A Recent Sighting in the 80s
A surprisingly recent sighting of Springheel Jack happened 1986 from a travelling salesman (who was also a former British army officer, according to some accounts) from South Herefordshire - with the last name of "Marshall." Mr. Marshall was slapped on the cheek by Springheel Jack as Marshall rode his bicycle along a quiet road near the Welsh border!
The date of this sighting is unusual and recent, considering that most tales of sightings of Springheel Jack have occurred in the Victorian era. For most, Springheel Jack is long gone - a Victorian era bogeyman. Unfortunately, Springheel Jack wasn't 'long gone' when Mr. Marshall was out and about one day.
Marshall was minding his own business in 1986, enjoying his bicycle ride and the countryside when movement to his left, in the fields, gained his attention. As he watched, shocked, a man was leaping over high hedgerows in a single bound. Soon, the man was right at Marshall and at the road. He slapped Marshall - HARD - and leapt away. The blow was enough to knock Marshall off his bicycle and to the ground, and the slap left a red handprint on Marshall's face for hours afterward.
Watch Out For This Leaping Fellow
Springheel Jack and The Businessman in 1837
in 1837 a businessman walking late at night on his way home chanced upon Springheel Jack. A leaping figure suddenly appeared in the path of the business man, only after having leapt over the nearby cemetery railings to do so, which greatly shocked the man. No assault or contact was reported, however, the description given of the leaping figure was very unsettling:
A muscular man with 'devlish' features. Large, pointed ears, large pointed nose and chin, and glowing eyes that protruded notably.
Spooky Story Books
Later in 1837 - Mary Stevens Encounters Spring Heeled Jack
Mary Stevens was a servant girl from South London, England who was returning home to the Lavender Hill area after visiting her parents in the Battersea inner-city district. To make her way home, Mary had to walk through the Clapham Common district, an elite homestead district at the time. In this area, she was surprised and assaulted by a figure who leapt out of a dark alleyway.
She was gripped tightly by the strangers arms, held immobile while the figure kissed at her - at the same time, clawing at her clothing.
According to Ms. Stevens' statement the entity touched her flesh with his claws, and his claws were "cold and clammy as those of a corpse."
Once Stevens began to scream, the figure dashed away. Her screams brought several residents to her aid. They immediately sought out the attacker but to no avail. No aggressor was to be found.
Spring Heeled Jack 5 Minute Version
Like Springs Were In His Heels
The Next Night Near Mary Stevens' Home October 1837
A Strange event occured immediately following the Mary Stevens attack which would come to be known as somewhat of a 'signature' Springheel Jack tactic of assault over the next while.
Near Mary Stevens' home the night after she was attacked, Springheel Jack leapt into the path of a moving carriage. This so shocked the driver that he lost control of the carriage and the coachman was seriously injured in the crash. Witnesses saw a figure escape from the scene by an amazing leap over a 9 foot high wall, while babbling and emitting a high-pitched and eerie laughter.
Sir John Cowan, Mayor of London, Arranges a Public Session
A public session was held in London on January 8 1838, in the Mansion House. Mayor of London, Sir John Cowan arranged this session in response to an anonymous complaint recently received, simply signed,
"a resident of Peckham."
This resident wrote that he believed the recent attacks in the community were from some restless, mischievous youth in the area who had set wagers with each other on providing the most outrageous incidents around the area to provoke gossip, disquiet and general mayhem. The writer went on further to explain some off-hand knowledge of some individuals who were prompting each other to dress up in various disguises (a bear, a ghost and a devil) in order to visit the villages of London and cause alarm - for which the culprits were obviously already succeeding.
The Peckham resident wrote that a number of incidents were becoming common gossip and the writer expressed concern that the Newspaper authorities had yet to comment appropriately on these matters.
As the mayor revealed the points of the anonymously written letter, a member of the audience admitted, "servant girls about Kensington, Hammersmith and Ealing, tell dreadful stories of this ghost or devil."
What Do You Think?
I think that Springheel Jack was/is:
The Times - January 9 1838
Formerly, The Daily Univeral Register, The Times newspaper in London finally reported news on these latest incidents, detailing that these were likely just bad pranks by a "[...]band of aristocrats, who, for a wager has undertaken to personify a supernatural being[...]"
Read a copy of The Diabolical Features of Spring-Heeled Jack (wherein this Times newspaper article is mentioned, as well as the work of Mike Dash, who studied the phenomenon of Springheeled Jack) from the Historical Blindness blog:
Also at this time, the mayor showed piles of letters (not merely or only the one from the resident of Peckham) recently received as complaints against a number of prankster antics going on in the area. There seemed such a number of letters and complaints that one can only assume that this problem was widespread and getting out of control in the suburban London communities.
In one letter, someone wrote that a number of young ladies in the Hammersmith area had been frightened to the point of experiencing "dangerous fits." Some individuals had been injured by whatever 'claws' the prankster/Springheel Jack had worn on his hands.
Some claims were made that people were frightened to death - had 'died of fright' in the areas of Stockwell, Vauxhall, Brixton and Camberwell.
Someone else had reported that in Blackheath and Lewisham, a prankster had been seen several times.
All in all, things were still in chaos for the mayor who couldn't quite believe that such pranks would be pressed forth in so many places and also cause so much damage and fear. On the other hand, the alternative (that a Springheel Jack supernatural entity existed) was as hard to imagine for Sir John Cowan. Truly this was quite a dilemma for the mayor.
A trusted source told the Mayor of a young woman, a servant girl, from Forest Hill who had been quite literally frightened into fits - by a figure in a bear's skin, so ultimately, Sir John Cowan believed that soon, a person or anyone involved in these effects would be apprehended and punished by the law.
