My favorite thing to do on the internet is those item search games. You know, those ones that give you a list of miscellaneous things, like a used match, a flashlight, a lawn chair, a flamingo, a blanket, and a coffee cup, and you have to look through this impossibly detailed scene to find them.
I think they’re known around the internet as Hidden Object Games. There are some pretty good ones, but most of them are just amusing distractions. I pirate them all, because I am not paying twenty dollars for some glorified and extended Where’s Waldo for the PC. I don’t feel bad. People buy them on the internet, and they should know that most people would pirate their games anyway.
My favorite was this one called The Murders of Jack the Ripper. My mother bought it for me when I was younger. You play Inspector Abberline trying to solve the cases, or a madam named Black Alice if you choose to play as a female, and you play through the investigation, locating all the bodies of the victims. Each crime scene was a Hidden Object Scene, you see, so there are about twenty victims of the murders. Emma Smith, Martha Tabram, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Kelly, Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles, Marie Suttman, and others.
I can’t remember all of them; it’s been about five or six years since I played it. I used to play it in high school, before I got out to college and learned of the internet. I haven’t really had time to play them since. This was also in the early 2000s, when the internet was less prominent, and what guides one could find either had to be printed out or saved as a document. I didn’t have my own computer until I went to college, which I bought with my graduation money, so I couldn’t save any of the guides, or the game.
During the game, you have to find all the different clues that will lead you to his layer, where he’s being tortured by this thing, this giant, six foot, winged creature in a robe. She has white blonde hair covered up by a blue robe, and she has this smile on her face.
I can’t exactly describe it. It’s not too wide, but the more I stared at it, the more uncomfortable I became, and the more the smile seemed to widen. She wears a blue dress that resembles a ball gown, which poofs out at the bottom. Her skin is almost entirely covered by this dress, and I’m not sure exactly how the wings, which must be attached to her back, can exist at all with that dress on, but whatever, it’s a video game.
The things that she actually does to Jack in the game’s final scene changed depending on how many Secret Items you found. They were little artifacts that showed up briefly during the Hidden Object Scenes, like Emma Smith’s Hairpin or Mary Kelly’s Garter, stuff like that, and they were completely separate from the ten objects required to finish a murder scene. Once you found all ten objects, your chances at getting the Secret Item were gone forever (for that playthrough). There were a few checkpoints at five Secret Items, ten, fifteen, twenty, and the hidden object, twenty one. No matter how I tried, no matter how hard I looked, I could never find more than twenty. I have no idea what it was or who it belonged to, though the only major character missing in the game was Jack, so my guess would probably be that it was Jack’s Knife.
I went away to college and learned how to use the internet. It’s a wonderful thing, no? I taught myself the proper way to do Google searches and stuff, and I forgot about the game for a while. I met a girl, got married, danced with my mom at my wedding, walked down the aisle to Pachabel’s Canon, and eventually, my wife and I bought a house. We had some wedding gifts to furnish it, but we had little to no food at the time, and less money, so we’d do a lot of shopping at Walmart. This was how I was reminded of the game again. They were selling it in a bargain bin for five bucks, and I decided what the hell, I’d get it. Normally, I buy myself some sort of treat, like a bag of Doritos or a box of gourmet popcorn, but this time, I bought myself the game instead. My wife rolled her eyes and muttered something about video games being my “other woman”, and then she kissed me on the cheek.
I didn’t play it immediately when I got home, but tomorrow was my day off, my wife had to go work at the hospital that night and wouldn’t be home again until around 3AM, and so I decided to relieve my high school years just a little bit. When I booted up the game, I put my name in the game and it opened to the title screen. It was just the words THE MURDERS OF JACK THE RIPPER scrawled in red font that looked like blood across the top of the screen. Underneath was a dark, foggy alleyway with a mysterious figure walking towards the camera. Pretty standard fare, really, nothing too remarkable. I booted the game up and started on the first level.
The first scene played out as I expected. The first murder was of Emma Smith, a prostitute who was murdered in a dingy Whitechapel alleyway. Yeah, this game had you investigating the brutal murders of prostitutes and showed quite a bit more than most casual games can get away with. You can bet it was pretty controversial in the HOG community, and few copies were made. That’s probably why so few people have heard of it. I found her Secret Item and solved her murder, and moved onto the next character. The game proceeded in this fashion for a while, although the murder scenes got more gruesome with each killing.
