Ripper Ripped! - Dr. Van Ripper meets grisly fate

By Ed Brock

Dr. Van Ripper has met with the fate he inflicted on so many of his “patients.”

He was torn to shreds, and somebody stole his face and his lab coat.

“They just left the stuff I stuffed him with,” said B.J. Burrell, the woman who designed and built “Dr. Van Ripper's Laboratory” in front of her Jonesboro home. “It trailed halfway down the street.”

For years Burrell has provided the children of her neighborhood, and even from other towns, with elaborate Halloween displays in front of her home on Church Street. Each year she has a different theme, and this year Dr. Van Ripper was the centerpiece.

He was basically just a $5 mask on a Styrofoam wig holder, an old lab coat Burrell bought at a thrift store, wrapped around some cotton material and propped up on some plastic pipes. But when Burrell woke up on Monday morning to discover the theft she was very angry because Van Ripper represented so much more than the material of which he was made.

“I had put so much time and effort into getting just the right character I wanted for Dr. Van Ripper,” Burrell said, sitting on her porch with friend Marilyn Fowler.

Van Ripper was intact Sunday night around 9:30 when Burrell turned off the spotlight that illuminated the evil doctor, his assistant Nurse Goodbody and the small table that holds a jar of “brains” and “blood.” The next morning she followed the trail of stuffing up Church Street and part way down Memorial Avenue.

They found Van Ripper's Styrofoam head, sans mask, in her neighbor's yard. She had bought the mask at a costume store in Forest Park.

“I wanted a sort of Einstein-looking character,” Burrell said. “That was the only one they had so I can't go back and get another one.”

Van Ripper had only been in position for less than a week. Burrell said she's had a mask stolen from her display before but it wasn't done like this.

Fowler commiserated with Burrell's loss.

“I was with her when she found the mask and she just knew it,” Fowler said.

Fowler and her husband have helped Burrell with her displays ever since they first saw it.

“She devotes so much time and thought to it,” Fowler said.

So far there are no suspects in the case, said Cpl. Charles Kimbell with the Jonesboro Police Department.

Along with Nurse Goodbody there is still plenty to see in Burrell's front yard this year. But she says she's just not sure how she'll fill that gaping hole left in her macabre masterpiece.

“It just spoils it, it just spoils it all without him,” Burrell said.