by John Adcock
“Despise not ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ my friendNor let the dustbin be its end.Some epicure may give you goldIf this edition should be old;So be advised, your granddad’s lumbersMay still contain some penny numbers.” 
OUTRAGE In London in the year 1838, the earliest known reference using the name Spring-heeled Jack was in a report in The Times of 22 February, titled ‘Outrage on a Young Lady.’ Oddly enough a similar character had been foreshadowed in Frederick Marryat’s popular book, ‘Mr. Midshipman Easy,’ which had been partially serialized in the Metropolitan Magazine between Nov 1834 and Jan 1836.
In this novel Marryat’s hero Jack Easy, while his ship is moored in Spain, attends a masquerade dressed in the costume of a devil, “covered with hair, with his trident and his horns, and long tail.” Bored with the party Jack throws on a cloak and leaves the masquerade. Seeking adventure he peeks in the window of a splendid house. An elderly man lies dying, surrounded by priests who are attempting to have him sign a will leaving all his property to the Church. Jack jumps upon the windowsill yelling “Ha! ha! ha! ha!” As the rascals throw themselves face down on the floor Jack enters the room and burns the paper. The old man dies of fright but his heirs are saved from disinheritance. Jack then blows out the candles and “made a spring out of the window, caught up his cloak, and disappeared as fast as his legs could carry him.”
| 1 Franklin’s Miscellany, 27 January 1838|
VISUALIZED In the same year 1838, the first known fictional account with a specific reference to Spring-Heeled Jack was published on 27 January on the front page of Franklin’s Miscellany, a penny paper, under the title ‘The Spring Jack — By Peter Piper.’ The illustration showed Spring Jack in a skin-tight suit, pointed ears, two horns protruding from his head, talons for fingers, wearing boots and trailing a long cape, leaping over a two-story house, while five women are shown swooning and fainting from the shock of his appearance.
The text ran:
“The above sketch, by our artist, will serve to give our readers a tolerable correct notion of the individual who is called the Spring Jack, more properly a devil, and very inappropriately a gentleman. He is shown taking flight over a house, which he is said to do with the ease of a kitten over a ball of worsted; but this he could not perform without the aid of his boots, which are made with an ingenuity worthy a better object – having powerful springs attached thereto, which can be sprung at pleasure by the wearer. One freak, amongst the thousand that are reported of him, is worthy of record. Entering a public-house on Peckham Rye, he made his way into a parlour, where the only light afforded was from the fire: he called loudly for a pot of ale, which, being brought to him by the landlord, was placed upon the table. To the landlord’s horror and consternation, he saw his customer take up his pewter, which, so soon as he touched, melted through his fingers, and left the ale in a congealed round mass in his hands. “Holla,” Boniface exclaimed, “Who the devil are you?” “The devil, at your service,” replied Spring Jack knowing at the ale as though it had been a German sausage, “car’nt you give us something to eat besides this?” “Not I,” said Boniface, resolutely, “the devil a bit you shall have here, though the cupboard was full.” “Ah, the cupboard! so! so!” laughed Jack, and turning towards a cupboard in the corner, he placed his nose to the key-hole, and gave such a sniff, Boniface vows there has been a draught there ever since. “Ah, ah!” and Jack laughed outright, “I smell pigeon-pie and pickled sprats; open the cupboard, my boy.” “I’ll see you – first,” and Boniface swore a terrible oath. “I shall book that when I go below,” chuckled Jack, and he pointed significantly at the floor. “Well, old boy, there are more ways of boring a hole than with a gimlet,” then placing his fist against the old oaken cupboard-door, smoke arose, and screwing his fist about a little, it went through like a red hot poker. Jack, seizing the viands within, despatched them with a twinkle, remarking, “He always took a Welsh rare-bit after lunch,” which he made by breaking up some clay pipes into small pieces, and frying them in his hand over the fire. After disposing of this singular meal, he cracked the landlord’s head by breaking the brown pie-dish over it, and disappeared up the chimney. What disposes us most to believe in this strange history is, the still more surprising fact, that Boniface has ever since punctually attended the neighbouring church, and the still more extraordinary circumstance that, since the time the occurrence is reported to have occurred, he has filled his pots and given good measure.”
|2 Franklin’s Miscellany, masthead|
The folio-sized Franklin’s Miscellany — “A Cheerful Companion For the Lovers of Literature, Natural History and The Fine Arts, Legendary and Historical Fiction, Interspersed With Facts and Scraps, Original and Select; Poetry, Bon Mots and Epigrams” — edited by Benjamin Franklin The Younger, was printed and published for Benjamin Franklin, of No. 31 Great Wild Street, by B.D. Cousins, 18 Duke Street, Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, London.
THE PENNY SATIRIST Benjamin Davy Cousins was printer and publisher of The Penny Satirist. A Cheap Substitute for a Newspaper which began publishing Saturday, 22 April, 1837. Cousins published penny books, cotton almanacs, and single-page illustrated broadsheets. His most expensive work published in 1837 was the anti-papist fiction ‘Maria Monk; or, Six Months in a Convent’ at a cost of one shilling.
Franklin’s Miscellany and the Penny Satirist were very similar in content and appearance. Franklin’s featured illustrated sensational cover tales such as ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty,’ ‘The Flying Island,’ ‘The Demon and the Gambler,’ and ‘Daniel O’Rourke; or, a Visit to the Moon’ by Crofton Croker. The Penny Satirist featured essays, comment, humour and fictional items which resembled real newspaper accounts. Any publication of real news by the penny press would bring down the wrath of the Stamp office on the proprietors heads, resulting in fines or imprisonment.
CHARLES J. GRANT A notable feature of the Penny Satirist were the cartoons which appeared on the front page of every issue, most of these rough-hewn woodcuts were from the hand of the prolific caricaturist and illustrator Charles J. Grant. British comic historian Denis Gifford described Grant’s extraordinary output in ‘The Evolution of the British Comic.’
“Douglas Jerrold edited this one; (Punch in London) first published on January 14, 1832, by J. Duncombe of 19 Little Queen Street, Holborn. A pocket-sized penny weekly, it was not only the first magazine to use the popular puppet as a title, but the April 28 issue was an all pictorial one. The ‘truly ludicrous cuts’ were by C.J. Grant, and were used to help sell Duncombe’s new venture, The Original Comic Magazine. This sixpenny weekly on tinted paper was described by Jerrold as a forthcoming novelty, and excited the comment ‘How this is to pay, even at this period, so remarkable for plenty of paper and print for a penny, gives us wonder as great as our content.’ Grant’s cartoons were in the technique of Thomas Hood with pictorial puns, but showed a common touch. ‘Making a Deep Impression’ is a slapstick scene of a top-hatted swell flopping inside a puddle of mud; ‘Every Man to his Post’ is a bottle-waving drunk clutching a hitching-post. Thackeray called Grant’s drawings ‘outrageous caricatures, squinting eyes, wooden legs, and pimpled noses, forming the chief points of fun.’ but in Grant’s lively London line can be seen the beginnings of British comic paper art. Grant described himself as A.A.E. (author, artist, editor) on the byline to Every Body’s Album and Caricature Magazine, a fortnightly broadside which he drew for the lithographic publisher J. Kendrick of 54 Leicester Square, from January 1st 1834. Grant added that he was the ‘originator of Morden and Aitken’s Sporting Ideas, the (original) Caricaturist, a Monthly Show-up, Comic Songs, Tregear’s Flight of Humour, Frontispieces to the Penny Magazine, etc., Comic Almanac, Emigration, and upward of four hundred of the most popular caricatures of the day.’ One claim to fame he seems to have overlooked is as a founder of the comic strip form: ‘My Brother,’ a six-panel set with rhyming captions, began in No. 36 (July 13th, 1835) and was concluded in six more panels in No. 37.”
Grant worked for every publisher of cheap literature in London including Cousins, Cleave, Edward Lloyd, and J. Clements. He was also the illustrator of one of the first penny part-work “bloods” ever published, Renton Nicholson’s comical Cockney Adventures.
|3 The Penny Satirist, 10 March 1838|
REPRINTED CUTS Saturday, 10 March 1838 the Penny Satirist reprinted the illustration of ‘The Spring Jack — By Peter Piper,’ sans original text, from Franklin’s Miscellany, 27 Jan 1838, on its front page along with two other Grant cartoons, one of which featured Spring-heeled Jack frightening two women by tearing at their clothes with his sharp claws. Jack was pictured dressed the same as described above in the Franklin’s illustration, with cape, boots, claws, except that the horns are replaced by a helmet and his ribs are protruding through his skin.
Both papers were produced to be sold to the poor and the working class and its interesting to speculate on the effect such frightening cartoons had on public perceptions and the oral traditions that helped spread the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack into the present age. The use of cartoons and illustrations was a shrewd move by the proprietors of penny papers and broadsheets. There was a growing thirst for knowledge and education by the lower classes and those who could not read could gain a fierce mental picture of the monster terrorizing London by perusing the works of C.J. Grant in the penny periodicals.
There were three contemporary catchpenny affairs from the printers of the Seven Dials dealing with Spring-Heeled Jack, the suburban ghost. These were accompanied by crude woodcut renderings of the celebrated hero.
“In a pamphlet published at the time, we have preserved for us a portrait of the “ghost,” as he appeared in this instance, and the representation even, much less the reality, is quite enough to upset the nerves of any ordinary-minded person. He is depicted as clad in all the orthodox details of a satanic outfit, horns, tail, etc., with fearful claws on both hands and feet, the latter additionally armed with large hooks, attached to the heels, whilst his countenance puts any medieval conception of the Evil One quite to the blush. No wonder, then, the ladies are shown as suffering an extremity of terror, with their mouths extended to their utmost capacity, presumably screaming.”
|4 Gossip in the First Decade of Victoria’s Reign|
SECRET AMOURS John Ashton reprints one rough woodcut in his book, ‘Gossip in the First Decade of Victoria’s Reign.’ The full, long title of the illustrated pamphlet was “Authentic particulars of the awful appearance of the London Monster, alias Spring-heeled Jack, together with his extraordinary life, wonderful adventures and secret amours. Also an account of his horrible appearance to Miss N— and his singular letter to the Lord Mayor of London.” Here the villain is given an intriguingly raffish character with his “secret amours,” and is associated with the Mansion-house letters published in British newspapers in 1838.
There were two other titles printed at the time, ‘The surprising exploits of Spring-Heel Jack in the vicinity of London, etc.’, and ‘The Apprehension and Examination of Spring-Heel’d Jack, who has appeared as a Ghost, Demon, Bear, Baboon, etc…’ All three productions probably appeared in January and February of 1838 while the initial reports and the Mansion-house letter were current. The publishers would have wanted to strike while the iron was hot.
SPOOFED These cheap publications may have provoked Fraser’s Magazine into publishing a ten page satirical spoof, ‘Autobiography of the Hammersmith Ghost,’ in September, 1838. This comic romance relates the adventures of a boy abducted by gypsy’s for his appearance, forced to tour with them as “the beautiful boy,” adopted by a lady, banished to Italy, imprisoned forty years in a dungeon, and finally mistaken for a ghost for his habit of walking about Hammersmith at night in a suit of armour meant to ward off amorous females.
Real or imagined ghosts were popular fare in the broad-sheets and pamphlets of the seventeenth century. There was the Tyburn Ghost of 1678, Father Whitebreads Walking Ghost — “which lately appeared to a Cabal of Jesuits in Drury-lane” — of 1679, the Cock Lane Ghost of 1762, and the Portsmouth Ghost of 1770.
PRETENDERS The pretender ghost had a long history in England. The Annual Register for March 4, 1761 had an account of a “pretender ghost” who was “wrapped up in a large white sheet with the corners hanging over his head in imitation of feathers.” The Hammersmith Ghost of 1804 was very similar to the later Spring-heeled Jack, “its dress has been described as sometimes in white and sometimes as if in the skin of some beast.” The dark lanes and lonely country roads of England were haunted by black dogs and spectral coaches with headless coachmen. Spring-Heeled Jack was different, a city bogle that first haunted the suburbs and eventually went knocking on doors in the metropolis itself, flashing his red eyes and spitting flames in the faces of a terrified populace.
|5 Illustrated Police News, 1884|
SPECTRAL BEAR Ghosts, shape shifters, changelings and devils were a part of the folk-memory of England since early times but the addition of a spectral bear is peculiar. Christina Hole mentions a bear which haunted Worcester Cathedral, once scaring a sentry into deserting his post. And in 1816 “another sentry, on guard at midnight outside the Jewel House in the Tower of London, saw a dark shape coming up a flight of steps and advancing upon him. As it drew near he saw it was a large bear. He struck at it with his bayonet, but the weapon went right though its body without apparently harming him at all, and the point was driven into the wall beyond. The bear came straight on and the unfortunate man fell down in a fit.” The sentinel died two days later, “the victim of a shadow.” The mention of Spring-heeled Jack as a baboon appears to have been a whimsical invention by the author of ‘The surprising exploits of Spring-Heel Jack, &c…’
THE DEVIL Spring-heeled Jack was most commonly associated in the public mind with the devil. The devil in England could be traced back to the bear, deer, and bull cults of the Stone Age. The Celtic horned god, Cernunnos was worshipped well into Gallo-Roman times. When Christianity became prominent the old traditions were incorporated into the dominant religion. Traces of the old beliefs remained in such figures as Herne the Hunter, Merlin (the offspring of a human and a devil), Jack in the Green, Puck, Robin Goodfellow, and Jack Robinson, “a very volatile gentleman of that name, who used to pay flying visits to his neighbours, and was no sooner announced than he was off again.”
|6 Jemmy Catnatch stock woodcut|
The devil often disguised himself as a man and his worshippers wore animal skins and antlers in their dances. The Horn Dancers at Abbots Bromley photographed by Sir Benjamin Stone in 1899 wore head-dresses of stag antlers, and one of the dancers was a man in a gown known as the “Maid Marian.”
FAIRS AND CIRCUSES Showman “Lord” George Sanger recalled that the country people who attended the travelling fairs and circuses in the thirties were ignorant and superstitious:
“Witches and warlocks were very real beings to many of them, and Satan was supposed to take an active personal interest in the business of blighting crops, spoiling brews of beer and cider, turning milk sour, laming and killing cattle, and various other misdeeds credited to unfortunate persons whose outward marks of evil were all too often only age, poverty and lonely wretchedness.”
Sanger was once credited by a superstitious audience with being in league with the Evil One for putting his tame birds and mice through their performance.
A Punch and Judy operator, pointing out Mr. Punch’s figures, told Henry Mayhew that “This here is Satan, – we might say the devil, but that ain’t right, an gennelfolks don’t like such words. He is now commonly called ‘Spring-heeled Jack;’ or the ‘Roosian Bear,’ – that’s since the war.” Spring-heeled Jack was in wide use as a comic figure in travelling fairs and circuses.
OUTRAGE ON A YOUNG LADY The best contemporary piece of writing on Spring-Heeled Jack was the mostly fictional column from the Examiner bearing the sensational header “OUTRAGE ON A YOUNG LADY.” This author, a budding Jemmy Shakespeare, could have been writing a shocking penny blood when he recounted how Spring-heeled Jack
“threw off his outer garment, and, applying the lighted candle to his breast, presented a most hideous and frightful appearance, and vomited forth a quantity of blue and white flame from his mouth, and his eyes resembled red balls of fire. From the hasty glance which her fright enabled her to get at his person, she observed that he wore a large helmet, and his dress, which appeared to fit him very tight, seemed to her to resemble white oil-skin. Without uttering a sentence he darted at her, and catching her partly by the dress, and the back part of her neck, placed her head under one of his arms, and commenced tearing her gown with his claws, which she was certain were of some metallic substance. She screamed out as loud as she could for assistance, and by considerable exertion got away from him, and ran towards the house to get in. Her assailant, however, followed her, and caught her on the steps leading to the hall door, when he again used considerable violence, tore her neck and arms with his claws, as well as a quantity of hair from her head; but she was at length rescued from his grasp by one of her sisters.”
PAVILION THEATRE Four days after the ‘Outrage on a Young Lady,’ on Monday, February 26, 1838, the first melodrama based on the ghost, ‘Spring-Heel Jack,’ was staged at the Royal Pavilion Theatre. The Pavilion catered to the working classes but was no penny gaff, the theatre was reportedly quite ostentatious. It opened November 10, 1838, in Whitechapel-road, Mile end, under the management of Wyatt and Farrell.
The Pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1858, and finally rebuilt as a venue for Yiddish theatre. In 1835 the stage-manager was George Dibdin Pitt, who was to produce the original melodrama of ‘Sweeney Todd; or, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ in the 40s while he was the stock author at the Brittania. The title-character, Spring-Heel Jack, was played by Mr. Graham. ‘Spring-Heel Jack’ played as a second feature until March 12, along with ‘Life and Death of Anna Boleyn’ and a nautical drama, ‘The Phantom Admiral; or, the Monster of the Deep.’
POSSIBLE AUTHORS The author of ‘Spring-Heel Jack’ was possibly nautical dramatist John Thomas Haines, who stirred the nerves with melodramatic affairs like ‘The Idiot Witness; or, The Trail of Blood,’ ‘The Haunted Hulk; or, The Rebel’s Heir,’ and ‘The Phantom Ship; or, the Demon Pilot.’ Another author of Pavilion melodrama was comic songwriter and penny blood author Thomas Peckett Prest.
In 1907 Thomas Ratcliffe wrote to Notes & Queries and said that, “in fact, “Jack” jumped and was seen in the imagination of many folk. About the end of the forties I had, I may say, a wholesome dread of meeting “Jumping Jack,” and seeing him bound. About then there was issued from a London house a life of “Spring-Heeled Jack.” It came out in penny weekly numbers, with high illustrations, some of which were loose double-paged pictures in colours. I think the last issue of this marvel was but four or five years ago.” There are no other references to a Spring-Heeled Jack penny blood in the forties, if Ratcliffe’s memory was correct this “life” seems not to have survived.
DEVILSKIN Peter Haining, in ‘The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack’ quotes from a report in Lloyd’s Penny Weekly Miscellany, ‘The old tar and the vampire,’ dated August 26, 1843, which features a character named Devilskin, who is masked, wears a black Spanish cloak and has cloven hooves. Lloyd’s first periodical venture was The Penny Sunday Times and Weekly Police Gazette, a miscellany of fiction and faked police reports. Advertisements for The Penny Sunday Times proclaimed the writing was “Sketched with the Humour of a “Boz.”” The Penny Weekly Miscellany, where Devilskin appeared, was edited by James Malcolm Rymer, author of the fictional ‘Varney the Vampire,’ and claimed a weekly sale of sixty thousand copies.
|7 Spring-heel’d Jack: the Terror of London, London: NPC, 1863|
ALFRED COATES In 1863 ‘Spring-heel’d Jack: the Terror of London a Romance of the Nineteenth Century’ was published by the Newsagents Publishing Company. The author, Alfred Coates, journalist, playwright and penny dreadful hack, was born in Lambeth, Surrey about 1833. Coates was the author of ‘The Missionary’s Daughter’ and ‘The Boy Brigand’ for publisher Henry Lea. He wrote ‘The Confederates Daughter; or, The Tyrant of New Orleans’ for Allen & Co. circa 1862, and followed with ‘Spring-Heel’d Jack: The Terror of London, a Romance of the Nineteenth Century’ in 1863. In the 1870s he was a house-author at the Brittania Theatre, writing sensational fare such as ‘The Frozen Stream; or, The Dead Witness,’ and ‘Poacher Bill; or, The Gypsy Outcast.’
“It is now a little over a quarter of a century since the inhabitants of London and its suburbs were kept in a continual state of terror by a man who, under various disguises, and in different shapes and forms, would suddenly appear before the unsuspecting pedestrian, and, after having nearly frightened the traveller out of his or her senses, would as suddenly disappear, with terrific bounds, from his side, leaving for a time the impression upon his affrighted victim that his Satanic Majesty had paid a visit to the earth, and especially favoured them with his presence.”
Coates hero was an aristocratic Robin Hood on springs, with an unhealthy disdain for the minions of the law. His chilling laugh was borrowed from the melodramatic stage-villains, but Jack was no villain, although in one or two cases death was the result of one of his appearances. Despite the monster’s devilish appearance he was a champion of the poor and distressed. At times he really did seem to have achieved flight, probably aided aerodynamically by his cloak. The title is ‘Spring-Heel’d Jack’ but in the parts work he is referred to throughout as ‘Spring-heeled Jack.’
“It was at this time that the terror he caused was at its height – when the husband, on his return home, cast suspicious glances behind him, and clutched nervously at his walking-stick; and the wife waited anxiously, with barred door, her husband’s return, fearful even to open it to his well-known knock, lest it should be Spring-heeled Jack – that the worthy one evening entered a public-house in the neighbourhood of the Liverpool-road, Islington.
He was tall and well formed, which even the large dark Spanish cloak he wore did not disguise.”
TRANSFORMATION After treating the house to drinks the stranger goaded a bragging policeman into making a bet that he would not capture Spring-Heeled Jack if the miscreant appeared on his beat. Here Coates described Jack’s amazing transformation and athletic prowess,
“The man dropped a coin on to the floor, and stooped as if to pick it up, but as he did so he thrust a hideous mask over his face.
Then springing up, and turning to the officer, at the same time flinging back the large folds of his cloak, and revealing it’s white lining, he exclaimed –
“Boaster! I am Spring-heeled Jack!”
With a cry of terror the officer sprang backwards onto the steps which led up to the house.
“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed Jack. “Follow me if you can – take me if you dare!”
With a terrific bound he sprang up and over the head of the officer right into the centre of the roadway.
Here he paused, and gave vent to a loud laugh, then bounded back again to the officer’s side.
“Why don’t you do your duty?” he exclaimed, leaping onto the policeman’s shoulders and forcing his hat over his eyes.
Then with another laugh he bounded across the road as the men who had partaken of his treat rushed from the house towards him.
“I’ll have a shy for him,” exclaimed the man who had made no secret of his nervousness.
“Come on, my friend,” cried Jack. “You are what I thought, after all – the bravest of the lot.”
The man ran towards him, and even succeeded in catching hold of his cloak.
But he was unable to retain it, for with a spring Jack bounded away over a hedge into the field beyond, and was lost to view, while in the centre of the road stood the officer, his battered hat in one hand, shouting at the top of his voice, till those who had been with him at the bar were out of sight, and he was left alone.
“Stop him! – stop him! Don’t be frightened! Don’t let him get away! Stop him! – stop him!”
“That’s your duty my friend; but you are such a coward,” exclaimed a voice behind him.
The officer turned, uttered a cry, and fled at the top of his speed, whilst the loud laughter of Spring-heeled Jack rang out on the night air.”
THEATRICAL CHANGES Throughout the book Jack theatrically changed appearance just as he did in the early newspaper accounts.
“On the threshold of the doorway stood an object that might well have appalled a stouter heart than Bill’s – a form that would have shaken more powerful nerves than those which had already been weakened by drink, as were the now trembling and affrighted bully’s.
It was that of a tall form, whose head and body glowed with a blue, phosphorescent fire, from the back of which hung, in graceful folds, a long striped cloak, like a tiger skin.
It stood with its arms extended thus throwing the cloak open in front, and revealing the fore part of the figure, over which the blue flames played, and appeared to curl upwards to the crown of the head.
“Mer–mer–mercy, Mr. Devil!” cried the kneeling man, still keeping his hands pressed over his eyes, to shut out the horrible form which now had the effect of completely sobering him.
The figure took a step towards him, extending its arms still wider, then paused.
“Mortal,” it said.”
|8 The Entr’acte Annual, 1876|
PANTO AND MELODRAMA Spring-Heel’d Jack must have been extraordinarily popular because it was immediately turned into a stirring melodrama by the Victorian equivalent of Douglas Fairbanks, the incredible George Conquest. Punch weekly lampooned Conquest‘s mastery of athletics and mimicry in 1882:
“Mr. George Conquest was hopping about thoughtfully in his favourite frog attitude, on the Surrey side of the river. Now and then he stood on his head, or dived down into a coal-cellar, coming up again through a chimney, and leaping from a roof on to a lamp-post (…) jumping from the electric telegraph wire, on which he had been swinging, up on to the sky-light of the theatre, he descended safely to the stage, placed himself on a trap, and shot up, through the floor, into Mr. Paul Merritt’s private room.”
B.O. CONQUEST George Conquest was born George Augustus Oliver on May 4, 1837, in the Garrick Tavern. The saloon was attached to the Garrick Theatre, and both were owned by his father Benjamin Oliver, who called himself B.O. Conquest. The large family lived and worked in the tavern for sixteen years and produced melodramas such as ‘The Dog of Montargis, Mutiny of the Nore,’ and ‘Black-Ey’d Susan.’
|9 The Era Almanack, 1877|
George Conquest spent his schooldays in France where he learned gymnastics and collected French plays. Back in England B.O. Conquest bought the Eagle Saloon and Grecian Theatre specializing in pantomime and melodrama. George returned after four years and began building his reputation for extraordinary agility in pantomime and melodrama. As one critic put it, “…he is here, there and everywhere at the same time.”
George was also a dramatist and wrote numerous plays. He “brought up,” and collaborated with the dramatists Henry Pettitt and Paul Merritt, both of whom began with minor jobs at the Grecian. The melodramatic plots of Conquest and Merritt often defied description. George Augustus Sala wrote about the play ‘Mankind’:
“Take a witches’ cauldron and set it over a blue fire; strangle a disreputable junior partner of a money-lender and throw into the pot; hang the other money-lender for murdering his colleague and throw him in likewise; half drown a virtuous young married lady and in with her; beat a small clever child in black stockings very hard to make her tender, and pop her in; add a cup of coffee well poisoned; flavour with stolen will, a Chubb burglar-proof safe, several forgeries (…) a Gladstone bag, a small quantity of blood, a pinch of gunpowder, and any amount of vigorous acting, and then you have your bouillabaisse – Mankind.”
Throughout the summer of 1863 Conquest was dramatizing Alfred Coates Spring-Heel’d Jack penny dreadful. The following advertisement appeared in The Era on May 7, 1863:
“Grecian Theatre, City-Road. Sole Proprietor, Mr. B.O. Conquest. Triumphant success of "Spring-Heel’d Jack" On Monday and during the week (Wednesday and Thursday excepted) the performances will commence with SPRING-HEEL’D JACK; or, A Felon’s Wrongs, in three acts, written by Mr. G. Conquest.”
There was no review of the ‘Spring-Heel’d Jack’ melodrama in the Era but this description of Conquest in a pantomime from April 24, 1870, presents a good description of Conquest’s performance; “The make-up of Mr. George Conquest as Quasimodo was grotesque in the extreme (…) in the Belfry scene, where he flies across the stage upon the ropes, disappearing through trap-doors with a marvellous rapidity, only to bound into the air from another trap just as suddenly, his performance is equally marvellous.”
INTO THE AIR The hidden star traps (named for their shape) would shoot him as high as eighteen feet into the air, where he would do a triple pirouette before touching foot to the stage. In one pantomime, ‘Grim Goblin,’ Conquest was shot at an angle of forty five degrees out of the mouth of a prop dragon onto a trapeze. In another pantomime, ‘Rick Rack,’ he astonished his audience in the form of a green-haired gorilla. “Here he runs up poles, swings and leaps in quite an ape-like fashion, and disappears and reappears through the floor and walls with lightning speed, and seems like a supernatural being in his marvellous movements.”
The Spring-Heel’d Jack melodrama ended its run on August 2, 1863. The Era commented “Spring-Heel’d Jack, in which Mr. Conquest achieves those acrobatic feats which have rendered his performances so remarkable, concludes a bill of fare (…) which must satisfy the most fastidious theatrical gourmand.”
The Newsagents Publishing Company was still circulating Coates’s ‘Spring-Heeled Jack: The Terror of London’ in 1867 and advertised the serial in other NPC publications:
“Read ‘Spring-Heeled Jack: The Terror of London’ — Whereas, a little over a quarter century ago, a person known to the police as Spring-Heeled Jack did frighten and cause the death of several persons, the daring deeds and startling adventures of this wonderful man will be published in Weekly Numbers, with Illustrations every week of his doings.”
This was illustrated with a thrilling picture of Spring-Heeled Jack leaping into the Thames to save a drowning seamstress. Another squib stated,
“Spring-Heeled Jack will, in type, perform over again his midnight freaks and daring adventures. With Illustrations Every Week of his Doings.”
WILLIAM TRAVERS Next the penny dreadful was dramatized by William Travers under the title ‘The Terror of London’ in 1868. The melodrama premiered at the Marleybone, in the West End, with actor Walter Roberts, “who being tall and active, was well fitted to play the character of the ubiquitous and agile springer.” Travers next took his drama to the East End Brittania Theatre where, on August 30, the hero of “the celebrated tale founded on the exploits of the notorious Spring-Heeled Jack” was enacted by J. Reynolds.
|10 Illustrated Police News, 1884|
The crowded opening night at the Marleybone one hot summer night in June 1868 was described in The Era,
“That theatrical amusements have a strong hold upon the minds of large masses of the population of London was exemplified here on Whit Monday, in a very marked manner, when, though it might have been thought that town-pent folks seeking pleasure would all have been drawn away to green fields and fresh air, this place was packed with people as though they had been squeezed together by some powerful compressing machine. So great was the heat that the majority of the male occupants of the pit and gallery divested themselves of their upper outer garments, and sat at their ease in their shirt-sleeves to see the play. The auditors, however, showed no signs of being rendered languid or listless; on the contrary they were often immensely excited, and applauded the performances with deafening cries of bravo and violent clapping of the hands. One portion of the entertainment which afforded so much delight to the audience consisted of a new piece, in four parts, founded on a recently published narrative of the exploits of Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London. The mysterious individual, whose cognomen supplies the title of the play, is exhibited as a generous fellow, who is always appearing opportunely like a good genius, or knight of the old romances, to succour the distressed. He frightens and defeats Sir Richard Clavering (Mr. C. Lerigo), who cruelly wrongs Jessie Belton (Miss Vincent), and persecutes Ellen Folder (Miss Sanders). One of his most daring and noble acts is that of leaping into the river to save the last-named maiden when she attempts to drown herself. This strange but benevolent being also renders useful service to Jane Slater (Miss McEwan) and her husband James Slater (Mr. Harmer), who finds a bitter enemy in Ralph Grasper (Mr. Doyne). The apparition scares a party of body-snatchers in a churchyard, startles the same group when they are crawling over a housetop in the character of burglars, and eventually hunts down the scoundrels Clavering and Grasper, facilitates the liberation of Slater from prison, and fills the hearts of his lady clients with wonder, joy, and gratitude.”
CHANCE NEWTON Dramatic hack Chance Newton understood the appeal of the penny dreadful type of melodrama:
“I have a suspicion that, whether we confess it to ourselves or others, my otherwise gentle readers, like myself, have a special fondness for dabbling in crime stories both printed or play acted. Also that we are especially moved by the lives and adventures of the Knights of the Road, or “High Toby Merchants,” as they were wont to be called. And even the more romantic housebreakers, or crib-crackers, from Jack Sheppard downwards, we study with especial interest.”“Moreover, that species of murderers and desperadoes known as Burkers, who gleefully slew unoffending citizens for the sake of selling their corpses to surgeons for anatomical vivisection, have also thrilled us, have they not? Far into the night have we panted with secret excitement as the Bow Street Runners gained nearer and nearer on their prey, or were spoofed from time to time by such great criminal heroes as the aforesaid Jack or his terrible traitorous companion, Jonathan Wild. And with what smothered joy have we read of such still more romantic criers of “Stand and deliver !” and “Your money or your life!” as Claude Duval, Paul Clifford, Tom King, Dick Turpin, Nick Nevison, the Golden Farmer, Jerry Abershaw, George Barrington, Old Mop, Sixteen String Jack, Springheel Jack, Scarlet Dick, and so on and so forth.”
VISUAL DISPLAYS The woodcut engravings by W.H. Thwaites, Harry Anelay, Frederick Gilbert, C. Bonner, E. Corbould, Harry Maguire, Phiz, and Robert Prowse were a huge selling point for the weekly penny dreadful parts. They appeared on the front of each number for eye-catching display in shop-windows, and were loaned out to theatres like the Victoria and the Brittania for use on their bill-posters.
