Sunday, 28 October 2018

Spook Sightings Of Yester Year - No. 11 - Spring Heeled Jack (Part 3) - (with a special appearance by the Silkey's Ghost!)

(From The Maryport Advertiser, dated Friday, 17th February 1888)


The female and juvenile portion of the community at Maryport and in the adjoining neighbourhood continue to live in a state of terror in consequence of the strange freaks of a man popularly known as "Spring-heeled Jack." Timid females decline to stir out after dark by themselves, whilst the more courageous arm themselves with such instruments as potato choppers and rolling pins. The police have been keeping a sharp look out on the roads converging upon Maryport, and, as they were unable to trace the ruffian last week, it was generally believed the man had left the port in a ship. On Saturday night, however, the troublesome individual turned up again at Grasslot, where he attacked two children in close proximity to the houses. On hearing the cries of the girls, a man named Woodward, a deputy overman at the Ellenborough Colliery, ran to their assistance and was knocked down by a severe blow on the face. After getting up again Woodward went into the house and got the poker, but when he came out again the ruffian was nowhere to be seen.

The Evening Journal of Wednesday contained the following :- " Our Maryport correspondent says: As numerous and alarming reports are in circulation respecting the freaks of a ruffian known as "Spring-heeled jack," who has been prowling about on the roads converging upon Maryport for two or three weeks past, i determined on ascertaining the truth or otherwise of at least one of the statements. I accordingly waited upon Mrs. Drake, the wife of a coalminer residing at Grasslot, near Maryport, to-day, when she supplied me with the following particulars :- I got home from Maryport about nine o'clock on Thursday evening, the 9th inst., and after setting down my marketing and placing 8s. on the window bottom, I went into the house of Police-constable Shannon, who resides four doors lower down in the row. I remained there till about half-past nine o'clock, and when I came out the policeman remarked that it was very dark and shut the door. As our front door was locked I had to go round to the end of the row, and just as I reached the last corner within a few feet off our front door a man laid his hands on my shoulders and pressed me down. I screamed "Murder" at the top of my voice, and the next instant I received a violent blow on the left side of my head and became unconscious. I cannot tell you anything more except that I believe the man had a mask on and must have kicked me when down as the back of my head feels very sore.- 

Richard Drake, son of the woman, said : I am a member of the Salvation Army, and was with the Army at Dearham on Thursday night last. I returned home a little before eleven o'clock, and on turning the corner to get to our back door I found a woman lying on the ground covered with mud. She was in an unconscious state, and not knowing who she was I asked a young man named Shaw to help me carry her into our house. You may imagine my surprise when I found that it was my mother. her apron and shawl had been torn off, and her pocket turned wrong side out. The man, however, got nothing for his trouble except a halfpenny, which my mother says she laid in her pocket at the time she was assailed. She also had in her pocket a white pocket handkerchief, and this we found stuffed tightly into her mouth so that she could scarcely breathe. About half-an-hour after the pocket handkerchief was removed my mother came round. She is far from being well yet.- 

Mrs. Drake incidentally added that she believed the man came out of the corner a few feet from the end of the houses, but there was nobody there when she went into the policeman's house, or she would have seen them, because the light from the adjoining furnaces lit up the place as she passed. After congratulating Mrs. Drake on her narrow escape, and thanking her and her son for the courtesy and readiness to furnish these details, I made inquiries respecting the attack on two young girls at Grasslot on Saturday night last. I found that the details published in Tuesday's Journal were quite correct. The younger of the girls named Hine was carrying a pint of ale in her hand, which she threw over the man. The policeman afterwards arrested a man answering the description given, and whose waistcoat was wet, but the girls would not or could not identify him as the person who assaulted them. Mr Woodward, the deputy overman who ran to the rescue, and was knocked down with a blow from a sharp instrument, bled freely from a wound on the face." 


(From The Dundee Courier, dated Thursday, 20th August 1891)


A singular incident occurred on Tuesday night in the Market Square, Galashiels, when an imaginary "Spring-Heeled Jack" was mobbed. For some time tales have been going about a ghost or a "Spring-Heeled jack" making nocturnal perambulations in Gala Park district, and performing ghostly antics; and more or less accurate descriptions of the "spirit" have been circulated. On Tuesday night a large crowd was in the Market Square listening to the town band, when a peculiarly-dressed female come on the scene. It was suggested that this was "Spring-Heeled Jack," and the poor woman was set upon by the excited crowd, and had to be taken for safety to the Police Office.


