Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spring-Heeled Jack

Ah, England. The land of Shakespeare, the land of fish and chips, and the land of Spring-Heeled Jack…who I’m sure you’ve heard of. You know the guy. Black cloak, glowing red eyes, point ears, claws like iron, breathed fire?

Spring-Heeled Jack is one of those urban legends I don’t quite understand. Kind of like the Chupacrabra. I don’t get the Chupacabra. I don’t get Big Foot either, come to think of it.

He wasn’t a super-villain in some comic book, believe it or not. He was a supposedly real figure who terrorized small towns throughout the early 19th century, until he made his debut in London. That was when the stories really began to pick up. It became an almost weekly event for some sort of mention of him in one newspaper or another.

It’s believed that Spring-Heeled Jack could jump great heights, leaping in bounds over buildings with ease. Some witnesses described him as a cloaked man with springs in his boots. I suppose the idea was so convincing, Germany tried to implement the idea in WWII on their paratroopers. Unfortunately for them, the only results were badly broken ankles.

Spring-Heeled Jack’s favorite past-times were tearing women’s clothing, and slapping men on the face. Sometimes he’d even blind the occasional victim with his fire breath. He gave an original meaning to the term ‘Halitosis’, in that regard.

His most infamous sighting was in 1904, when he was spotted by over 100 witnesses in Liverpool. This was also the final time he would be seen in England for 70 years. Kind of sad when you think about it, as if everyone banded together to give their kinky bogey man a good send-off before retiring.

It's widely believed Spring-Heeled Jack was actually a young nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford, who didn't really get on well with police or women. He may very well have been the first Spring-Heeled Jack, having taken a bet with several friends. I suppose the bet was something along the lines of 'run about the city making an ass of yourself with slinkies in your shoes', or something along those lines. Regardless, sightings continued after the Marquess had married, and even after he died in 1859.

He would be spotted several more times in the 1970s and 80s, but the story had lost most of it’s punch. Or slap. Spring-Heeled Jack was a good example of an era monster, defined by the culture he originated from.

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