Spring Heeled Jack: the terror of Victorian England

Described by his victims as humanoid with a horrible face, a half-man creature and half-devil, Spring Heeled Jack has rightfully entered the imagination of Victorian folklore although still remains unexplained as a supposed "scary tale for children" (if that’s what it is) managed for 67 years to terrorize the whole of England from 1837 to the early 1900s.

Evidence of sightings in London, Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester to the Midlands, Scotland and the West coast of the United States, have too many elements in common to be able to dismiss the story as a simple "urban legend" or "collective hallucination".

Jack’s first appearance dates back to 1837: on a dark and cold London night a woman named Polly Adams was walking in a park when she saw a strange shadow moving in the dark, after a few moments, the monster jumped out of a bush and disfigured her with his long claws. Polly, who described his attacker as a "devil man" was not believed credible and accused of mental disorder and self-harm. Few week later, countless people (mostly affluent individuals) claimed to have been attacked by a creature entirely similar to that described by Adams: robust body with well developed upper limbs, medium height, black cloak and helmet, had very sharp metallic claws with which disfiguring the victims and many attributed him flaming eyes. The most peculiar and common element in all the descriptions however is the one that gave the name to the Monster (Spring Heeled), that is the ability to cover very wide distances (even 30 meters) jumping and without running after, which guaranteed him a quick and spectacular escape.

spring heeled jack depicted by anonymous artist-English penny dreadful.jpg

The main suspects fell on a member of the Irish aristocracy: The Marquis of Waterford was accused because some witnesses said they had seen the golden W of the crest of his family inside the cloak that was wearing by the scary being in his attacks but when he died after a horse fall in 1859 and the assault continued, other theories were elaborated. It has been suggested that it could be a deformed person with abnormal abilities or, much more likely, a skillful acrobat but there are supporters of the paranormal thesis that saw in the strength and agility of Jack the clues for an alien being, coming from a planet with a force of gravity far superior to ours. It should not be forgotten that the description itself recalls another mysterious creature, the Mothman, also endowed with great wings, black and with flaming eyes. According to other opinions he was a demon, accidentally or purposefully summoned into this world by practitioners of the occult, or who made himself manifest simply to create spiritual turmoil.

It would seem to confirm the supernatural track also the last recent sighting: on February 14, 2012, around 22:30, Scott Martin was returning home with his family in a taxi when, in the vicinity of Ewell (Surrey, UK), when he witnessed an unexpected and frightening event: from the roadside a seemingly human figure suddenly crossed the road with a single jump of over 3 meters, landing on the nearby ballast. All present Scott’s wife, their four children and the taxi driver confirmed and described the same creature... maybe Spring Heeled Jack is back?

"Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick."
-Mother Goose

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Cover Image by Allen3

Article image by Anonymous Artist

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