The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

View previous topic View next topic Go down

The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 3:30 pm

By popular demand...


eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 3:46 pm

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

The material below and on subsequent posts comes from the Batcatpress website

Written by Steve J Ash (wyrdwalks@yahoo.co.uk) based on research generated by the SHJ series of walks and a talk at the South East London Folklore Society

References

Spring-Heeled Jack, Mike Dash, in Fortean Studies 3, 1996
The Terror of London, Paul Begg, 1981
The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack, Peter Haining, 1977
Stand and Deliver, Elizabeth Villiers, 1928
Log Book of a Fisherman and Zoologist, Frank Buckland, 1875

Weblinks

Mike Dash Website : Contains his Fortean Studies 3 article as PDF file, with a revised report calender on the way
Wikipedia SHJ entry : A good summary of the popular story of Spring Heeled Jack
Wyrd Walks : Website for details of 'tourist walks with a difference', including SHJ walks

**********************************************************************************

Picture this, it's 1838, you are walking home from a country pub late one evening along a dark and lonely lane, your only illumination being the lantern you are carrying. Suddenly you hear a scream and much commotion a little way off in the distance. You quicken your pace, and soon after you make out a figure running towards you along the lane. You stop dead in your tracks as it bounds passed. You only see it briefly in the light of your lamp, but what you see terrifies you, a tall, thin figure with a hideous face and glowing red eyes, it has large hooked nose, and its ears appear to be pointed, you can't make out more as its head is covered with somekind of fitted cap, and it is wrapped in a large black cloak. It looks like the devil himself. As it disappears off into the distance you then see a horde of shouting villagers running up the lane after it, bearing torches and armed with cudgels and farm implements, and a few pistols. The crowd surges by, and two men stop you, demanding to know your activities that night, satisfied with your account they rejoin the chase, taking a narrow path across a field hoping to head off the phantom. You join them. As you catch up with the mob you see they are chasing the figure into cul de sac terminated by a high hedge row. Cornered the figure briefly turns and with a ringing laugh claws the air with what appear to be long silver talons, one man aims a pistol but is blinded by balls of blue fire which seem to shoot out of the phantom's mouth. It then turns and effortless leaps over the 15ft hedge, gunshots ring out but the figure is unhurt. Spring Heel Jack has done it again you hear someone say as the phantom's sinister laughter fades into the distance.

This is the folk legend of Spring Heeled Jack that we have inherited from some very real events occurring all over England throughout the 19th Century. But what was the truth behind it?

Springald, as he was also sometimes known, was without doubt the most famous 'bogeyman' of Victorian society, and enjoyed a status akin to that Bigfoot or 'little grey men' do today. He was also the first of his kind. While legends of strange phantoms have existed since the beginning of history, Spring Heeled Jack was the first to enter the official record as a real phenomenon, or at least as one whose witnesses could be found and would testify to the veracity of their experience. Part of this may have been due to the changing culture of the early nineteenth century, and the rise of mass printing technology, the first newspapers were largely responsible for the general publics awareness of the events, but there was also something unique about him. There were other similar changes at the time too, for instance the first identifiable witnesses to the infamous 'phantom horse and carriage' and the classic 'haunted mansion' also date to the early nineteenth century, perhaps for similar reasons, and even the aforementioned Bigfoot was first spotted in Canada in the mid 1830's according to some researchers, but none captured the public imagination as Jack did. He can in many ways be regarded as Britain's patron saint of weirdness.






eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 3:54 pm

The Beginning

The actual events that led up to the beginning of the legend occurred in Barnes in early September 1837. According to newspaper reports, diligently researched by Mike Dash, in Fortean Studies Volume 3, the rumours of something spooky going on began with reports of women being attacked on country lanes in the vicinity of Barnes by an unknown creature. According to the Morning Chronicle a few months later, this creature turned out to be a 'white bull', though it is uncertain whether this refers to folklore of the devil appearing in the form of such a creature or whether it was literally a rogue farm animal. Similar stories exist in folklore of phantom 'white horses', and 'evil spirits' were widely regarded by country people of this time to take the form of dogs, cats, bears or lions, and particularly of a horned animal, often of a deep black or pale hue. But a little while later the local police in Brentford claimed to have identified the culprit as 'a white faced heifer' (Sept or Oct 1837 according to Morning Chronicle). This detail will become important in a moment. The panic was not allayed by this discovery and soon rumours of mysterious phantoms were heard from dozens of villages to the west of London. Another early form said to haven been taken by the phantom was a 'huge white bear' (which later on was more often a 'black bear') and one contemporary report talks of a mysterious 'baboon', but by October it was appearing in more human guise, particularly as it impinged on the outskirts of London itself. At this stage it is also described as a 'ghost', usually a figure in white clothes, often the now clichéd white sheet; or 'a devilish imp', with classical demonic features, and sometimes 'the devil himself'; or bizarrely 'an unearthly warrior in polished bronze armour', complete with strange clawed gloves. It was in these guises (and various combinations of them) that Jack moved into West London.



