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, the gardener saw something "in the shape of a bear or some other four-footed animal" mount his garden wall and run along it towards the man... 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; when he called his dog, it slunk away. After the strange thing chased the man for a time, it scaled the wall again and made its escape.
Newspapers at the time labeled this strange visitor "Spring Heeled Jack," connecting it verbally to the character of the same name that had caused trouble in London earlier in the year dressing in all manor of costumes to scare people, and the papers 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 initial report of this incident came from the Brighton Gazette, and was picked up and printed in the April 14 edition of The Times of London -- which is where I get this report -- so the question that needs to be asked is: were there any other such reports made in the Rose-Hill area that weren't picked up by The Times? I'll have to dig further to see if anything else can be found. In any case, it seems unlikely this case is directly connected to the much more complicated story of Spring-Heeled Jack.