Spring-Heeled Jack is perhaps one of the least known of the Victorian monsters. Vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists such as Dr. Jekyll and the Invisible Man have long overshadowed this sinister character. But Spring-Heeled Jack was a real fear in the heart’s of Victorian-era Londoners. He (it?) was known both for his demonic appearance and his ability to leap high into the air and pounce on his victims.
Spring-Heeled Jack was first reported in 1837, after he leapt out of an alley and molested a young servant named Mary Stevens. When she screamed, he ran away. Mary claimed he had claws and was “as cold and clammy as a corpse.” The next day, Jack jumped in front of a moving carriage, causing the coach driver to lose control and crash. Several witnesses claimed Jack then jumped over a nine-foot wall while laughing in a sinister fashion.
The urban legend morphed. Soon, reports emerged that Spring-Heeled Jack was a cloaked demon with claws. He was able to spew “blue and white flames” from his mouth, while his eyes were “balls of fire.” He had a penchant for harassing attractive young ladies, and he became one of the most notorious characters of the early Victorian era, with reports of his activities throughout the 1840s and 1870s.
The women were certainly accosted, but were they hysterical in their descriptions of Spring-Heeled Jack, or was their attacker actually dressed as a fiend? Jack was reportedly able to scale buildings and leap walls. Was it true? Or was that an exaggeration as well?
From a writerly perspective, Spring-Heeled Jack makes a wonderful monster. A fictional Jack might be skilled in one of the martial arts that uses jumping and landing on the victim as a form of attack, such as Indonesian style. In my steampunk novel, A Midsummer Night’s Mechanical, “Jack” is equipped with diabolical mechanical devices which enable him to spring large distances. (I’m fairly certain I’m not the only steampunk writer to use that idea). Or with his hideous appearance and spewing flame, the monster could be supernatural in origin. That might explain why the last reported sighting of Spring-Heeled Jack was in… the 1980s.
This article was originally published in Sci-Fi and Scary.
About the Author
Kirsten Weiss worked overseas for nearly twenty years in the fringes of the former USSR, Africa, and South-east Asia. Her experiences abroad sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.
Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes genre-blending steampunk suspense, urban fantasy, and mystery, mixing her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.
Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking red wine. Sign up for her newsletter to get free updates on her latest work at: http://kirstenweiss.com