Clarissa Johal: #FolkloreThursday-Spring-Heeled Jack #England

Thursday, October 6, 2016

#FolkloreThursday-Spring-Heeled Jack #England

English penny dreadful (c. 1890)
Image Use: Public Domain, Expired Copyright
Stepping from the shadows of Victorian folklore, Spring-Heeled Jack, as this entity came to be known, is one of the most unexplained mysteries to come out of Victorian England. He reputedly scratched, slapped and attacked his victims and then bounded away with a supernatural ability. The attacks began in 1837 in Southwest London and continued well into the 1920s.

Wide-spread accounts of Spring-Heeled Jack describe him as wearing a dark cloak over a tight-fitting white oilskin suit. He had a hideous face, glowing eyes like balls of fire, claw-like fingernails made of iron and the ability to spit blue and white flames from his mouth, paralyzing his victims. Eluding capture, the entity could jump incredible heights and distances--a reported 20-30 feet with ease.

The first reported victim was Polly Adams, a pub worker. In September of 1837, a group of four people were accosted by a 'Devil-like' creature. All of the victims ran but Polly was left behind. The creature allegedly tore at her clothing, scratching her skin with iron claws, before bounding off into the night. In October of 1837, a servant by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to work. The creature sprung from an alley and attacked her, ripping her clothing and kissing her face. The next day, the creature jumped in front of a carriage and caused it to crash. It then bounded over a nine foot wall. Vigilante groups were formed but the creature managed to evade them.
English penny dreadful - (c. 1886)
Image Use: Public Domain, Expired Copyright

In February of 1838, 18-year-old Lucy Scales and her sister were returning home when Spring-Heeled Jack reportedly jumped in front of the sisters and vomited blue flames into Lucy's face, temporarily blinding her.
Two days later, he appeared at the door of another victim, Jane Alsop. Dressed in a black cloak, he stated, “I’m a policeman. For Gods sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-Heeled Jack in the lane.” When she returned to him with a candle, she saw it was Spring-Heeled Jack himself. He immediately attacked her, spitting blue and white "gas" into her face. Thankfully, her sister was able to pull Jane from his grasp and, once again, he bounded away into the night.

The only known fatality connected with Spring-Heeled Jack occurred in 1845 on a bridge in New York. In broad daylight and in front of witnesses, Spring-Heeled Jack grabbed a prostitute and spat blue fire into her face. The girl was thrown into a sewer where she tragically drowned.

In August of 1877, Spring-Heeled Jack appeared before a group of soldiers in Aldershot’s North army camp. Private John Regan was standing sentry when he heard the noise of someone dragging something metallic down the road. When he went to investigate, Spring-Heeled Jack leapt on him and spat blue flames into his face. Witnesses claim that the attacker, tall, thin and wearing a helmet and oilskin suit, jumped over them, clearing them by 10 feet or more.

In September 1904, Spring-Heeled Jack appeared on the roof of a church in Liverpool, England. Onlookers claimed he fell from the church's steeple to the ground. Thinking that he had committed suicide, they rushed to his aide only to find a man clothed in white, wearing a helmet and completely unharmed. Laughing, he ran away from the crowd and disappeared into the night.

The final recorded event occurred in 1920 at the Central Railway Station in London. A man in a white cloak was seen jumping from various rooftops to the street below.

Who or what was Spring-Heeled Jack? Some claim that he was a demon or supernatural entity. Others speculate it was one or more persons with a diabolical sense of humor, causing mass hysteria. The only physical evidence left behind was a set of footprints in 1837, the depths of the prints suggesting that a "spring" mechanism was used in the shoes of the assailant. But in this case, it was argued that a jump of that magnitude would break the ankles of the jumper.
Regardless, the legend lives on.

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