Londoners first heard of the terrifying Spring-Heeled Jack in the late fall of 1837. This bogey-man who was rumored to be be able to leap huge hedgerows and breathe flames from his mouth was regarded by many to be a tall tale. Few believed accounts of the attacks which had this devil carrying off young women into the night. out by the mystery man. However, the rumors persisted as the number of attacks grew.
Spring-Heeled Jack seemed to prefer to leap out on unsuspecting travelers. Usually he would rip their clothes with the claws on his hands, and breathe flames into the victims’ faces. Then, with shock still immobilizing his prey, he would bound away in huge, leaping strides which covered great distances at each step.
The thing about the devil-man which most stuck out in the minds of the victims were his terrible, protruding, hellish eyes, and his peculiar ringing laughter. Concerned citizens formed mobs to try and track down the creature and at one point the group included the Duke of Wellington, and Admiral Codrington.
Understandably, Spring-Heeled Jack’s ability to leap over huge hedgerows and walls made him extremely difficult to catch. He had also added the act of terrifying coach-drivers to his list of conquests. The attacks reached a climax when, in the winter of 1838, he moved his activities into London itself.
The first of these London attacks took place on a dark February night. Lucy Scales was walking home with her sister from their brother’s house when a tall cloaked figure bounded out of the shadows at them. He spat blue flames into Lucy’s face, blinding her. As she lay writhing on the ground, Spring-Heeled Jack calmly turned around and melted back into the shadows.
He struck again a few nights later. The Alsop family was spending a quiet evening at home, when a violent knocking was heard at the front door. Jane Alsop got up to answer it. When she opened the door she saw a man standing in the shadows near the front gate. He swung around. “I’m a police officer,” he said. “For God’s sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-Heeled Jack in the lane!”
When she gave the candle to the man at the gate, she realized she had made a terrible mistake, for the man applied to candle to his breast to reveal the hideous features of Spring-Heeled Jack himself! Jane screamed as he vomited forth a huge amount of flame from his mouth. He then grabbed her and tore at her clothes with his sharp claws.
She tried to get away, but the man caught her and continued his attack. Soon the whole family ran out into the street, hearing her screams, but Spring-Heeled Jack bounded away down the road, and was soon lost to sight.
Spring-Heeled Jack made an aborted attempt at the same trick a few nights later at another house, but a servant boy realized who he was and began to shout for help. Spring-Heeled Jack escaped again, this time victimless.
Throughout the 19th century, Spring-Heeled Jack was sighted all over England. After a brief period of inactivity in the late 1830’s he was seen time and time again in the 1840’s and 50’s.
He frightened army sentries in the 1870’s, by darting out of the darkness and slapping their faces with a cold, clammy hand before leaping onto the roofs of their sentry boxes. Angry townspeople shot at him in the streets on night in 1877. As usual, he laughed and melted away into the darkness, unrepentant.
Spring-Heeled Jack was last seen in 1904 in Liverpool. There, he terrified people by bounding up and down the streets and onto their rooftops. When attempts were made to corner him, but simply vanished into the darkness.
Some believe that Spring-Heeled Jack was a demon. Others thing he was a disfigured human. It’s even been suggested that he was nothing more than The Marquis of Waterford, who was renowned for his sadistic taste in practical jokes, and his scorn for women.
The mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack may never be solved. Nor will the question of when or if he will return.