Spring-heeled Jack is an entity in English folklore of the Victorian era. The first claimed sighting of Spring-heeled Jack was in 1837. Later sightings were reported all over Great Britain and were especially prevalent in suburban London, the Midlands and Scotland.
There are many theories about the nature and identity of Spring-heeled Jack. This urban legend was very popular in its time, due to the tales of his bizarre appearance and ability to make extraordinary leaps, to the point that he became the topic of several works of fiction.
- Frequent representations had of late been made to the Lord Mayor, of the alarm excited by a miscreant, who haunted the lanes and lonely places in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, for the purpose of terrifying women and children. For some time these statements were supposed to be greatly exaggerated. However, the matter was put beyond a doubt by the following circumstance.
A Mr. Alsop, who residing in Bearbing-lane, a lonely spot between the villages of Bow and Oldford, attended at Lambeth-street office, with his three daughters to state the particulars of an outrageous assault upon one of his daughters, by a fellow who goes by the name of the Suburban ghost, or "spring-heeled Jack." Miss Janes Alsop, one of the young ladies, gave the following evidence.
About a quarter to nine o'clock on the preceding night, she heard a violent ringing at the gate in front of the house ; and on going to the door to see what was the matter, she saw a man standing outside ; of whom she inquired what was the matter. The person instantly replied, that he was a policeman ; and said, " For God's sake bring me a light, for we have caught spring-heeled Jack here in the lane." She returned into the house, and brought a candle, and handed it to the person ; who appeared enveloped in a large cloak. The instant she had done so, however, he threw off his outer garment, and applying the lighted candle to his breast, presented a most hideous and frightful appearance, and vomited forth a quantity of blue and white flame from his mouth, and his eyes resembled red balls of fire. From the hasty glance which her fright enabled her to get at his person, she observed that he wore a large helmet ; and his dress, which appeared to fit him very tight, seemed to her,toresemble white oilskin. Without uttering a sentence he darted at her, and catching her partly by her dress and the back part of her neck, placed her head under one of his arms, and commenced tearing her gown with his claws, which she was certain were of some metallic substance. She screamed out as loud as she could for assistance ; and by considerable exertion got away from him, and ran towards the house to get in. Her assailant, however, followed her, and caught her on the steps leading to the hall-door ; when he again used considerable violence, tore her neck and arms with his claws, as well as a quantity of hair from her head : but she was at length rescued from his grasp by one of her sisters. Miss Alsop added, that she had suffered considerably all night from the shock she had sustained ; and was then in extreme pain, both from the injury done to her arm, and the wounds and scratches inflicted by the miscreant on her shoulders and neck, with his claws or hands.
This story was fully confirmed by Mr. Alsop and his other daughters. One of the daughters said, that the fellow kept knocking and ringing at the gate after she had dragged er sister away from him, but scampered off when she shouted from an upper window for a policeman. He left his cloak behind him ; which some one else picked up, and ran off with.
- Burke, Edmund; Ivison Stevenson (1839). OUTRAGE ON A YOUNG LADY. “The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year”. London: Longmans, Green. pp. 23-24.
- During the 1850’s and 60’s Spring-heeled Jack was also seen all over England, particularly in the Midlands.
The Army in 1870 set traps to catch him after scared sentries reported being terrified by a man who sprang on to the roof of their sentry box.
Also in 1870, angry townsfolk in Lincoln are reported to have shot at him in the street, but he just laughed and bounded away, leaping over fences, and even small buildings!
- For a while, as no-one really had any idea who he was, suspicion rested on the eccentric young Marquis of Waterford, but he was never vicious, even though he was considered ‘wild’ by Victorian society, and been branded as the ‘Mad Marquis’.
Spring-heeled Jack was last seen in 1904 at Everton in Liverpool, bounding up and down the streets, leaping from cobbles to rooftops and back!
He vanished into the darkness when some brave souls tried to corner him and he has not been seen since that day to this!
The puzzle remains…who was Spring-heeled Jack?