Reports of a unknown leaping figure began in south-west London in 1837; the descriptions of the strange character ranged from a monster with wings and horns, to a powerfully built man in a shiny suit with helmet and cloak, spitting fire. "Devil-like" was the only description given of the strange figure that escaped with incredible leaps and bounds after attacking Polly Adams, a farmer's daughter who worked in a south London Pub; the same description was given of the assailant of another woman in Clapham churchyard. But it wasn't until a year later, in 1838, that the rumors were terrifyingly confirmed.
In January 1838, the Lord Mayor, Sir John Cowan, drew public attention to a letter he had recieved from a resident of Peckham giving details of an attack by the so-called "Spring-Heeled Jack". This public acceptance of the rumors by the Lord Mayor immediately led to a flood of letters from individuals who had been too frightened and embarrassed to report their own encounters previously.
A few weeks later, on a February night, young and pretty Jane Alsop, who lived with her father and two sisters, answered a violent knocking at her front door. There was a man in the shadows by the front gate who identified himself as a police officer, and asked her to bring a light... he claimed to have captured the infamous "Spring-Heeled Jack"! Excited, Jane fetched a candle and hurried it out to the gate.
As she handed it to the man, he grabbed her neck and pinned her head under his arm, then began to rip up her dress and body. Screaming, she freed herself and ran only to be caught again; holding her by the hair, the wildman clawed at her face and neck. One of Jane's sisters, hearing the struggle, ran into the street and called for help; but before anyone could stop him, Spring-Heeled Jack leapt away into the shadows.
Jane Alsop later described her attacker as wearing a helmet and a tight-fitting white costume, "like an oilskin," under a black cloak. His face was hideous, with eyes like balls of fire; he had claws on his fingers, and vomited blue and white flames.
Jane was not the only victim. Lucy Scales (or Squires) was 18 years old when she met Jack, only a few months after Jane. Jane and her sister had just left the house of their brother, a butcher, to walk home. As they entered Green Dragon Alley in Limehouse, an empty street, a tall, cloaked figure leaped from the shadows and belched blue flames into Lucy's face, blinding her.
Sometime after the attack on Lucy Scales, a strange figure was seen scaling the spire of a London church, leaping away into the darkness after a short time. Rumors spread of the same unknown entity being seen on the Tower of London.
Spring-Heeled Jack was sighted all over England through the 1850's and 1860's (especially in the Midlands). In the 1860's, according to one report, the villain had been cornered by a mob only to escape by jumping a hedge. Parents kept their children off the streets for fear of the bouncing terror.
In the 1870's, army authorities set traps for him after he slapped sentries with his icy hands and jumped atop their guard boxes. One night in 1877, angry townspeople tried to shoot him, to no avail. The last time Jack was definitely seen was in Liverpool in September 1904, where he was jumping from street to rooftops and back again... and/or just jumping over a building in William Henry Street. When some brave citizens tried to corner him, he simply leaped away into the darkness. Some say that sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack continued until after World War II, but these are unconfirmable.