Spring-Heeled Jack: The Jumping Fiend Who Terrorized Victorian England

Spring-Heeled Jack, a devil-like character of English urban legend, escapes from an angry mob at Newport Arch in Lincoln. Engraving from Illustrated Police News, pub. 1877. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A mythical figure, larger than life, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. No, it's not Superman but Spring-Heeled Jack, a menacing scoundrel of Victorian London who terrorized his victims before jumping away over stone walls and fences of impressive height. Was Spring-Heeled Jack a product of overactive imaginations? Or was there something more to the urban legend?

Victorians Loved The Supernatural

Ghost stories and tales of the supernatural were wildly popular in Victorian times. Literature like A Christmas Carol, The Body Snatcher, and The Turn Of The Screw flourished, and seances were as common as Tupperware parties. There's a number of explanations for Victorian England's obsession with death and the afterlife, including the changing economic climate and fear of the burgeoning industrial revolution, but basically, the culture was ripe for a homegrown boogeyman.