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  Columnist: Ritoban Mukherjee

Image credit: Kjetil Bjarnsrud

The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack

Posted on Saturday, 23 November, 2013 | 2 comments
Columnist: Ritoban Mukherjee

One of the most abstruse paranormal entities to have baffled humanity is Spring-heeled Jack. The sightings began in the Victorian Era, when an evil phantom masked underneath a cloak, with fiery eyes and flaming breath was reported to have assaulted unsuspecting pedestrians in London. Since then the sightings spread to the entire of the UK and even to America.


Most witnesses have described Spring-heeled Jack as a sinister being, with an aura of fright and wickedness that he carries with him wherever he goes. He is said to wear a black cloak, a helmet and an oilskin. He has red balls of fire for eyes and clawed hands (or hands wearing metallic claws). He can breath white flames of horror and take gigantic leaps (hence the attribute spring-heeled). During the earliest reports he was said to present himself in 3 disguises - a ghost, a bear and a devil.

The 19th Century Sightings

Mary Stevens: In October 1837, Mary Stevens, while on her way to Lavender Hill through Clapham Common, was attacked by a cloaked figure who first leapt at her, then while gripping her firmly to bar movement, sexually assaulted her and tore off her clothes. As the girl screamed in horror, the assailant fled from the scene and despite a thorough search no trace of him was ever found.

The very next day Spring-heeled Jack was seen in Mary's neighborhood, where he jumped before a coach, causing the coachman to lose control and meet with an accident. He then gave out a horrific shriek of laughter and made his getaway by jumping over a 9 foot high wall.

Cowan's Announcement: As the victims of Jack grew in number, Sir John Cowan, the Lord Mayor of London, made a public announcement in which he read out a lengthy complaint from a concerned citizen which included various accounts of Jack's assaults.

In February of 1838, Jack assaulted two more young women:

Jane Alsop: The first was Jane Alsop, who was in her father's house on the night of 19th February when there was a knock at the door and a voice called claiming to be a policeman, asking her to bring a light as he had caught Spring-heeled Jack in the lane. As she opened the door, she saw a cloaked figure waiting there. On handing over the candle to him, the man suddenly threw off his cloak, revealing "a most hideous and frightful appearance". With fiery eyes, he vomited blue and white flames on to Jane's face, and then tore off her gown and inflicted bloody scratches on her neck and arms with his ice-cold metallic claws. But Jane's sister appeared and Jack fled.

Lucy Scales: Again on 28th February, Lucy Scales, 18, was returning with her sister from their brother's house in Limehouse. As they were passing the Green Dragon Alley, Lucy came across a man in a large cloak, who unexpectedly spurted out some blue flame onto her face, disabling her sight and triggering violent fits which continued for hours.

All the while, The Times, a British daily newspaper, helped spread the legend by reporting the incidents.

A new wave of sightings took place a few years later in the 1870s:
Aldershot Barracks: In August 1877, at the Aldershot Barracks in North Camp, Central Road, a sentry came across a strange figure who advanced towards him and slapped him several times on the face. A guard shot at him, but with no avail. The figure then disappeared mysteriously with astounding leaps.

Liverpool: In 1888 in Everton, north Liverpool, Spring-heeled Jack was seen on the rooftop of Saint Francis Xavier's Church in Salisbury Street.

Modern Sightings

In the 1970s, the inhabitants of Attercliffe in Sheffield complained about a red-eyed figure who punched women. He was rumored to jump between rooftops and walk down on the sides of walls.
In South Herefordshire, a salesman named Marshall had encountered in 1986, a man who took gigantic leaps and slapped him on the road.

In West Surrey, many school-going children reported seeing a man who was all black with red eyes, who could run as fast as a car.

In February 2012, Scott Martin and his family were travelling in a taxi when they saw a dark figure run across the street and climb a roadside bank in seconds near Nescott College in Ewell bypass.

Spring-heeled Jack in America

Here are some of the reports which indicate that Jack may actually have extended his menace to the American continent:

Ghost of Raymond Street: In 1892, a seven to twelve feet tall phantom, dressed all in white, with horns on its head, was seen spitting fire in the vicinity of the jail in Raymond Street in Brooklyn, New York.

The Ghost of Wading River: At exactly 11:55 p.m. Every night, a spectre appears at the churchyard near Wading River, Long Island, jumping here and there trying to read inscriptions on the tombstones. When the clock strikes 12, the ghost positions himself atop a stone and spurts out 12 fire balls, after which he disappears.


When it comes to Spring-heeled Jack, explanations are many. Skeptics have dismissed the phenomenon as mass hysteria or an exaggeration of the activities of an Irish nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford, who had previously had bad experiences with women and cops. Paranormal propositions include a phantom, a ghost, a demon, an extraterrestrial and a being from a high gravity world which enabled him to make enormous jumps.

What do you think? Who or what was Spring-heeled Jack? Had an encounter with such an entity yourself? Post your comments!

Article Copyrightę Ritoban Mukherjee - reproduced with permission.

My name is Ritoban Mukherjee. The paranormal and morbid are my hobbies. I am a student and the author of a spooktacular paranormal and occult blog named All About Occult. Do visit my blog for bloodcurdling articles on morbid mysteries, dark religions, urban legends, aliens, afterlife, haunted locations and parapsychology.

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