It seems to me that many people around me would have me believe that the world is a very mundane, static place. I, of course, know that they are quite simply wrong. Take for example the story that I am about to relate; it may or may not be entirely accurate. Indeed, it may never have occurred at all. However, the mere fact that the story exists within human history, is related by some as being a true account of actual events, and is indeed held firmly as such by some, in itself, makes the world a strange, bizarre and interesting place. There are many, many such bizarre tales held by many to be accurate accounts of actual events that exist throughout modern folklore. This, in itself, speaks to the ultimate uncertainty inherent in the human experience. This, in itself, shows us that the world is indeed not so mundane at all. There is, very definitely, more to our existence than meets the eye.
In September of 1837, on the southern bank of the Thames river, in an area of London known as Barnes Common, a man had been working late at his office. As he walked home, through the Common, he passed by a rather isolated cemetery. Suddenly, without warning, a figure leaped high over the outside walls of the cemetery and landed just a short distance in front of him. The man was shocked and frightened to notice that this threatening figure who had just performed a leap of inhuman ability, had long, pointed ears and glowing eyes. The man, in a state of mortal fear, turned and fled the scene.
The very next night, three young girls encountered the same figure who again performed his acrobatic leap over the cemetery wall. This time, the figure lashed out and tore the coat of one of the girls. Two of the girls were able to escape and fled the scene. However, the third girl found herself frozen in terror. The mysterious stranger grabbed her and began tearing her clothes from her body. She was found later, unconscious, at the scene of the attack by a police officer.
The following month saw another report of this unearthly looking assailant. This time, the attack took place in Clapham Common. After a visit to her parent’s house, a young housemaid, by the name of Mary Stevens, was returning to her employer’s house. As she walked down the lane, a large man dressed in black leapt out of the shadows. He grabbed the young housemaid in a vice-like embrace, kissed her face and thrust his hand into her cleavage, all the while cackling with hysterical laughter. When Mary Stevens let out a scream, the figure released her and disappeared back into the darkness. Mary’s screams had alerted a number of men in nearby in nearby houses who rushed to her aid and listened to her account of the incident. The men quickly began to search the neighborhood, but no one was found.
The following night, another appearance was made by the menacing stranger, this time just a short distance from where Mary had been attacked the night before. The stranger again leapt out of the shadows and landed in front of an approaching carriage. The horses pulling the carriage reared back and bolted in fright. The carriage overturned, injuring the driver. The injured coachman would later testify that after the crash he watched in amazement as the mysterious figure jumped effortlessly over a nine-foot-high wall.
Shortly after this incident, another attack occurred near a churchyard in Clapham Common. The assailant was again described as performing amazing leaps beyond the abilities of an ordinary man. Also, this time, two footprints were found in the soft ground. The footprints had displayed characteristics consistent with footprints which would have been made by someone landing from a great height. Along with this, the footprints contained strange impressions and it was agreed at the time that these impressions could possibly be the result of some sort of apparatus that the attacker had been wearing on his feet.
The news of these attacks began to spread throughout London, and the mysterious attacker was soon given a nickname by the local citizenry – Spring-Heeled Jack. The next year, In February of 1838, an eight-teen year old girl, named Lucy Scales, and her sister Margaret were walking home from their brother’s house. The time was around 8:30 in the evening, when a cloaked figure, seemingly from out of nowhere leapt out of the darkness. The figure landed directly in front of Lucy and exhaled from his mouth a stream of blue flames that engulfed the frightened girl’s face. Lucy screamed and collapsed to the ground. Jack then jumped high over the two girls, landing on the roof of a house, where he turned and disappeared into the night.
Jack’s next attack took place only two days later. On this occasion, a young girl named Jane Alsop sat in her house reading. At around 9:00 pm, her concentration was broken by the sound of the front-gate bell. She opened the front door of her house and saw a tall, caped man. The man’s face and form were obscured by shadow. Jane asked who the man was, and the reply came: “I’m a policeman. Bring a light! We’ve caught Spring-heeled Jack in the lane!” Jane ran to fetch a light, and returned quickly with a lit candle for the officer. But, the light of the candle pushed away the shadows that had previously obscured the features of the person standing outside of her house. Jane froze in terror. It was Jack!
The demonic figure grabbed the young girl, from his mouth came a burst of phosphorescent gas which struck Jane in the face an partially blinded her, then he grabbed her and began tearing at her clothes. Jane became to scream, and her screams alerted other members of the household. Jane’s two sisters came rushing to her rescue and somehow managed to pull Jane away from the attacker. The three girls fled back into the house and slammed shut and bolted the door. The attacker had scratched and bruised young Jane, but she was lucky to escape with minor injuries.
Later, Jane was interviewed by the Lambeth Police Court and asked to give a description of her assailant. Jane told the police: “He wore a large helmet, and a sort of tight-fitting costume that felt like oilskin. But the cape was just like the ones worn by policemen. His hands were as cold as ice, and like powerful claws. But the most freighting thing about him were his eyes. They shone like balls of fire.” Two days later, unaware of what had happened to Jane Alsop, the brother of Lucy and Margaret Scales walked into the Lambeth police station to give his report of the incident that had occurred to his two sisters.
