Wednesday, October 14, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14 - Books

Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London by Anonymous. CreateSpace. 2014.

I couldn't really tell you anything about the origins of this book. It's cover is taken from a series of  penny dreadfuls published in the 1860s, so presumedly the included text is also, but I don't know that with any certainty. Spring-Heeled Jack was a mysterious figure who appeared on the outskirts London in the 1830s frightening people and impressing them with his uncanny leaping ability. In this book, speculation is made on the author's part that Sporing-Heeled Jack was in fact a Robin Hood-like character; an aristocrat cheated out of his title and holdings by an unscrupulous relative. He uses the guise of Spring-Heeled Jack to win back his birthright and to bring aid to those indebted to his ruthless relation. As an eyewitness account, even thirty years after the events themselves, this is a useless volume that sheds no light, nor encapsulates the actual sightings. As a photo-superhero story, it's at best a curiosity.


Spirits of an Industrial Age by Jacob Middleton. CreateSpace. 2014.

Spring-Heeled Jack wasn't the only mysterious figure terrorizing England in the 1800s. There were quite a number of 'ghost impersonators" as Middleton refers to them. Here he meticulously documents the various sightings and reports of these frightening encounters, which, in one notorious case, ended up with an innocent man being murdered because he was believed to be a ghost. More interesting than even the mysterious figures, are Middleton's examinations of the metamorphosing form that ghosts took on in their depictions in folklore, story and the customary beliefs of the public. He also does a really nice job at depicting what the living conditions of the time period covered were like and how they lent themselves to a belief that these pranksters could cause so much terror and could be believed as being genuine. If you are looking for something that allows for even the slimmest possibility that mysterious figures, such as Spring-Heeled Jack, might actually have some sort of otherworldly origin, then this book will completely crush that. As a very niche examination of a strange cultural phenomenon, it's an interesting read. 

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Cerpts said...

Love that Spring-Heeled Jack! I think I first read about him probably in one of Robert Cahill's New England oddities books and he also makes an appearance in Peter Acyroyd's book LONDON as well as in the 3-part BBC series based on the book.

John Rozum said...

I read London, but did not know there was a miniseries based on it. I'll have to track that down.