Today I want to talk a little bit about the English urban legend, that could be true, called Spring-Heeled Jack. First though, I'd like to let you guys in on some news. My second novel "The Third Gender" is complete. It will be polished up with editors and beta's, formatted and then released on Amazon.com later this month or early November. In other news Wormwood is still available for sale on Amazon and has made the best seller's list in it's categories on numerous occasions. The Wormwood three book series will be released by Permuted Press. I will let everyone know about the release schedule for the three books as the time grows closer. The version now available for purchase on Amazon is basically the director's cut (if I'm the director). It's my self-published version and could be considered a collectors item once Permuted releases their super spiffy version, because the current version will no longer be for sale. In other news my short story "The Shadow People" should be available for sale on Amazon by the end of this month. If you go back through the archives you'll find posts on Shadow People and most specifically The Hat Man. My fictional short story draws inspiration from these eyewitness reports.
Now on to today's subject: Spring-Heeled Jack is a figure from English folklore that started during the Victorian era. It all began with a sighting in 1837, but subsequently the entity was sighted all over London and the United Kingdom. The most common areas for sightings were in greater London, Scotland and an area called the Midlands. Spring-Heeled Jack was a demon-like creature able to make enormous leaps often between buildings. There are many differing opinions as to who or what Spring-Heeled Jack is. Here is the description from Wiki:
"Spring-heeled Jack was described by people who claimed to have seen him as having a terrifying and frightful appearance, with diabolical physiognomy, clawed hands, and eyes that "resembled red balls of fire". One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a helmet and a tight-fitting white garment like an oilskin. Many stories also mention a "Devil-like" aspect. Others said he was tall and thin, with the appearance of a gentleman. Several reports mention that he could breathe out blue and white flames and that he wore sharp metallic claws at his fingertips. At least two people claimed that he was able to speak comprehensible English."
Here are some actually incidents again from Wiki:
"In the early 19th century, there were reports of ghosts that stalked the streets of London. These human-like figures were described as pale and stalked and preyed on lone pedestrians. The stories told of these figures formed part of a distinct ghost tradition in London which, some writers have argued, formed the foundation of the later legend of Spring-heeled Jack.
The most important of these early entities was the Hammersmith Ghost, which in 1803 and 1804 was reported in Hammersmith on the western fringes of London; it would later reappear in 1824. Another apparition, the Southampton ghost, was also reported as assaulting individuals in the night. This particular spirit bore many of the characteristics of Spring-heeled Jack, and was reported as jumping over houses and being over 10 ft (3.0 m) tall."
And some more personal accounts:
"The first alleged sightings of Spring-heeled Jack were made in London in 1837 and the last reported sighting is said in most of the secondary literature to have been made inLiverpool in 1904.
According to much later accounts, in October 1837, a girl by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to Lavender Hill, where she was working as a servant, after visiting her parents in Battersea. On her way through Clapham Common, a strange figure leapt at her from a dark alley. After immobilising her with a tight grip of his arms, he began to kiss her face, while ripping her clothes and touching her flesh with his claws, which were, according to her deposition, "cold and clammy as those of a corpse". In panic, the girl screamed, making the attacker quickly flee from the scene. The commotion brought several residents who immediately launched a search for the aggressor, who could not be found.
The next day, the leaping character is said to have chosen a very different victim near Mary Stevens' home, inaugurating a method that would reappear in later reports: he jumped in the way of a passing carriage, causing the coachman to lose control, crash, and severely injure himself. Several witnesses claimed that he escaped by jumping over a 9 ft (2.7 m) high wall while babbling with a high-pitched, ringing laughter.
Gradually, the news of the strange character spread, and soon the press and the public gave him the name "Spring-heeled Jack"
"Perhaps the best known of the alleged incidents involving Spring-heeled Jack were the attacks on two teenage girls, Lucy Scales and Jane Alsop. The Alsop report was widely covered by the newspapers, including a piece in The Times, while fewer reports appeared in relation to the attack on Scales. The press coverage of these two attacks helped to raise the profile of Spring-heeled Jack.
Alsop caseJane Alsop reported that on the night of 19 February 1838, she answered the door of her father's house to a man claiming to be a police officer, who told her to bring a light, claiming "we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane". She brought the person a candle, and noticed that he wore a large cloak. The moment she had handed him the candle, however, he threw off the cloak and "presented a most hideous and frightful appearance", vomiting blue and white flame from his mouth while his eyes resembled "red balls of fire". Miss Alsop reported that he wore a large helmet and that his clothing, which appeared to be very tight-fitting, resembled white oilskin. Without saying a word he caught hold of her and began tearing her gown with his claws which she was certain were "of some metallic substance". She screamed for help, and managed to get away from him and ran towards the house. He caught her on the steps and tore her neck and arms with his claws. She was rescued by one of her sisters, after which her assailant fled.
Scales caseEight days after the attack on Miss Alsop, on 28 February 1838, 18-year-old Lucy Scales and her sister were returning home after visiting their brother, a butcher who lived in a respectable part of Limehouse. Miss Scales stated in her deposition to the police that as she and her sister were passing along Green Dragon Alley, they observed a person standing in an angle of the passage. She was walking in front of her sister at the time, and just as she came up to the person, who was wearing a large cloak, he spurted "a quantity of blue flame" in her face, which deprived her of her sight, and so alarmed her, that she instantly dropped to the ground, and was seized with violent fits which continued for several hours.
Her brother added that on the evening in question, he had heard the loud screams of one of his sisters moments after they had left his house and on running up Green Dragon Alley he found his sister Lucy on the ground in a fit, with her sister attempting to hold and support her. She was taken home, and he then learned from his other sister what had happened. She described Lucy's assailant as being of tall, thin, and gentlemanly appearance, covered in a large cloak, and carrying a small lamp or bull's eye lantern similar to those used by the police. The individual did not speak nor did he try to lay hands on them, but instead walked quickly away. Every effort was made by the police to discover the author of these and similar outrages, and several persons were questioned, but were set free"
So the question is what exactly is Spring-Heeled Jack? To me he could be a combination of things. It could be that one deranged person committed a couple of attacks, or that the attacks were completely fabricated using the legend as an excuse. It also could be a case of coordinated collusion between victims and newspapers. Back in the day it was common for these papers to exaggerate reports and to even fabricate some details. Maybe, a wise reporter used the legend and combined a real incident with a deranged assailant or two and made the connection. Remember this was back before television, radio and internet. These newspapers were all competing and the one with the most sensational stories were often the best sellers. This could be the start of Tabloid News.
Some of these situations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It starts with one mistaken identity or a vivid imagination and suddenly it takes on a life of it's own with sightings reports and hunts for the suspect, when the suspect can't be found it can then be explained as a mysterious occurrence. Then the cycle starts over and builds like a logarithm. That's my opinion anyway. Either way I think it's a very interesting story.
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