Return of Spring-heeled Jack?

Spring-heeled Jack, the legendary bogeyman familiar to students of British folklore, has been invoked by news of an extraordinary experience with a road ghost in Surrey.

Scott Martin and his family told the Surrey Comet they were confronted by a ‘dark figure with no features’ that vaulted over a dual carriageway and over a 15ft bank whilst on a taxi ride home late on Tuesday, 14 February.

The experience left Scott, his wife and four-year-old son Sonny shocked whilst the taxi-driver ‘admitted he didn’t want to drive back alone’ along the Ewell bypass near Epsom afterwards.

spring-heeled jack

Scary stuff! Mr Martin, 40, who lives in Banstead, told the paper how initially they paid no attention when the figure appeared by the road. But ‘…the next thing he jumped over the centre fencing…and ran across two lanes. On the side of our road is a bank easily 15ft in height and this figure crossed the road, climbed this bank and was gone from sight all in about two seconds.’

Mr Martin described the figure as ‘dark…with no real features, but fast in movement with an ease of hurdling obstacles I’ve never seen. My last image was of him going through the bushes at the top of the bank. I’m not usually one to be freaked…but the cab driver was petrified.’

The Martin’s experience is of course a classic extraordinary experience with a ‘road ghost’ of the phantom jaywalker type. Other examples are the ‘phantom hitch-hiker’ at Blue Bell Hill in Kent and the infamous Stocksbridge by-pass ghost in South Yorkshire, described in see my paper here.  However this part of Surrey is not, as far as I’m aware, associated with a haunting tradition of this type, nor have the police received other reports of ‘unusual incidents or sightings in the area at night’. It will be interesting to see if publication of this report produces a rash of similar phantom jaywalker accounts.

As for Spring-heeled Jack, the newspaper account says ‘the family has since likened the figure to the legendary figure reported to be responsible for a string of attacks in the 1800s and known for his ability to leap great heights.’  After a brief summary of the SHJ legend it adds that the last ‘sighting’ was in Birmingham in 1986!

But as recent research into the Victorian newspaper archives has made clear, there was no one identifiable person called ‘Spring-heeled Jack’. Rather he was a frightening figure, an archetype: ‘part ghost, part bogeyman, part mystery assailant’, whose name and disguise was adopted by a range of human imitators in the century that followed his reign of terror in Victorian London.

As this Surrey story shows, the leaping legend continues to live on in the collective memory 175 years after his name was first uttered….

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20 Responses to Return of Spring-heeled Jack?

  1. A little bit of Halloween on Saint Valentine’s 🙂

  2. craig daley says:

    I have recently written and drawn a Graphic Novel that is available on Kindle, all about Spring Heeled Jack and it’s worth a read.

  3. Craig Daley says:

    I would be happy to send you copies of my three Sheffield based Surreal Murder Mystery Graphic Novels on CDRom, the format they are sale in at Space Centre, Galaxy 4 and Rare and Racey.
    That’s Spring Heeled Jack, Meadowhell and Football Crazy.

  4. Pingback: The return of Spring-heeled Jack | A Different Sky

  5. NickF says:

    If the phantom hitch-hiker/jaywalker tradition has any supernatural basis to it, then I suggest it is a result of faery tricks on humans for destroying their habitat. Take Bluebell Hill. It may well formerly have been a lovely area deserving of this name, but in reality today it is a horrible main road. If you were faery, you’d probably be upset at this man-made change.

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  7. JAC says:

    I had a quick look on Google Streetview of the road mentioned in the newspaper report. While there are bushes, hedges and trees, there doesn’t appear to be any bank on the side of the road. I guess that leaves the story as someone crossing a road late at night quite quickly and then jumping over or through a hedge or bush.

    • Good work JAC! Things are not always what they seem (or at least how they are reported!)

      • Paul masters says:

        I’m sorry to rain on your parade here but there is indeed a bank on the A24 by pass if you follow the bypass past castle ave on your right you have swell castle school shown on the left with a body of water! A touch further up is an unnamed slip road and opposite on google maps is a square green area if you street view the road between the slip road on the left and green on the right you will find your steep bank I think the article mentions.

  8. The Parson says:

    I will also note that there is indeed a steep bank on several areas of the bypass…although I am inclined to think it was somebody out late at night and not wanting to be seen…a ne`er do well,perhaps…however,I wasn`t present in the car and it has to be said that most people are capable of knowing what they see…in this case it seems they saw something out of the ordinary !

  9. Philip Payne says:

    Spring heeled jack is quite simply an djinn.

    • Josh says:

      I saw this thing you are describing when I was 12 or 13 years old. Me and my sister went out into my backyard and I saw this thing that I literally thought was the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, because he was wearing a top hat and had a cape plus he was really tall and skinny. I remember him looking at my sister then looking at me with bright red eyes, then he ran away quickly and jumped over our 8 foot fence like it was nothing. As if hopping over a small puddle. Me and my sister ran inside screaming and my parents and other siblings remember the description of what we saw to this day because of how descriptive we were and how scared we were. Everuthing i have read matches up to what i saw, but The only different is that the sighting was during the day. My sister said she saw the same exact figure a few years later wearing the same exact clothing running through the streets at a ridiculously fast speed.

      I am 21 years old now and just sort of forgot about it until my younger brother came to me today after he saw a video on YouTube that described exactly what I saw and had described to him all those years ago. This is very I my fascinating to me because of my experience and if you have any other information I would appreciate it greatly. Thanks

  10. Deena Bryant says:

    One year ago I was staying over night in a Bailgate bed & breakfast in Lincoln, close by the Newport arch that Spring-heeled Jack disappeared before a large crowd there.
    It was late. I was coming back from a ball. It had been raining. Very dark and only the old fashioned street lamps for light. I was about 100 yards away when I noticed this person. One minute normal, then the next, that person’s limbs elongated, moving towards me in a spider like way. It kept on for about 7 minutes, I hadn’t been drinking, i only like soft drinks. As the figure got closer…I started reciting the Lord’s Prayer. As I said amen . The figure returned to normal but disappeared at the export arch. I have never gone along there since. And I shall never gain. Make of it what you will.

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