Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Legends Week: Spring-Heeled Jack

A legend born in the 1800s in England involved a character called Spring-Heeled Jack. He was said to appear out of nowhere and make amazing leaps. Described as devilish looking, glowing red eyes, and clawed hands, he wore a helmet, a cape, and a tight-skinned suit. Some believed he looked like a gentleman, others like a devil. He was even said by some to shoot white and blue fire from his mouth. Some described him as having a high pitched scream and able to leap 9 feet.

One girl in 1837 was reported to have been accosted by him in the darkness, where he kissed her face and tore at her clothing with his corpse-like cold clawed fingers. She screamed and some came to scare him off.

One day in 1845, supposedly with onlookers, Jack tossed a prostitute off a bridge and she drowned.

Wikipedia  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 "of some metallic substance". 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.

Is spring-heeled Jack truly gone after these centuries?  Supposedly not!

A traveling salesman on the Welsh border claims in 1986 he ran into a figure that could leap huge bounds, slapped the salesman on the cheek, and appeared to be wearing a black ski suit with an elongated chin.

And, as soon as 2012, a family traveling the road said they saw a cloaked figure in black leap a huge distance in seconds.

As legends go, this one is rather extraordinary. The details are just odd enough that it reminds me of a Mothman figure or Jersey Devil. The springs in his boot heels, making him leap, the fire from his mouth, the metallic claws and glowing red eyes --

Isn't it interesting that over centuries and separate continents, similar oddly-described men could be scaring citizens? You would think one might have a flying man, or one might have a man with red eyes, but it would seem this figure is a universal one.

I, for one, would like to witness Spring-Heeled Jack. I think a well placed blow to the crotch might be enough to keep him at bay, but mostly the concept of a man in a tight oilskin outfit and red eyes and flames coming from his mouth sounds quite comical.


  1. This and the Mad Gasser tales have always been among my favorites. So many possibilities!

  2. He makes for some wonderful fodder for steampunk authors like Hodder's The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack



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