The story of Spring Heeled Jack

Victorian folklore is as colorful as any I have seen before.

‘Spring heeled Jack’ or ‘Springald’ first came into the Victorian mindset in our grand metropolis in 1837. In October 1837 Mary Stevens was walking to her place of work (she was a servant) in Lavender Hill cutting through Clapham Common when an odd figure leapt at her from a dark alley.

The somewhat terrifying figure grabbed her, began kissing her face whilst ripping her clothes and touching her flesh with his claws that were:

“cold and clammy as those of a corpse”.

Naturally the girl panicked and screamed and the attacker ran. The screaming attracted the residents who launched a search for the aggressor who seems to have evaded them.

Now the very next day the leaping phantom jumped in front of a carriage which caused the coachman to lose control and crash, he was by all account severally injured. There were several witness’s to this and some of these claimed that he escaped by jumping over a nine-foot-high wall while

‘babbling with a high-pitched, ringing laughter’

This was reported in the papers who gave the phantom name of Spring heeled Jack. The Penny Dreadful (which can be described as a Victorian tabloid) came out with the above lurid illustration.

A resident of Peckham who wished to remain anonymous wrote a letter to the mayor at the time the Sir John Cowan stating:

It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the highest ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion, that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near London in three different disguises — a ghost, a bear, and a devil; and moreover, that he will not enter a gentleman’s gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The wager has, however, been accepted, and the unmanly villain has succeeded in depriving seven ladies of their senses, two of whom are not likely to recover, but to become burdens to their families.

At one house the man rang the bell, and on the servant coming to open door, this worse than brute stood in no less dreadful figure than a spectre clad most perfectly. The consequence was that the poor girl immediately swooned, and has never from that moment been in her senses.

The affair has now been going on for some time, and, strange to say, the papers are still silent on the subject. The writer has reason to believe that they have the whole history at their finger-ends but, through interested motives, are induced to remain silent. Anonymous of Peckham

It seems that The Mayor was somewhat skeptical but of course copycats came out the wood work and the papers were in undated with all sorts of stories referring to Spring Heeled Jack but not just from London, there reports came in from in Brighton, Sussex, Devon, Northamptonshire, Sheffield, Lincoln, South Hertfordshire and East Anglia…the legend has spread!

It appears that everything and anything was being attributed to this phantom, Jack!

A woman called Jane Alsop reported  answered the door of her father’s house to a man who said he was a police officer who told her to bring a light and claimed:

“we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane”.

Candle in hand it wasn;t hard for her to notice that he wore a large cloak which he themn threw off and

“presented a most hideous and frightful appearance, vomiting blue and white flame from his mouth while his eyes resembled red balls of fire”.

Again he grabbed the victim, Miss Alsop and began tearing her gown with his claws which she was convinced were

“of some metallic substance”.

She screamed for help and was rescued by one of her sisters after which off jack bounced!

No one has ever been caught or identified as Spring-heeled Jack, no really knows what or who it was but oddly enough there was one more report.

In 1986 not far from the Welsh border In South Hertfordshire. A travelling salesman named Marshall claimed to have had an encounter with a similar phantom. This one leaped in enormous and what could be described as inhuman bounds and slapped Marshall’s cheek as he passed him on the road.

The phantom was wearing a a black ski-suit had an elongated chin.