1961, June: The Spring-Heeled Spaceman

Flying Saucer Review

In June 1961, Spring-Heeled Jack was not seen or encountered by a single person... but he did get a massive make-over. In an article written for Flying Saucer Review by J. Vyner, which was also published in FATE Magazine four months later, Spring-Heeled Jack (re-named to just 'Springheel Jack') was presented as a fine example of an historical set of encounters with an alien from outer space! Vyner's article was written in response to a call from Flying Saucer Review for examples of pre-1940's UFO and alien encounter reports.To be fair, the idea that Spring-Heeled Jack was a spaceman had apparently been proposed as early as 1954 in a letter to Everybody's magazine... but Vyner's article in Flying Saucer Review cemented the idea in the community of UFO enthusiasts, and was copied for years after.

        To make Spring-Heeled Jack work as a proposed alien, Vyner had to take a few liberties with the details of the known sightings and encounters... which is to say he threw most of the original reports out, and made up a lot of new details convenient to his purpose of spacing out Jack. Briefly put, Vyner's version of the overall Springheel Jack legend ran thus:

        Around the middle of November 1837, a strange character started roaming around Middlesex scaring (and tearing) the pants off of people. The Lord Mayor received a letter about the problem which he tried to laugh off, but was then inundated with more letters from varying important citizens that could not be ignored... and all of these letters agreed in their description of the culprit. He was tall and thin, with a prominant nose, pointed ears and bony fingers that resembled claws. He wore a long cloak and a close-fitting garment made of a glittering material, like oilskin or metal mesh; he also wore a helmet that appeared to be made from the same glittering material. He had a lamp of some sort strapped to his chest, and carried a raygun that shot blue flames and paralyzed people. He earned the name 'Springheel Jack' because he could clear a road in a single bound and leap over eight-foot walls; in fact, on one occasion he completely leapt over a covered wagon in one bound!

        Vyner expands on the above "facts" by stating the Lord Mayor could not send police outside of London's city boundary, but did approve the setup of a vigilante committee to roam the outer villages. An Admiral Codrington set up a reward for the villain's capture. Despite these efforts, Jack wandered unmolested and seemed to follow a distinct pattern to his movements; he seemed to be moving ever closer to London, staying in various parks for several days at a time before moving on.

        On February 18, 1838, according to Vyner, Lucy Scales was walking ahead of her sister as she entered Green Dragon Alley and was approached by a figure her sister described as "tall, thin, and gentlemanly"... he then threw open his cloak and the lantern on his chest flashed onto Lucy. Moments later, he spurted blue flames into her face and she slumped to the ground in a swoon as he walked calmly away. Two days later, Jane Alsop (whom Vyner tells us is eighteen years old) heard the front bell of the house she lived in with her family ringing violently, and saw what appeared to be a member of the horse patrol wearing a top hat and cloak. When she brought a candle out to investigate, and the figure threw back his cloak, she was confronted by the glittering garb of Springheel Jack, his eyes resemble red balls of fire. She screamed, and Jack grabbed her arm; one of Alsop's sisters ran out to help, and Jack responded by "spurting balls of fire" into the girl's face - rendering her unconcious - and then he sprang away. Jack dropped his cloak, which was snatched up by a second figure from the darkness that ran after Jack. A week after Jack scared Jane Alsop, he knocked on a house door in Turner Street and asked for Mr. Ashcroft, the master of the house. The servent lad, looking at Springheel Jack, screamed instead... and Jack turned and left.

        Vyner interprets the events above as showing that Springheel Jack was likely a stranded alien attemping to find a distinct 'safe house' that could protect him and help him go home. Vyner states that Jack was clearly waiting for someone in the Green Dragon Alley when he was discovered by Scales; that it might have been the very person he had been waiting for in the Green Dragon Alley who later picked up Jack's cloak when he ran from Jane Alsop. He further speculates that Jack may have accidently rung the bell at the Alsop house because he confused the name for Ashcroft, the name of the man at the Turner Street house, and Jack's possible contact to head home. All of this, of course, ignores that the events above are a creative re-arrangement of the original occurrences imagined by Vyner himself; but Vyner's imagination wasn't finished yet...

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