Spring-heeled Jack, Jack, the Devil is a character of Urban legend, Folklore, and Cryptzoology in Victorian era Britain. Being first sighted in 1837, more frequent tales emerged throughout the ensuring century. His name, Spring-heeled, comes from its' ability to leap over great distances and heights. During the second half of the 19th century, the creature became more entrenched in Urban legend, often leading to more and more speculation of Spring-heeled Jack and his appearance.
During and after the boom in Spring-heeled Jack sightings, his appearance became more detailed. According to witnesses, he has a frightening and and terrific figure, with metal claws on his hands and eyes that "resembled fireballs". He is said to be either of worn a loose-fitting black jacket, with a helmet and tight fitting white garment. However, other versions of the story claimed he was more upright, and had the appearance of a "gentleman" (with a top hat, black, polished coat ect). It was also recorded in numerous cases during the 1860's that Jack had a "wicked smile of unimaginable terror".
During the decades between 1870 and 1890, he began to take on a more "devil like persona and look", with more people saying they had witnessed wings instead of an overcoat and less clothes. Witnesses had also reported that he had either a mask of a "demon or devil", or the face of one. However, the same thing was retained through the years of sightings, his polished, black boots.
The very first sighting of Spring-heeled Jack came in October 1837, when a woman by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to Lavender Hill, a tall, coated man leapt from the building into the street. He then grasped her with his metal claws, and while kissing her, he began to tear her clothes. After her screams were heard, the aggressor fled the scene, leaping back to the building he originally came from. Following this account, many more stories of this "spring-heeled" man occurred, the most notable being the Alsop Case.
The Alsop Case was one of the wide spread stories about Jack, being published in several notable newspapers. Jane Alsop recalls the moment when she was attacked:
"I answered the door of her father's house to a man claiming to be a police officer, who told me to bring a light, claiming "we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane". I brought the person a candle, and noticed that he wore a large cloak. The moment I had handed him the candle, however, he threw off the cloak and "presented a most hideous and frightful appearance", vomiting blue and white flame from his mouth while his eyes resembled "red balls of fire".Mrs Alsop reported that he wore a large helmet and that his
clothing, which appeared to be very tight-fitting, resembled white oilskin. Without saying a word he caught hold of her and began tearing her gown with his claws which she was certain were "of some metallic substance". She screamed for help, and managed to get away from him and ran towards the house. He caught her on the steps and tore her neck and arms with his claws. She was rescued by one of her sisters, after which her assailant fled.
During the 1870's stories began to arise again of Jack, this time at Aldershoot. This story went as follows:
a sentry on duty at the North Camp peered into the darkness, his attention attracted by a peculiar figure "advancing towards him." The soldier issued a challenge, which went unheeded, and the figure came up beside him and delivered several slaps to his face. A guard shot at him, with no visible effect; some sources claim that the soldier may have fired blanks at him, others that he missed or fired warning shots. The strange figure then disappeared into the surrounding darkness "with astonishing bounds."
Spring-heeled Jack in popular culture
After building a vast urban legend around the name, Spring-heeled Jack began to appear in major new articles and early novelas and "comics".
The most notable fictional Spring-heeled Jacks of the 19th and early 20th centuries were:
- A play by John Thomas Haines, in 1840, Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London, which shows him as a brigand who attacks women because his own sweetheart betrayed him.
- An 1863 play, Spring-Heel'd Jack: or, The Felon's Wrongs, written by Frederick Hazleton.
- Spring-heel'd Jack: The Terror of London, a penny dreadful published by the Newsagents’ Publishing Company c. 1864–1867.
- Spring-heel'd Jack: The Terror of London, a 48-part penny weekly serial published c. 1878–1879 in The Boys' Standard, written either by veteran author of dreadfuls George Augustus Henry Sala or by Alfred Burrage (as "Charlton Lea").
- Spring-Heel Jack; or, The Masked Mystery of the Tower, appearing in Beadle's New York Dime Library #332, 4 March 1885, and written by Col. Thomas Monstery.
- A 48-part serial published by Charles Fox and written by Alfred Burrage (as "Charlton Lea"), 1889–1890
- A 1904 version by Alfred Burrage.
- Director Paul Leni's Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924) presents the character as an amalgam with Jack the Ripper.
- A play based on the Aldine penny dreadfuls entitled The Curse of the Wraydons, written in 1928 by surrealist Swiss author Maurice Sandoz.
- A 1946 British film version of the Sandoz play, entitled The Curse of the Wraydons, starring Tod Slaughter.
- 2006: In the "Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion" you can obtain "the boots of springheeled jack" in a mission which increases acrobatics
- 2008: 'Springheeled Jack' is a recurring character in the Skulduggery pleasant series, first appearing in the 2008 release, 'Playing with fire', he wears a black top hat and a large cloak.
- 2015: In "Assassins Creed Syndicate", there is a mission where you hunt Spring-heeled Jack down.