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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Black Country

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Myths and Legends
Spring-Heeled Jack
When and where would he appear next?
Spring-Heeled Jack

We tend to regard the Victorian era as an age of science and reason, not unlike our own. However, there was another Victorian age, running parallel with this, an age that believed in phrenology (reading fortunes via bumps on the head) and fairies, in ghosts and galvanism, in photographs and séances. And some Victorians, at least, believed in a man called Spring-Heeled Jack.

devilish appearance
A different depiction
Sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack are recorded across England, from London and Chichester up to Liverpool, but they were especially prevalent in the Black Country, where they peeked in the 1880s. Descriptions of the creature vary, but the salient characteristics were his goatee beard, pointed ears and horns, and flashing, fiery eyes. Illustrations in the popular (and sensationalist) magazines called Penny Dreadfuls, show him as a kind of Hispanic version of the Devil. The one feature that never varied was his ability to jump; to leap over rooftops and across hedges. Such agility always allowed him to terrify his victims and to escape his pursuers. A bounder, indeed.

Jack was up and about in the Black Country, at least from 1855, when he was reputedly seen in Old Hill, leaping from the roof of the Cross Inn onto the roof of a butcher’s shop across the road. This sighting was typical of many, and was invariably followed by a spate of further sightings, until the panic died down. However, after a few months or sometimes years, he returned. There were numerous other sightings at Blackheath in 1877 and again around Dudley and the Acocks Green district of Birmingham in the 1880s. As the Birmingham Post reported in September 1886:

“First a young girl, then a man, felt a hand on their shoulder, and turned to see the infernal one with glowing face, bidding them a good evening.”

Words: Chris Upton

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Your comments

1 Jack Smith from USA - 21 December 2003
"I think it is now working at the Local Shopping Mall Here,oh I think it was female but not sure,but she or it was scary looking enough and working in a store."

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