Monster of the Month: Spring-Heeled Jack

Far be it from me to question whether something is or is not technically a cryptid, but this month’s monster feels more like a random guy in a costume or maybe a wild animal. The legend of Spring-Heeled Jack popped up in London, 1837, when a humanoid figure leapt out of the dark and set upon poor Mary Stevens (a servant). He scratched at her face with claws, and that was that. Then several other women reported the same encounter, describing the figure as shape-shifting, ghostly, wearing gloves in the shape of claws. And most people didn’t think much of it until the following year, when a woman said a guy in a cloak politely rang her doorbell late one night, shucked off his cloak to reveal some kind of white, oilskin suit, breathed fire (or vomited, depending on where you get your information), and then started slashing at her clothes with his big old claws.

My favorite part of this story is that a guy was arrested and tried, but since he couldn’t breathe fire, he wasn’t convicted.

After that, sightings of and attacks by Spring-Heeled Jack, the Victorian Demon, were reported all over England and even in parts of Scotland. That guy–sorry, cryptid–got around. Eventually, reports started coming in that he had fiery eyes, could leap tall buildings in a single bound, and fly through the air, with the final sighting reported in 1904. During his reign of terror (during which no one was actually injured, it seems), a nearly 70-year-old Duke of Wellington set out on horseback to hunt the monster, and the British Army tried to catch him by setting booby traps. There’s even one report that he was shot in the streets of Lincoln but laughed, rubbed some dirt in his wounds (okay, that part is me being facetious), and scampered away.

I wasn’t going to include Spring-Heeled Jack in my Monster of the Month series, but come on–he’s hilarious, and the artwork I’ve found on him is hilarious. Who wouldn’t want to learn about Spring-Heeled Jack? I suppose he’s no more ludicrous than a frogman with an electrified stick, though, like I posted about in July. So hey, Spring-Heeled Jack! Happy holidays!

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