1838, February 20: The Jane Alsop Assault
On a February 20, 1838, Jane Alsop, who lived with her father and two sisters on Bearbind Lane, on the outskirts of the village of Old Ford in the district of Bow in the East end of London, answered a violent knocking at the front gate to their house. A man in the shadows by the front gate identified himself as a police officer, and asked her to bring a light... he’d captured the infamous Spring-Heeled Jack! Excited, Alsop fetched a candle, hurried out to the gate, and handed the light to the policeman. He threw off his cloak and held the candle to his chest; in the flickering light he presented a hideous appearance, his eyes resembling red balls of fire. She noted briefly that he wore a large helmet, and a tight-fitting suit that appeared to be a white oilskin... and then he vomited out blue and white flames.
Alsop screamed, and tried to run; but Spring-Heeled Jack (for that’s who it was) pinned her head under his arm, and began to rip her dress and body with fingers that felt like iron claws. Still screaming, she freed herself and ran, only to be caught again near the front door. As Jack clawed at her face and neck, and tore out patches of her hair, Alsop’s father and sisters dragged her into the house and slammed the door. The fiend banged on the door until one of Alsop’s sisters leaned out of an upstairs window and called for a policeman. Before anyone could catch him, Spring-Heeled Jack leapt away into the shadows.
The Alsops reported the assault at the Lambeth street office of the police, which was just a few blocks away, that same evening. The above is essentially the incident as reported by the Alsops to the police, and also a good summing up of how it is typically represented in modern accounts. What most modern accounts tend to forget to mention, however, is that after Jack had run off, a different figure was seen to retrieve Jack’s cloak and run off also... so he wasn’t there alone. Another difference often missed is that Bearbind Lane isn’t inside the district of Bow; it was in fact described as "a lonely spot between the villages of Bow and Oldford," and so a better place for Jack to escape from after the assault.
It’s very strange that with this incident Jack goes from merely scaring people to actually baiting someone out and physically assaulting them. Miss Alsop was in shock for most of the night after, and in extreme pain for some time after the assault due to the injuries to her arm and the various cuts and scratches over other parts of her body; her dress was nearly torn completely off of her. Miss Alsop’s family was of better standing in the London commmunity than previous victims of the strange attacks; that, coupled with the Lord Mayor’s announcement made a month previous meant that this attack was seriously attended to by the police and fully reported in the London newspapers.