A £100 Reward with Monstrous Repercussions
The attacks began in the spring of 1788 — four women’s skirts slashed, then all was apparently quiet until twelve months later when there was a series of eight assaults over the course of the year.
The attacks escalated on the night of the Queen’s birthday ball — 18 January 1790 — when six ladies had their frocks cut and hysteria gripped the city. From late January to 27 April 1790 a further thirteen women claimed that they were attacked by a ‘Monster’ who attempted to cut them or their clothing in some way.
In the spring of 1790, fifty-something year old businessman John Julius Angerstein became very interested in the Monster’s victims and took to interviewing those who complained of being assaulted to the newspapers.
He wrote down the details of each attack and described each lady and her clothing, noting that the Monster tended to strike attractive young ladies and expressing doubt about a victim’s story when she did not meet his standards of beauty.
Angerstein had his study published later in 1790 under the catchy title: An Authentic Account of the Barbarities Lately Practiced by the Monsters! Being an Unprecedented and Unnatural Species of Cruelty, Exercised by a Set of Men Upon Defenceless and Generally Handsome Women.
He published under the thinly veiled pseudonym J.J. Angresteen.
John Julius Angerstein, (Thomas Lawrence, 1790)
But Angerstein’s involvement did not stop there.
On 29 April 1790, he had posters pinned up around London promising a one hundred pounds reward, to be paid in two parts: fifty pounds for the capture of the villain and an additional fifty pounds for his conviction. The hysteria that had gripped London increased with the announcement of this considerable reward. Would a witness catch the Monster in the act and apprehend him? Or might an intrepid woman manage to disarm the Monster and bring him to justice? By the middle of June, one of the Monster’s victims claimed that she saw her attacker quite by chance on the street and sent her fiancé to apprehend him. Did Miss Ann Porter truly recognise the man who injured her or was the possibility of securing one hundred pounds too much to resist?
Public-Office, Bow-Street, Thursday, 29th April, 1790
One Hundred Pounds
Several LADIES having, of late, been inhumanly cut and maimed by a person answering the following description, whoever will apprehend him, or give such information to Sir Sampson Wright, at the above office, as may be the means of his being apprehended, shall immediately upon his committal to prison, receive fifty pounds from Mr. Angerstein of Pall Mall, and the further sum of fifty pounds upon his conviction.
N. B. HE appears to be about thirty years of age, of a middle size, rather thin make, a little pockmarked, of a pale complexion, large nose; light brown hair, tied in a queue, cut short and frizzed low at the sides; is sometimes dressed in black, and sometimes in a shabby blue coat; sometimes wears straw- coloured breeches, with half boots, laced up before: sometimes wears a cocked hat, and at other times a round hat, with a very high top, and generally carries a Wangee cane in his hand.
ALL servants are recommended to take notice that if any man has stayed at home without apparent cause, within these few days, during the daylight. All washerwomen and servants should take notice of any blood on a man’s handkerchief, or linen, as the wretch generally fetches blood when he strikes. All servants should examine if any man carries sharp weapons about him, and if there is any blood thereon, particularly tucks; and maid-servants are to be told that a tuck is generally at the head of a stick, which comes out by a sudden jerk. All cutlers are desired to watch if any man answering the above description is desirous of having his weapon of attack very sharp.