(From The Evening Post, dated Saturday, 15th December 1900)



Within the last month or two ghosts and rumours of ghosts have been in the air - where most of them exist - but a night or two ago the officials at Perth General Station were greatly perturbed by what they, at the time, imagined to be a "spook," although certainly a very lively and animated one.

The hands of the station clock were about midway between ten and eleven o'clock on a certain evening this week when one of the railway officials walking along the platform was accosted by a curious-looking old man. His eyes were almost hid by thick, bushy whiskers, and from his appearance nature had evidently not been kind to him, for the eccentric-looking figure had a peculiar hump on his back, and he leaned heavily on a stout staff. Hobbling towards the station official before mentioned, the odd-looking character huskily inquired if he could get a train for a certain town in the North Of Scotland. "Certainly, sir," said the railwayman, taking the arm of the feeble-looking old gentleman, and leading him to the train. " Would you like a smoker, sir?" asked the official, blandly. The traveller curtly answered with an emphatic negative. "All right, sir, here you are," and the deformed traveller was gently placed into a non-smoking carriage and the door shut.

No sooner had the official, left, however, than the "old man" gave signs of considerable animation, and, opening the door at the other side of the carriage, he slipped out, and crawled over the line, and up to the other platform. By this time the official, who had assisted the traveller to a seat, was in conversation with another railwayman, and he remarked - "I have a queer-looking chap into a carriage there; I think he is an old Jew." Several of the porters who had been working in the vicinity, observing the odd-looking figure creeping over the line and up the other platform, shouted excitedly - " Stop him, there, stop him ; catch the spring-heeled Jack," and other excited ejaculations, and they immediately rushed off in pursuit ; but the old-looking gent, showed really remarkable activity, and spanked along the platform at a rate which defied his pursuers to catch him. In and out of passages they darted, one station employee putting down a lamp he had in his hand none too gently in order to join the chase.

The "old Jew," however, proved fleet of foot and sound of wind, and succeeded in getting beyond the limits of the station at the Craigie end, and disappeared into the darkness. There is considerable speculation at the station as to who the "spring-heeled Jack" was, and the official who showed him to the carriage is having a rather lively time of it. Queer-looking travellers with humphs on their backs will probably receive scant courtesy at Perth Station for some time to come.


(From The Courier, dated Wednesday, 27th February 1901)


The Deonzo Brothers, who are nightly amusing crowded audiences at the London Alhambra, are a distinctly original couple, for they may be said to earn their livelihoods by constantly bobbing in and out of barrels.

In the ordinary way this would seem easy enough to accomplish, but the they are ambitious, and do nothing in the ordinary way. On the contrary, they are most extraordinary, for not only do they place their barrels on tables in order to make them more difficult to access, but they do their jumping with their legs tied tightly together and their eyes blindfolded. Theirs is indeed a marvellous exhibition of nerve, judgement and skill.

we illustrate on this page to-day one of the most sensational of their feats - namely, that in which one of the Deonzo Brothers, blindfolded, and with his feet tied, jumps from the floor into a tub, thence into another on the top of a couple of tables placed one on top of the other, out of it into a tub which stands on a chair, from which he turns a somersault into a tub on the stage, bringing the queer race to an end by bouncing out of this into yet another barrel some feet away.

This however, is but one of an almost endless variety of the series of progresses which the Deonzo Brothers make nightly at the Alhambra, and these "spring-heeled jacks" require to be seen in order that the wonderful nature of their achievements may be thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

There are more than eight versions altogether of these table-tub-and-chair tricks, to say nothing of such clever feats as jumping one leg in and out of three tubs placed fairly near each other, and so forth.


(From The Worcestershire Chronicle, dated Saturday, 26th April 1902)


The inhabitants at Baker Street at Gorleston have for some time past been the victims of a practical joke, which has at length been brought to light. Every evening after about 9.30, different people, more especially young ladies returning home, have been pounced upon by a person, believed to be a man, wearing a large overcoat. the persons, beyond being very much frightened, were otherwise unmolested. the police were apprised of this mysterious Spring-heel Jack, and they have been able to trace the individual as a young lady belonging to Gorleston, who, dressed in her brother's attire, was desirous of indulging in what shje considered a practical joke upon her neighbours. The "joke" has now been discontinued.


(From The Evening Post, dated Monday, 30th November 1903)



Within the week an individual has been frequenting Gilmerton, a small village three miles from Edinburgh. He has only appeared to women, though he has been seen once or twice by the miners in the district returning home.

His first appearance, it seems, was in a lane between two main streets last Monday morning after six o'clock. Suddenly and without warning he jumped over an eight foot garden wall of a local plasterer, threw off a white jacket, and exposed himself to view in a white sheet to three young women farm workers. He then threw himself on the ground for a second or two, and subsequently disappeared.

