Spring Heeled Jack, The Terror of London

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s Batman! No, that’s not how the song goes – and that’s no Batman either. It certainly looks like him, though. Cape? Check! Mask? Check! Bat ears? Check! Wait a minute… it’s breathing fire! That’s not Batman! That’s Spring-heeled Jack! London’s pervert, bulletproof, fire-breathing, mass-terror-causing devil! The man or monster who terrorized England for almost a century. If you never heard about him, take a seat. You’re about to get a crash course on a weird subject that makes no sense.

This is a 100 years’ worth of paranormal stories, aristocrat shenanigans, and a fair share of hysteria. Was it a dare? Was it a devil? Or maybe a pervert dare-devil? That’s up to you to decide!

One thing is for sure, though. It definitely wasn’t Batman.

Who was Spring-heeled Jack?

Who (or what) Spring-heeled Jack was is a tough question to answer. First of all, this story happened back in the 19th century; Jack was first spotted in 1834 by a poor woman who felt first-hand who Spring-heeled Jack was. The last time someone ever saw it was sometime during the early 1900s, probably 1904.

Even though there are countless stories about Jack during that timeframe, nobody was able to take a picture of it. Mainly because cameras didn’t exist back then. Other than that, we have a couple of portraits that represent the many different reports there are of Mr. Spring-heeled.

We know Spring-heeled Jack was tall, athletic, cold-as-a-corpse, and over 10 feet tall. It was able to jump high walls – and that’s why people called him Spring-heeled. Some reports claim it breathed fire; others, that it was bulletproof. Nobody called it Dragon-face or Bulletproof Jack, though.

Since there’s no way to know whether Jack was a man playing dress-up or a paranormal creature having sick fun around London, it’s better to refer to Jack as an “it”, rather than a “he”. I doubt any man can jump over 9 feet walls, so Jack gets the benefit of the doubt about pronouns.

When did it first attack?

October 1834. London. Mary Stevens, a servant, is walking around the street minding her business when someone (or something) jumps at her side. This strange creature holds her tight, kisses her face, and begins to rip her clothes off. All things considered, not a cool thing to do.

Mrs. Stevens feels trapped and has no other option but to scream – and when she does, Spring-heeled Jack quickly escapes. When she reports what happened, she tells everyone the creature was cold as a dead body and had claws like an animal.

The next day, that same creature appeared. This time, Mary Stevens was spared from the terrible experience. Instead, Spring-heeled Jack used its Olympic-tier jump to leap over a carriage and make a random coachman crash his carriage. Jack maniacally laughed (as most evil creatures do when they do evil things) as he jumped over a 9 feet wall to escape.

Spring-heeled Jack’s many attacks

On Bearbind Lane

During a cold night in February 1838, a police officer knocks on the door of a family home. Jane Alsop, a young lady, goes out to see what’s going on. The police officer asks for a light because he was chasing Spring-heeled Jack down in an alley.

And what does Alsop see when she gives the police officer the light? You guessed it: Officer Spring-heeled! It’s one thing to cause trouble around town, but impersonating a police officer is all kinds of wrong. Jack didn’t stop there, though. Jane Alsop claimed it also vomited a white substance and then breathed fire. That’s impersonating a police officer and a dragon.

On Limehouse

A week later, two sisters were walking close to Jane Alsop’s home, when they spotted Spring-heeled Jack in a place called Green Dragon Alley. Jack did the same thing it did a week ago and breathed fire. Doing such a thing in a place called Green Dragon Alley seems too one the nose even for a 10 feet tall devilish creature.

On Lincolnshire

Sometime during 1877, Spring-heeled Jack felt the need to cause some trouble once again. Wearing what probably was fashionable at the time, Jack started to cause mayhem wrapped in sheep skin.

Before it got to bother anyone, Jack was cornered by an angry mob. And angry mobs do what an angry mob does: they shot at Jack to put an end to its shenanigans.

Spring-heeled Jack showed that silly things like powder and bullets were not supposed to harm such a creature. It laughed at the mob after being shot and quickly leaped over a wall, promptly losing the then-angry, now-confused mob.