Jack was now big news throughout the city of London. Women began refusing to leave their houses at night. Vigilante groups combed the streets looking for the mysterious attacker. Even the Duke of Wellington, a then 70-year old veteran of Waterloo came out of retirement, armed himself with pistols and searched the streets of London on horseback, looking for the elusive Spring-heeled Jack. However, despite the Duke’s claims that he had sighted and pursued Jack on a number of occasions, he was never able to capture him.
A week after the attack on Jane Alsop, a shadowy stranger knocked on the door of a house on Turner Street. A young servant boy answered the door. The stranger stood in the shadows and asked the boy if he could speak with the master of the house. However, a the boy began to turn to call the master, the stranger made the mistake of stepping out of the shadows. The boy gasped as he caught a glimpse of the stranger’s bright, glowing orange eyes. The boy screamed in horror, and probably due to the heightened alertness in the area, within seconds windows and doors all over the neighborhood were being thrust open. Jack noticed the people beginning to emerge from the households nearby and fled off into the night. When the boy was later being questioned by the police, he was able to recall a few curious details. For one, the boy claimed that Jack’s hands weren’t hands at all, but more resembled claws. Also, under the black cape that Jack had been wearing, the boy noticed an intricate woven design resembling a coat of arms, and under this design a large, embroidered ‘W’.
After that, while the attacks continued, all in much the same way as the previous attacks had occurred, they began to happen less and less frequently. And it wasn’t long before the appeared to stop altogether. However, a full forty years after the very first reported attack, Jack struck again. In August of 1877 Jack made an appearance at Aldershot North army camp. Private John Regan was standing guard over the camp’s store of powder magazines when he heard “The shrill scraping sound of something metallic.” The Private thought that someone was dragging something down a nearby road. He cocked his rifle and moved towards the sounds, but he could see no one around. As Regan turned to move back to his guard station, he felt a cold clammy hand against his face, and being startled, let out a yell. Another sentry, who was on guard no more than 30 feet away, rushed toward the commotion. As the two sentries met, Jack appeared wearing some sort of a helmet that glinted in the moonlight. Before the two soldiers could react, Jack jumped over the their heads, clearing them by a good ten feet and landed behind them. Jack stood still, staring at the soldiers. Private Regan raised his rifle, pointed it at the creature and demanded that he identify himself. Jack bolted toward the two confused guards and Regan discharged his weapon. Jack spewed a torrent of blue flames and jumped twenty feet into the air. The two guards fled back to their barracks, and no other sign of Jack was witnessed on that army camp.
A month later, Jack made another appearance, this time in Lincolnshire. He created a ruckus in the streets and a mob of locals chased after him with shotguns. A few of the men swear that they had pounded Jack with shotguns at point-black range, but the heavy buckshot seemingly had little or no effect. Witnesses said that the lead buckshot bounced off of Jack, sounding like the hitting of a metal bucket.
Two years after that incident, in 1879 a man was driving his horse-drawn cart home. At around 10:00 pm, as he crossed a bridge, a hideous looking creature dressed in black leapt out of a tree and landed upon the back of the horse pulling the carriage. The bedazzled carriage drive lashed out at the figure with his whip, but the demonic looking figure clung to the horse which now broke into a wild gallop. The driver struggled to regain control of the cart, and when he did, Jack simply jumped high into the air and again disappeared into the night.
Once again Jack’s appearances began to grow fewer and farther between. Interestingly, reports of jack still continued through the late nineteenth century and fairly consistently, each one in a more westerly location than the last. In 1904 he was seen a number of times in Liverpool. On one ocassion a multitude of witnesses reported seeing a man clinging to the steeple of St. Francis Xavier’s church on Salisbury Street. To the astonishment of the crowd below, the figure jumped from the high steeple and landed behind a row of houses. The crowd was certain that the man had committed suicide; as such a fall would be certain death for any man. Yet, as they rushed to search for the body, they were startled as a helmeted figure, dressed in white, and with glowing orange eyes ran down the street towards them. Then, before the eyes of the bewildered crowd, Jack raised his arms and flew up over a house and out of sight.
Then, sixteen years later, in 1920, a man dressed in a “radiant costume” was witnessed by scores of people in Warrington’s Horsemarket Street, jumping back and forth from the street to the rooftops. In one great leap, Jack cleared the roof of the town’s railway station and was never seen again in the north of England.
The last recorded sighting of Spring-heeled Jack took place in 1948 in the south of Wales. Local witnesses saw a “strange looking man” leaping over a stream. Many of the locals surmised that they had witnessed the ghost of a man who had drowned in the stream. And, with that, Spring-heeled Jack disappeared and was never seen again. For one hundred an eleven years this odd creature made appearances throughout England. What exactly was he?