Spring-Heeled Jack

Dastardly Victorian Cryptid

Happy Weird Wednesday! Today’s blog post is on Spring-Heeled Jack, because just look at this dude.

The Victorian villain Spring-Heeled Jack terrorized England from 1837 through the turn of the century, stalking about the streets at night and making a nuisance of himself. He frightened people (and horses) with his sudden appearances and even more memorable disappearances.

If you met him on the street, you might take Jack for a gentleman— except for his silver claws and flaming eyes. He also had the ability to escape pursuers by leaping tall buildings in a single bound— thus the “spring-heeled” nickname. 

Like many monstrous apparitions, there was a danger in simply seeing Jack: he looked so diabolical and had such a terrible reputation that he terrorized people just by appearing. But Jack also attacked physically at times, sometimes with his sharp claws, and sometimes by breathing blue-white fire.

So was the urban legend of Spring-Heeled Jack based on something real? Was he a mass hallucination? Was he created by a group of bored aristocrats pranking the public? No one knows.

And now let’s leap into some writing prompts!

  • Jack who? To begin with, there are obvious similarities between this Jack and Jack the Ripper, who was active in London in 1888. Spring-Heeled Jack’s got his claws and the Ripper his knife, and both attacked people on the street. But Spring-Heeled Jack had male victims as well, he never killed, and he took care to be seen rather than disappear.  A story could have the two Jacks being fans of each other, or rivals seeking to outdo one another. There are five canonical Ripper victims, and many other “maybes.” Perhaps some of those “maybes” might be our Jack. Or what if the two Jacks were the same man? Why might his MO and victim profiles vary?

  • Creepy cryptid. What’s got flaming eyes, silver claws, mad jumping skills, and breathes fire?  Your guess is as good as mine. Jack might be a phantom, demon, alien, or something a little closer to home. Many cultures have humanoid cryptids (unknown or disputed creatures), and Jack might be an urban example. It’s worth noting that sometimes cryptids aren’t so much dangerous as ominous: like the Mothman, the appearance of Jack could be a bad omen.

  • Cosplay opportunity! What about a steampunk Jack with metal claws and real springs in his heels? Maybe the jumping might be the way he reaches his airship. Where would he get his tech?  From an engineer side-kick, or would he make it himself? Maybe Jack might even become a fashion icon, with young people copying his style, despite his villainous deeds.

  • The anti-hero. Perhaps Jack’s been unfairly villainized. He could be under a curse or spell, or the victim of rumors and bad press that paint him as an attacker because of his monstrous appearance. You could definitely go paranormal romance here if you like.

  • The actual hero. Believe it or not, in penny dreadfuls, Jack sometimes appeared as a Robin Hood or superhero type, defending the innocent. Jack as a Victorian Batman? Or a Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Jumping (pun intended) back up to our Jack the Ripper and steampunk prompts, maybe someone trying to catch the Ripper might use tech to give themselves an advantage. Spring-heels for speed, flames for light, claws for climbing and combat. What would the Ripper do if faced with such a threat? Is Spring-Heeled Jack the reason the Ripper stopped killing and disappeared?

  • One pill makes you larger. Because of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula also takes place in the late 1800’s. Maybe Jack is Dracula on an acid trip?

Thanks for spending your Weird Wednesday with Jack. I hope he’s put a little spring in your step!

Want to chat about the blog? Did you use one of the prompts? Hit me up on social media.

If you like cryptids, feel free to check out Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging from Improbable Press, which contains my story The Enfield Monster. A human woman and her swamp-monster wife adapt to the changes old age brings to their lifelong romance.

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