Of him bounding around
On the rooftops of London
Leaving the people bewildered and stunned
And on occasion aflame"
Spring-Heeled Jack (sometimes spelt as Spring Heeled, Spring-Heel or Spring Heel'd) is a famous Boogieman from British folklore dubbed "the Terror of London", who is most renowned for and named after its reported ability to jump incredible heights and distances with absolute ease.
The first reported sighting come from 1837 (although reports of similar phantoms date back as early as 1803) when Mary Stevens, a serving girl walking home through the streets of London one night, was attacked by a horrific specter that she claimed jumped out of a dark alley, forcefully kissed her and ripped her clothes, before scarpering when her screams attracted the neighborhood's attention. The next day a short way away, a figure jumped in front of a passing coach, causing its driver to lose control and crash, with the witnesses claiming that entity then casually escaped by jumping over a nine-foot fence whilst emitting a high pitched laugh.
The attacker was dubbed Spring-Heeled Jack by the newspapers and the legend was born. Since then there have been multiple sightings (the last official being in 1907, but some claim as recently as 2008). Whilst most commonly seen in London, reports of Spring-Heel Jack range through Britain including Middleborough, Liverpool and Lincolnshire, and even as far north as parts of Scotland.
Descriptions differ, but the spectre is generally described as being a tall, thin figure in a long black cloak, with clawed hands and eyes that "resemble red balls of fire". In some cases he's described as seeming gentlemanly from a distance, but possessing a devil-like face. In others he's described as wearing a helmet and an otter-skin cloak. Some versions go as far as to portray him as possessing demonic traits or being clearly inhuman. Many versions also depict him capable of breathing blue or white flames. Whilst generally silent, some reports described Jack as being able to speak English.
Modern theories on who or what Jack actually was vary, from a pure Urban Legend with no backing in reality, to a malicious prankster using some kind of stage equipment to pull off apparently supernatural feats (possibly also with some press or rumour-driven exaggeration), to claims that he was some kind of cryptid, supernatural entity, or alien.
Due to his hideous appearance and unique attributes, Spring-Heeled Jack became a highly popular figure in fiction, often being the subject of Victorian Penny Dreadfuls. Whilst his literary status has deteriorated since the turn of the 19th century, Spring-Heeled Jack remains a prominent figure in the media.
Whilst traditionally a villainous figure, as early as within twenty years of the legend's appearance more complex or sympathetic depictions of Jack appeared.
By contrast, some versions go in the opposite direction. Whilst historically there are no reports or legends of Spring-Heeled Jack being responsible for killing anyone, it's not uncommon for adaptations to present him as murderous (and potentially even linked to Victorian London's other infamous Jack).
Not to be confused with Stingy Jack, a similarly named but very different Spectre from Irish Folklore.
- The Black Museum:
- Spring-Heeled Jack is the focus character of "Springald", from the first volume . His identity is Walter de la Poer Streid, a marquess. Three years before the central events of the story, he belonged to a group of rich and ever-bored men who delighted in causing chaos. One day, they burned down a pub and the women working there complained, so they came up with Spring-Heeled Jack to terrorize them in revenge. The suit was made by the group's technical genius, Francis Beaumont, who's in love with Walter. Everything goes well until Spring-Heeled Jack tries to terrorize Margaret Scales. She retaliates, which makes Walter A.) fall in love, and B.) renounce his old ways. For three years it's quiet, but Francis builds himself another Spring-Heeled Jack suit for the express purpose of murdering Margaret in the hopes of bringing back the old Walter. Before going after her, though, he kills four random women as practice. Once Walter realizes what is going on, he dons his own suit once more to stop Francis, leading to a battle between the two Spring-Heeled Jacks, Walter being recognizable by his Top Hat and Francis standing out due to his Dastardly Dapper Derby. Francis wants Walter to terrorize England with him, but settles for killing him when Walter refuses. Only, while Francis's suit is superior, Walter has more experience and manages to throw his adversary in front of a train. All that remains is the leg, which first ends up in the Black Museum and later is picked up by Walter when he has to repair his own suit.
- In the "Springald" side story, Walter's niece Juliet falls victim to the mesmerism of William Holm, a photographer who believes he has the right to make young girls pose for him naked. Juliet is the only one who knows Walter was Spring-Heeled Jack and that he hid the suit in his old mansion. Nowadays, it's the home of Margaret and her husband Henry Shellby (Walter supported the marriage). She meets their son, Arthur, who helps her get inside and find the suit. He also accompanies her on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which is good because the suit does nothing to protect her from Holm's mesmerism. As his mother once stood up to Spring-Heeled Jack, he stands up to Holm, coincidentally buying time for Walter, who'd figured out what his niece was up to and come to help her. Walter becomes Spring-Heeled Jack once more and keeps Holm and his men busy until the police arrives. Years later, Juliet and Arthur are married and visit the Black Museum to investigate a "certain case", ostensibly something relating to Spring-Heeled Jack.