Ghost Bear by Cara Mitten http://us.vclart.net/vcl/Artists/Cara-Mitten/index02.html

The Scare Spreads

The next victims of the phantom appear to have been the maids and servants of the large mansions on the outskirts of London, particularly in the areas of Hammersmith, Kensington and Ealing. In these accounts he would appear as a 'ghost, devil or bear', or any combination there of, either at the doors of suburban town houses, or in the gas lit streets around them. Servant girls were said to be reduced to hysterics by the very sight of him, with some allegedly 'dying of fright' on the spot. Children too were being terrorised by the phantom, with spurious rumours of infants being torn to shreds in country lanes (tales retold to unruly urchins of the Victorian period for long after). But contrary to popular myth it was not only young girls and children the phantom attacked. Late in 1837 at least three men were targeted in separate incidents. In Hammersmith an itinerant muffin man was attacked in Sounding-lane by a 'ghostly figure', who tore the clothes from his back; a blacksmith was severely injured by a phantom assailant with 'iron claws' in Ealing around the same time; and in Isleworth a carpenter called Jones was accosted in Cut-throat-lane by a figure in steel plate armour and garish red shoes. In the latter case Jones managed to get the better of his assailant, only to have two more 'ghosts' leap out of the bushes at him in assistance of their fellow spook. Jones was severely thrashed and his clothes torn to shreds. It is in these events we get the first inkling of a very human origin of the phenomena. Reports of the phantom began to spread in the winter of 1837, with assaults, or scares, alleged all over the western fringes of London, the phenomena soon spread south into Surrey, and north into St Johns Wood and surrounding areas, eventually reaching Clapham, Dulwich, Camberwell and Peckham to the south of London. The panic was spreading like a contagion, but when reporters visited these areas few witnesses could be found, indicating that either they were scared to come forward or that much of the phenomena was an urban myth. It was in this period that the phantoms odd footwear began to be noticed with some speaking of the 'springs in his boots', implying, though not yet describing, extraordinary speed or agility. It was also around this time that rumours began to spread of a 'secret club' amongst the local gentry, who had laid a wager to scare a certain number of people witless in the London borders area within a short time span.

*******************************************************************************

In thought still half absorbed, and chilled with cold;
When lo! an object frightful to behold,

A grisly Spectre, clothed in silver grey.
Around whose feet the wavering shadows play,
Stands in his path!

Stands, too, as huge and hideous as if all the ghosts
of all the bullocks, sheep and pigs and poultry, he
had slaughtered had been rolled into one, and
now shrieked out, like Shakespeare's sprites,

The Butcher is come!
The fierce, the cruel butcher,
who stabbed us in the shop
at Upminster!

Unsourced verse associated with SHJ
in Chelmsfield newspaper report of 1838
Perhaps from a chapbook?




eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:03 pm



The Lord Mayor's Letter

However it was on the 9th January 1838 that the legend really took off. It was then that Sir John Cowan, the Lord Mayor of London, received a letter from a 'resident of Peckham' informing him of the affair:

'TO THE RIGHT HON. THE LORD MAYOR,

'My Lord - The writer presumes that your lordship will kindly overlook the liberty he has taken in addressing a few lines on a subject which within the last few weeks caused much alarming sensation in the neighbouring villages within three or four miles of London.

'It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the higher ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion (name as yet unknown), that he dares not take on himself the task of visiting many of the villages near London in three disguises, a ghost, a bear and a devil; and moreover that he dare not enter gentlemen's gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The wager has however been accepted and the unmanly villain has succeeded in depriving seven ladies of their senses...'

The writer briefly describes a typical encounter before going on to say:

'The affair has now been going on for some time, and, strange to say, the papers are still silent on the subject. The writer is very unwilling to be unjust to any man, but he has reason to believe that they have the history at their finger-ends but, through interested motives, are induced to remain silent. It is, however, high time that such detestable nuisance should be put a stop too…'

'I remain your Lordship's most humble servant,

'A RESIDENT OF PECKHAM.'