On Aldershot

During that same year, in 1877, Spring-heeled Jack decided to up the ante and terrorize soldiers. Jack slowly approached the marching soldiers who, unfortunately, were walking in the dark.

One of the soldiers warned Jack to stop. And, as you’d probably know, Jack kept moving forward. The soldiers shot at Jack – but what can bullets do to a bulletproof monster? Spring-heeled did what Spring-heeled does, he leaped over a wall and escaped unharmed.

Jack’s final moments

After close to seven decades’ worth of causing trouble, spitting fire, leaping over walls, being bulletproof, and wearing a cape, Spring-heeled Jack disappeared. Jack was last seen roaming around London, some people claim it spent its time on top of rooftops.

Nobody knows where it came from nor where it went – but Jack appeared and disappeared the same way. The attacks either stopped or weren’t important enough for the press. No matter what happened, the momentum stopped and Spring-heeled Jack was no longer in the spotlight.

All in all, it was a good run. 66 or 67 seven years is as good as it gets for anyone on this Earth. After that, you get to retire, management gives you a golden watch, and you get to enjoy life on your beach house. Plus, let’s be realistic here: nobody is going to leap on a 10 feet wall past 60 years old, no matter how Spring-heeled you are.

Do we know who Spring-heeled Jack was after all?

There are a couple of theories that can explain who or what Spring-heeled Jack was. Depending on what you believe (or would like to believe) you can trust the skeptic side or the paranormal side of things. At this point, there is no way to know for sure.

That doesn’t mean we cannot entertain some wild ideas.

The skeptic theory

Several sources claim Spring-heeled Jack was the result of two things: one, mass hysteria; two, bored aristocrats.

Spring-heeled Jack may have started as a prank gone wrong or a dare that went too far. It is believed that perhaps an Irish noble (who was famous for having trouble with women and the police) is the one behind Jack’s character.

The Mad Marquis, as he was called, loved to take wild bets, terrorize people for fun, brawl at bars, and many other things that make him a suitable suspect. That doesn’t explain how Spring-heeled Jack was active for more than 60 years, though.

The long timeframe is easily explained when you take copycats and mass hysteria into account. At its highest point of interest, Spring-heeled Jack was everywhere. Everyone had a story about it. Everyone’s cousin had at least one encounter with it, and many claimed they had shot it somehow.

One could also claim there were plenty of bored aristocrats who liked to play Spring-heeled Jack. There were plenty of Mad Marquises in history. More than enough to fill Jack’s shoes for decades.

The paranormal theory

Other sources prefer to see Spring-heeled Jack’s story at face value. A real paranormal event that can’t be explained unless you accept the fact that it was an other-worldly creature. A ghost, a demon, an alien – something simply out of the ordinary and with a bad sense of humor.

This could be true, considering that no matter how committed aristocrats were to pull a prank, there’s no way they were committed enough to be bulletproof. Then again, the stories about Jack being shot could be false.

Maybe it’s something in between like a possessed aristocrat. It’d be better if both the skeptic side and the paranormal side met in the middle and claim a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Everyone’s happy that way!

Did Spring-heeled Jack attack in Britain alone?

Oddly enough, Spring-heeled Jack terrorized England and Scotland alone during his 1937-1904 tenure. Some people believe this same creature reappeared in Czechoslovakia during World War II.

This second creature wasn’t called Jack nor was it considered Spring-heeled. Instead, it was Palek, the Spring Man of Prague. Not that original of a name, so maybe they were cousins. Or the same supernatural creature.

Then again, maybe they weren’t. Palek, unlike Jack, had a redemption arc: the Spring Man is now considered a hero in Prague, and not a creepy wall-jumping creature.

Maybe Spring-heeled Jack traveled for decades, looking for a new home; perhaps it decided to do some good in continental Europe after the terror it spread in the Queen’s country.

Probably not, though. Want more Spring Heeled Jack goodness? Listen to our podcast episode on the very man below!

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