The next time he appeared was on Thursday night between nine and ten o'clock on the main Edinburgh road. the ghost suddenly came upon three young women returning from their laundry work, his appearance resulting in one of the girls fainting.

The authorities have the case in hand, and hope to be successful in running him down. he appears to be of medium height and build, and is wholly dressed in a white jacket and sheet.


(From The London Daily News, dated Thursday, 17th November 1904)


A “ghost hunt” is being organized St. Margaret’s Bay. The alleged ghost, according to a Dover correspondent, is said to walk nightly in the fields adjoining the village. Many people have been greatly alarmed during the past few nights, and on Tuesday night a young lady was so frightened when walking near the Convalescent Home that she fainted. The ghost is described as being "very tall, enveloped in white from head to foot."


(From The Bolton Evening News, dated Saturday, 19th November 1904)



The hue and cry after the St. Margaret's Bay ghost is increasing in vigour, and a Dover correspondent learns that this "spring heeled Jack" narrowly escaped capture at the hands of one search party who were across the fields late last night. Aided by the fog and speedy movements he was eventually lost to sight. The impression is gaining ground that the "ghost" manages to get to a cave in the cliffs. One of the ghost hunters, a young man, was yesterday displaying with pride a formidable-looking six-chambered revolver. With this he intends t test whether the ghost is a thing of air or flesh and blood. An amusing incident in connection with the ghost-hunt was told yesterday. A lady nurse, who has recently arrived in the village, went into one of the shops, and whilst there inquired with much surprise ; "What is the matter with the people in this place? As I came down the street several of them looked scared and bolted." The tradesman was at a loss to account for this until he noticed that the nurse was dressed in white. It was then evident that the nurse had been mistaken for the ghost in the fog.


(From The Southern Reporter, dated 24th November 1904 and The Northern Times, same date)


Search parties armed with bludgeons and other weapons are at present out nightly in the neighbourhood of Dover on the look-out for a practical joker who is playing the white-sheet ghost to the alarm of villagers. One woman stated that the figure sprang over fences in a manner suggesting that he had spring-heels on his heels. He will be a sore ghost if he is caught by the searchers.


Something like a reign of terror prevails among the women and children of St. Margaret's Bay, near Dover, owing to the "ghost" scare which has prevailed there for some days.

All who have seen the "ghost" agree that he is a tall man enveloped in white from head to foot. Mrs. Finnis, of Sea-street, who saw the unwelcome visitor near the convalescent home, where he frightened a young girl into a fainting fit, says that when she went to the young woman's assistance, the "ghost" disappeared, making a peculiar whirring noise.

reaching a fence, he sprang over it into the fields in a manner suggesting he had springs on his heels. 


(From The Daily Mail, dated Tuesday 1st October 1929)



STOCKPORT, Tuesday.- A reward of £100 is being offered for information which will lead to the conviction of the person proved to have been responsible for poisoning dogs in the Stockport district. Dog owners and dog lovers in the area have guaranteed the money, and the police state that inforamtion is wanted concerning a person known as "Spring Heeled Jack."

Over thirty dogs have disappeared or died suddenly in Stockport during the last few weeks, but an official of the Tail Wagger's Club, at Stockport, stated that it has not been proved that more than twelve were poisoned.


(From The Citizen, dated Saturday, 12th October 1929)


Boys Reprimanded by Chief Constable.

The Chief Constable of Stockport (Mr. G. Rowbotham) had before him to-day two boys who were caught by a constable sitting in the doorway of a shop at Shaw Heath, Stockport, in the act of carving with a knife on the woodwork.

They had apparently been reading of the exploits of "Spring Heeled Jack," whi is alleged to have been responsible for poisoning dogs in the Stockport area and for slashing shop windows where a notice was exhibited offering a reward for information that would lead to his arrest.

It was stated that when the boys were discovered they were carving the initials "S.H.J." on the doorway. They were taken home by a constable.

Today the Chief Constable severely reprimanded the lads and warned them that similar offences in the future would be regarded in a more serious light. It is understood that the police authorities are inclined to believe that there is no such person as "Spring Heeled Jack" and that the various acts which have been attributed to him are the work of mischievous boys.