- Steampunk Tarot: Spring-heeled Jack takes the place of the Devil Card in the Major Arcana for the set.
- The Hotspur: Spring Heeled Jack was a character in the British comic book The Hotspur, where he was the secret identity of a mild mannered Victorian forensic investigator who used the identity, along with a pair of spring loaded shoes to give him incredible leaping powers, to investigate and punish crimes that the rest of the police force had deemed unsolvable.
- Spring-heeled Jack appears as a supervillain in Knight and Squire, where he's presented as a demonic beast with grey skin, curved horns, burning red eyes and cloven hooves. He appears primarily as an enemy of the heroes Knight & Squire; having killed Percival Sheldrake, the original incarnation of Knight.
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Spring-heeled Jack's body (or possibly a suit) can be seen as one of the exhibits found in the British Museum where the League are headquartered.
- The Curse Of The Wraydons: In this adaption of the play by W.G. Wills, Jack Wraydon (dubbed Spring-Heeled Jack for his athleticism) is a young officer in the British Army who's attempting to court Helen, the lovely daughter of local Squire Sedgefield. When several women are strangled in the nearby wood suspicion falls on Jack due to his families reported history of mental illness. It's revealed the real Serial Killer is his uncle Philip Wraydon, who's betraying England to Napoleon, and using the killing spree as cover to pass information. A twisted psycho with his own private collection of torture instruments and death traps, Philip frames his nephew, hoping to ensure he will gain the Wraydon family fortune.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: In this The Asylum production Spring Heeled Jack is the villain, presented as a Steampunk mechanical man. He is actually Holmes' estranged brother Thorpe.
- Spring Heeled Jack 2008: In this horror film, Spring Heeled Jack is presented as a murderous demon. He terrorised London for decades killing his last victim in 1904. Reawakening a hundred years later, he attempts to carry on his killing spree targeting teenager Sam Walker and his friends.
- Burton & Swinburne Series: The subject of the first book The Curious Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack in this technologically advanced alternative Victorian London, Sir Richard Burton and Algernon Swinburne are called onto investigate the Spring-Heeled Jack's attacks on numerous women. It turns out that Spring-Heeled Jack is a time traveller and the reason for this alternative timeline. The descendant of the man who tried to murder Queen Victoria, he went back to stop him but only caused the assassination to be a success. To try to undo the damage, he attempts to ensure his relative is never born but can't find the right woman. His incredible leaping abilities are explained as the result of spring-loaded stilts he uses to walk on.
- Night Shift: Strawberry Spring involves the narrator recapping how during their time at New Sharon College in 1968, they encountered a "Strawberry Spring" (an early false spring, similar to an Indian Summer) which brought a heavy fog which provided perfect cover for a Serial Killer who committed murders on soft, sodden ground without leaving footprints, more than ten feet to the nearest asphalt — the college kids talked about what a good jumper he must be, and so he was dubbed Springheel Jack by the papers. Several students were murdered, but the killer was never caught. The story ends in 1976 with the killer returning with the arrival of a new strawberry spring, causing the narrator to realize that he is Springheel Jack.
- Secret Histories: Spring-heeled Jack in a more positive portrayal is a recurring ally of Edwin Drood and the Drood family as well as romantic partner to the Bride of the Frankenstein. The two act as protectors to humanity with Eddie getting their help in order to put an end to the vile Family of Immortals in the novel, From Hell with Love. Jack is also occasionally mentioned in its sister series Nightside and even makes a brief appearance in the final book, when he's seen at a party necking with his lover.
- Skulduggery Pleasant: Dubbed "the Terror of London", Spring-Heeled Jack appears as a minor recurring antagonist. This version is a legendary Serial Killer whose magic empowers his ability to jump great heights and distances. He haunts the rooftops and streets of London looking for people to murder. Imprisoned by Tanith Low, he is freed by Billy-Ray Sanguine to act as his hitman, but turns on him when he learns of his plans to release the Faceless Ones. Returning a few times, he is finally decapitated by Tanith.
- Spring Heeled Jack: In this children's book by Philip Pullman, Spring-Heeled Jack is presented in a far more heroic light. Presented as a devilish superhero capable of leaping over the tallest buildings in London, he becomes the protector for three orphans against the vicious Mack the Knife.
- Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch: Jack is among the wax statues brought to life for a Historical Domain Crossover. Edwin drops a quick throwaway line about how much trouble he was to put down in real life.
- Whateley Universe: You Don't Know Jak, which is also a Epunymous Title, implies him to be one of the previous identities of the spirit known as "Jak", who was active from at least Geoffrey Chaucer's time, the 14th century, and has had many names, usually based on "Jack". Plus, he gave his host a form capable of leaping a good ten feet.
- Houdini & Doyle: "Spring-Heel'd Jack" sees Houdini and Doyle on the trail of the entity. Fitting closely with the legend, Jack is depicted as a tall dark creature in a black cloak, with burning red eyes, capable of incredible feats of agility and able to breathe blue flames. Starting with a businessman falling to his death, after encountering the entity outside his top floor window, London is soon thrown into a grip of terror when multiple attacks by the phantom occur, including another death. Doyle's research comes to the conclusion that Spring-heeled Jack is an omen warning of an upcoming tragedy, as sightings over the last century all occurred right before disease outbreaks and wars. Their investigation eventually discovers that the attacks were in fact caused by an unscrupulous journalist reporting on the story, having hired a Russian acrobat to impersonate the monster using circus tricks to mimic its seemingly supernatural abilities, to give him a story to grip the London public (and the second death being an accident). However, after being caught, he reveals he only started the con after the first death having never even heard the legend before then, with ending showing something moving across the rooftop of a building, implying the existence of the real Spring-heeled Jack.
- Jekyll and Hyde (2015): Spring-heeled Jack was a shapeshifter who could leap over buildings and terrorised London, killing multiple people decades previously. Long thought to be dead he seems to make a return in "Spring-heeled Jack" with multiple people turning up dead with their organs missing. However, it turns out the person everyone thought was the killer, is really Jack Burton, an engineering assistant and the grandson of the original Spring-heeled Jack, who has invented a special suit that allows him to replicate his ancestors abilities, and is hunting the killer in an attempt to restore his family name.
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker: The first episode, "The Ripper" features an interesting version. A seemingly immortal, superhuman Serial Killer is terrorizing Chicago, and his methods and choice of victims convince Kolchak he's Jack the Ripper. However, when cornered by the police on several occasions the killer displays Spring-heel Jack's abilities, leaping from fire escapes and four-story buildings without injury, and he also has superior strength.
- Luther: Cameron Pell, the Arc Villain of the first half of season two, is revealed to have had a lifelong obsession with the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack to the point his parents sent him to see a psychiatrist. Following failing as an art student, desiring attention he aims to become a mythical boogieman like Spring-Heeled Jack and Jack the Ripper, donning a Mr Punch mask and going on a killing spree, believing it will immortalise him.
- Primeval: Whilst the boogieman doesn't appear in the show, he's is referenced in an episode where the team has to track down a wild raptor that's loose and has been killing several people in Victorian London, with the natives mistaking it for Spring-heeled Jack. Matt Anderson and Emily Merchant are also framed for the murders by the people. They eventually manage to return to the present and send the raptor back to its own time.
- Sanctuary: Spring-heeled Jack appears briefly in "Tempus". A humanoid abnormal with white skin who Looks Like Orlok and possess superhuman leaping abilities, Jack preyed upon humans in Southern England during the Victorian era, until Dr. Helen Magnus convinced him to become the first inhabitant in the UK sanctuary.
- Monster in My Pocket: Spring-Heeled Jack is part of the first series of Monsters and a prominent figure in the franchise. He appears in the comics as one of the evil monsters, and pretty high up too. Along with Medusa, he's the Number Two of Warlock. In the video game, he provides the first boss fight. In the unproduced cartoon series, he might have been a good monster if the remaining documentation is to be trusted.
- Fortean Times, a monthly digest of the World of Weirdness, has returned to the very British phenomenon of Spring-Heelled Jack on many occasions. He is a perennial favourite of FT and the magazine has covered his history, social culture, and the latest theories concerning who or what he was. And maybe still is.
- d20 Modern: Spring-Heeled Jack is a sub-variety of demon that terrorizes urban environments.
- Pathfinder: Spring-Heeled Jack is a horned, hoofed and knife-wielding fey capable of prodigious leaps. He's a cruel and often violent trickster, and is believed to have come to the material plane from the First World of the fey precisely to seek a more "appreciative" audience for his mayhem — the natives of the First World, native to an ever-shifting reality and simply reforming after death, didn't think much of Jack's mayhem. In the physical world, where actions' consequences are far more permanent, Jack's tricks and violent sprees leave far more of an impression. He tends to hunt on the edges of cities until people get too suspicious, at which point he goes to ground in the wilderness and preys on wildlife and travellers. His violent attitude means that he has no company besides his knife, which he refers to as "Love" and treats like a living thing.
- The Curse Of The Wraydons: This famous play by W.G. Wills takes the character back a few decades being set during the Napoleonic War and depicts Jack as spy for Napoleon, using the attacks as a cover.
- Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London: Written in 1840 by John Thomas Haines, this is one of the works that helped propel Jack in the popular conscious of Victorian Britain. In the play, Jack is presented as a heartless brigand who attacks women due to be jilted by his own sweetheart.
- Monster in My Pocket, a toyline consisting of figurines of monsters, included a figurine of Spring-Heeled Jack.
- Assassin's Creed Syndicate: Two versions of Spring-heeled Jack appear as a side mission Jacob and Evie Frye can investigate.
- In the first, they're tasked by Charles Dickens to investigate people's claims of being assaulted by the phantom. They discover that he's a mere cult leader, possessing multiple costumes and is highly skilled at Le Parkour. The Fryes end his reign of terror by eliminating him and his followers.
- Sometime later, they're called upon again by Dickens to investigate another Spring-heeled Jack. This version, as well as possessing even greater agility and parkour skills than the assassins, is also seemingly capable of teleportation, creates doubles and appears indestructible. Proclaiming it will never die, it escapes the twins by jumping off the building. The story leaves it ambiguous whether this was a genuine phantom or simply an individual with incredible skills and magic tricks.
- Cassette Beasts: The Springheel is a bat-like monster based on Jack. Its entry in the bestiary mentions the Victorian character, hinting that he might have been a Springheel.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: The game is set in a Constructed World wholly unrelated to Victorian Britain but references the urban legend with its own legend of the "Springheel Jak", a legendary thief who lived three centuries before the game's time frame. One of the quests for the Thieves' Guild has you recover the legendary pair of boots originally belonging to Springheel Jak, which are magically enchanted to provide a massive boost to the wearer's Acrobatics skill, which governs how far and high you can jump. The boots also have a secret power to allow you to survive a very, very long fall in a later quest, which is why you need them in the first place.
- Scribblenauts: Spring-Heeled Jack is of the characters you can spawn. He's capable of flying, and will attack every other character, including the player. The game portrays him as an actual cryptid, rather than a human in a suit.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Referenced in the chapter "Spring Heeled", which focuses on the character of Jack. Jack turns out to be able to fly, and flies up to a window in a manner that looks like leaping.
- Green Antarctica: In an In-Universe Sherlock Holmes story, Sherlock and Watson discover that "Jack" is a sicaripodnote wearing clothes and with an amputated tail.
- Myths Retold retells the story as "Spring-heeled Jack is Basically Batman, if Batman Were a Huge Asshole".
- The Springheel Saga: The entire series details the exploits of Jonah Smith, a Victorian policeman, hunting for the creature over the course of his career. Some of the events in the series are in fact based on "real" historical sightings of Spring-heeled Jack.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: Spring-Heeled Jack appears in "The Return of the Pussycat". This version departs greatly from the legend, being portrayed more akin to The Fair Folk as a jovial but malevolent, short troll-like creature, who speaks entirely in rhyme and with a British accent, possess the ability to track people by scent, and has literal springs on his heels enabling his incredible ability to jump. Imprisoned over a hundred years ago by Simon Magnus, he is accidentally freed in the present and seeks revenge for Magnus's descendent, who happens to be Jade's classmate Simone. He also expresses a desire to eat children. He possesses a weakness to salt, to the point that even a pinch will turn him into a statue, while a drop of water will free him.
- Fortean Times: This has been extensively covered by this World of Weirdness publication and is a firm favourite; based in London, this is pretty much a local story with the locations and the archives a short walk from the office. The magazine returns to Spring Heeled Jack regularly, as new almost-evidence turns up and as new theories are aired. The magazine has also covered similar incidents around the world, including one in Florida and — yes — in Joisey.
- The gang of "Jumpers" or "Living Dead", that operated in Petrograd, Russia, in 1918-20, clearly took inspiration from Spring-Heeled Jack. They dressed up in burial shrouds and tried to move in unnatural jumping manner, employing stilts or leg springs. For over 100 cases of armed robbery their leader and the springmaker were executed and some 20 gang members went to prison.