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Springheel Jack


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Mauro
User offline. Last seen 2 years 35 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Oct 2008

We stayed far too much time without mentioning that old-time favorite, Springheel Jack.
Since I am lazy this is a nice and brief chronology of his activities I've found on the Internet.
There are a few very interesting facts about this strange phenomenon.
One happened on the 23rd February 1838, when Springheel Jack knocked at the door of a house on Turner Street, Londo and asked for the homeowner, a Mr Ashworth, calling him by name. The servant who opened the door was comprensibly scared to death and his screams drove away the curious creature. A few days before a young woman returning home had noticed Jack standing at a street corner, like he was waiting for someone. The question is obvious: why? A prankster would not risk his own life by walking around in such an attire when lynch mobs roamed the streets ready to club to death anything remotely unfriendly.
Another interesting thing is the hiatus between its various periods of activity: 1837-1839, then 1843, 1845 (read on though), 1877-1879, 1904, 1920 and finally 2005.
The 1845 episode is particulary curious because it happened in New York, USA, and was the only one during which Jack actually killed a person. Given the fact that he was usually very aggressive but never seriously hurted anybody I am inclined to treat the case with caution.
Henry, Marquis of Waterford, was long held as a suspect but this may due to his "shady" reputation since he was killed by a fall from horse in 1859 (of course he could have named an heir...) and the fact that nobody ever managed to replicate Jack's astounding athletic feats by any mean. The German Luftwaffe briefly experimented with a system of springs (like the one the Marquis was rumoured to use) for her Fallschirmjager (paratroopers) but this resulted in some catastrophic results for the poor volunteers and was quickly consigned to the scrap heap.
What are your opinions on the matter?

Some researchers ruled out Springheel Jack as
mass hallucination or a piece of urban folklore but I tend to be careful
on this point. First fact, it is well known that Arthur Wellesley, the
Duke of Wellington, took more than a passing interest into it. The Iron
Duke was well known for not being given to flights of fancy. Second
fact, another quite similar case popped up in 1944 in the US, involving
an entity quite similar to Jack known as the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. As
Jack the entity was wearing a flowing cape and a close fitting suit and
as Jack he used some kind of "gas" to attack his victims. Again, the
entity seemed more interested into causing panic and confusion than
seriously hurting anybody.
The town of Mattoon, Illinois, was quite
different in 1944 from early XIX century London. It was the classic
place where "nothing happens", everybody knew each other and most of
male population was away, serving in the military. Local police
officers grew quickly tired of the story and put the blame on gases
used in the local diesel engine factory. Trouble is most of locals, men
and women, worked at the factory and were familiar with the smells.
A prankster would have been quickly identified and caught (or lynched).
There's
also a very little known yet strikingly similar case from rural
Virginia in 1933 which was unearthed by the usually reliable Troy
Taylor.

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


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Urisk
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Joined: 15 Oct 2008
Springheel Jack

I seem to recall Jack killing a prostitute at Jacob's Island by hurling her off a bridge and into Folly Ditch, where she drowned. There is also a similar case regarding ringing doorbells, only he was greeted at the door by a girl called Jane Alsop- where he spewed "a quantity of blue and white flame from his mouth, and his eyes resembled red balls of fire" (the Times, possibly 22nd Feb, 1838) into her face and subsequently began attacking her with fingers that supposedly resembled metal talons.

It appears in a book called The Unexplained by Karl Shuker. It's a great book, if you can find it: Mine is very worn and very used. Smile

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Agricola
User offline. Last seen 4 years 28 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Oct 2008
Springheel Jack

I seem to recall something in a recent (possibly
the most recent) edition of Fortean Times re-evaluating the evidence
for SHJ. From memory (the FTs are on a shelf next door and I'm on the
couch and far too far away), it indicated that a lot of it may have
been media hype, and noted the huge date differences between sightings,
and an earlier case. It also covered the lesser known sightings, such
as those in Liverpool!

OldTimeRadio
User offline. Last seen 3 years 7 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 11 Sep 2010
Re: Springheel Jack
Urisk wrote:

I seem to recall Jack killing a prostitute at Jacob's Island by hurling her off a bridge and into Folly Ditch, where she drowned.

     But that was approximately 35 years after the 1837-1838 attacks so might not even have involved the same perpetrator. 

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Mauro
User offline. Last seen 2 years 35 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 15 Oct 2008
Re: Springheel Jack

There are a number of explanations about Springheel Jack.

It has been said the members of a gentlemen's club had a wager among themselves to see if any of them could walk the London slums. At night. And dressed as a devil. This is sometimes cited as the inspiration for the legend itself.
There are also a series of penny dreadfuls by an author whose last name was Shea, if memory serves me right, in which Springheel Jack is a nobleman cheated out of his inheritance who dons a "most fantastic garb" to take his vengeance on the persons who defrauded him. These dreadfuls were printed in 1840 so they may have actually been inspired by the facts instead the other way around.
The US episode is very curious. While Jack has been spotted all over England (for example in 1879 he was shot at by sentries at Aldershot), this marks his only foreign venture. Also it involved a murder. "London" Jack would dazzle people by spouting flames in their faces, fondle women and scare the living daylight out of others but while in England he never seriously hurt anybody. Could this be one of those elaborate hoaxes so common in XIX century America, perhaps imagined by someone who had visited London at the height of the first "flap"?

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-




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