...still, the incidents continued, and over a widespread area - even to the point whereby sometimes 'sightings' took place at similar times - in regions too distant for any reasonable communication between 'gangs' to occur. Also, these happened in two places definitely far enough remote that no single person could be the singular cuprit of events.
Jane Alsop - Opens The Door For Springheel Jack
Jane Alsop opened the door of her father's home to Springheel Jack, only she wasn't aware, at first, that it was the maniacal entity.
At her father's house, she opened the door to someone who shouted from the gate outside, as if he were a police officer. He coaxed Jane out of the house by saying something to the effect that he wanted her to hurry and bring a light, because, "we have caught Springheel Jack here in the lane." She brought a candle outside and noticed that the 'officer' wore a cloak.
When she handed the candle to the officer, he threw his cloak off, revealing his "[...] hideous and frightful appearance." He vomited forth blue and white flame at his mouth and his eyes were "red balls of fire." He appeared to be wearing tight-fitting clothing and wore a helmet of sorts, and all of this appeared like oilskin material to Jane Alsop.
He grabbed Jane and started to tear at her clothes with his claws
(she would say later that his claws seemed to be some sort of metal substance)
She screamed and managed to break his hold to run away toward the house but he caught her again just as she made her way to the steps. He tore at her some more with his claws, scraping at her neck and arms. Luckily her screams brought her sister running to the scene and finally the assailant gave up the attack and fled.
Lucy Scales Seized With Violent Fits After Seeing Springheel Jack
Several days after the Alsop case, Lucy Sales and her sister were returning home from a visit with their brother. With Lucy leading just ahead of her sister, she spotted a person standing near the pathway along Green Dragon Alley. As the girls neared the figure, a spurt of blue flame erupted from the stranger's face and into Lucy's, and she was instantly blinded, collapsing to the ground. So frightened was she that she engaged in violent fits which lasted several hours.
When Lucy was able to make a statement, she described the figure as having worn a large cloak.
Lucy's brother attested to having heard his sister's screams only a few moments after they departed from his home, and he immediately ran to see what was the matter. When he ran up Green Dragon Alley, he found Lucy to be on the ground in a thrashing fit, while her sister was holding her, attempting to support Lucy.
Lucy was assisted home, and afterward, the sister was able to tell in more detail what had happened. She described the attacker as tall, thin and of a gentlemanly appearance initially. He wore a cloak of sorts and held a lamp or a small 'bull's eye' lantern such as the kind typically carried by policemen. This figure never spoke or attempted to lay hands on the sisters. He simply walked away at a rapid pace.
This incident happened on February 28, 1838, less than two weeks after the attack on Jane Alsop.
1877 - Strange Happenings at Aldershot's Barracks
Between the time of the Lucy Scales incident and August 1877, reports of Springheel Jack continued but most were of questionable nature with witnesses unable to give clear details or descriptions of their situations or the 'culprit' they were reporting...
The Aldershot Barracks incident is one of the most unique reports of a Springheel Jack encounter, not only because the sighting of the prankster was witnessed by a soldier (one who we assume is better trained in the arts of observation than the average person, one who has extra training in self-discipline), but it was also witnessed by several additional soldiers on-site, who also shot at the mysterious leaping figure.
At the North Camp on Aldershot Barracks, a sentry was on evening watch duty. His attention was piqued at one point and he found himself peering intently into the darkness, watching something or someone 'bounding' up the roadway toward him at a fast rate of speed. The sentry also later reported a 'metallic sound' was present as the figure proceeded to approach.
When the soldier issued a challenge in his own defense, this seemed to go unacknowledged and the figure just simply vanished. Unsettled by the disruption, nonetheless, the soldier turn back around to properly take up his post again and this is when Springheel Jack attacked him.
With uncanny dexterity, Springheel Jack appeared right beside the soldier and delivered several smarting slaps to the soldiers face, with hand, the soldier said was, "a hand as cold as that of a corpse."
The noises which ensued from this attack alerted some other soldiers and several came running to the initial soldier's post. What they saw was a large character leap directly over their heads to land on the ground immediately behind them! A quick reacting guard pulled his gun out and shot at the figure but this had no effect other than possibly to anger the large stranger just before he leapt off and disappeared into the darkness.
Some sources suggest that the guard who shot at Springheel Jack may have only been firing warning shots. The reports of this event do not specify whether the figure was directly shot at or not, with the shooter intending damage or just warning, so we cannot know if Springheel Jack was actually hit by bullets or not (later embellishments would claim that Springheel Jack was bulletproof after this incident).
One would expect a very clear, detailed and methodological report to come out of this incident, especially since it happened right on-site at a military base and was experienced by several witnesses in a series of stages (approach of an intruder, attack on a guard, other guards alerted coming to aid, the firing of shots at an intruder and the intruder's escape) but details of this event still shed no light on the mysterious leaping attacker, Springheel Jack.
Mob Chases and Corners Springheel Jack - Autumn 1877
A short time after the Aldershot Barracks event, Springheel Jack was seen again. This time, in Lincolnshire, at the Newport Arch. This time, he was again seen by a number of people instead of just one lone person. In fact, a mob quickly gathers, noting a figure at the Newport Arch who was wearing 'sheepskin' of some sort, and this mob put Springheel Jack on the run.
They chased the figure dressed in sheepskin down and finally managed to corner him and trap him in. Shots were fired just like with the Aldershot incident, but still Sprigheel Jack got away!
Like times in the past, Springheel Jack used his extraordinary dexterity and leaping abilities and simply bounded clean away.
By the time of this incident, London and area had been experiencing Springheel Jack's antics for about 40 years!