1838, April 6: The Brighton Beast

On Friday, April 6, 1838, a gardener near Rose-Hill in Brighton, Sussex, England, encountered a very odd animal indeed.

        The man was in his garden sometime between 9 and 10 o'clock in the evening, when he heard something growl nearby. Looking in the direction of the sound, he saw something "in the shape of a bear or some other four-footed animal" mount his garden wall and run along it towards him... despite the top of the wall being covered with broken glass. The man turned to run as the creature leaped from the wall to chase him; he called his dog, but it slunk away from the strange intruder. After the unknown beast chased the man for a time, it scaled the wall again and made its exit.

A London Connection?

        The newspaper that initially reported this matter -- the Brighton Gazette -- labeled this strange visitor "Spring-Heeled Jack," connecting it by name to a character that had caused trouble in London earlier in the same year by dressing in all manor of costumes to scare people. The paper further speculated that "the fellow may probably amuse himself in this way once too often." This connection is very strained, however, as Sussex is 63 miles away from London, a long way to travel for a joke... and even if the creature was just a person dressed up as an animal, exactly how comfortably would a person be able to travel on all fours across broken glass?

        The Brighton Gazette was a weekly paper, thus April 12 was the earliest it could report an incident from April 6. I've checked two other newspapers local to Brighton, and neither of them mention this incident. The fact that the Brighton Gazette lists its source as "from a correspondant" does not inspire much confidence in me. The Times in London likely only picked up this story because it mentioned "Spring-Heeled Jack," which was a reference that was guaranteed to sell papers in London at that time due to major local interest in the topic.

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