Mysterious FLYING HUMANOID of Victorian
Variant names: Leaping terror, Springald,
Spring-heeled Jack, Suburban ghost.
Physical description: Tall. Thin. Glowing red
eyes. Huge, pointed ears. Blue flames emanate
from its mouth. Fingers are exceptionally sharp
(“made of iron”). Wears a long cloak (or an oilskin
or sheepskin) and a shining helmet.
Behavior: Seems to be able to leap or glide
through the air with a paranormal ability.
Laughs ringingly. Attacks people and rips their
clothing and flesh.
Significant sightings: First noted in September
1837 when attacks on three young women took
place in Barnes Common, Middlesex, England.
On October 11, 1837, seventeen-year-old Polly
Adams was assaulted on Shooter’s Hill Road,
London, by a bizarre, leaping figure. Next,
eighteen-year-old Jane Alsop was attacked at her
front door on February 18, 1838, by a man who
claimed to be a policeman but who slashed at
her clothing with metallic claws. The attacks
continued through 1839 and reoccurred in
London in 1843 and 1845 (resulting in
Springheel Jack’s only murder, involving a thirteen-
year-old prostitute named Maria Davis
whom he threw into a sewer). Similar assaults
were noted in Caistor-on-Sea, Norfolk, and
Aldershot, Hampshire, in 1877. The final appearance
of the creature took place in Everton,
Bedford, in September 1904, when a figure like
a giant bat was seen leaping from rooftop to
(1) In the 1830s, police theorized that a
criminal was using springs concealed in his
boot heels. Henry de la Poer Beresford, the
marquis of Waterford (1811–1859), was
considered a suspect. However, no known
alloy is compressible and resilient enough to
account for the reported leaps made by
(2) Newspaper writers theorized that the
attacks were made by a “ghost, a bear, or a
devil” because a letter had been received
claiming that a rich man had wagered he
could visit London suburbs disguised as one
of these creatures.
(3) An unidentified flying object (UFO)
entity, similar to other FLYING HUMANOIDS,
suggested by J. Vyner.
(4) An escaped Kangaroo (Family
Macropodidae), though the absence of one
of these animals from a Victorian zoo would
surely have been reported.
(5) A fictional story in which Springheel
Jack is a nobleman who is cheated out of his
inheritance and becomes a highwayman to
steal from the unscrupulous rich first
appeared in 1875 as a forty-eight-part serial
by penny-dreadful writer Charlton Lea.
This literary Springheel Jack was demonic;
was dressed in a crimson suit; and had
batlike wings, horns, talons, cloven hooves,
and sulphurous breath. His leaps were
accomplished by the use of steel rods and
springs. Much of the legend seems to derive
from this narrative, which was picked up by
other sensational writers.
(6) A series of hoaxes, perhaps including an
original one by the marquis of Waterford
himself, who apparently was something of a
trickster. The story of a wraithlike
Springheel Jack has been perpetuated in
urban legend and adolescent pranks ever