Hendrick's Investigates One of Britain's Most Alarming Myths: Spring-heeled Jack
One of Britain’s most alarming myths, a mysterious jumping ‘man’ who emerged from the shadows of night to terrify passers-by, may still be alive today according to the latest witnesses. From 1837 until 1904, sightings of a figure christened ‘Spring-heeled Jack’ prompted such hysteria in England that vigilante patrols and military units took to the streets. Despite extensive efforts he was never caught and his identity has never been unearthed. Potential culprits range from a mischievous aristocrat to a misunderstood alien.
Increasingly, the theory is emerging that Spring-Heeled Jack may in fact not be one man, but a lineage of abnormally-gifted individuals or creatures. Sightings of a man with almost supernatural powers, who emerges in the dead of night continue to emerge, the latest just last year. In February 2012, reports surfaced of a long-limbed man who scaled a 15 foot (4.57 metre) wall in seconds. Scott Martin and his family, from Surrey, described a “dark figure with no features” that scampered up the obstacle in almost one movement. Their account chimes with reports dating back 175 years leading to suggestions that the original Spring-heeled Jack may have contemporary descendants. Reports from the 19th Century include a man seen leaping over a 9 ft (2.7 m) wall.
A Mystery Beast?
The Unusual Times spoke to Barri Ghai from the UK-based Ghostfinder Paranormal Society, who speculated that it may not be a man at all, but a mystery beast:
“This is cryptozoology at its best! If there is a credible witness – we definitely need to send a team. If it has been living in London for 175 years it must be excellent at hiding. With only a dozen sightings in such a long period it must have some adaptation to aid concealment. In the field of cryptozoology anything goes, so maybe it has the ability to make itself invisible. Living in such a densely populated area it would certainly need to have some highly effective camouflage. Also where does it live? The sewers? Regent’s Park?”
Other explanations are more psychological: Did the mass hysteria surrounding ‘Jack’ create a latent fear of jumping bogeyman? Did human imagination breathe life into this fear? Certainly, some reports have been particularly other-worldly, noting that he could breathe out fire or had cold claws instead of hands.
A popular theory is that Spring-heeled Jack was in fact a mad aristocrat carrying out a bizarre wager. A later explanation put forward the idea that he was an extraterrestrial being.
The Unusual Times spoke to Chris Roberts, a London historian specialising in folklore who has another fascinating explanation:
“Jack emerges in the 19th century as a folk demon for the industrial age. As millions of people came in from rural areas they brought their folklore with them. He was often associated with fire, rubber and metal- quite unlike traditional demons. He was the manifestation of London’s degradation.”
Yet there might be another explanation. Inquiries by The Unusual Times have found an obscure patent for ‘jumping-shoes.’ Although the patent was filed at a later date than the first sighting (6 May 1890), further investigation revealed that this was a refined version of an earlier model.
This ‘Shoe Spring’ has never before been associated with the mysterious leaping figures and its existence might offer a practical explanation for the flurry of initial sightings.