Spring Heeled Jack- The Terror Of London
One of the most bizarre and enduring of all paranormal entities is the legend of Spring Heeled Jack , who was a prominent character in English folklore of the Victorian Era. Rumors of his existence can be traced back to early 19th century, in Sheffield England where he was said to a cause a series of attacks on civilians. The sightings increasingly became sporadic in England and in US, the most recent being as late as 1995.
Although the legend of Spring Heeled Jack may very well be the culmination of a succession of elaborate ruses, it still represents a conspiracy theory of massive scope and durability. While his story may change depending on the source, the essence remains the same.
The year was 1808. The editor of the Sheffield Times received a letter which narrated how "Years ago a famous Ghost walked and played many pranks in this historic neighborhood.” The writer further identified this mysterious entity to be the Park Ghost or Spring heeled Jack , while briefly alluding to the supernatural leaping ability of the creature.
Some of his reported features are
- Man like, but with a hideous face
- Sharp iron-like fingernails and claws
- Glowing eyes
People believed him to be a human ghost who pounced on lonely passersby but ceased to exist when chased by a group of men. He would tend to disappear for large stretches of time and then suddenly reappear to pounce upon an innocent passer-by sometimes wounding them severely. He often pitted himself unchivarosly against the fairer sex.
In 1837 this creature appeared before a woman named Poly Adams and her two companions outside a local fair. She later recounted how the “devil-like” creature ripped off her blouse, with iron tipped fingers and then raked her stomach before bounding away into darkness. One year later when the Lord Mayor, John Cowan publicized this report he was inundated by reports of similar assaults by other civilians. To stem the widespread public panic , several vigilante groups were formed to nab Jack. Several efforts were made to capture him but Jack because of his superhuman agility, could easily evade them. However, with time these countryside attacks subsided. Although nobody was prosecuted, the matter was subsequently dropped and people believed that was the end of it.
They were wrong. As later that year two women, Lucy Sales and her sister Margaret were assailed by Jack, while they were returning from their brother’s house. The figure pounced upon Lucy, spewed blue flames into her face and then bounded away leaving the hapless girl, convulsing seriously.
Two days later it was the turn of Jany Alsop, who inadvertently thought Jack to be a policeman and opened her door to him. Without uttering a single word he disgorged blue venomous fire on her face and raked the terrified, temporarily blinded girl with his claws. Hearing her screams, her neighbors rushed to her assistance, but Jack again managed to give them the slip.
After these attacks the legends of his exploits spread like wildfire, throughout the country. The topic became the most talked about subject in the media. At least 4 “penny dreadfuls” and several melodramas , performed in cheap theatres which proliferated at that time,were centered around him. However with increasing publicity of his stunts, the appearances of Jack became more and more erratic and no longer remained confined to a small area.
In 1843, once gain the terror of Spring Heeled Jack gripped the entire country. He reappeared out of the blue, in Hampshire where he accosted a 13 year old prostitute named Maria Davis and hurled her over the bridge into a shallow ditch. The sigtings then shifted to East Angelica ,where ir seemed that Jack took particular delight in terrorizing drivers of mail coaches.
There were isolated sightings of Jack in the next 27 years, the most notable being the virtuoso performance that he delivered in the army barracks ,where he slapped the sentry several times “with cold clammy hands like that of a corpse”
Although he was reported to be sighted as late as 1972 in Liverpool , such later sightings are generally attributed to hoaxes and pranks .
The massive urban legend and mythos built around Spring Heeled Jack had a tremendous impact on various facets of Victorian life especially on popular culture of that time. “Penny Dreadfuls” as well as cheap melodramas mushroomed all over the country , where tha actual facts got distorted and Jack was portrayed as an irrepressible hero who rescues the distressed maiden and so on.
For many years , Spring Heeled Jack was the ultimate bogeyman for mothers to scare their children.
Although several theories were mooted at that time, the actual identity of the perpetrator or the reasons behind the attacks were never fully understood.
Today the antics of Jack are almost forgotten and many believe that the exaggerated reports were figments of an overactive imagination, but for a handful Jack was not a mere character of popular folklore, but a real menace who haunted the lonely alleys of London in the 19th century.