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Beane, Sawney (fl. 15th–16th cent.), legendary murderer and cannibal, is first mentioned in print in broadsheets about 1700. Various versions of his life appeared: in some he is said to have been active during the reign of James I of Scotland (1424–36), while other accounts date his crimes to the reign of ...

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Crofts, Elizabeth (b. c. 1535), impostor, is of unknown origins. Nothing is known of her before 1554, when she was involved in a cause célèbre that led to her being accused of attempting to undermine the church and the crown. The episode is reported in both Catholic and protestant sources, with no significant variation in detail. On 14 March that year, aged about eighteen, ...

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Richard Davenport-Hines

Jack the Ripper (fl. 1888), serial killer, was known as ‘the Whitechapel murderer’ or ‘Leather Apron’ until on 27 September 1888 the Central News Agency received a red-inked, defiant, semi-literate letter signed Jack the Ripper. This letter was probably a hoax concocted by news agency staff. It is suitable that he is known by a name devised in a journalistic stunt, for he was the first criminal to become a figure of international mythology through the medium of global communications. The indivisibility of his crimes from reportage of them is shown in a few words of a cabinet minister, ...

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Spring-Heeled Jack (fl. 1837–1838), mystery assailant, was first reported, though not named, in early January 1838, when the lord mayor of London made public a letter he had received, signed 'A resident of Peckham':

It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the higher ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion (name as yet unknown) that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near ...

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Todd, Sweeney [called the Demon Barber of Fleet Street] (supp. fl. 1784), legendary murderer and barber, may have his source in a murder reported in the London Chronicle of 2 December 1784. It related that a 'Journeyman Barber that lives near Hyde Park...