Though some people take the theory expressed in the letter at face value, from today's standpoint we can recognise the kind of alarmed conspiracy theory that emerges in times of deep insecurity, especially when facing the unknown, and also the anxiety behind it. It seems the Mayor took it in a similar spirit, for he first seems to have dismissed it, at a meeting at Mansion House in the City, describing the writer as probably 'one of the women who lost their senses', and declaring that the events were not within his jurisdiction anyway. But when further witnesses emerged to give corroborative testimonies he decided to hold another public meeting to discuss the matter. Here he declared his belief that one or more criminals were behind these attacks, but suggested they had been greatly exaggerated. The emerging press, looking for sensational stories to boost their circulations, were enthralled by the accounts, and the London Times carried an in depth report on them for the next two days, with many other newspapers following the same lead. This of course only served to magnify the scare, but brought forward even more witnesses and stories. By the time this was public news the phenomena had spread as far north as Hornsey and southeast into Forest Hill, Lewisham and Blackheath. The Mayor had been informed by a 'reliable source' that a serving girl in Forest Hill and been scared into fits by a phantom clad in a bearskin worn over chain mail, and news emerged of a gentlemen offering the princely sum of £5 for the capture of the ghoul that had terrified his daughter into fits in Dulwich. The girl described the figure as 'wrapped in a white sheet and surrounded by a blue flame'.

Vigilante committees are said to have formed to try to capture the phantom, with one allegedly led by a geriatric Duke of Wellington, but though sightings of the rascal were sometimes reported, the phantom always escaped and even seemed impervious to bullets.This has become part of Jack lore, though isn't corroborated in the media. However it is a deeply held belief and It appears it was at this point that tales of his incredible leaping ability began to be widely reported and so I'm inclined to believe there is some truth to this tale. At first he was said to be able to leap from a run over a 10ft obstacle, later though, undoubtedly exaggerated, claims have him leaping over entire buildings and even appearing to fly. But despite all these apparently supernatural abilities the press was convinced the whole thing was a hoax, and supported the wager theory, or alternatively thought it the work of a madman, comparing it with the likes of the London Monster, a lunatic who was stabbing young ladies bottoms with a sharp instrument only a few years earlier. The spring-loaded boot theory began to be put forward more seriously now and circulated in press reports. Yet despite this general public opinion, particularly in the villages, tended to favour a supernatural theory. This was evidenced not just by the folklore associations that accrued around the phantom, but also the name he was given at this time, variously Spring Jack, Spring Heeled Jack, or just plain Springald. While ostensibly referring to the spring loaded boot theory, and evoking images of a then popular and deeply disturbing children's toy, called the Jack-in-the-Box, the name none the less drew on a tradition of naming sprites 'Jack'. A practice found in examples ranging from Jack Frost, through Jack-o-Lantern and Jack-o-Kent, to Jack-in-the-Green. This taken with other associations indicates that historically the name 'Jack' clearly denoted a supernatural entity.

It was probably from the interplay of these two perspectives on Jack that the idea of him as a devilish figure in a long black cloak emerged and became his dominant image. The first classic account of this look given by an elderly woman who claimed she had encountered a strange man by a cemetery in Clapham Road, dressed in a dark cape, with a hat pulled over his eyes. After he passed by she caught a glimpse of a dark shadowy object jump over the high fence around the graveyard, and on turning around she found the man was no longer there. Odd footprints were later found inside the cemetery. This was in the same area that one Mary Stevens had earlier reported an 'assault' at Lavender Hill, by a mysterious laughing man in dark clothes, who 'leapt extraordinarily high', and near to where the following night a similar man had caused horses to bolt after he leapt across Streatham High St. All three stories were associated by their tellers with Spring Heeled Jack. The accounts were collected at the beginning if the 20th century, by Elizabeth Villiers, for her book on highwayman, and nocturnal assailants, Stand & Deliver, and tentatively dated to early 1838. Sources were not given but at least one account came from an eyewitness (by then presumably very old!) and the stories were claimed to have been well known at the time. Unfortunately they do not appear in any contemporary newspapers, so their veracity is still an open question.


My Lord,

On reading the letter in the papers of this day recieved by your Lordship, I percieve you are not inclined to give credence to the account furnished by your correspondent.

The villain mentioned in it as appearing in the guise of a ghost, bear or devil, has been within the last week or two repeatedly seen at Lewisham and Blackheath. So much, indeed, has he frightened the inhabitants of those peaceful districts that women and children durst not stir out of their houses after dark.

