Spring-Heeled Jack: The Leaping Fiend Who Terrorized Victorian England

1800s | May 26, 2021

Spring-Heeled Jack, a devil-like character of English city legend, escapes from an indignant mob at Newport Arch in Lincoln. Engraving from Illustrated Police Information, pub. 1877. (Hulton Archive/Getty Pictures)

A legendary determine, bigger than life, ready to leap tall buildings in a single sure. No, it is not Superman however Spring-Heeled Jack, a menacing scoundrel of Victorian London who terrorized his victims earlier than leaping away over stone partitions and fences of spectacular top. Was Spring-Heeled Jack a product of overactive imaginations? Or was there one thing extra to the city legend?

Victorians Liked The Supernatural

Ghost tales and tales of the supernatural had been wildly popular in Victorian occasions. Literature like A Christmas Carol, The Physique Snatcher, and The Flip Of The Screw flourished, and seances had been as common as Tupperware parties. There’s quite a few explanations for Victorian England’s obsession with demise and the afterlife, together with the altering financial local weather and concern of the burgeoning industrial revolution, however principally, the tradition was ripe for a homegrown boogeyman.

Illustration of Spring-Heeled Jack from the 1867 serial “Spring-Heel’d Jack: The Terror Of London.” (Unknown creator/Wikimedia Commons)

Jack Assaults

October 1837 marked the first reported sighting of Spring-Heeled Jack, by a younger girl named Mary Stevens who was returning to work after visiting her mother and father. Stevens claimed a determine leaped out at her from a darkish alleyway, grabbed her by the arm, tried to kiss her, and tore at her clothes with claws that gave the impression to be fabricated from sharp steel earlier than she alerted neighbors along with her screams, at which level she stated the attacker bounded over a tall fence and disappeared.

The subsequent day, the obvious offender jumped in entrance of a carriage, forcing the coachman to swerve and crash. The passengers all insisted the boogeyman escaped over a nine-foot wall after loosing a chilling, high-pitched cackle. An city legend was born, and as everybody clamored to get their piece of the motion, descriptions of Spring-Heeled Jack grew more and more ridiculous. He was stated to put on tight shiny white trousers and a black cloak or overcoat, have pink glowing eyes, take the type of a bear or wolf, and shoot blue hearth from his mouth.

By the following 12 months, Jack apparently grew artful. On February 19, 1838, Jane Alsop reported {that a} man got here to her door, claiming to be a police officer who had simply apprehended the buoyant menace and requesting a lantern to get a greater take a look at the suspect. When Jane opened the door, nevertheless, she claimed the person threw off his cloak to disclose “a most hideous and frightful look” earlier than attacking her in the identical method Mary Stevens described, however after her screams introduced her sister to the door, Spring-Heeled Jack fled. 9 days later, 18-year-old Lucy Scales and her sister had been strolling house after spending the day with their older brother after they allegedly handed a finely dressed man in a cloak leaning in opposition to the wall. As they received nearer, Scales claimed the person breathed hearth at her, which blinded her and inflicted a seizure. Her sister yelled for assist, however earlier than their close by brother may arrive, Spring-Heeled Jack did not leap away anyplace. He simply disappeared down the alley. Hey, generally you get tired of the same-old, same-old.

Henry de La Poer Beresford, third Marquess of Waterford, a type of believed to be the true id of Spring-Heeled Jack. (The Amica Library/Wikimedia Commons)

What Was Spring-Heeled Jack?

As a result of lots of the descriptions and accounts of Spring-Heeled Jack assaults appeared so far-fetched, many Londoners, together with the mayor, chalked up the incidents to mass hysteria. In any case, how may such a flamboyant determine evade seize for therefore lengthy?

Some folks, nevertheless, imagine that Spring-Heeled Jack was really the shared id of a bunch of bored younger aristocrats seeking to scare folks for the enjoyable of it. They level out that earlier reviews of Spring-Heeled Jack counsel spectacular however not superhuman leaping expertise; it was solely later that witnesses started portray footage of outlandish feats.

Others imagine Spring-Heeled Jack was a supernatural entity, both a ghost, a demon, and even an alien. Proponents of the latter idea suggest that his potential to leap such nice heights developed on a planet with a distinct degree of gravity. Regardless of the case, sightings slowly dwindled right down to nothing by the flip of the twentieth century, when Spring-Heeled Jack both received bored of his/their antics, moved on to the afterlife, or returned to their house planet.

Tags: 1800s | England | urban legends

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Karen Harris


Karen left the world of educational, quitting her job as a university professor to write down full-time. She spends her days along with her firefighter husband and 4 daughters on a passion farm with an assortment of animals, together with a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a rooster named Chickaletta.

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