The next notable killing came about four entries in, when you find a girl murdered outside of Black Alice’s mansion. The blood scrawled across the wall said:
“YOU SHALL PAYE FOR THE SINS OF YOUR FOREFATHERS”
Below it was the body of Mary Ann Nichols. She had a scarf covering up her neck, and although her clothes were tattered, they were quite detailed.
Even as a youngster, I knew that they wouldn’t show any blood in the game, so I figured that the scarf was probably to cover up where her throat had been cut. It was pretty gruesome for a genre of gaming that was mostly about ghosts and haunted houses. I found all the objects and then proceeded to the dialog scene, where Inspector Abberline and Black Alice discussed how they would need to track down Jack or die trying! Most of the dialog proceeded in this fashion. It was a Hidden Object Game, and the scripts for those kinds of games were usually pretty generic.
They proceeded in this fashion for several more murders, each one requiring me to secure the murder scene by finding ten items around the bodies, one that was related to the case and nine others that weren’t. Then the game would automatically tell you which one was related to the murder and it would be shoehorned into the next dialog scene somehow.
One of them was a piece of a broken mirror, which identified the victim as Mary Ann Nichols. After a few rounds, you could pretty much tell which items were going to be the special items. When the items you’re searching for consisted of a broken chair, a mug, a lighter, a pince nez, and a bonnet, you can pretty much assume the bonnet is the item in question, and that it will belong to the victim.
The next notable murder was the so-called ‘double event’, the murders of Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Each player character was sent to one murder scene, so you could only play through one at a time. This was what tripped me up: I always played as Abberline, since I’m a guy and didn’t want to play as the girl character, so I only saw Black Alice’s investigation scene once to get the item.
The Secret Items here were Caronline Eddowes’ Ring and Liz Stride’s Pendant; Abberline gets Caroline Eddowes and Black Alice gets Liz Stride. I did it again this game, solved the case, and continued along the path. Black Alice and Abberline questioned whether this meant the Ripper was slowing down or not, and Black Alice ran to confront her friend, Mary Kelly. You can probably tell where this is going. The characters and story geared up for the climax, and I had to go investigate the murder of Mary Kelly.
Mary Kelly’s death was always my favorite. I have no idea about Jack the Ripper lore, so all I had to go on was that Johnny Depp movie. I guess the real Mary Kelly died, even though the one in the movie lived. Hollywood never gets things right. She dies in this game too, and it was my favorite because she always looked so… peaceful. She’s splayed over the bed, looking like she’d been poisoned or she’d died in her sleep. I picked up her Garter off the floor, finished the scene, and was about to finish the game.
It was then, right before the final scene, when I decided to check my achievements. The game keeps track of how quickly you solved your murders, and if you can solve a scene under two minutes or over ten, it awards you a badge. If you activate a special scene between Black Alice and Mary Kelly, it awards you a badge. I ended up with most of the badges, but I noticed the one I was missing was the Secret Item Achievement, as I only had nineteen out of twenty one. I knew exactly where the last item was: Frank Abberline’s Notepad was found in Jack’s loft after you find Mary Kelly. The final Hidden Object Scene was searching Jack’s loft after you find out who he is, some supporting character whose name is also Jack or something.
I searched on Google for a guide to the game. Curiously, I found very few of them, and very little information on the game at all. Nowadays, Hidden Object Games have walkthroughs on the official websites in case people are having trouble. It didn’t even have an entry on Gamefaqs. All I was able to find was a message board with some generic tips for Hidden Object Games, like “Find the objects before time runs out!” or “Use your hints!”, which were not helpful and kind of insulting.
There was one site that was helpful. It activated Norton’s security alarms, but I turned them off because just about every pirate site I visited set off the damn things. It was a message board that looked suspiciously like Game FAQs, but was something else. Most of the people weren’t helpful, spewing the same garbage as the rest of the internet, but there was one post that struck my attention. It said the following, and nothing else:
Do not play this game. If you bought it, return it. If you pirated it, delete it. It doesn’t look evil, but it is. I know how that sounds, I really do, but this game is evil. Don’t play it.