There ought to be a stop put to this, but the police, I am afraid, are frightened of him also. I have the honour to be your Lordship's most obedient servant

JC

Letter to Lord Mayor, published in The Times Jan 11 1838.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:11 pm

Spring Heeled Jack and the East End Terror

The most dramatic and confirmable encounters with Jack occurred in what is now the East End of London. This should not be surprising as any glance at a map showing the spread of Jack reports reveals them spreading out north, south and east from Barnes before curving round pincer like on the east end from both sides. This area also saw the last events in the first wave of the scare, which can be fairly said to have climaxed here. Again the inititial focus was not in London itself but in villages to the east of the city, primarily Bromley by Bow, a small hamlet amidst farm land on the main road between London and Essex. It was here that rumours of Jack's latest antics began to circulate, and sightings reported of a strange caped figure carrying a small lantern in Bow Fair Fields (formerly the site of a local fair as the name implies). Similar sightings were reported from the nearby village of Old Ford (the original crossing of the Lea river, and its marshes, before the bow bridge was built at Bromley), as well as in a long quiet country road called Bearbinder Lane (now Tredegar Road). It was at 1 Bearbinder Lane, on the 21 February around 8:45 in the evening, at the home of one of the areas most well to do families, that the most infamous Spring Heeled Jack encounter occurred. Jane Alsop, the 18 year old daughter of the then invalid John Alsop and his wife, was at home with her two sisters, when she heard an urgent ringing of the bell at the gate. On investigating it, a black cloaked figure in the path exclaimed, "I'm a policeman. For Gods sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane". Jane went to fetch a light for the man. She returned with a candle and as she was handing the light to the man, it shone on his face and she 'realised that it was Spring Heeled Jack'. The man is then said to have grabbed the candle and cast off his cloak, revealing him to be wearing a white oilskin-like coverall and large helmet which fitted him very tightly. His face was 'most hideous and frightful' according to Jane, and his eyes glowed a fiery red. Without warning he spat balls of a blue and white fire into her face, stunning her, before grabbing her neck and proceeding to assault her with his metallic claws. She attempted to run back into the house but he held her firmly in head lock and began tearing into her flesh and clothes with his claws. Freeing herself in the struggle she fled back up the stairs, but Jack held tightly to the back of her hair, ripping a large chunk of it from her head. Fortunately one of her sisters, alerted by her screams, managed to pull her out of his grasps and drag her back into the house, slamming the door in the phantoms face. Jack continued banging loudly on the door for some time, before hastily leaving when the family yelled for the police from the upper windows of the house. Unidentified witnesses claimed that Spring Heeled Jack left quickly, dropping his coat in a field by Jane's home. It was later also claimed that an 'accomplice' retrieved the cloak, but this is not mentioned in any contemporary report. The first definitely on the scene were a group from the nearby John Bull pub who had heard their cries for help, it was later said that they had passed a man in long black cloak on their way, who had told them to hurry to the scene as Spring Heeled Jack was at Mr Alsop's house and the police were needed. The family reported the event before magistrates at Lambeth Street, and a police investigation was launched which concluded the attack was genuine.

The police investigation was inconclusive alas, official investigators concluded the assailant was a local man who must have known the area and the Alsop family very well, but while suspects were known they could not positively identify any culprits. One early case was made against a bricklayer called Payne and a carpenter called Millbank. Their accuser was one James Smith, a wheelwright, who claimed to have been the first person on the scene and to have witnessed part of the attack. He had met Payne and Millbank, the latter dressed in a white hunting suit and carrying a candle, leaving the scene of the crime along Bearbinder Lane in some hurry, and later again saw them in the crowd, which had gathered outside the Alsop's house, talking with Mr Alsop (an unlikely thing for the assailant?). Later still he claimed to have encountered them again near the Morgan Arms pub in Coburn Street, across the road from Millbank's residence, and alleged they had all but confessed to the crime to him before entering the pub. Both men denied this however, and claimed they had been attracted to the scene by the screams from the house. The publican of the White Hart Pub in Old Ford claimed they had in fact been on his premises at the time of the crime, though had left shortly after, and Millbank had bought a candle at a nearby store to light his way home, later found in his pocket (however it need be born in mind that clocks were not accurate, or well synchronised, in this period). More damningly though he said they had both been drunk, particularly Millbank, who said himself he could remember little of the night in question. Jane Alsop had said her assailant was most definitely not drunk and very much in charge of his senses, nor could she recognize the suspects (one of whom, Payne, was known by her father). Details of Smith's account of the attack also differed slightly to Alsop's, and it may be that he had a grudge against Millbank and Payne. A friend of Smith's, a shoemaker called Richardson, had claimed he had also encountered a strange man in a long cloak, accompanied by a young boy, near the Alsop residence just after the attack, who laughingly declared that Spring Heeled Jack 'was in the lane that night', but he also failed to identify either Millbank or Payne. Confusingly a man called Mr Fox, who said he was too ill to attend the hearing, then sent a letter to the magistrates declaring his belief that he was the man with the boy, but had worn no cloak, and was merely attracted to the house by the screams. One of Mr Alsop's children also testified that this was so. Millbank had also left the scene along Bearbinder Lane according to Smith, while the party from the John Bull pub, in Roman Road, who encountered another caped figure, must have approached the house along another country lane, now Parnell Street, and not Bearbinder Lane. The police abandoned the investigation.


