Before Jack the Ripper began to kill, Victorian England was terrorized by another uncatchable demon: Spring Heeled Jack. It is not certain if Jack was a man or beast. Witnesses report him having long, sharp fingernails that looked almost like claws. His eyes had a crazed look about them that some said glowed red as he was about to strike. Whenever townsfolk tried to catch him, he would easily get away, running swiftly down crowded alleys, jumping over fences, and disappearing into the night as though he were a ghost. As the tale of this creature of darkness became widespread, his attributes became more demonic. Reports said that he had horns and a pointed goatee, that he could leap over rooftops, and that he could breathe fire. Whether man or beast, Spring Heeled Jack was never caught.
First Sightings of Spring Heeled Jack
Spring Heeled Jack was first reportedly seen in 1837 in the Black Country, an area in the West Midlands that was the heart of the 19th-century industrial revolution in England. According to the BBC account of the legend, Jack was simply an invention that clever preachers fed to foolish peasants in order to discourage drinking alcohol: “The Black Country of the 19th century was a somewhat superstitious, inward-looking place; some would say that it still is. It was very easy for stories – true or imagined – to spread like wildfire and, as is the case in a largely oral culture, to become embellished along the way. Nor is it surprising to read of Spring-Heeled Jack being seen on the roofs of pubs or churches; his image was certainly being employed by local preachers as a warning against the perils of drink.” (Upton, 2016) And yet the number of eyewitness accounts of the demon may suggest otherwise.
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