London

A poster advertising a documentary about the London Monste. It tells the story of the hunt for an eighteenth-century sexual psychopath that created one of the first media celebrities.

The Monster’s crimes were not deadly, but his deeds were almost as frightening to wealthy, fashionable ladies of London. 

The tale I am about to tell you is so bizarre and grotesque that it seems unbelievable.  I assure you it is true.  It is about a series of criminal events, attacks, that happened in London in the 1700s.

We humans are born with bodies and brains.  We have learned that in some individuals, the brains are missing a component, or in some individuals there seems to be something extra, undesirable, that the rest of us do not have.  It’s spooky.  This lacking, or extra component, no doubt, was a condition of the brain of the London Monster.

The man known as the London Monster did his peculiar deeds 100 years before Jack the Ripper had his short reign of terror.  The Monster’s crimes were not deadly, but they were almost as frightening to certain members of the female population of London.  A feeling of dread hindered going out on the street, even in broad daylight, in the middle of the day.

The macabre excitements began in 1788 and lasted until 1790.  A large man approached a wealthy, fashionable, lady pedestrian, a total stranger to him, and shouted a string of obscenities at her there on the street.  Then, with some fanfare, and a special little knife, he stabbed her in the backside.

Sara Marie Hogg

This was his usual modus operandi, as he darted out in extremely fashionable neighborhoods, on busy streets, and stabbed at least fifty well-to-do, stylish, women in the same manner.  Some were walking along chatting with friends when he did his evil deeds.

On some occasions, he was seen to have little knives fastened to his knees for extra insults.  There were a couple of events when he thrust forward a  bouquet to smell, and a little pick was hidden inside that pricked the woman face.

The London Monster occasionally stabbed the women on the thigh.  This was not only terrifying behavior, it was scandalous.  What was equally scandalous was that he could not be caught.  The brazen assailant was able to run off before any help could come to the aid of victims as they suffered with embarrassment and pain.

The London police force in the area , known as the Bow Street Runners, just could not catch the man.  Large rewards for his capture were put up in hopes it would speed his arrest.  The attacks were dramatized and sensationalized in the newspapers–often with lurid illustrations.

Women were terrified and apprehensive to go out and about, but they grew tired of staying home, so they began to think up creative ways to protect themselves.

Someone got the idea to wear a large copper pan as a sort of bustle, under the skirt.  It might deflect the blade of a knife.

Other women used domed pot lids in a similar fashion.

A cottage industry sprang up when craftsmen started making metal shields for women to wear over their petticoats and under their skirts.

Maybe it took so long to catch the attacker, because the descriptions of attackers were often very different.

Other criminal types were taking advantage of the situation.  They would pick a pocket, or snatch some street goods, then point and yell, “look, the Monster!”  When people turned to look they would run off with their freshly picked prizes.

On the 13th of June, 1790, a lady named Ann Porter was walking with her beau in St. James Park.  She spied the man who had attacked her on a previous outing.  She pointed him out to beau, John Coleman, and he began following the alleged attacker at a slow pace.

When the attacker reached his home, Coleman confronted him before could go inside.  He had insulted a lady, Colman accused the man.  Coleman was able to lead the attacker back to Ann Porter, who fainted at the very sight of him.

Was that proof enough?  He was taken before magistrates where he tried to give alibis for the attacks that were presented.  Some alibis seemed valid, but he did admit to tearing Porter’s dress.

The 23-year-old man, Rhynwick Williams was a florist who also made artificial flowers.  The panicked public demanded that he go to trial.  After a trial and retrial, he was sentenced to six years.

There is little doubt that some other nefarious characters were starting to do copycat crimes on the female population, but for the most part, the attacks stopped when Rhynwick Williams was incarcerated.  The copycat crimes had subtle differences.

Mysteries swirl about the London Monster’s crimes.  Rhynwick was vouched for, regarding some alibis.  Some women retracted their accusations.  Maybe they were embarrassed to testify.  Since John Coleman received some of the reward money for the capture of Williams, Ann Porter was accused of scheming to fake the attack, to split the reward money with Coleman.

Porter’s accuser was Irish Poet, Theophilus Swift, who had agreed to be Rhynwick’s defense attorney.  Even with all of these complications, there was enough evidence to send Rhynwick Williams to prison.  He did some of the crimes.

There have been plenty of misogynists in this world, but we must wonder what kind of childhood trauma happened to the London Monster to cause him to grow up with the desire to attack wealthy, stylish women.  And why on earth would he carry a special knife for the purpose of producing a backside injury?

Was it a psychological trauma, or did his compulsion just come out of the blue?

Please click HERE to find Sara’s mystery novel, Gris Gris, on Amazon.

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