Spring-heeled Jack comes from the Victorian era of Great Britain and is part of the English folklore. Sightings were reported all over Great Britain, but most frequently in London, the Midlands, and Scotland.
His name was derived from his ability to make astounding leaps and was very popular as an urban legend. He was described as being tall and thin with clawed hands, and glowing red eyes. Several reports state that he was able to spew out blue and white flames from his mouth.
The first reported sighting was in 1837 by a girl who was walking to work and a strange character leaped from a dark alley and tightly grabbed her. When she screamed it ran. The next day, the same character jumped in front of a carriage, startling the coachman, and ultimately the carriage crashed. Witnesses say the figure jumped over a nine foot wall to escape. From then on the character was known as Spring-heeled Jack.
The two best known attacks from Spring-heeled Jack happened on February 19, and February 28, 1838.
Jane Alsop, was the first of these two attacks, opened the door for a man claiming to be the police asking for a light and saying they have caught Spring-heeled Jack. When she handed him a candle, he threw down his cloak and attacked her with his claws, while vomiting blue and white flames.
The second attack was on Lucy Scales and her sister. He spit blue flames in Lucy’s face and she immediately fell to the ground with convulsions. Their brother heard the screams and ran to find Lucy on the ground. His other sister said the attacker was tall and thin and carried a small lantern.
Thomas Millbank declared himself as Spring-heeled Jack. He was arrested and put on trial. He was set free because Jane Alsop insisted he breathed fire, which Millbank could not do.
Following these sightings and attacks, Spring-heeled Jack became more popular and newspapers began to print articles of the incidents. Plays and performances began to feature him and in some Punch and Judy shows, the devil was even renamed to Spring-heeled Jack. However, sightings of this famed character became less frequent, until 1843 when rash of sightings and attacks occurred, mainly on mail coaches.
Spring-heeled Jack sightings were reported in 1872, 1873, and in 1877 a group of soldiers were approached by him and was warned by one not to advance any closer. The strange character came beside the soldier and slapped him several times. A guard shot him with no effect and the character escaped with tremendous leaps.
There were other sightings in the early 1900s, in the late 1970s, in 1986, and as recent as 2012 where a family reported seeing a dark figure cross the road in front of them, and then climbed a 15 foot bank within seconds.
Theories of what Spring-heeled Jack was include mass hysteria, exaggerated pranks, an extraterrestrial, or some kind of paranormal activity. Some believe the original attacks were one or more people with a gruesome sense of humor, later attacks from imitators.
The Spring-heeled Jack character has been featured in several works of fiction, plays, books, video games, and in DC Comics. Spring-heeled Jack is also the title of a humorous song by Lemon Demon.
Image Caption: Depiction of Spring-heeled Jack. Credit: Penny dreadful/Wikipedia (public domain)