Spring Heeled Jack - A monster of it's times

The 100 years of the industrial revolution in England, and around the world, changed the face of humanity.

From the invention of the steam engine in 1712 to the Model T by Henry Ford in 1908, people were faced with unimaginable changes to their lives, their work places and to their fortunes.

Some became incredibly rich as mechanisation opened up the opportunity to make more for less and far more quickly.

Whilst for most of everyone else it became a living hell, as traditional jobs ceased to exist and people just turned into slave labour working for very little from a very young age.

The world became dirty, dark and grimy and people were working very dangerous, repetitive jobs.

This new world needed new myths and legends that allowed people to deal with this new environment. Ghost stories and urban legends tended to reflect the fears of daily life.

Stories began to mimic the environment people found themselves living in - dark cold days, hunger, black smoke rising from factories at a rate never witnessed before. It was hard to make sense of this dramatic and quick change which was offering people a dismal and unpleasant future.

Communities became big as people amassed in the cities to try and be closer to work. No longer could they survive in their little villages where everyone knew each other. 

Now your neighbour was a stranger.

This was a new way of living life and storytelling became even more important as it joined people together. They could cheer or fear or be enraged en-mass and that seemed to be safer.

In 1837 a new monster emerged in villages outside of England that terrorised the country side. 

Originally more animal like in its appearance the strange creature seemed to change form as the stories of it's attacks came closer to the city of London. 
It became more human like and clad in an armour with piercing red glowing eyes and long clawed fingers.

It would spring over the rooftops in the middle of the night.

This apparition was named 'Spring - heeled Jack".

Suddenly everyone was talking about Jack. The newspapers of the times firstly dismissed the story but later fed it.

And of course with the ability of more and more people learning how to read, small "Penny Dreadfuls", the gossip magazines of the 1800's, added flavour to the horrendous stories of this monster and his constant attacks of females by making each one more awful than the last.

People loved a good story - they loved to be scared.
Nothing has changed!

But this was the first taste of the horror genre developing within story form and these  appealed to the anxiety already within the city populations.

This terrible creature mirrored every horror that the Industrial Revolution had created  - fear and terror of being swept up by the darkness, the insecurity of what lay just outside your own front door.

It would have looked to most of the poor as they were living in hell. At night they could see the fires burning from the factories that worked at night, lighting up the dark skies.

It wasn't a big stretch of the imagination to see ghouls, apparitions, monsters and demons such as Spring Heeled Jack jumping from rooftop to rooftop amidst this chaos.

This figure became the perfect urban legend for the time.

He was evil, demonic, attacked the vulnerable when they were not being careful.

One well known case was that of Jane Alsop.

Jane Alsop reported that on the night of 19th February 1838 she answered the door of her father's house to a man claiming to be a police officer, who told her to bring a light claiming ' "we have bought Spring- heeled Jack here in the lane".

She bought the person a candle and noticed that he wore a large cloak. The moment she handed him the candle, he threw off his cloak and presented the most hideous and frightful appearance vomiting blue and white flame from his mouth while his eyes resembled red balls of fire.

Without a word he caught hold of her and started tearing at her clothes. She screamed and managed to get away and ran towards the house but he caught her on the steps and tore at her neck and arms with his metallic claws.

She was rescued by one of her sisters at which time the assailant fled. (wikipedia)

No one was ever caught and identified as Spring-heeled Jack.

Combined with the extraordinary abilities attributed to him and the very long period during which he was reportedly at large, this has led to numerous and varied theories of his nature and identity.

While several researchers seek a normal explanation for the events, other authors explore the more fantastic details of the story to propose different kinds of ideas that he may well have been a paranormal figure.

Do we today create our demons to reflect our time?

Are our demons and creatures of the night different from those that were talked about 100 years ago or 500 years ago?

Certainly we see less chained clanking apparitions and our ghosts seem less likely to appear riding on horseback.

They now appear more likely on the side of the road as hitchhikers, or on motorbikes as our local Lemon Tree Passage apparition that is seen to appear behind those that take that stretch of road and taunt him to com follow by racing along at dangerous speeds.

Its worth the time to explore the stories told of ghosts of old to see just how much or how little they are change.

Do our ghosts reflect our modern times?

Do we use ghosts to explain things that we don't understand?

Do ghosts fulfil that pathway to death, dying and what is beyond, what is fearful, gruesome in our society?


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