(From The Shields Daily News, dated Friday 10th March 1933)





In the following article Mr T. R. Lilburn, formerly of West Chirton Market Gardens (adjoining Silkey's Lane), which he gave up when the land was purchased by Tynemouth Corporation for re-housing purposes, tells the story of the "Silkey's (or Silky's) Lane Ghost".
He Incidentally reveals how the name Silkey's Lane came to be applied to the thoroughfare in question. He also gives some interesting particulars of the "Spring-Heeled Jack" incidents associated with the West End. Mr Lilburn writes :-

"Silky" or Silkey's Lane (Chirton, North Shields), is a bridle road and footpath running north and south from the ancient village of "Shertoune", to the top of Burdon Main Row, called in my youth the "Pit Raw." It is bounded on the east side (or was), at the time the ghost frequented it, byth eout-buildings of Chirton House, afterwards known as Collingwood House, as it was willed to Admiral Lord Collingwood, Nelson's second-in-command at Trafalgar.

Lord Collingwood never lived there. His wife and daughters however, resided there for a number of years, and in his letters home, after "Trafalgar" His Lordship often alluded to it and was very solicitous that the old tenants should be well looked after and not disturbed.

The lane at that time ran by the farmlands to Waterville Road. there was one field on the south side of the road which was cut in two by the N.E.R. Co's line. On the west side it was bounded by the Lawson estate, from "Churton" village down to Burdon Main Row.

The Lawson estate was purchased by the late Sir G. Otto Trevelyan prior to his coming to contest for the borough in 1865 for Parliamentary honours. He was returned, but he retired at the next election, and he therupon resold the estate, the major portion being purchased by the Duke of Northumberland.

The "meadow Well" portion was recently acquired from the Duke by the Tynemouth Corporation for their slum clearnace rehousing scheme and forms the east boundary.

I have given these details because there must be at the present time a large number of inhabitants of the borough who will have no idea where Silkey's Lane is situated.

As to the ghost story, I must go back to the year 1699, for it was in that year Sir william Blackett sold to Archibald, first Duke of Argyll, the estate of "Shertoune," for the sum of £5,000 sterling, the reason for the  purchase being that it was a convenient stopping place between Inverary and London on his Grace's frequent journeyings to and from the capital.

The Duke's character is thus drawn by Lodge in his "Portraits of Illustrious Personages":-

"Argyll seems to have possessed all the best qualifications of an ancient chieftain of the country which gave him birth.


"Nature had given him a powerful and lively understanding, a princely generosity, an undaunted courage, a quickness and, generally, a justness of decision, an inflexibility of determination, and a candour too often inconveniently pure for the station in which he was placed.

"To these were added the neutral and partly acquired qualities of haughtiness and excessive pride of blood."

Argyll, though possessed of qualities which commanded admiration and respect, led a very irregular life, and for many years was separated from his wife, and at "Sheartoune" kept a mistress, one Mrs Allison or Murray.

By deed of settlement, dated Septemer 1702, the Duke made over to her his property at "Sheartoune" and the furniture there, to be held in trust for her by her brother-in-law, William Boutflower.

The estate was a large one. The stud was valued at £408 ; and, in addition to six coach horses, there were 32 other galloways, ponies or pads, and cows, sheep and a pack of 50 hounds. the establishment consisted of 12 men servants.

In August, 1703, the Duke was dangerously ill and came to "Sheartoune" from Scotland for the benefit of his health. He was only in a condition to "ride slow and take little journeys"

On August 26th he called for his brother, the Hon. Charles Campbell, his physician, his steward, and three or four witnesses, and proceeded to say, "Pray tell my son that I have given Mrs Allison my estate in England, and hoped that he would not dispute it."

On September 28, 1703, he died, and then Chirton Hall was the scene of confusion and disorder. 

The breath was hardly out of the duke's body before his brother began to rifle the house. he seized the duke's clothes, his saddles and horses, furniture, pistols and guns, which afterwards he sold.

Mrs Allison seized the late duke's gold watch and buckles, and a large quantity of plate, etc.


The physicians, being strangers to Newcastle, could not procure the materials to embalm the body, till Mr Boutflower stood bond, the cost being £100.

Mrs Allison was quite prepared, so she said, to leave everything at her death to the duke's son, Archibald, if they would leave her alone, and not put her to any trouble or expense, but the machinery of the law was put in motion to oust her from Chirton.

Citations to appear before the Ecclesiastical Court were taken out against her, one in the worst possible taste being affixed over the place where the corpse of her paramour lay.

Mrs Allison was ousted, and the duchess gained possession of the furniture, etc., and shipped the goods to Leith by yacht. But the yacht foundered with all hands, so that the removal of the effects from Chirton was a most unfortunate affair.

On Nov. 19, 1703, the Duke's servant Thomas Marr, wrote, "Mrs Allison next Sunday, is to be excommunicated from our church, where I shall not fail to attend, with God's help."

