East London, Whitechapel. September 29th 1888. The sense of terror, tension and vulnerability is palpable. A killer has been stalking the streets of this crime-ridden district, and police is nowhere close to catching the culprit. A group of vigilantes, frustrated by the lack of progress, tries to take matters in their hands. Everyone is a suspect. This is the world we enter. Would we be able to help resolve the case of the Leather Apron?
Upon arrival, I got enlisted as a police officer in H-Division. Others were to support the vigilante movement, while even more others would assume the role of impoverished Londoners, living on the streets of Whitechapel. In H-Division, it was clear we needed results fast. The public demanded it, and the entire situation was putting the police department in a bad light. Now, Scotland Yard was getting involved, putting on even more pressure. With bribing money in hand and a minimum of information, we were sent our way on the foggy streets to interrogate the locals.
The scene itself is recreated with great attention to detail. A local pub, the doctor’s office and a church surround the town square, with plenty of other residences around where clues could potentially be found. A large number of characters wander the streets, playing their parts to perfection, each of them a cog in the complicated machinery of the event, ready to be talked to, potentially holding answers to our questions, given the right nudge. Over the next hour, I paid close attention to the movements of Dr. Blackwell – previous victims had proven the killer had a trained hand and a set of impeccable knives. Only one of the many, many possible routes one could take, with so many characters, all the guests playing their own roles, and loads of scenes playing out all over the place. Every once in a while, a big scene would draw attention, a brawl, the discovery of a new body, a new suspect being thrown in prison. Time flew by while everyone was trying to collect information, forming allegiances, interrogating, following orders.
There is a lot to take in. With the sheer quantity of interactions and scenes, you are guarantueed to miss more than half of everything that is going on. All too soon, I found myself in 2016 again, not even close to finding the identity of the Ripper. It had taken me a while to link the names, faces, whereabouts and functions of the different characters in the story. Should I have researched the case before going in? The clues I thought I had been pursuing had gotten away from me. A journalist outside took our statements, and handed us the latest edition of his newspaper. The latest body we had discovered, displayed on the page in grisly detail, punctuating our failure.
On my way home, I noticed the case had gotten into my head. Reading the newspaper, trying to connect the dots, I almost missed my underground stop. What could I have done differently? What if I had gone into the pub, buying rounds of gin for local drunks, in hopes they could give me a discription of the killer? I could have spent my time gaining the trust of street prostitutes, maybe they knew something more, but were scared to tell? Who knows, I could have hid in the confession booth of the church, acting as the priest? Maybe I had been better off paying close attention to the whereabouts of my own superiors? Had I trusted them too easily? Other guests that had gone after the same clues as me told me they found a woman’s shoe upstairs in a building, the residence of the butcher I had been trying to track down. So maybe we had been on the right track after all? No way of telling now. No one knows the identity of Jack the Ripper, and over time, over 500 individuals have been put forward as suspects. It was only later I realized that there was no way we’d ever resolve anything during this show. The mass confusion, the chaos, deliberately put in place to great effect.
It’s always a harrowing thing – to immerse yourself into a story and a situation, and to suddenly find yourself in reality again. So, I’ll almost always complain that the experience wasn’t long enough, that the ending was too abrupt. Whitechapel was not different. I could have wandered these streets for another hour, another two. During the finale, I thought things were really picking up, and couldn’t wait to see what was behind the next corner. So, rushing around that corner and finding myself outside, in the present, was disappointing. But Apocalypse Events absolutely succeeded in what they tried to do. It was confusing, I had no clear idea of where to go, and I have since been doubting the choices I made, wondering which interactions, clues and scenes I might have missed. There is no optimal path. I might have been close to an essential clue, part of the resolution of the case, or I could have been miles off. It’s a testament to the event that after two weeks, I still find myself wondering about it every now and then.