1837. Mary Stevens was walking to Lavender Hill in South London. Suddenly, a strange, thin, tall, diabolical and frightful humanoid figure leapt out at her and started ripping at her clothes, with metallic claws attached to the ends of its hands. It started kissing and touching her, with hands ‘cold and clammy as those of a corpse’. Its eyes resembled balls of fire and it had the appearance of a gentleman. Stevens screamed, scaring the attacker away. Panic began to spread. The locals thought the Devil walked among them…
The next day, it struck again. It jumped in front of a carriage causing it to crash. The creature escaped by jumping over a nine foot wall, according to witnesses, all the while babbling with a high-pitched laughter.
In 1838, Sir John Cowan, Lord Mayor of London, held a public session to discuss the mounting sightings of this mysterious creature. One audience member confirmed, “Servant girls about Kensington, Hammersmith and Ealing, tell dreadful stories of this ghost or devil.” Thousands of letters started flooding in to the Lord Mayor’s office reporting sightings. The story quickly became national news.
On February 19, 1838, teenager Jane Aslop was lured into an alley by a man wearing a large cloak. He had a hideous appearance and vomited blue and white flames. He tore at her clothes, but she escaped and ran for home. He gave chase. He caught her and tore at her neck with his claws, before fleeing. Luckily, she survived.
One man was arrested. He admitted he was Spring-Heeled Jack, yet he escaped conviction because he didn’t accurately match the countless descriptions. All went quiet after this. That was until 1843.
A wave of sightings were reported in that year, all across the country, all matching the original descriptions in London. One witness described the creature as ‘the very image of the Devil’. And so it continued. For decades, sporadic sightings were reported. One sighting in Lincolnshire in 1877 saw the creature chased by an angry mob. They were armed and they fired shots at it, but the bullets had no effect. It used its infamous leap to escape the clutches of the mob.
After that, the sightings gradually faded away, and, eventually, they stopped altogether.
What was this creature? Well, it was real. There was something terrorising London and other parts of the country for a long time. Perhaps they were imitators and the original was a crazed man dressing up as the Devil. But what about the leap, the red eyes, the blue vomit and the fact it was resistant to bullets, things that were all reported on numerous occasions? Some blame the paranormal. Some blame mass hysteria, distorting witness’s accounts. But others think it was the Devil incarnate, causing mayhem and horror.
Whatever it was, it terrified Victorian Britain with hundreds of appalling attacks and its most horrendous appearance.
So I’ll give this creature a 70 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 10th in the list of 18, with de Loys’ Ape still bottom and the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
Spring-Heeled Jack. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
1) Two artist’s impressions of Spring-Heeled Jack, one showing a more human figure, the other a more supernatural creature (credit: comicvine.com + davidfarrant.org)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the title on the top of this post if you are on the ‘Archives’ page. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other two blogs:
The Indelible Life of Me
New Post Every Saturday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post
Hark Around the Words
New Post Every Sunday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post