I was struck by how odd this was. Why would someone be this averse to playing a game? I’d heard rumors around the internet about things like BEN DROWNED and all the various haunted Pokémon cartridges, and I liked some of those stories, but that’s all they are. I don’t believe for a second that the games are actually haunted.
I tried not to think about it anymore. Someone posted below the comment with another. It was almost as short, but it actually told me how to get what I wanted. He said it was obtained by clicking on the hand of the blue angel creature that is not holding the knife. This didn’t make much sense, as the creature’s other hand is behind her dress, but I thought I’d try it anyway. I booted the game back up, and let the scene play out as normal, and the final scene played. Abberline and Black Alice had tracked the Ripper to his hideout, and he was about to be unmasked.
Of course, they didn’t find him, just an empty apartment. I played through the hidden object scene and got the Notebook like usual. Abberline and Black Alice proceeded into the bedroom, where they saw the blue angel creature hunched over Jack’s unconscious body. She held the knife in her right hand, above her head. The left hand, which was furthest from me, was behind her dress.
While the dialog played – something generic where Abberline and Black Alice talked about how afraid they were of the angel thing – I followed the path the left arm should take down to the hand, and clicked. The standard ‘You have found a Secret Item!’ window popped up, and I saw the Secret Item I’d been missing this whole time.
The Secret Item that the game awarded me was Jack’s Heart.
Jack’s Heart was disturbingly well-rendered. For a game that featured nothing but two dimensional portraits that never move throughout the entire game, having a realistic rendering of a heart that was actually beating made me feel a little uncomfortable. The blood from the heart dripped down over the text and the OK button for the dialog. After I accepted it, the game showed me a black-and-white photo of a woman lying dead under a sheet. Her head was facing towards me, and her nose and breasts had been cut off. Her leg had been cut open, and the sheet was dark with what I assumed to be blood. It was incredibly unnerving. It stayed open for an uncomfortable amount of time.
After that image faded from the screen, Jack was on-screen with the blue angel creature. She was holding the knife that he used to kill his victims, and the image showed her about to lower it down into him. Jack was looking directly at me, a look of abject terror on his face. He seemed to be pleading for help. The screen cut to black. I stared at it for a good ten minutes, not knowing what was going on, but I did know one thing: I was shaken.
I began to do some research on Jack the Ripper, and by that, I mean I Googled his name. He only had five official victims: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. The rest are suspect. Since this game had about much more victims than five, it must have used some of the non-canonical victims, as they’re called. I found out a lot of interesting things, like that about half the victims were invented solely for the game, but many of them were murders that were often connected to Jack, even though nothing could be proved. Black Alice was also a totally original character, probably made to appease feminists or appeal to gamer girls or something.
I had to play through the game again. It would take me another three or four hours, and my wife would need to sleep when she got home, but I couldn’t stop. I had the sudden desire to play through the game one more time. I don’t know why, but I had this feeling that something different would happen this time. If I played through the game again after getting all the Secret Items, I felt like something else would happen. I couldn’t be sure what it was, but the feeling was stronger than anything I’d ever felt in my life.
I booted up the game, and right away, I knew something was different. The game was now called THE MURDER OF JACK THE RIPPER instead of murders, plural. The font color was now green, and it was now in a smoother, cursive font instead of the angular, jagged letters I remembered. The title screen no longer showed the shadowy figure walking through the mists, but rather the side character who turned out to be the Ripper kneeling before an altar in prayer. He looked incredibly disturbed. I clicked on the ‘New Game’ option and started playing.
The game opened with the investigation of Emma Smith’s body again, but this time, I could see quite a bit more of her. Her torso had been sliced open, her eyes gauged out, and her tongue split in half. Instead of finding generic items like matches and statuettes, I had to find her organs. Her small intestine, dismembered nose, eyeballs, and several fingers replaced the harmless items from before. After the murder, Black Alice and Abberline appeared on the screen once more. Instead of the generic dialog they used to have upon meeting each other, she told him that the Ripper was probably too smart for him to catch. I knew the ending was supposed to change if you got all twenty-one Secret Items, but not this.
