The "Early" Disturbances
In the days after the Lord Mayor's announcement, the Times of London received many letters about the strange villain. These missives seemingly confirmed that the villages to the West end of London were, in fact, being terrorized by a most unusual series of assaults at the end of 1837. The people writing to the newspaper claimed to have seen and encountered a strange character or characters that would jump from nowhere, scare them, then run away. The assaults were alledged for at least eighteen different West end areas near London, and victims reported encountering a wide variety of odd things. The earliest sources I have give this list of bizarre encounters, in this order:
- In Barnes, a large white bull was encountered
- In East Sheen, a white bear
- In Richmond, either a white bear or a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves
- In Ham, a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves
- In Kingston, a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves
- In Hampton, a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves
- In Teddington, possibly a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves (report is unclear)
- In Twickenham, possibly a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves (report is unclear)
- In Hounslow, possibly a figure in brass armor with claw-like gloves (report is unclear)
- In Isleworth, a figure in steel armor
- In Uxbridge, a figure in steel armor
- In Hanwell, a figure in steel armor
- In Brentford, a figure in steel armor
- In Ealing, a figure in steel armor
- In Hammersmith, a huge baboon
- At Kensington Palace, a huge baboon was seen repeatedly climbing over the forcing houses
In addition to the above, strange sightings were reported for Peckham, St. John’s Wood, and Forest Hill, but no specific details or times were given in these reports.
As you can see, these reports were confusing and strange. In fact, the only reason these reports were connected together was due to an assumption of connection to the Lord Mayor's villain and the similarity in the mode of operation... in almost every case (ignoring Kensington Palace), the strange character reported leaped out of nowhere to scare women and children, then ran off immediately, often leaping over bushes or obstacles. In 1838, London wasn’t a giant city; it was a loose collection of nearby towns, still separated by rural and undeveloped patches of land... so there were often bushes or trees to hide behind or vanish into.
The overall pattern of these reported scares implied that a person or group of persons were dressing up in a number of fanciful costumes to startle people; which matched up with the what the Lord Mayor's letter reported... strangely though, when the first new reports came in of this culprit - now being called "Spring-Heeled Jack" in the press - the trouble was in the East end of London, not the West end.