Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Spook Sightings Of Yester Year - No.10 - Spring Heeled Jack (Part 2)

Was at college yesterday, and didn't get back until quite late, so I'm now a day behind in my posts...I'll make up for that with a couple of posts tomorrow, but in the meantime, it feels about right to carry on with the 2nd part of the Spring Heeled Jack articles....

(From The Lincolnshire Guardian And News, dated Saturday, November 26th 1864)


During the past fortnight the whole of the neighbourhood between Main-ridge bridge and Tuxford's foundry has been kept in a state of considerable agitation by a silly report that a ghost, popularly known as "Spring heeled Jack," had made it's appearance in the neighbourhood. The more timid portion of the inhabitants have been so frightened that they will not cross their thresholds after nightfall ; and every evening large mobs of men and boys, many armed with guns and pistols, perambulate the district for the purpose of shooting the intruder.

We need scarcely say that all these efforts are in vain ; when the ghost is wanted, it never appears. The most remarkable tales are current respecting the tricks of this wonderful "Spring heeled Jack," who is currently reported to spring across the river when chased. We believe that the whole affair has been set afloat by some practical jokers, who must be highly amused at the sensation their stupid tricks have caused. If one or two of the leaders could be well whipped, or sent to the treadmill for a short time, it would be no more than they deserve. they may rest assured, that if caught practising these foolish tricks, they will receive Lynch law.


(From The Observer, dated August 15th 1868)


The Marquis Of Waterford, at that time a wild young scapegrace about town, was supposed to be the chief of a band of rioters who nightly perpetrated these silly tricks, and others a great deal more vicious. perhaps the last and most series piece of foolery which was attributed to him (though quite without evidence), was the impersonation, by some extraordinarily active fellow, of a mysterious being who became widely know as Spring-heeled Jack. this individual, who was said to be closely masked, and attired in a dress made of some sort of shaggy hide, was seen in places so far apart at such remarkably short intervals, that while some people believed there was a company of jokers acting in concert, others associated the dreadful apparition which went along the road, or over fields, hedges, and ditches in a succession of tremendous leaps, if not with the enemy of mankind himself, at least with some sub-diabolic agency.

Who Spring-heeled Jack was has not been discovered, and it was never divulged. He was no robber, for though he frightened a good many people almost to death, and was once seen leap clean on the roof, if not over the roof of a cottage, he never assaulted anybody for the purpose of stealing. He was always silent, too, and always alone. He disappeared as he had come, for the new police were too many for him, and the watchmen were fast being superseded both in London and the suburbs. - Casell's Magazine.


(From The Dundee Evening Telegraph, dated Tuesday, April 12th 1877)


A curious story comes from Aldershot. For some time past the sentries on two outlying posts have been frightened to death by the appearance at night of two spectral looking figures. These figures, glowing with phosphorous and otherwise alarming to the superstitious, are in the habit of suddenly manifesting themselves, making tremendous springs of ten or twelve yards at a time, and upsetting the wretched sentry before he has been able to collect himself sufficiently to oppose earthly arms to his ghostly visitants. The latter do him no bodily injury, contenting themselves with upsetting the poor man, after which they mysteriously disappear. So great has been the panic that it has been found necessary to post double sentries, and these have lately taken to loading with ball. It is supposed that the alarm has been caused by two practical jokers, provided with powerful springs to the heels of their boots.


(From The Illustrated Police News, dated Saturday, November 3rd 1877)



A CORRESPONDENT sends us the following account, together with a sketch, of a scene at Newport :-
"For some time past," says our contributor, "the neighbourhood of Newport, near Lincoln, has been disturbed each evening by a man dressed in a sheep skin, or something of the kind, with a long white tail to it. The man who is playing this mischief has springs to his boots, and can jump a height of 15 or 20 feet. The other night he jumped upon a college, and got into a window on the roof, and so frightened the ladies that one has not yet recovered the shock. Some other people were so much frightened by this object, that every night a large mob of men, armed with sticks and stones, assemble and attempt to catch him, but to no avail.

The nuisance became so great that two men got guns out, and chased him. The picture represents him jumping up the Newport arch, a very old Roman building built in 45 A.D. ; as he was jumping up he was shot at, but so tough is the hide e wore, that the shot did not penetrate it, and running over the house tops on the other side he escaped, but soon appeared in another part of the town. He was again chased, and as he was running on the wall of the new barracks was shot at by a publican, but the shot did not appear to take effect. He has also done other tricks, and which we think worthy of a picture in the POLICE NEWS."