The next four murders got more and more graphic like before, but this time, Emma Smith had set the bar much, much higher. I still had to find the pieces of the victims’ bodies, but they’d escalated to decapitated heads and whole arms instead. By the time Mary Ann Nichols came around, her neck was no longer covered by a scarf. I could see the cut on her throat that had killed her. She was lying in a pool of her own blood. Her clothes were soaked in it, and they were even more tattered than I remembered. I still had to find the shard of mirror that belonged to the victim, although there was no Secret Item to collect this time.
Instead of talking about how they were going to track down Jack or die trying, Abberline and Black Alice were shown kissing. She asked him about his wife, and he told her not to worry about his wife. I shifted in my seat. Abberline’s back was to the screen, and Black Alice was facing me. The smile on her face looked too wide to be real. She was holding him around his waist, and was squeezing him a little too tight.
I couldn’t stop playing this game. I had to see how it would end. I had to see what this new information was all leading to. The game kept proceeding until the double event, but this time, the bodies were both investigated by Abberline. Black Alice was nowhere to be seen. Both women were mutilated beyond belief, and resembled the autopsy photos I found while doing research on the real Jack the Ripper with frightening detail. Long Liz’s neck was slit from ear to ear, and Catherine Eddowes’s body was eviscerated. Her intestines were strewn over her shoulders, and something that could only be fecal matter ran down her legs and pooled beneath her along with the blood.
My vision began to swim in front of me and I felt woozy. I put my head between my legs for a moment and took several deep breaths. This was getting far too intense, but I was afraid of stopping. I had to see it through to the end. I wasn’t even sure why anymore. This had become about far more than seeing a silly secret ending to a Hidden Objects Game. I had to keep going, but I had no idea why.
Mary Kelly was the absolute worst. Her face was hacked apart so much that it didn’t even look like a face anymore. Her throat had been cut. Her breasts had been sliced off. One was placed neatly next to her head; the other down by her right foot. Her innards had been completely emptied from her body and strewn around the bed at various places. A long cut ran up her leg, and blood had clearly been pouring out of it for quite a while. Black Alice was kneeling beside her, presumably weeping.
This was the point where I lost myself completely. I vomited all over the rug. My wife still had not come home. I had no idea what time it was. All I knew was that I felt sick, and hopefully, if I could get through this last level, I could figure out what happens at the end and finally put this game behind me.
I played through the rest of the game and finally showed up at the final scene, the confrontation with Jack. Instead of finding an empty apartment, Abberline and Black Alice found him in his apartment already. A long, thin tract ran down each of his arms, and the blood from them had clotted over. He’d been dead for quite a while. There was no sign of the blue angel creature. Black Alice went and picked the knife up from his corpse, and told Abberline that the investigation was over. She pocketed the knife and left. Abberline was left looking very confused.
I shared Abberline’s confusion. What in the actual fuck had I just watched? What happened to that creature I remembered from the last dozen times I played? Why was everything so radically different and what changed it? What was going on?
After the credits rolled, it allowed me to start a bonus level. I played as Black Alice throughout a final murder scene. This time I was investigating the murder of a prominent businessman whom she suspected had paid the Ripper to commit the murders. He was nailed to the wall with iron spikes through his wrists and ankles. Once I found nine of the items, I noticed a scalpel sitting underneath the table next to Jack’s body. I picked it up. A dialog box flashed across the screen that said ‘You have found a Secret Item!’ The image was of the scalpel I picked up, and the text underneath said ‘Black Alice’s Scalpel’.
The screen switched to a new image without letting me finish the scene. Black Alice stood in front of the businessman holding a hammer in her hand. She held a pair of nails in the other hand, the same kind that were in the man’s wrists. She was smirking, and as she drove the final nail into his ankles, there was a knock at the door. I jumped and screamed at the top of my lungs. It was only my wife, home from the hospital at last. I looked back to the screen, hoping to see the ending, but all it showed was Black Alice’s scalpel. It was at that point that I just turned the game off and shoved it in a drawer. I couldn't look at it any more. I try not to think about it, but I can't get the image of that final murder scene out of my head. I can't get rid of the images. I can't...