Many parts of Victorian-era London were places you'd rather avoid after sunset. These seedier areas of the city could be great fun by day, but after dark, they tended to attract the wrong crowd, and they weren't always people.
According to legend, these areas served as magnets for demonic beings -- beings like Spring-Heeled Jack.
By our modern standards, the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack might seem tame. At the time, however, it caused people to panic.
The first recorded sighting of Jack occurred in 1837. A young woman by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to work after paying a visit to her parents. She decided to take a shortcut through the park. When she was about halfway through, a strange man jumped out at her from a dark alley.
The man gripped her tightly and began clawing at her flesh. Stevens screamed at the top of her lungs, which caused a commotion as the man ran off. The next day, witnesses said that the same man in the same area dashed in front of a carriage, causing it to crash. Witnesses reported that the being escaped the scene of the accident by jumping over a nine-foot wall while babbling with high-pitched laughter.
After that, reports of attacks by Spring-Heeled Jack began to surface all over the city.
Throughout the remainder of the 1830s, Spring-Heeled Jack continued to attack young women in dark alleys. A pair of attacks in upscale parts of the city occurred within a week of each other in 1838 and forced the government to take notice.
The victims in these cases were young daughters of wealthy merchants. Each of the attacks shared eerie similarities with the others: dark alleyways, and the ability of the perpetrator to jump over walls.
Needless to say, the police were baffled. They began rounding up suspects by the dozen, but none were charged.
By the 1840s, the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack had spread far and wide, but reports of attacks were becoming rarer.
From the 1840s until the 1870s, the few sightings that there were of Spring-Heeled Jack were in far-off areas of England. One of the last sightings of Jack was at an army barracks in the town of Aldershot. A figure dressed in black approached a guard station. When warned to stop, the figure kept moving, so the guard fired. The bullets had no effect, and the figure rushed the guard and slapped him several times before running off.
So who...or what...was Spring-Heeled Jack?
Initially, many people believed Jack to be a member of the nobility playing a prank on the less fortunate. However, as time went on and the sightings increased, that rational explanation went out the window. Despite the fact that so much time has passed, no one really has any idea what this mysterious figure was.
Well, that's quite disturbing. I really wish there was an explanation for Spring-Heeled Jack. This honestly just makes me more anxious about visiting London.