The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack

He terrified young women in Victorian England with his clawed hands, fiery breath, and ability to leap onto tall buildings.

legend of spring-heeled jack
  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fifty years before Jack the Ripper tore through London, another famous Jack terrorized young women and coach drivers in Victorian England.

The evil prankster was called Spring-Heeled Jack, a moniker that spawned from his ability to jump over tall fences and hedges during quick getaways. Eyewitnesses described him as having large, bulging eyes and metallic, claw-like hands. But the most startling characteristic: He paralyzed his victims by spewing blue and white flames.

Related: Portrait of a Killer: 6 Chilling Jack the Ripper Theories 

Eighteen-year-old Jane Alsop experienced the horror firsthand one quiet evening in 1938. She was at home with her father and sisters, when the family heard a loud pounding at the front door. Jane opened the door to a cloaked figure, who identified himself as a police officer. He told her to go fetch a candle and bring it out to the road because they had finally caught Spring-Heeled Jack! Jane was so excited to see the scoundrel in person, she rushed to get a light and brought it outside.

spring heeled jack

As soon as she held the candle out to the policeman, she knew she had made a huge mistake. The man spun around, threw off his cape, and showered Jane with a mouthful of flames. When he started tearing at her dress with his talons, Jane screamed, bringing one of the sisters out to see the commotion.

Related: 7 Little-Known Killers of the 19th Century 

Jack bounded away, but both girls had already gotten a good look. They said that besides his police uniform helmet, Jack wore a tight-fitted, white bodysuit and had red flames in his eyes.

That same night, a local man named Thomas Millbank publicly bragged that he was the legendary Spring-Heeled Jack. Since Jane had just been attacked, police took his proclamations seriously. When they arrested him at a bar, he was wearing white overalls, and they found his large, cape-like coat and a candle outside by the front door.

Related: 6 Victorian True Crime Books 

During the trial, Thomas’s case hung on one simple fact: He could not breathe fire. Jane had been so adamant that her attacker had scorching breath, and Thomas couldn’t produce even a spark.

He was released, and Spring-Heeled Jack attacks and sightings continued into the early 1900s.

There were other suspects, but no one else was ever caught. Jack stayed just out of reach every time.

[via The Cobra’s Nose]

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Published on 2 Dec 2014