A Mayhew informant said; “The costermongers are very fond of illustrations. I have known a man, what couldn’t read, buy a periodical what had an illustration, a little out of the common way perhaps, just that he might learn from someone, who could read, what it was all about.” The costermonger’s believed George Cruikshank was responsible for every humorous illustration in print, just as they believed everything published in a newspaper or periodical was the work of one man. The informant showed Mayhew an engraving “of a man hung up, burning over a fire, and some costers would go mad if they couldn’t learn what he had been doing, who he was, and all about him.”
BOY’S HERALD John Thomas Dicks’ first issue of the Boy’s Herald (subtitled: “Entertaining, Instructive, and Useful”) was published on Saturday, January 6, 1877. The periodical was a sixteen page penny weekly with a masthead illustrated by Frederick Gilbert. Frank Jay, writing in Vanity Fair (“An Amateur Magazine”), edited by Joseph Parks, said in 1918; “From a literary point of view, The Boy’s Herald was a gem of the first water in the matter of boys’ literature.” Well he remembered “those happy irresponsible days, when we revelled in the reading of the stirring and glowing tales of life and adventure, serious and humorous, and now as I turn the leaves over, and review the pleasures of boyhood, I recall many incidents and happy associations of my boyhood days.”
|11 Boy’s Herald, 1877|
CHAS H. ROSS The second serial to grace the cover of the Boy’s Herald was ‘Runaway Jack; or, The Fool of the Family,’ by Charles Henry Ross. The date was Saturday, April 14, 1877, in volume I, No.15. Fourteen year old Jack Lamb was the ragged, hungry runabout son of a poor Reverend with a large family. The writing evolved from a humorous boy’s story to a penny dreadful adventure over the course of its run. The cover illustration and the text of the first few chapters, in which the boys dressed in white sheets to frighten a village idiot, were clearly inspired by the tale of the Hammersmith Ghost.
In one anonymously published work, The Woman with the Yellow Hair, Ross wrote a scene taking place in a crowd at a public execution which referenced Spring-Heeled Jack,
“As he looked around, he saw almost every phase of vice and profligacy represented. At the window yonder, some over-dressed young noodle, who had on lavender kid gloves, and smoked a cigar, was throwing down hot half-pence for the rabble below to scramble for, after the fashion of thee young bloods in the days of the Regent, when such senseless absurdities were taken for wit. The fashion has exploded now; our knockers and bell-pulls are unmolested; Spring-Heeled Jack has jumped clean out of our recollection; the noble marquis, who was the king of practical jokers, and in whose jokes there existed a certain germ of humour which atoned for their attendant blackguardism, is dead; and his poor imitators, whose name is legion, and who had all the blackguardism without any of the fun, have passed away and are forgotten, and we young men are now much wiser, and happier, and enjoy ourselves much more reasonably, if we are not in our hearts more virtuous than our fathers were.”
| 12 Advert for Charles Fox-issued Spring Heeled Jack. The Terror of London — “Splendidly Illustrated.”|
CHARLES FOX London publisher Charles Fox brought out several different versions of Spring-Heeled Jack and kept them in constant circulation in penny parts. The first was serialized in the Boy’s Standard, First Series, Volume 5, as ‘Spring-Heel’d Jack: the Terror of London,’ circa April 1878, and although no copy is known the story may have been issued in penny numbers. Another short juvenile version of it was published in the Boy’s Standard, New Series, in 6 instalments from July 18, 1885 to August 22, 1885. Spring-Heeled Jack’s identity in this serial was Jack Dacre, a boy hero in search of his inheritance. His appearance was that of the melodramatic stage hero:
“To return, however, to our hero.His dress was most striking.It consisted of a tight-fitting garment, which covered him from his head to his feet.This garment was of a blood-red colour.One foot was encased in a high-heeled pointed shoe, while the other was hidden in a peculiar affair, something like a cow’s hoof, in imitation, no doubt, of the “cloven-hoof” of Satan.It was generally supposed that the “springing” mechanism was contained in that hoof.He wore a very small black cap upon his head, in which was fastened one bright crimson feather.The upper part of his face was covered by black domino.When not in action the whole was concealed by an enormous black cloak, with one hood, and which literally covered him from head to foot.He did not always confine himself to this dress though, for sometimes he would place the head of an animal, constructed out of paper and plaster, over his own, and make changes in his attire.”
|13 Spring-Heeled Jack, The Terror of London, No. 39, Charles Fox|
About 1886 a new author was hired by Fox and a second serial, again titled Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London, again by the author of “Turnpike Dick, the Star of the Road,” was published in 48 numbers. The hero was renamed Ralph Ashton. The usual practice in penny dreadful illustration was to publish half a page of text and half a page of illustration on each numbers cover, the new style was to feature stunning full-page pictures with a blank white backing followed by the double column text. SHJ is depicted as a muscular horned demon with a lion’s mane and bat-wings wearing a skin-tight nudie suit. He hunts evildoers over the rooftops, stuffs them down chimneys and bounds over stagecoaches.
A.S. BURRAGE The authorship has been attributed to “Charlton Lea,” the pen name of Alfred Sherrington Burrage, brother of Edwin Harcourt Burrage, the creator of the fabulously successful oriental character, “the immortal” Ching Ching. There is no proof for this assertion, however, the penny dreadful was issued anonymously. A.S. Burrage was born in Norwich in 1851 and died in harness in 1906, still churning out penny dreadful material for the Aldine Libraries. The 1891 census shows him living at Uxbridge Common, Hillingdon, with his 36 year old wife Mary, one year old son Alfred McClelland, and a lady’s companion. By the time Alfred McClelland Burrage was in his twenties he was following in his father’s footsteps, providing boys fiction for the Harmsworth story papers Gem and Boys’ Friend.
Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London, takes place early in the nineteenth century, when the railroads were just beginning to cross the countryside. At times the author seems to have forgotten his time and locale, and the scenes and swordplay he depicts are often more appropriate to the 17th century.
“The night was terrible, for a storm was raging over London. The wind was rushing with wild roars and shrieks along the streets, chimney pots were being hurled down upon the heads of the passers-by. On the river the shipping was being tossed and flung about, so that the vessels crashed against one another, and small boats were crushed into wreckage against the piers. The lightning flashed and the thunder boomed. But the roar of heaven’s artillery did not drown out the cries which rang out shrilly from a house in Wedge-street in the Mint.The ominous deadly cries – “Help! murder ! help!”
SOUNDS AND ACTIONS The author’s characters curse, exclaim, ejaculate, mutter, murmur, stamp their feet impatiently, fly off the handle, weep, gnash their teeth, tear out their hair, talk to and answer themselves, blow their tops, contemplate self-immolation, and fall to the floor in fits, foaming at the lips, with veins visibly throbbing on their temples and eyes bugging out of their heads.
“Daring miscreant!” exclaimed Ralph, as he rushed towards him, “this moment will I save the hangman his trouble! Thus do I send you to your final account, and avenge myself for the slur you have cast on my name. Die, monster, – die!Sir Roland folded his arms.“Strike me, a wounded, helpless man!” he said, “such a thrust would do your sword honour.”Ralph stopped half-way, and lowered the point of his rapier to the ground.“No,” he said, “I thought I had rid the world of you; but I will not harm you now. I will find other means. Your accomplice, Bill Blarney, is in prison, and you shall follow him. Sir Roland, you are my prisoner!”“And I surrender,” Sir Roland replied, calmly, “the world shall hear my story and yours. How proud then will you be of your name?”Ralph bit his underlip until a thin streak of blood ran down his chin.”
THE ELEMENTS Spring-Heeled Jack’s appearances were accompanied by melodramatic storms, thunder, and lightning.
“But as he spoke a terrific flash of lightning seemed to rend the heavens, and cast a lurid gleam over the dreary time-stained buildings at the rear of the Three Mariners, and a clap of thunder boomed forth enough to shake the place to its foundations.And as they stood awe-stricken in that interval of light they beheld a terrible thing.Leaping high in the air, springing over the summit of a stack of chimneys, was a form as of Satan, a bat-like body, in red tight-fitting garments, with wide wings, and a devil’s face , sulphurous flame and smoke issuing from his mouth.He leaped almost into the window where they stood spellbound.But the light was gone then – darkness had fallen heavily, and they could only see his shadow form for an instant, before, with a satanic laugh and a fresh emission of flame, he disappeared with a bound, which took him clear across the leads into the street.”