Map shows Bromley by Bow in 1830s, the incident happened at a remote cottage at end of Bearbinder Lane (just off map near Old Ford Village) Note the urbanisation along what is now Bow Road and the farmland beyond it. The Morgan Arms Pub is on junction of Coborn Road and Morgan Street. Roman Road runs parallel to Bearbinder Lane to north. The Necropolis under development became today's Tower Hamlets Cemetry

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:13 pm

On the 25 February at around 8pm there was a knock on the door at 2 Turner Street, in the wealthier quarter of Whitechapel in the heart of the east end. The servant who answered the door was asked, by a tall shadowy figure in a long black cloak, if his employer Mr Ashworth was at home. On answering the figure cast off its cloak to reveal itself as a horrendous fiend. The servant fell back inside and slammed the door, and his terrified cries alerted the house and whole neighbourhood. Unidentified witnesses claim to have seen the figure bound off down the street (a later account declared it then 'leapt over a house' in its flight). Haining claims the servant saw a crest on the creature's costume, that was later identified as that of the Marquis of Waterford. None of these more sensational and elaborate details appear in contemporary news reports however which stick to the basic story from the servant, and it is possible they derive from the fictionalised retelling of the story.

Three days later at about 8:30pm Lucy Scales, the 18 year old sister of a Limehouse butcher, was walking along Narrow Street, returning with her younger sister from her brother's house. As she turned into Green Dragon Alley ('the second on the left about nine doors down from Mr Turner's wharf, leading into Risby's rope walk') she was confronted by a tall, thin figure in a large black cloak, standing at an angle in the passage. She approached him and noticed he was carrying a bulls eye lantern and seemed to be wearing a bonnet (for which reason she initially assumed it was a woman), but no sooner than she had noticed this the figure spat a quantity of blue flame and fumes into her face, and she collapsed on the floor in fits. Her younger sister screamed upon witnessing this and soon her brother came running along Narrow Street, to find her trying to assist Lucy who was having violent fits on the pavement. There was no sign of the stranger. This incident was also investigated by the Lambeth Street magistrates who found that the two sister's descriptions of the event matched exactly, and that it was supported in part by her brother's testimony, and declared their belief that this was a real occurrence, and that the culprit was the same as in of the Bow and Whitechapel attacks. A doctor also testified that Lucy's fits had lasted for several hours after the attack, and that she had been 'temporarily blinded' by the blue flames. Curiously the brother declared they had been reading a newspaper report of the Bow incident minutes before leaving the house and he had assured them that Jack would never dare visit Limehouse. Some reports say the figure bounded away after the attack, but Lucy's sister testified that it turned silently and left with extreme speed.

This was the last event in the East End Scare, though not the last that would be heard of Spring Heeled Jack.


eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:17 pm






eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:24 pm

Psychogenic Phenomena

It seems unlikely that the hundreds of alleged encounters were all hoaxes, not least because such hoaxes seem not uncommon and the scare was so unprecedented and widespread. As even the newspapers admitted, something must have started it. Another reason being the difficulty in hoaxing some of the attributes of the original case, the apparently impossible leaps and the fire phenomena in particular. There may however be another explanation for these that explains much of the phenomenon as a whole. Some have suggested the apparently paranormal elements were exaggerated, and this was probably true with second hand stories, but given the hysteria they caused in many victims as reported first hand this seems unlikely overall. But the clue may be in the hysteria itself. Psychologists have long known of a rare phenomena they have called psychogenic disorder. In reality it may be rather common. The term basically means 'born in the mind' and covers a wide range of so called psychosomatic conditions. Its most dramatic forms however are Mass Hysteria and Collective Hallucination.

The following condensed information is based on information distributed to universities, with a few additions, and gives a general idea of the nature of the phenomena (highlights added):

Information Concerning Mass Collective Behavior and Psychogenic Illness

Kerckhoff and Back (1968) suggest that there are collective human behaviors which produce different kinds of activities and phenomena. These include crowd or mob behaviors, panics, movements, crazes and fads. These types of behaviors often occur under stress or when the ordered reality of a culture or group is disrupted (Conner, 1989). They are often associated with irrational rumours.

Another type of collective behavior according to Kerckhoff and Back(1968) is a "hysterical contagion". It consists of the quick dissemination within a collection of people of a symptom, or a set of symptoms, for which no physical explanation can be found. Typical cases today include illness caused by alleged food poisoning, insects bites, toxic fumes, or environmental pollutants for which no pathogenic agent can be found. In this type of collective behavior something happens to affected individuals and they view themselves as victims. This type of behavior is typically referred to as " mass hysteria" or "mass psychogenic illness". "Mass psychogenic illness" or "contagious psychogenic illness" is defined as the collective occurrence of a set of physical symptoms and related beliefs among several individuals without an identifiable pathogen (Colligan and Murphy 1982:33). Symptoms included fits, convulsions, twitching, muscle spasms, abdominal cramps nausea, and headaches).

Symptomology and Characteristics of Mass Psychogenic Illnesses

There is a remarkable similarity between the symptomology of the mass psychogenic illnesses no matter what the triggering event. Some of the major characteristics common to psychogenic illness include:

1. Sudden onset with dramatic symptoms, rapid spread and rapid recovery. All studies reporting psychogenic illness discuss the rapidity of the onset of the illness. Most of these epidemics are gone in a few hours or days.

2. Predominantly young female populations. From 60 to 90% of victims of psychogenic illnesses have "historically been young females" (Colligan and Murphy,1982:41).

3. Victims often know each other or are in the same friendship circles. Observing a friend become sick is the best predictor of the development of symptoms (Small, et al 1991; Colligan, Pennebaker, Murphy 1982;Stahl and Lebedun, 1974)

4. A triggering stimulant. An auditory or visual triggering stimulus is generally found. Victims interpret this stimulus as a toxic fume or gas, tainted food, bug bites or toxic pollutant. Upon investigation, when an odor can even be detected, cleaning solvent, painting, machinery or repair liquids, unfamiliar construction or fumigation odors have sometimes been found (Rockney and Lemke, 1992; Colligan, Pennebaker, Murphy 1982).

5. Apparent transmission by sight, sound or both. Seeing a victim collapse is a predictor of others getting the symptoms (Colligan, Pennebaker, Murphy 1982; Rockney and Lemke 1992; Small and Borus 1983).

6. Underlying psychological or physical stress. Individual stress from an unfamiliar environment or performance anxiety; social stress including war, rapid technological change, or epidemic diseases; and school and work related stress including the beginning of the school year are common (Sirois 1982;Rockney and Lemke 1992; Colligan, Pennebaker, Murphy, 1992).

7. Boredom, or perceived boredom. Worker boredom with routine tasks has been found in many cases of illness (Kerckhoff and Back 1968).

8. A felt lack of emotional or social support. This is more likely to occur among new members in a community of people (Kerckhoff and Back, 1968).

9. Unrelated symptoms among a group of individuals affected: hyperventilation or fainting the most common. Other symptoms discussed in the literature include: dizziness, nausea and vomiting, headaches, chest pains, chills, mouth or eye stinging (sometimes temporary blindness), flushing, hives, convulsions, stinging or paralysis in extremities, swollen and bloody lips, skin disorders, asthma attacks, and disorientation in time/space.

10. Relapse of illness. Relapse of the illnesses among victims in the same setting have sometimes been found to occur (Colligan and Murphy, 1982).

Any unsolved mystery can lead to anxiety, fear, spread of rumor and even possible litigation (Brodsky 1988). Therefore, it is important that individuals working a university environment understand the potential consequences of this psychogenic phenomena.

Another, though apparently rarer, form of psychogenic phenomena is Collective Hallucination. This is broadly similar to Mass Hysteria and over laps with it to a certain extent. Its unique feature is the production of shared hallucinations (visual, audial or cognitive) in a group of people. The delusion is usually found initially in one person but can spread by contagion. The phenomena is most common in affinity groups at the site of some shared activity. Otherwise it is similar to Mass Hysteria.

