Spring-heeled Jack: The Other Ripper

25 Sep

Almost everyone knows of Jack the Ripper and his fearsome reputation as one of the most notorious (and un-caught) serial killers of all time. Fewer people have heard of a character who was equally infamous, and feared, about fifty years before the time of Jack the Ripper: Spring heeled-Jack. This was the name given to the entity which terrorized London and later the whole country in a string of bizarre incidents which occurred with most frequency between 1837 and 1843 but were reported again every few years until the last sighting in 1904. Despite this large span of years, each incident was strikingly similar: on every occasion a young woman was the victim and Spring-heeled Jack was described as having the same characteristics – the ability to jump inhumanly long distances, the capacity to disappear without trace, and a frightening countenance variously described as bestial, demonic and even extra-terrestrial.

The very first appearance of Spring-heeled Jack was in 1837 in London. His victim, a young maid called Mary Stevens, described her encounter in terms which would later become definitive for any encounter with ‘Jack’. Mary was on her way home at night when out of nowhere a terrifying form appeared, one which seemed vaguely man-like from a distance but up close was anything but – as his ‘wings’, bone-white face, fangs, claws, horns and fiery breath attested. Despite his diabolical appearance, the creature’s subsequent attack on Mary was fairly innocuous – after ripping at her clothes with his long claws and breathing blue-white flames in her face he leaped away, thus earning himself the ‘Spring-heeled’ moniker. The entity reappeared twice more in London in the next year or so, assaulting a butcher’s girl called Jane Alsop and Lucy Scales, the daughter of a respectable businessman, in incidents which were virtually identical to the attack on Mary Stevens. Spring-heeled Jack sightings continued throughout the 1840s, becoming more frequent and widespread as the decade progressed. Hysteria hit the nation as fathers locked their daughters away each night and, from Northampton to Liverpool, Sheffield to Lincoln, a leaping figure with devil horns was spotted again and again. There seemed to be no doubt that every sighting was of the same creature – it was believed that Spring-heeled Jack could appear to be in lots of different places at the same time owing to his impressing jumping ability!

From the above you will probably notice that there are similarities as well as differences between the legend of Spring-heeled Jack and the later, all-too-real murderous rampage of Jack the Ripper. Both individuals targeted women, although Spring-heeled Jack’s victims were from fairly respectable backgrounds (and he left them shaken but alive), while the Ripper’s were famously prostitutes who ended up dead and horribly mutilated. Both Jacks seemed to be very active for short periods before disappearing, although in the case of the Ripper, perhaps mercifully, he never reappeared again. Lastly, neither were ever caught or identified. Both also spawned lots of conspiracy theories. One of the most popular early theories concerning Spring-heeled Jack was that he was the Marquess of Waterford, a notorious aristocrat nicknamed ‘The Mad Marquis’, who loved brawling and womanising. Some say that he was nothing more than an urban legend inspired by the uncertainty of the times, when a horned bogeyman was a useful scapegoat for the ills of a society struggling to adjust to the twin challenges of urbanisation and industrialisation. Most intriguingly, many have made links between Spring heeled-Jack and sightings of fairies, little green men and Bigfoot as examples of mass hysteria taking the form of mythical or archetypal figures in common human race memory. Given Spring-heeled Jack’s nebulous nature – no sighting of him has ever been verified – it is likely that we will never really know the truth. Unless he reappears of course…

(Like almost everyone these days, Spring-heeled Jack has his own website – click here to check it out!)

2 Responses to “Spring-heeled Jack: The Other Ripper”

  1. Craig Daley October 4, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    Check out the SHJ Graphic Novel at www,cdgraphicnovels.blogspot.com

  2. Bill Lindsay August 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Check out The Bones of Jack. http://www.thebonesofjack.com 2 Englishmen find the remains of the infamous villain in an old chimney and bring his legend back to life. Its illustrated too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Snapping Twig

A Lit & Art Magazine Publishing a Diverse Collection of New & Established Writers & Artists everywhere [for the THRIVE ART CREATIVE]

A Round of Words in 80 Days

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life

Elizabeth Willse: Surrounded by Books

Writer, Book Blogger, Librarian

Armand Rosamilia

Official Site for Horror Author Armand Rosamilia

Maurice Sapiro


But Is It Art?

Pictures by Declan O'Doherty

In Flow

Creativity is within us all

Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

A blog dedicated to reviewing books, since they are "the cheapest vacation you can buy," as Charlaine Harris once said.

Joshi Daniel Photography | Images Of People

Photoblog featuring Images of People, Lifestyles, Cultures, and Traditions

Source of Inspiration

All is One, co-creating with the Creator

Still Striving For that Elusive Halo

Thoughts, photographs and recipes of an Episcopal priest

Nicola's Photo Blog

Just another 365 project

National Trust Going Green

Fit for the Future “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney

Words And Peace

my book reviews and good books to read


The ramblings of a pilgrim through time, space, and life.


Bringing the outside in - beautiful walks anytime, anywhere

Mark My Words...

Peace, Love and Wordiness.



Matt on Not-WordPress

Stuff and things.


"Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth" -Albert Camus

Captain Maybe

Miscellaneous musings on life, literature and lots of other stuff

Hooked on Books!

My obsession with the literary word....

A Tone of Seriality

goes great with milk!


Life in a flash - a weekly blog on daily living

Legal Matters

The University of Southampton law society magazine

The Chautauquan Daily

The official newspaper of Chautauqua Institution

John R Childress . . . Rethinking

thoughts and experiences of life, business, parenting and flyfishing

Games From Folktales

Roleplaying games from historical research

Diary of an Adventurous Retiree

Making the most of the South African Lifestyle

A Fuzzy Mango With Wings

My name is Ari. I am a writer. My nickname is a hirsute fruit. These are my ramblings.

Thoughts on Military History

The musings of an Aviation Historian


Michael Blackburn. Poet. Writer.

History for Today

... a study of the past

Hayley's Horror Reviews

...I have such sights to show you from the latest & past in Horror...

Oddbox Comics

Comics, Fun, and Games


and a lot

Spontaneous Combustion

The Ramblings of Grant Wamack-dreamer,writer,artist.


A Step-By-Misstep Guide to Going from Bad to Worse


investments and media

That`s that shit!

Get your kicks at That`s That Shit

Beatles Blog

Adventures in collecting Beatles music

The Templar Knight

The Knights Templar - the Illuminati - the Freemasons. All revealed at this fact filled historical blog. And join a real Templar knight here: https://www.facebook.com/william.demandeville


Addiction known as Richard Armitage


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,553 other followers

%d bloggers like this: