Jumping Jack Flash
In London on September 1837 a strange figure stalked the Victorian streets attacking women and in general scaring the hell out of everybody.
One victim was Polly Adams who claimed that the figure was a man who was very tall, thin and wore a cloak. More incredible was her claim that the man had fiery red eyes and spat blue flame. But other victims backed up the story and added that the man could make amazing leaps over walls and onto roofs which made him impossible to catch.
By 1838 London's Lord Mayor had formed a group to catch the rascal which he said was "a menace to the public." The attacks went on anyway and on February 20th a 18 year old woman named Jane Assop was told by a figure outside her home's gate to "bring a light, for we have caught Spring Heeled Jack." According to the report published by the London Times, when she did the man, " . .applied the lit 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 . .He wore a large helmet, and his address which appeared to fit him very tight, seemed to her to resemble white oil skin."
Spring Heel Jack Lives On!
Jack then lunged for the woman and laughing lustfully, as he had done before to Polly Adams. Jane's sister helped beat him off and both women escaped back into the house. Jack stayed outside, laughing loudly and knocking on the door. When the family started screaming for the police jack bounced away across a nearby field.
Another attack occurred to Lucy Scales on the 28th of February and she too said the man spat blue flames at her.
Jack seemed to calm down after that and wasn't seen again until the 1860's when 2 women walking down a road at night saw a figure leap over a hedge, land on the road and bow to them He then leaped over another hedge on the other side of the road and vanished from sight. In 1872 more people witnessed a man (or ghost as they called it) leaping over fences and walls. By 1873 Jack had moved on to Sheffield where several people saw a man "jumping like a goat." Caistor, Norfolk was the sight of a visit in 1877 where Jack danced from rooftop to rooftop and was seen by nearly the entire town. In August of the same year he was shot at by guards at a nearby military base but just laughed and hopped into nearby woods. He was last reported in 1904 by citizens in Liverpool.
So just who was this merry prankster who could shoot flames from his mouth, wore strange clothes and could jump like a kangaroo? No one knows for certain. In the 1830's it was thought that the Marquis of Waterford, a young man known at the time for drinking and pulling pranks, might have been performing the stunts. Backing up this claim was the fact that in two cases witnesses reported seeing the letter "W" on the attackers cloak. Rumors circulated that the Marquis had special shoes made with springs on them so he could affect the high jumps that dashed any hopes of pursuit. The improbability of jumping 10 foot walls with springs on your shoes was never discussed.
Of all the monsters, ideas, and paranormal events I've uncovered I like Spring Heel Jack the best. He seems to be in it for nothing more than a good time. If I was a mysterious creature unknown to society then I would be just like Jack. Laughing maniacally, scaring the locals and then bounding away. Spring Heel Jack epitomizes the approach to the paranormal that I have taken with Freakylinks. It is with this in mind that I proudly proclaim that Jack is now the official mascot of my site and shall appear on these pages whenever he sees fit to show himself. Viva Spring Heel Jack!
"The Jumping Man of Victorian England" Philip Wargen, Londonderry Press, 1974
image courtesy of Bob Vernon