The elements precede Spring-Heeled Jack’s entrance into the room just after the villain, Ned Wilmot, following the orders of Sir Roland Ashton, had stabbed Daisy Leigh’s father to death for some papers in his possession:
“A loud and discordant laugh was heard without, and, in the midst of a terrific flash of lightning, there was a crashing of wood and glass, and an awful figure sprang into the room.It was the form of Satan.His body was attired in a red tight-fitting garment; his face was strange and horrible; his mouth wide, with fang-like teeth; horns grew from his forehead, and one foot was that of an animal with a cloven hoof.As he gazed at the assassin with eyes which glowed like living coals, sulphurous flame and smoke was vomited from his mouth.”
USE THE GOLD Daisy fainted at the sight of the “Terrible Thing” and the assassin leaped over a table and “was gone.” The weird being wrote Daisy a note:
“Fear not Daisy Leigh! He whom you saw this night is your friend. He arrived to late to save your father’s life. But he will aid you to avenge his death. Use the gold he leaves and go to the address he gives, or you will hear no more of your friend “Spring-Heeled Jack.”
|14 Spring-Heeled Jack, The Terror of London No. 45, Charles Fox|
For no good reason the author had Jack leave a mark on Daisy so that she would “one day know who it was that befriended her.” With his long claws “he scratched a double cross on her left shoulder, on the delicate white of which the blood quickly flowed.” Then; “With bounds of wondrous and supernatural agility he sprang over the roofs of outhouses, over chimney pots and across leads; an awful form in the blue gleam of the lightning…”
BAT WINGS Sir Roland was the uncle of Ralph Ashton whose betrothed is Constance Marfield, Sir Roland’s ward. Spring-Heeled Jack pursued his vengeance against Ned Wilmot and Sir Roland through 72 weekly numbers for a total of 576 pages of exciting adventure. Jack’s cloak resembled the wings of a bat and he seems at times to have the power of flight, or of gliding. He haunted his enemies with a mocking laugh, “Ha! ha! ha!” and sulphurous smoke and flame poured out of his mouth as his body glided overhead in the moonlight. His “peculiar dress” was sometimes red, sometimes white, and sometimes “assumed a dull, black hue, as if some other garb was worn beneath it.”
Daisy fell into the hands of a lecherous dwarf bagsman, Gedge Foote, and Spring-Heeled Jack had his claws full saving her and Constance from the clutches of Ned Wilmot and his minions. As was usual in the penny dreadfuls both women were captured and rescued time and time again. A bounty was laid on the head of Ralph Ashton on a trumped up charge of forgery and murder and Constance agreed to marry Sir Roland, Ralph’s cousin, in order to save her lover’s life. Spring-Heeled Jack was an uninvited guest at the wedding. One by one Jack murdered the evil-doers, each murder more ghastly than the last, some committed with his bare hands, others with a variety of weapons including pistols, swords and spears.
The story ended with Jack’s identity finally revealed; he was Ralph Ashton, an aristocrat and the true heir of Ashton Hall, whose marvellous leaps and bounds were accomplished with “steel bars, so joined as to work freely with the limbs, and these were attached to a number of springs forming the soles and toes of the false feet, upon which Ralph's own rested. When stooping for a leap the steel bars gave tremendous force to the springs, pressing them down and sending him forward with a bound which astonished and alarmed everybody with whom he came in contact.”
SIGNATURE LAUGH Spring-Heeled Jack’s wild and discordant laugh did not feature in the original newspaper reports of 1838, it was an invention of the penny dreadful authors and was incorporated into the melodramas based on the character. The villainous laugh appears in some odd places in later resuscitations of the “Ghost.”
|15 Funny Folks, October 26, 1878|
John Robert Columbo tells of a devil who materialised at a Hornerite meeting-house in Ontario in December 1897. Just as the preacher began speaking a devil emerged through the floor, breathing fire from mouth and nostrils, and shouted “I am the devil; I’ll have you. Ha, ha, ha.” His appearance matched the penny dreadful hero’s with his two horns, cloven feet, clanking chain, flaming eyes and a tail. “When he spoke the building shook as if by an earthquake.”
ANOTHER TALL TALE Then there was the Spring-Heeled Jack who supposedly haunted St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1929. “His outlandish apparel, his uncanny ability, which enabled him to leap from the ground to the roof of a house and back again, coupled with his outbursts of violent laughter… did have the effect of raising an aura of fear in the community, fear of the unknown.” Diligent searches of the two St. John’s newspapers of the period turned up no trace of Otto Kelland’s long and detailed story. Kelland, who claimed to be a detective constable at the time Newfoundland Jack was laughing at the townspeople from the rooftops, must have been indulging in the telling of tall tales. 
|16 Spring Heel Jack; or, The Masked Mystery of the Tower, 1884|
JUVENILE Spring-Heeled Jack was a character in ‘Chums, a Tale for the Youngsters,’ by Harleigh Severne, published in 1878 as part of the Boys’ Own Favourite Library. The illustrations were by artist Harry Furniss. Jack also appeared in America in Beadle’s New York Dime Library no. 332, complete in 32 pages, on March 4, 1885. ‘Spring Heel Jack; or, The Masked Mystery of the Tower’ was a pedestrian affair written in a juvenile style. The cover credits Colonel Thomas Monstery as author. The story involves two brothers, one dark and one light complexioned, both guards at the Tower of London. The brothers are not really brothers; one is a gipsy, part of an ancient plot to usurp the inheritance of the hero. The gipsy brother masquerades as Spring Heel Jack, and for the most part appears offstage, wearing a costume of armor and spring-heeled boots. The story is tolerably well told in a melodramatic way but has little of a London atmosphere in its descriptions.
|17 The Human Bat, 1899|
THE MARVEL ‘The Mystery of Springheel Jack; or, the Haunted Grange’ by S. Clarke Hook appeared in June 1897 in Alfred Harmsworth’s boys’ story paper The Marvel, Vol. VIII, No. 189. Beginning with ‘The Eagle of Death’ in the Marvel of March 23, 1901, Hook chronicled the adventures of Jack, Sam and Pete for over 15 years. Pete was a Herculean Negro whose popularity rivalled that of E. Harcourt Burrage’s celestial hero Ching Ching. Another five-page story to feature Spring-Heeled Jack as a supporting character appeared in No. 344 of the Marvel, 9 June 1900, titled ‘Dandy Dick; or, The King’s Highway,’ written by Ned Neolan and Ben Brightly. Jack appeared out of nowhere to save our hero from the minions of Jonathan Wild and Captain Blood. He sported wings, claws, horns, red flashing eyes, and disfigured the attackers with his “steel spikes.” He disappeared from the story as quickly and mysteriously as he’d entered it.
|18 The Human Bat, 1899 advert|
HUMAN BAT Another Harmsworth story paper, The Wonder, published ‘The Human Bat. A story of Spring-Heeled Jack,’ by Stanhope Sprigg, on 29 April, 1899, and followed this in early 1913 with a 30-part serial titled ‘The Winged Man.’
COMIC Renowned Strand cartoonist Tom Browne provided the front page of Illustrated Chips with ‘A Wild Nights Adventure with Spring-heeled Jack,’ 6 fine comic strip panels featuring the popular characters Weary Willie and Tired Tim, on September 9, 1899. The comic made reference to Stanhope Sprigg’s ‘Human Bat’ tale from The Wonder.
BATSOWL Throughout the first few months of 1919 Harmsworth’s pink covered comic Chips ran an unusual serial. The title was ‘Batsowl; or, I Will Atone.’ Batsowl flew across English skies by means of enormous bat-wings which folded round his body like a cloak. His eyes gave out a powerful headlight beam, useful for freezing villains in their tracks.
ROBERT PROWSE JR. Alfred Sherrington Burrage, using the pen name ‘Charlton Lea,’ wrote dozens of novelette length stories for the Claud Duval, Jack Sheppard, Robin Hood and Dick Turpin libraries published by the Aldine Company. He was the author of twelve stories for the Aldine Spring-Heeled Jack library in 1904. The striking cover illustrations were painted by Robert Prowse junior, who portrayed the hero in a horned skull-cap trailing a long red feather. He wore black cavalry boots up to the knee, white pants, and a black shirt with bat-wings attached. His shirt was adorned with skeletal ribs painted on the chest. He bore a brace of pistols which he used to eliminate his adversaries. The villains included soldiers, grave-robbers, and a costumed band of robbers led by a villain named Le Rouge.