Mrs Allison, finally removed to Newcastle, there it is said, a mistress of the Duke's (whether Mrs Allison or not it is not known, but the suspicion points to her) disappeared very suddenly, and suspicion of foul play took firm hold of the popular mind.

Soon there were those, who had seen a mysterious visitant, dressed in a brown silk dress, gliding by night along a shady avenue on the outskirts of Chirton (Silkey's Lane). One still hears of "Silkey" visiting her ancient haunts and there are still people who believe they have seen her.

Here is a story in that connexion. One morning about 80 years ago, a young man, proceeding up Silkey's Lane very drowsy from want of sleep, was startled by a rustling noise. Looking up, he saw a lady clad in silk, with a hound by her side, coming towards him.

He was about to speak to her, when she suddenly turned aside to the right, and as she did so, he observed the moonlight shining through her body. She glided with her dog through the hedge and faded from sight.


Now for my father's experience. Working one bright moonlight night in the fall of the year, repairing a fence, he looked up suddenly to see what appeared to be a tall graceful lady standing bowing. 

He was startled, and had he been nervous he might have fled, and sworn he had seen "Silkey," but, not being built that way, he proceeded to investigate the cause, and satisfied himself that it was the moon's rays throwing the shadow of a young sapling tree, across the roadway and that the rustling of the silk dress, was the rustling of leaves on the surrounding trees.

Convinced in his own mind, that he had solved the mysterious ghost story, he went into the house, and called my mother out to show her something, but not telling her what it was.

When they got to the spot where the shadow could plainly be seen, to use the words of my father, "mother threw up her hands, yelled "Silkey's Ghost," and was off home "like hell for leather," (an old hunting phrase.)

Nevertheless it was always a very touchy place with my mother, and if ever my father was spinning the yarn, as he often had to do to the inquirers about the ghost, mother invariably retired into another room while the tale was told.

Now for my own experience. One night many years ago I was making home (before midnight) by the footpath through the grass field that lay in front of Collingwood House, leading to Silkey's Lane.

Well, we had a grey cob horse grazing in the field, and he was just a few yards off. I went and spoke to him while he smelled about my pockets for a tit-bit, when an elderly gentleman passed along the footpath.


What had strtled the latter I did not know at the moment, but he broke into a run ; then I heard the wicket of the stile clash and the pitter patter of his feet making the best of his way home.

Knowing him very well, I sung out to him, "What's the matter, John?" He shouted back : "What the world do you mean standing there, frightening folks to death? I thought it was Silkey's Ghost." Now, here you have a case of pure imagination, run wild.

I have lived all my life, from June 1854, till June, 1932, in the house in which I was born - it was originally the coachman's house when the Duke of Argyll came to Chirton. I have travelled the lane at all hours of the day and night during those years, and have seen many strange sights in it, some of them startling.

For instance, I have stumbled over a young bullock lying across the roadway on a pitch dark night ; I have come upon cattle browsing in the hedgerows ; bumped into a horse or a flock of sheep which have strayed from the adjoining fields.

But during all those years I have never seen the "Ghost of Silky." All I have ever seen has proved on investigation to be human or animal, human mostly, for it was many years a favourite courting ground for couples of all ages, from toddlers of youth, to toddlers of old age.

And most certainly, for the last few years, no self-respecting ghost could have come near to it, for it jas been and is a veritable slough of despond with mud.


Now the only Spring Heeled Jack I have any recollection of was supposed to haunt the road between the Pine Apple Inn, West Chirton, and the bridge over the wagon ways at Percy Main, or the footpath through the fields in front of West Chirton House, at that time the residence of Col. Addison Potter. the time was about the early sixties of the last century.

It was supposed to be a young officer from the garrison of Tynemouth, masquerading as a ghost with a white sheet or coat over his head and some luminous substance over his face and hands.

Many were the thrilling stories told of his exploits, but whoever he was, he was never caught, for which he ought to be thankful, because if any of the groups - for after dusk the women travelling the road never went but in groups and always well armed - had ever laid hands on him - well, his friends would have had great difficulty in recognising him after.

There is no doubt, that some practical joker did frequent that district, but any athletic young fellow, would have no need for any springs , to vault the wall on either side of the road and disappear among the trees. and then he had the fields at his command. I never heard of any men being troubled by him.


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  1. I love these old urban legends.

    1. Me too! It's great fun looking through the newspaper archives trying to find stuff too....I'm finding some really odd unrelated things on the same pages which I might have to post about some day! ;-)