Victorian London - Crime - Violence and assault - 'Spring-Heeled Jack'

    Many among the public have hitherto been incredulous as to the truth of various representations made to the Lord Mayor of the gambols of "Spring-heeled Jack," the suburban ghost, and believed from there being no positive proof of the miscreant carrying his pranks beyond the mere act of alarming unprotected females, that those statements were more the effect of imagination than reality. The following authentic particulars, however, of a gross and violent outrage committed on a respectable young lady, and which might not only have caused her death, but that of both her sisters, by the unmanly brute, will remove all doubt on the subject.
    Yesterday, Mr. Alsop, a gentleman of considerable property residing at Bear-bind Cottage, in Bear-bind-lane, a very lonely spot between the villages of Bow and Old Ford, accompanied by his three daughters, waited upon Mr. HARDWICK at Lambeth-street Police-office, and gave the following particulars of an outrage committed on one of the latter:-
    Miss Jane Alsop, a young lady 18 years of age, stated that at about a quarter to 9 o'clock on the preceding night she head a violent ringing at the gate in front of the house, and on going to the door to see what was the matter she saw a man standing outside, of whom she inquired what was the matter, and requested he would not ring so loud. The person instantly replied that he was a policeman, and said "For God's sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane." She returned into the house and brought a candle and handed it to the person, who appeared enveloped in a large cloak, and whom she at first really believed to be a policeman. The instant she had done so, however, he 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 her 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 loud as she could for assistance, and by considerable exertion got away from him and ran towards the house to get it. 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 her sisters. Miss Alsop added that she had suffered considerably all night from the shock she had sustained, and was then in extreme pain, both from the injury done to her arm, and the wounds and scratched inflicted by the miscreant about her shoulders and neck with his claws or hands.
    Miss Mary Alsop, a younger sister, said, that on hearing the screams of her sister Jane, she went to the door, and saw a figure as above described ill-using her sister. She was so alarmed at his appearance, that she was afraid to approach or render any assistance.
Mrs. Harrison said that hearing the screams of both her sisters, first of Jane, and then of Mary, she ran to the door, and found the person before described in the act of dragging her sister Jane down the stone steps from the door with considerable violence. She (Mrs. Harrison) got hold of her sister, and by some means  or other, which she could scarcely describe, succeeded in getting her inside the door, and closing it. At this time her sister's dress was nearly torn off her; both her combs dragged out of her head as well as a quantity of her hair torn away. The fellow, notwithstanding the outrage he had committed, knocked loudly two or three times at the door, and it was only on their calling loudly for the police from the upper windows that he left the place.
    Mr. Alsop, who appears very feeble, said that he and Mrs. Alsop have been laid up for several weeks past with a rheumatic affection, so as to be scarcely able to get out of bed, but such was the alarm on the night before, that they both got out of bed, and he managed to get down stairs, and found his daughter Susan with her clothes torn and having all the appearance of receiving the most serious personal violence. Mr. Alsop also said, it was perfectly clear that there was more than one ruffian connected with the outrage, as the fellow who committed the violence did not return for his cloak, but scampered across the fields, so that there must have been some person with him to pick it up. In conclusion, Mr. Alsop said, he would most willingly give a reward of 10 guineas for the apprehension of the miscreant.
    Mr. HARDWICK expressed his surprise and abhorrence at the outrage, and said that no pains should be spared to bring its miscreant perpetrator to justice.

The Times, February 22, 1838

see also The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack, by Mike Dash - click here