A possible explanation of the SHJ phenomena can be detected in this. Given the right psycho-social background a trigger (such as an aggressive young bull in Barnes) could led to a mass psychogenic event which included hallucinations of 'phantom assailants' rather than of the toxic fumes, microbes or insects that inform many modern cases. Physical symptoms and distorted memories associated with these attacks could have subsequently been produced psychosomatically. The forms the hallucinations took may have been shaped by folklore, local rumour and particularly media reports. The strongest evidence for this possibility is the number of teenage girls involved in the phenomena and the fact that many went into fits after the 'attack' (the Scales case at Limehouse sounds like a classic example). Another common feature is the spread of 'irrational rumours' while the phenomena remains unexplained (including both 'supernaturalism' that of the 'aristocratic wager').

However counter indications include the fact that the phenomena spread very widely before newspapers reported it and retained a basically consistent form (pamphlets and chapbooks are an alternative carrier, though none have yet been found). Rumour may have been a factor in this but the area covered was unusually large and discontinuous. Also the 'epidemic', lasting at least six months is atypically long for this kind of phenomena. There were also other sightings of a 'mystery man' near Limehouse at least a month before the 'attack' (a stimulus perhaps but a curious one). Most damning of all was the fact that some victims were not young women but mature adult males who received severe physical wounds from the attacks. However the way the phenomena spread out from Barnes in all directions, before homing in on an area with the largest population density, is characteristic of an 'psychogenic contagion'.

What seems a highly likely explanation for this is that the phenomena was a 'symbiotic' combination of hoaxing and hysteria, both feeding off each other and extending the panic. But while we have seen that hoaxing was commonplace, and that a psychogenic contagion was a highly plausible component of the scare, there are other questions that need to be answered before we jump to such an easy conclusion. Were all the physical events possible for hoaxers, are all the reports of 'paranormal phenomena' explicable through psychogenic explanation, and were the necessary conditions for such psychogenic contagion really present?




eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:27 pm

Possible Paranormal And Other Inexplicable Elements

The problematic elements of the 1838 Spring Heeled Jack encounters in terms of conventional explanation are basically fourfold:

1) The incredible leaps and swiftness reported of the phantom.

2) It's fire breathing and other incendiary phenomena.

3) Parallel poltergeist phenomena.

4) The phantom's alleged imperviousness to bullets.

While other elements such as the strange appearance of the assailant can be put down to disguise or perceptual distortion, and features like the apparent metallic claws attributed to the involvement of a rogue blacksmith or theatrical supplier, the four elements listed above are harder to explain.

The last of these might be the easier to account for though. Mike Dash's detailed investigations revealed that the aim of the average panicking civilian sounds often quite below par, as might be expected, and the professional marksmen involved, if any, seem to have more often fired blanks in warning than in any serious attempt to bring down their target. The phantom's evasion of live bullets seems less amazing in this context (the cases are also more common in the 1877 Aldershot Barracks affair than in the 1838 scare). But despite valiant attempts by many researchers the remaining three elements are far more difficult to explain away.

The leaps were the characteristic attribute of Jack, but as we have seen the idea that he really had springs in his boots is patently absurd. A more serious question is did they really occur? An examination of the verified reports shows that most didn't include leaping ability, and tales of his notorious evasions from pursuers are hardly documented at all. In fact only in a handful of accounts across the entire span of the 19th century is he actually credited with leaping obstacles of six feet or more. Of course even this would be hard for a hoaxer, and the fact that at on at least one occasion they facilitated his escape indicates they could not have all been hallucinated or fabricated. However this account comes from one of the Villiers interviews, rather than a verified newspaper report, so we might be tempted to dismiss it, on the flimsy grounds of 'common sense'. If we take it at face value it seems hard to account for. Some have argued that for cases where Jack sprang towards his victim over a hedge, or fence, a hidden springboard could have been involved, though this does not seem to have occurred very often, if at all. Others invoke the modern sport of freerunning, which includes the use of various pieces of street furniture, and other walls, as environmental springboards to assist a vault over a high obstacle. If so Jack must have been a trained acrobat, and while this may work in a cluttered urban environment it is difficult to see how it could be put to use in the open countryside that saw most of Jack's alleged leaps. Thus the only prosaic explanation seems to be their denial, though we are really in no justifiable position to do this. As has been pointed out many times, he wasn't called Spring Heeled Jack for nothing. Of course it may have been his name merely reflected his speed and stride, which may have even been really assisted by weakly springed heels, with the rest being exaggeration, but we still have the odd eyewitness report to account for. Less prosaic explanations, short of purely paranormal accounts, include the apparently superhuman abilities of the insane or possessed but no such suspects have ever been identified.