FILMS & GAMES In 1911, a film titled ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ was on the road in theatres and skating rinks through-out New Zealand. Another Spring-Heeled Jack three-reeler, (or perhaps it was the same cinematic offering), from Pathé, described as a Farce-Comedy, was on tour November 1913. A board game called Spring-Heeled Jack was available in department stores and toy-shops for Christmas of 1911.
In Paul Leni’s classic German silent film from 1924, ‘Waxworks’ (original title: Das Wachsfigurenkabinett), a young poet is hired to write sensational stories about an exhibition of wax dummies. In three surrealistic episodes he brings to life the figures of Caliph Harun al Raschid (Conrad Veidt), Ivan the Terrible (Emil Jannings) and “Spring-Heeled Jack” (Werner Krauss) who, despite the name, was actually based on Jack the Ripper — as he was named in the original German film credits.
|19 Illustrated Chips, September 9, 1899|
E.H. LARGE In 1931-32 Spring-Heeled Jack was rejuvenated as a weekly serial in the pages of Sparkler, a comic published in Bath by Provincial Comics, with Jack Long as editor. ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ was a text feature with illustrations by Edgar Harry Large (1902-83) a microbiologist who spent his whole life in Worcester contributing to various comic publications in his spare time. The adventures took place in Regency times and the heroes’ tight-fitting costume sported a pair of bat-wings. Another text feature in the Sparkler was ‘Blackbeard the Pirate;’ both characters had appeared in the Aldine penny dreadfuls at the turn of the century.
ON STAGE AGAIN The last actor of any significance to play Spring-Heeled Jack on the stage was the indefatigable N. Carter Slaughter, better known as “Tod” Slaughter. Slaughter was the last of the Victorian actors of melodrama when “heroes were handsome, villains vile, and maidens modest.”
Slaughter, who was referred to as “Dad” by his “family” at the Elephant and Castle Theatre in 1926, was born March 19, 1885 at Newcastle upon Tyne, and began his stage career about 1905, playing blood and thunder dramas such as ‘Maria Marten; or, the Murder in the Red Barn.’ Chance Newton traced the first Murder in the Red Barn melodrama to the Pavilion Theatre, Mile End, contemporary with the murder, and authored by the improbably named West Digges which, according to penny-a-liner J. Curtis, was “admirably got up.” Mystery writer Edgar Wallace once said “the first coppers I earned, selling newspapers as a boy, were spent on a seat in the gallery of the Elephant.”
Tod Slaughter, in collaboration with Geoffrey L. Carlile wrote and staged the melodrama of ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ at the Palace Theatre on September 7, 1928. It was again revived under the title of ‘Spring-Heeled Jack; or, The Terror of Epping Forest.’ Other Slaughter stage plays included ‘Landru,’ ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ and ‘Treasure Island,’ in which he portrayed Long John Silver.
Willson Disher described the plot of another Elephant & Castle stage production, ‘The Face at the Window,’ by Brooke Warren. The play in its original form dated back to 1897 and featured a villain called Le Loup, who “leaves iron daggers in the chests of his victims until his name is disclosed by a corpse galvanized into momentary life by electricity.” A Tod Slaughter film titled ‘The Face at the Window,’ was produced by King in the 1930s.
|20 Cinemundial, 1940|
TOD SLAUGHTER In 1935 Slaughter began his film career with ‘Maria Marten; or, the Murder in the Red Barn,’ followed by ‘Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.’ In 1937 Slaughter appeared as Sexton Blake in ‘Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror.’ In 1946 ‘The Curse of the Wraydons’ was filmed, based on a play called ‘Springheeled Jack, the Terror of London’ by Maurice Sandoz. The melodrama is usually credited to W.G. Willis (actually named Wills) in 1849, but the true genesis of Sandoz play was the Aldine Spring-Heeled Jack library series which featured a character named Betrtram Wraydon with the same Napoleonic background.
Tod Slaughter played Philip Wraydon, a crazed inventor and ex-spy in the Napoleonic wars, who adopts the identity of Springheeled Jack and seeks revenge against his brothers’ family, again similar to the Aldine version. Slaughter was sixty-one and overweight when he portrayed Jack in the film which probably explains why there are none of the astounding athletics that we would expect to find in the character. He revived ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ at the Theatre Royal on Monday, January 16, 1950, for a live television production. Slaughter died in 1956, aged seventy, while he was at Derby, still touring the hoary horrors of the ‘Murder in the Red Barn.’
British Pathé produced two short newsreels featuring Tod Slaughter in 1935. ‘Pots of Plots’ featured scenes from three films with narration by the star. The comic short ‘Tod Slaughter at Home’ begins with a villainous laugh followed by the famous catchphrase from Sweeney Todd; “I’ll soon polish you off!” Slaughter, in his persona of Sweeney Todd, is seen sharpening his razor and bemoaning the lack of custom in his barbershop. He shows off the “beautiful knife Mrs. Lovett used in her pie-shop — before I polished her off.”
He fondles a gun, saying “This is the pistol with which I shot Maria Marten in the Red Barn. Poor Maria, I was very fond of her…” Trying a noose on for size he exclaims “And this is the noose they hanged Jack Sheppard with…” An interviewer laden with camera equipment rings the bell and Slaughter grabs him from behind, throttles his waist, laughs, and then manhandles him inside to the barber’s chair where he begins to shave him. He tells the captive interviewer that he spends his time thinking up new methods of murder. He rings a bell summoning a young girl dressed as a serving wench who enters with drinks and as she leaves the two men admire her legs. Todd follows her out, there is a scream, and he returns holding her severed leg. “Here’s a souvenir…,” he says, then stuffs a cigar in the startled customer’s mouth to soothe his nerves. He lights it and the cigar explodes leaving the stunned customer with a black smoking face. The hilarious short film is very similar to the ghoulish comic introductions later hosted by Alfred Hitchcock in his TV show.
“Spring-heeled Jack was picked up by the Flying Saucer magazines and the alien was grafted to his image of prankster, devil, ghost and superhero.”
COMEBACK In October 1948 Jack was brought back to public attention with the publishing of ‘Boys Will be Boys,’ the classic by the late Ernest S. Turner, a popular history of Victorian penny bloods, penny dreadfuls, and boy’s story papers. The updated and revised second edition was published in 1957, the third, revised and updated once again in 1975, followed by a Penguin Pocket book edition in 1976.
By 1961 the legend of Spring-heeled Jack was picked up by the Flying Saucer magazines and the alien was grafted to his image of prankster, devil, ghost and superhero. In the 70s John Keel’s ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ was published in a popular paperback. Keel’s fraudulent fiction disguised as fact scenario merged the mythical Spring-heeled Jack with UFO legends about the sinister Men in Black. Peter Haining’s ‘The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack’ came out in 1977 and further muddied the waters with invented accounts of assaults and murders supposedly committed by the 1838 Spring-Heeled Jack legend.
|21 Pérák, the Spring Man of Prague, 1948|
THE SPRING MAN The legends of ‘Pérák, the Spring Man of Prague,’ who sabotaged the Nazis in World War II with the aid of Spring-Heeled boots, have been brought back to life in contemporary Czechoslovakian comic books and short stories. Czechoslovakian comic art is quite a recent phenomenon, under the Communists comics were subject to state censorship and what did get published was bland propaganda.
Jiří Trnka produced a short animated film in 1945 titled ‘The Spring Man and the SS’ (Pérák a SS in Czech).The mythical Pérák was brought back in stories appearing in the Czech magazine Živel in the 1990s. Science fiction author Ondrej Neff, under his “Aston” pseudonym, created a comic strip titled ‘Pérák kontra Globeman’ (Pérák versus Globalman) which he illustrated himself. Writers Monge and Morten, along with cartoonist Adolf Lachman have produced modern comic books featuring Pérák battling the Gestapo with the aid of guns and spring-heeled boots.
|22 Springheeled Jack, 2003 cover by Simon Bisley (UK)|
In 1989 Philip Pullman, winner of the prestigious Whitbread Prize for ‘The Amber Spyglass’ issued a children’s book, ‘Spring-Heeled Jack,’ in collaboration with artist David Mostyn. The book was an uneasy mixture of text and comic strip. American author Kevin Noel Olson first read of Springheeled Jack in a UFO magazine and resuscitated him as a fictional pulp-hero transplanted to the Wild West in the magazine Secret Sanctum in 1995. This was followed by a book — ‘The Legend of Springheeled Jack’ — and the novelette ‘Springheeled Jack: Gunfighter-Theatre of the Deranged,’ both published through Lulu books.
