Welcome to the Strange: Flashback Spring-heeled Jack

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Coming straight out of 2014 here is a classic Cryptid Corner. Take a trip with me back in time to 1837 England and lets discover the strange mystery that is Spring-heeled Jack!

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.
Spring-heeled Jack was described by people as having a terrifying and frightful appearance, clawed hands, and eyes that resembled red balls of fire. One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a helmet and a tight-fitting white garment like an oilskin. Many stories also mention a Devil like aspect. Others said he was tall and thin, with the appearance of a gentleman. Several reports mention that he could breathe out blue and white flames and that he wore sharp metallic claws at his fingertips. At least two people claimed that he was able to speak comprehensible English. He was also report to have the ability to make extraordinary leaps.

In October 1837, a girl by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to Lavender Hill, where she was working as a servant, after visiting her parents in Battersea. On her way through Clapham Common, a strange figure leapt at her from a dark alley. After immobilizing her with a tight grip of his arms, he began to kiss her face, while ripping her clothes and touching her flesh with his claws, In panic, the girl screamed, making the attacker quickly flee from the scene. The commotion brought several residents who immediately launched a search for the aggressor, who could not be found.

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The next day, the leaping character is said to have chosen a very different victim near Mary Stevens home, inaugurating a method that would reappear in later reports, he jumped in the way of a passing carriage, causing the coachman to lose control, crash, and severely injure himself. Several witnesses claimed that he escaped by jumping over a 9 ft high wall while babbling with a high-pitched, ringing laughter.
Gradually, the news of the strange character spread, and soon the press and the public gave him the name Spring-heeled Jack.

The best known incidents involving Spring-heeled Jack were the attacks on two teenage girls, Lucy Scales and Jane Alsop.
Jane Alsop reported that on the night of 19 February 1838, she answered the door of her father’s house to a man claiming to be a police officer, who told her to bring a light, claiming we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane. She brought the person a candle, and noticed that he wore a large cloak. The moment she had handed him the candle, however, he threw off the cloak and presented a most hideous and frightful appearance, vomiting blue and white flame from his mouth while his eyes resembled red balls of fire. Miss Alsop reported that he wore a large helmet and that his clothing, which appeared to be very tight-fitting, resembled white oilskin. Without saying a word he caught hold of her and began tearing her gown with his claws which she was certain were made of metal. She screamed for help, and managed to get away from him and ran towards the house. He caught her on the steps and tore her neck and arms with his claws. She was rescued by one of her sisters, after which her assailant fled.

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Eight days after the attack on Miss Alsop, on February 28th 1838, 18-year-old Lucy Scales and her sister were returning home after visiting their brother. Miss Scales stated in her deposition to the police that as she and her sister were passing along Green Dragon Alley, they observed a person standing in an angle of the passage. She was walking in front of her sister at the time, and just as she came up to the person, who was wearing a large cloak, he spurted a quantity of blue flame in her face, which deprived her of her sight, and so alarmed her, that she instantly dropped to the ground, and was seized with violent fits which continued for several hours.
Her brother added that on the evening in question, he had heard the loud screams of one of his sisters moments after they had left his house and on running up Green Dragon Alley he found his sister Lucy on the ground in a fit, with her sister attempting to hold and support her. She was taken home, and he then learned from his other sister what had happened. She described Lucy’s assailant as being of tall, thin, and gentlemanly appearance, covered in a large cloak, and carrying a small lamp or bull’s eye lantern similar to those used by the police. The individual did not speak nor did he try to lay hands on them, but instead walked quickly away.

Later on there was some more modern sightings, in the late 1970s, residents of Attercliffe, Sheffield began to complain about a red-eyed prowler who grabbed women and punched men. The man was said to bound between rooftops and walk down sides of walls.

In south Herefordshire, not far from the Welsh border, a traveling salesman named Marshall claimed to have had an encounter with a similar entity in 1986. The man leaped in enormous, inhuman bounds, passed Mr. Marshall on the road, and slapped his cheek. He wore what the salesman described as a black ski-suit, and Marshall noted that he had an elongated chin.

He was sighted again at an unspecified point by schoolchildren in west Surrey, who claimed he was all black, with red eyes and had a funny all in one white suit with badges on it. They also said he could run as fast as a car, and would approach dark haired children and tell them, I want you.

In February 2012, Scott Martin and his family were traveling home by taxi from Stoneleigh at about 10.30pm, when they saw a dark figure with no features run across the road in front of them, before climbing over a 15 ft roadside bank in seconds, near Nescot College on the Ewell bypass. The family later likened the figure to the legendary Spring-heeled Jack.

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No one was ever caught and identified as Spring-heeled Jack, combined with the extraordinary abilities attributed to him and the very long period during which he was reportedly at large, this has led to all sorts of theories of his nature and identity. While several researchers seek a rational explanation for the events, other authors explore the more fantastic details of the story to propose different kinds of paranormal speculation.
One of the theories is mass hysteria which developed around various stories of a bogeyman or devil which have been around for centuries. Paranormal explanations have been proposed to explain the origin of Spring-heeled Jack, including that he was an extraterrestrial entity with a non-human appearance and a superhuman agility deriving from life on a high-gravity world, with his jumping ability and strange behavior . Or that 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.

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If you like the story of Spring-heeled Jack then you should check out the tale of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon.  Stay Strange!

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