(From The Dundee Courier and Argus, dated Monday, November 4th 1878)


With the removal of the 3d Battalion ^0th Rifles from Aldershot to Colchester, "Spring-heel Jack," whose vagaries at the former place excited considerable attention, seems also to have changed his quarters, and the garrison at Colchester is now in a state of excitement over his escapades. The principal scene of his operations is the Abbey Field, where he has visited several lonely sentries, all of whom he has frightened, and two so seriously that they are now under treatment in the garrison hospital, it being feared that the mind of one is completley unhinged. It is stated that the sentries are to be doubled.


(From The Swindon Advertiser, dated Saturday, December 14th 1878)


Co-incident with the publication of the public annuals with their thrilling ghost stories, considerable excitement has recently been caused at the east end of the town of Reading by the alleged nocturnal appearance of a ghostly visitor, who, from the wonderful leaping propensities with which he is attributed, is familiarly known as "Spring Heeled Jack." The most marvellous tales have been told of the antics  in which he has indulged, the stories causing great alarm amongst the more timid and superstitious inhabitants of the locality.

The rumour is supposed to have been first circulated by a foolish old woman who declared that she had seen someone jump out of the road and over a high wall. the rumour soon spread, and as it passed from mouth to mouth gradually resolved into a most circumstantial account of the personal appearance of the spectre, and of his doings. there was in reality not the slightest truth in any of the reports, but many people believed that someone was playing a practical joke, and went in search of the perpetrator armed with thick sticks, but the ghost discreetly remained invisible. Amongst other things it was stated that Mr. Farmer, the lodge keeper at the Cemetery, chased "Jack" round the Cemetery, and in doing so had hurt himself by falling over one of the tombstones, but like the rest of the story, this was also without foundation.


(From The Lancaster Gazette, dated Wednesday August 23rd 1882)


A few evenings since under one of the arches of the South-Eastern Railway, near its junction with the Greenwich Line, a most lonely spot in Woodpecker Lane, leading from New Cross to Rotherhithe, a person was observed enveloped in a sheet, which passed over a lighted lamp on his head, in imitation of the celebrated"Spring-heeled Jack" who was such a terror for children in the suburbs of the metropolis many years ago. Upon being approached, however, by some men he prudently disappeared, his evident intention being to frighten women and children.


(From the pages of The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, dated Sunday January 28th 1884)


For some days the wildest rumours have been afloat in Darlington regarding some mysterious being who has been playing antics in the ghost line for nearly a week. First he was seen in Neasham-road, then he paid a visit to Eastbourne, and latterly he has honoured Rise Carr with his presence. It is said that he is on a visit to various towns in the North. From a simple ghost he has developed into a kind of supernatural being. He can stride several yards at a time, leap hedges and walls like a greyhound, and one person actually declares that be has darted across the Tees at Yarm ! 

At any rate, what- ever he may be, the result is that in Darlington women and children scarcely dare to move out at night. Owing to the nervous condition of several timid females in Darlington our representative there has been led to make some enquiries concerning the "Ghost," and as the result we can assure all those who are in trepidation on the subject that the wild rumours now afloat have more existence in the imaginations of persons than in real life. The most difficult thing our representative had to do was to find any person who had really seen the ghost. After about an hour's inquiry he at last found the man he sought. This was Thomas Nellis, a workman at the Bridge Yard, Neasham-road. Nellis informed him that on going down Neasham-road he distinctly saw a man in white standing near Mr Tree's gate. 

On Nellis saluting him he received no answer. "Nellis at once walked up, and the ghost took to his heels. He thinks the white part of the performance is either produced by a light or white sheet. At any rate the moment Nellis approached the white disappeared, and he distinctly saw in the dusk a man about six feet high. He chased him down the field, but the ghost was very fleet of foot, and by the time they reached the bottom Nellis was forty yards behind. 

Nellis is of opinion that the man is assisted in running by some mechanical apparatus fixed to his boots, enabling him to take strides of immense length. One thing he is certain of— viz., that it is a man, so that it is to be hoped that this announcement will dispel the fears of those persons who are in terror of a visit from the Eastburn apparition. The ghost is not yet in the Darlington police cells, as currently reported, although it is ex- pected he soon will be.


(From The Supplement To The Manchester Courier, And Lancashire General Advertiser, dated Saturday, 16th August 1884)


It is now nearly half a century since the inhabitants of London and its suburbs were kept in a constant state of terror by a man who, under various disguises, would suddenly appear before the unsuspecting pedestrian, and, after having nearly frightened the traveller out of his or her senses, would as suddenly disappear with terrible bounds, leaving the impression upon his affrighted victim that his Satanic Majesty had condescended to pay him a visit in person. Evening was the time generally chosen by this eccentric character for his exploits, and doubtless there are as many living who can recollect the pang of fear that shot through their hearts when, leaping from some dark corner, out of a doorway, or over a hedge, he stood before them.

Who this singular being was, or what the true object of his escapades, can only be left to conjecture, as he was never captured ; certain it is that robbery was not the motive, for he was never known to take a single coin from his victims, even when fright had rendered them an easy prey, nor did he often practise any other degree of cruelty beyond scaring them, which, however, was quite sufficient, as in some instances the sufferers never thoroughly recovered the shock to their nerves.

The only surmise to his identity that was ever hazarded was that he was the Marquis of Waterford - then famous as a ringleader in all that savoured of fun and frolic - but not a shadow of proof could be ever adduced in support of this theory. the more general belief appears to have been that there were several persons concerned in the affair ; that they were members of high families, and that the cause of their pranks was abet of three thousand pounds that they would procure the death of not less than thirty human beings, apportioning them with nice discrimination as follows : Eight old bachelors, ten old maids, and six lady's-maids, and as many servant girls as they could, trusting that by depriving them of their reason they would accelerate their deaths. This is, of course, incredible, but the chief clerk of the Mansion House Police-court, in a letter to the newspapers, said it was so reported to a committee that was formed by the Lord Mayor for the purpose of tracking and prosecuting the scoundrels.

It was in the latter end of 1837, at Barnes, that the ghost made its first appearance in the shape of a large white bull, attacking several persons, more particularly women, many of whom suffered most severely from this fright. At East Sheen, in the form of a white bear, the alleged spirit carried on similar gambols. His ghostship then extended his operations to the town reknowned for "maids of honour," and in the course of a few days all Richmond was aghast at the tales of women being frightened to death and of children being torn to pieces by him. The search after the unearthly visitant was here becoming too warm for him, and he shifted the scene of his labours to Ham, Kingston and Hampton, at which latter place he was seen, clad in armour of brass, with spring shoes, and large claw-like gloves, but being hotly pursued he scaled the walls of Bushey Park and vanished. Teddington, Twickenham, and Hounslow all had stories to tell of his appearance, and in Sion Park, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, many and fearful were the injuries said to have been inflicted by him. At Isleworth a carpenter was seized at eleven o'clock at night, and most unmercifully beaten by the ghost, who was attired in polished steel armour, with red shoes, &c. It must be noted what an exceedingly varied wardrobe this sprite must have had, rendering it very difficult, one would think, for him to move, with such extensive properties, with alacrity from place to place.

The neighbourhood of Uxbridge was the next scene of his pranks, and he approached the metropolis through Hanwell, Brentford, and Ealing, in which last place he was seen in steel armour, striking terror into the inmates of the various schools located there, and frightening the blacksmith of the village so completely as to force him to keep his bed in consequence of the shock he sustained. At Hammersmith he found a determined opponent in the shape of a valorous laundress, to whom he appeared in the form of an immense baboon, six feet high, with enormous eyes, and eyes of an extensive length ; and, in strict keeping with is animal appearance, he grunted like an hyena. This courageous woman, after an ineffectual attempt to avoid her uncanny visitor, determined to give him battle, and flew at him with such fury that he was glad to give up the contest. Even the royal precincts of Kensington Palace did not escape from his visits, children having seen the unearthly being dancing by moonlight on the Palace Green, and ever and anon scaling the walls of the royal forcing-houses.

In consequence of the panic attending these exaggerated stories, the police had strict orders to investigate their truth, but were unable, in the majority of cases, to trace any person who had really seen the apparition. that their was mischief afoot, however, was clearly shown by the applications at the Mansion house and other police-courts for protection.

At Peckham he caused the greatest alarm (judging by a letter to the Lord Mayor, from a resident there), appearing in a new character, as a spectre, and scaring out of her senses, amongst others, an unfortunate servant-girl who opened a door to him ; and the writer also said that seven ladies had been reduced to the same unhappy state through fright at the awful apparition. Letters poured into the Mansion House from all parts of London, showing how universal was the terror which had been inspired by this masquerading miscreant. Several persons, more especially women, were injured  bodily in many instances by the claws with which he appears to have armed his hands, and, if one writer may be believed, several deaths on the south side of London had been caused by the shock his appearance had given. A letter from St. John's Wood stated that for a whole fortnight that neighbourhood had been favoured with Spring-heeled Jack's attentions ; he sometimes appearing as as bear, and sometimes clad in mail. This correspondent asserted that the bet, which was supposed to be the cause of these pranks, was that the monster should kill six women in some given time.

That his appearance was calculated to upset even the stoutest-hearted must be admitted, for the Lord Mayor himself, though much inclined to be sceptical, acknowledged that he had been given to understand, on undoubted authority, that in the vicinity of Forest Hill, where he resided, one of the female servants of a gentleman who lived near his house had been terrified into fits by the sudden appearance of a figure clad in a bear's skin, which, upon being drawn aside, exhibited the human body, with long horns - emblematical of Satan himself - clad in a suit of mail.

The "ghost" did not disdain to avail himself of material means of conveyance occasionally, as is shown by a letter to the Morning Herald, January 16th, 1838, from "A Resident on Paddington Green," who stated that he had seen, close to his house, a figure clad in white, closely pursued by two men, and, after a smart chase, this matter-of-fact apparition jumped into a cabriolet, and was driven out of the reach of his would be captors.

A committee was formed at the Mansion House in January, 1838, for the purpose of receiving subscriptions, and to decide upon the best means of capturing this uneasy spirit, and of visiting it with the punishment it so richly deserved.

In sending a donation of £5 to the fund, a gentleman reading at Dulwich wrote that his daughter was lying in a very dangerous state, having been nearly deprived of her senses by the sudden appearance of a figure enveloped in a white sheet and blue fire, which had met her on her return home from a friend's house ; others equally testified to injuries received at the hands of the hobgoblin. A reward of £10 was offered for the apprehension of the heartless scoundrel, but unhappily it completely failed in its objective, and the perpetrator of this ghastly "joke" continued to be at large.

thinking, perhaps, he had done as much harm as he desired in other parts of London, for a whole month Spring-heeled Jack devoted himself to disturbing the peace of mind of the dwellers in the East End of the metropolis, the neighbourhood of Bow being particularly patronised by him. One gross outrage came before the police magistrate at Lambeth-street, and caused considerable attention.

(*These next two paragraphs are almost word for word copied from newspaper articles in part one, so you can safely skip these two if you've read that...DPF *)

A young lady, named Alsop, living with her parents in the vicinity of Bow, stated that at about a quarter to nine o'clock on the evening of February 21, 1838, she heard a violent ringing at the front gate of the house, and on going to the door to see what was the cause she saw a man standing outside, of whom she inquired what was the matter. the person instantly replied that he was a policeman, and said, "For God's sake bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane." She returned into the house, and brought a candle and handed it to the man, who was enveloped in a large cloak. the instant she had done so, however, he threw off his outer garment, and, applying the lighted candle to his breast, presented a most hideous and frightful appearance, and vomited forth a quantity of blue and white flame from his mouth, his eyes resembling red balls of fire. From the hasty glance which her fright enabled her to get at his person, she observed that he wore a large helmet, and his dress which appeared to fit him very tight, seemed to her to resemble white oil-skin. Without uttering a sentence he darted at her, and, catching her partly by her dress, and the back part of her neck, placed her hand under one of his arms, and commenced tearing her clothes with his claws, which she was certain were made of some metallic substance. She screamed out as loud as she could for assistance, and by considerable exertion got away from him, and ran towards the house to get away from him. Her assailant, however, followed, and caught her on the doorstep, when he again used considerable violence, tore her neck and arms with his claws, as well as a quantity of hair from her head ; but she was at length rescued from him by one of her sisters. Her story was fully corroborated by her parents and sisters, and her injuries, which were very considerable, bore unmistakable testimony to the truth of the assault.

Another example of the ghost's playful ways in the east End of London was shown by a statement made before the magistrate at Lambeth-street Police-court, March 8th, 1837, by a Miss Scales, who deposed that as she and her sister were walking in Limehouse about half-past eight in the evening, on coming to Green Dragon Alley they observed some person standing in an angle of the passage. She was in advance of her sister at the time, and just as she came up to the person, who was enveloped in a cloak, he spurted a quantity of blue flame right in her face, which deprived her of her sight, and so alarmed her that she dropped to the ground and was seized by violent fits, which continued for several hours. this individual was described as tall, thin, and of gentlemanly appearance, and carried in front of him a small lamp, similar to those used by the police ; he did not utter a word, nor attempt to lay hands on the young woman, but walked away in an instant.

One evening near Lord Holland's gate at Kensington, a gaunt figure, accoutred like Don Quixote, and covered with spikes, was seen striding along the road, and after staring in the faces of some labouring men, disappeared in an instant. these men, it is said, went into a beer-shop in the vicinity, and then relating what they had seen, went again to the place where the figure had appeared, in expectation of its return. However, they did not meet it, but they saw an uncouth monster, having the shape of an enormous baboon, playing its antics beneath some trees which overhung the road. As they approached, the creature sprung up on the branches and disappeared, Spring-heeled Jack, of course, being credited with this mysterious occurrence.

Hackney was favoured with an extraordinary vision of this many-shaped intruder on the public peace, for he appeared, so the story runs, in the shape of a lamp-lighter walking on his head and hands, and carrying his ladder between his feet, to which was suspended a lantern of large dimensions, amply lighted. and this curious creature, on being approached, somersaulted so high that those who saw it were utterly astonished. But this, surely, is rather more than even the most credulous ought to be expected to swallow, and the story must have been manufactured to feed the public taste for the marvellous.

Another glimpse of him was had on the road to Woolwich, when a blue flame issued from his mouth, and a girl who witnessed it fell into fits. his dress on this occasion is described as that of a gentleman, with the somewhat startling addition of a wide strip of scarlet down the back of his coat. Being pursued, he sprang over the fence as usual, and was out of sight in an instant. Still lingering in Kent, he was found the following night at Dartford, where he was clad in a bear-skin, and amused himself with the mischievous trick of putting out the town gas and leaving the streets in darkness. The ubiquity of the fellow was something wonderful, and tended, of course, very much to enhance his fame ; no sooner was he heard of in Kent than he turned up in Hampstead Heath, springing over the furze-bushes and somersaulting over the gravel-pits.

So numerous were the tales told of Spring-heeled Jack that a good many must be supposed to be true ; whilst, on the other hand, great allowance must be made for credulity, some people not being content with the marvellous as they find it, but being only too happy to add thereto. As a final specimen of the nonsense circulated about his appearance, perhaps the following is the best. A wonderful sight, it was said, was witnessed on Primrose Hill one evening. On the summit appeared a huge figure of a man, in a flame of pale blue ; it then assumed the bulk of a massive elephant, then of a windmill in full operation, and lastly, in lessening its dimensions, it became a large ball of snow, which rolled down the hill, and escaped further notice. What Spring-heeled Jack had to do with this dreadful appearance is not at all clear, but it was attributed to him nevertheless, such was the hold that he had obtained over the public mind.

Whether too much attention was beginning to be paid to him with a view to his capture, or whether his love of mischief had died out, cannot be told, but certain it was that nothing was known publicly of this singular being after April 1838, having kept London in a ferment of excitement and terror for about six months. the foregoing are only a few of the stories, veracious or otherwise, that were related of him, space not permitting any more detailed account to be given. - All the Year Round.


But as we know, Spring Heeled Jack was far more active after 1838 than the last article would have us believe, and, indeed, would continue to remain active for the remainder of the 19th century, and even into the 20th!

And so that means that there's even more articles to come in an unexpected third part of this Spook Sighting special, which you'll find here in the coming days before Halloween! So keep an eye out for that....

In the meantime, leap on over to the Countdown To Halloween hub by clicking the badge below, where you can find all the other blogs taking part!

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