AROUND 2000 At the time this the present overview was first written, Olson and his collaborator, illustrator Ver Curtiss, were working on a Graphic Novel based on the same character.
Spring-Heeled Jack was the title of a story in DC’s Scooby-Doo no. 20, in January 2000, with art by Joe Staton and Dave Hunt. The author was Terrance Griep. In the UK writer and artist Dave Hitchcock self-published Spirit of the Highwayman in 1999, then brought out a ‘Springheeled Jack’ comic book in 2003 (as an alien operating in a Victorian background) which run at least to 3 issues. Hitchcock’s comic book was the recipient of a 2005 Eagle Award for Best B&W UK comic.
NOTES to Spring-Heeled Jack in Popular Culture, 1838-2005
 The Old Boys Book Brigade. Barry Ono, 29 March 1919. Quoted by Frank Jay in Peeps into the Past.
 Mr. Midshipman Easy, London: Saunders and Otley, 3 volumes, 1836.
 The Spring Jack, by Peter Piper, Franklin’s Miscellany, Saturday, Volume I, no. 7, 27 Jan 1838, p.1. Thanks to Joe Rainone for discovering the column and images and sharing his copy.
 Dictionary of National Biography, under the entry for Barnard Gregory, publisher of The Satirist or Censor of the Times, a stamped 6d. Newspaper, credit’s Gregory with being the editor of Cousin’s Penny Satirist. I found no evidence that this is true.
 The Evolution of the British Comic by Denis Gifford. In History Today, Vol. XXI, No. 5, May 1971.
 Cockney Adventures and Tales of London Life by Renton Nicholson. Woodcuts by C.J. Grant. London: W.M. Clark. 4 Nov 1837 - 30 Dec 1838. Octavo, green wrappers, 1d. weekly, four-penny monthly.
 Grant also contributed front-page caricatures to Cleave’s Penny Gazette of Varieties.
 In World War II all three pamphlets were destroyed by German bombs.
 These sensationally illustrated “pamphlets” probably refer to “books” published in the Seven Dials district of London which were whole sheets printed on both sides so as to fold into eight pages of illustrated material, or large one page broadsheets which were usually issued with a garish woodcut. London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. I, p.220.
 Spring-Heeled Jack, 9 Aug 1884. All the Year Round, No. 819, New Series.
 Gossip in the First Decade of Victoria’s Reign. London: Hurst and Blackett. 1903, p.30.
 Useful for dating these catchpenny affairs since the term “Spring-heeled Jack” was not coined until 22 Feb 1838 in the Times newspaper.
 Autobiography of the Hammersmith Ghost. In Fraser’s Magazine Vol. XVIII No. CV. Sep 1838. The anonymous author may have been Sir Theodore Martin, or, Bon Gaultier, whose work The Dead Alive: an Inn Story bears close stylistic resemblance to Autobiography of the Hammersmith Ghost.
 Annual Register 1804, p.358.
 Haunted England a Survey of Ghost-lore. Christina Hole. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd. 1940, pp.284-285.
 The Reader’s Encyclopaedia, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1948, p.550. The phrase “Before you can say Jack Robinson” was in use as early as the 18th century.
 The History of the Devil, the Horned God of the West, R. Lowe Thompson, B.A., London: Kegan Paul, 1929.
 Seventy Years a Showman, ‘Lord’ George Sanger, MacGibbon & Kee Ltd, 1966, first published 1910, p.80.
 London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. III, by Henry Mayhew, 1861, p.52.
 The Satirist. Advertisement. Monday, 26 Feb 1838.
 Notes & Queries. 10S. VII. 18 May 1907, p.394.
 The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack. Peter Haining. London: Frederick Muller Ltd. 1977.
 Fiction For The Working Man 1830-1850. Louis James. London: Oxford University Press, 1963, p.39.
 Advertisement for Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette in the Barry Ono Collection ND.
 Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood. James Malcolm Rymer. 109 nos. London: E. Lloyd, 1847.
 London Census information. Thanks to British author Steve Holland.
 Allen & Co. and Henry Lea may have been associated with the Newsagents’ Publishing Company, publishers of the Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night, by Vane Ireton Shaftsbury St. John, ca. 1866. Wild Boys of London was staged at the Brittania Theatre for C. Pitt’s Benefit on 19 Sept 1866.
 Advertisement from The Era, 9 Aug 1865. “Brittania, The Great Theatre, Hoxton – Great novelty and attraction. Production of a new Transatlantic drama. All the week, at Half-past Six, to commence with, first time, and never before acted, a drama by Hazlewood, entitled THE CONFEDERATE’S DAUGHTER; or, The Tyrant of New Orleans ( founded on the popular work by A. Coates, Esq., published by H. Lea ).” The NP’Cs Spring-Heel’d Jack: the Terror of London, was by the author of The Confederate’s Daughter: Alfred Coates.
 Spring-heel’d Jack: the Terror of London. A Romance of the Nineteenth Century. By the author of ‘The Confederate’s Daughter,’ etc., Newsagents Publishing Company 1863, circulating until at least 1867.
[3o] Quoted in Conquest; the Story of a Theatre Family by Frances Fleetwood in collaboration with Betty Conquest. London: W.H. Allen 1953.
 The Era, 7 Jun 1868.
 Crime and The Drama; or, Dark Deeds Dramatized. H. Chance Newton. 1927.
 Hablot K. Browne (Phiz) illustrated two penny dreadfuls in the 1860s: The New Mysteries of London. London: J.A. Berger, and Ruth, the Murdered Child, London: George Vickers.
 The Britannia Diaries 1863-1875: selections from the diaries of Frederick C. Wilton, London: Society for Theatre Research, 1992.
 London Labour and the London Poor, p.25.
 The Woman With The Yellow Hair. A Romance of Good and Bad Society by the author of “Charley Wag”, London: United Kingdom Press, 1860.
 Peeps into the Past, Frank Jay, 22 Feb 1919.
 Ching Ching was first introduced in the serial Handsome Harry of the Fighting Belvedere in the Boy’s Standard, No. 20, 18 March 1876. The illustrations were by Harry Maguire.
 Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London by the author of “Turnpike Dick, the Star of the Road”, London: Charles Fox 1886.
 A receiver of stolen goods.
 In 1895 R.C. Horner left the Methodist church of Ontario to start his own sect which he called the Holiness movement.
 Terrors of the Night, by John Robert Columbo, Toronto: The Dundurn Group, pp.106-107.
 Strange and Curious: Unusual Newfoundland Stories by Otto Kelland, St John’s, Newfoundland: Creative Publishers, 2003.
 Thanks to Joe Rainone for the copy.
 Information courtesy of Bill Blackbeard.
 The titles were: no.1. Man or Fiend, 2. A Mystery of Mysteries, 3. The Terror of the Land, 4. The Shadow of Fate, 5. The Price of Guilt, 6. The Dead Witness, 7. A Leap For Liberty, 8. Swift Vengeance, 9. A Midnight Mystery, 10. A Fugitive From Fate, 11. Hemmed in by his Foes, 12. Spring-Heeled Jack’s Ambush.
 Robert Prowse Sr. was born in Liverpool in 1826. With a dash and brilliance unusual for the genre he illustrated almost all of the classic dreadful titles of the 1860’s including The Blue Dwarf (first version by Lady Esther Hope), Black Bess; or, the Knight of the Road, Blueskin, Charley Wag, the New Jack Sheppard, Fanny White and her Friend Jack Rawlings, The Women of London, Red Ralph; or, the Daughter of the Night, The Boy Detective; or, the Crimes of London, and Wild Will; or, the Pirates of the Thames.
 Information courtesy Steve Holland.
 The Mystery of Springheel Jack by Jack Vyner. In Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 7, No. 3 May-June 1961. Vyner could have been influenced by the 1957 edition of Boys Will be Boys with its chapter on SHJ in the penny dreadfuls.
 Springheeled Jack: Gunfighter first appeared in Vol. 1, No. 3, 1995 of Secret Sanctum. Ver Curtiss became the permanent illustrator in the next issue.