The fire breathing appears easily explicable at first glance. The presence of a blue flame is characteristic of an alcohol based fuel, and so indicative of a simple 'circus act'. The fact that it was an objective phenomenon seems indicated by the distributed witnesses of the blue flame, with no apparent knowledge of each other (apart from the Scales and Alsop incidents), the lack of any previous instance or folklore regarding it, as well as the possible physical damage done to Scales by the flames (if it were more than hysterical as the doctor seemed to imply). This combined with the leaping ability might be further evidence that Jack was a circus performer. However things are not as simple as they seem.
The fire breathing act is very dangerous and requires total concentration and a stable, wind free environment. It is not something that is often performed in open countryside by acrobatic pranksters, at least not without extreme risk (note this also seems to exclude drunken hoaxers like Millbank). More importantly it requires an external flame to ignite the spat fuel. In the Scales case it is interesting that a candle is asked for and grabbed before the blue flames are breathed. Jack had also not spoken since Jane Alsop returned with the candle. But no container of fuel was even spotted or found at the scene. The Scales case included a lantern, but this was closed and no open flame seems present, or alcohol container. The Dulwich case has neither, and here the phantom appears to be actually happily burning rather than just breathing fire! The fire thus seems inexplicable in at least these two cases. The only prosaic explanation would appear to be to deny the reality of the South London phantom as a probable hallucination, to assume a 'Bow hoaxer' had read about this and attempted a prank based on it, and that the Limehouse assault was an hysterical contagion based on newspaper reports. All of which seems a lot of assumptions to make just to dismiss a more paranormal perspective.

Finally we have the poltergeist phenomena, the strongest evidence of all for a paranormal element to the scare. Though curiously while both the Peckham Ghost scare of 1872 included a poltergeist factor (in the form of a 'stone throwing ghost'), as did the Liverpool events of 1904 (another 'stone throwing ghost'), no such reports were associated with the 1838 scare. However figures flying over six foot hedges may seem psychokinetic enough for some! Moreover the fact that these later two scares were confined to a relatively small area while the 1838 case was spread all over what is now Greater London would have made the identification of such diverse phenomena difficult. And as it appears the 1830s were full of ghost and poltergeist accounts, it might be considered odd if there wasn't a parallel phenomena going on in some places.
Be that as it may the fact that poltergeist outbreaks were not as widespread as Jack encounters is significant and weighs against a paranormal component in 1838. Of course it doesn't weigh against paranormal phenomena in some areas and hoaxes and hysteria in most others. In thiscase if no discrimination was applied to the mass of sightings any localised paranormal phenomenon could have been swamped and gone unassociated with the wider events.

In conclusion while prosaic explanations may just be possible, for the events of 1838 at least, they seem to stretch plausibility for the sake of explaining away awkward facts. Though it has to be admitted that no hard evidence currently exists for a paranormal component to the original scare. The question thus remains open. Though the fact that few, if any, hoaxers have managed to recreate the phenomenal of 1838 in the past two hundred years almost, despite many attempts, may indicate how difficult it would have been then.

One curiously inexplicable physical anomaly was associated with the 1838 scare however. This concerns the appearance of mysterious animal tracks found in the countryside around Hounslow, close to where the Spring Heeled Jack phenomena began. These were witnessed by zoologist Frank Buckland when a boy. Buckland dates them to between 1837 and 1839 in his popular book about his zoological career, and says they were associated by locals with the both the mysterious 'devil's hoofmarks', found in other parts of the country in the same period, as well, of course, with Spring Heeled Jack (indicating a popular association was being made between these two strange phenomenon). Buckland himself thought they were made by a kangaroo, and subsequently developed an 'escaped kangeroo' theory of Jacks exploits. Though he fails to explain how Skippy got the cape on!

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:32 pm

As a footnote, it's difficult to believe that Mr Jagger didn't have the figure of Spring-Heeled Jack somewhere in the back of his mind when he wrote the lyrics to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ9D0UHP7x4
Jumpin Jack Flash- The Rolling Stones.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 61
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack

Post  Sponsored content Today at 7:21 am


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum