Urban legends are fascinating. Because they come about more often than the myths and legends of the past, there’s an aura of mystery surrounding them that suggests some of them might be true.
Much like the Jersey Devil and The Loch Ness Monster, people have claimed to see the being known as “Spring-heeled Jack.” Though there have been no official sightings for over a hundred years, this urban legend has yet to be definitively debunked.
This is just one of many depictions of Spring-Heeled Jack.
Though there are some inconsistencies with the various reports of Spring-heeled Jack sightings, most people agreed that he had clawed hands and fiery red eyes.
In October 1837 in London, a girl named Mary Stevens was unfortunate enough to be the victim of the first reported Spring-heeled Jack attack. The figure, cloaked in the darkness of the alley, leapt at her and held her tight in his arms. He started kissing her and shredding her clothes, touching her skin with hands that she described as “cold and clammy as those of a corpse.” The creature ran away without a trace when she screamed in terror.
After a number of other sightings, Lord-Mayor of London, Sir John Cowan, officially recognized Spring-heeled Jack on January 9th, 1838.
There were several other attacks in the following decades. The monster was known to cause violent “fits” among the girls and young women (his most common victims) that he attacked, as well as injuries form his claws.
In two of Jack’s most famous sightings, he was described as having breathed blue flames. This was reported by Jane Alsop on February 19th, 1838, then just days later by Lucy Scales on February 28th, 1838.
As the years went on, Jack found greater fame in the hearts and minds of the public. Plays and penny dreadfuls were written about him, and stories of this shadowy figure continue to this day.
Despite his notoriety, the last reported sightings of Spring-heeled Jack were in Liverpool in 1904.
There have been many theories surrounding his identity, with many believing that he was of paranormal origin.
A more skeptical rumor suggests that Jack was really an Irish nobleman named Henry de La Poer Beresford, the third Marquess of Waterford. He was named for getting into drunken fights, vandalism, a cruel sense of humor, and, perhaps most notably, misogyny. He even earned the nickname “The Mad Marquis.”
Whoever — or whatever — Jack really was, it’s interesting how such a rich mythology surrounds him. Though no official reports of his sighting have been made in over a century, there’s always a chance for a dark specter of the night like this to still be hiding in the shadows, waiting for his next victim.
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