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Notes on Spring-Heeled Jack: the Scourge of London

1) The Turner Street Scare: a still semi-unreliable account

        Here's the problem. There is only one known source for this incident, and I haven't seen it. On the plus side, I now believe this incident was actually reported (whether or not it happened as above), because it was found by a researcher I trust some, Mike Dash.

        For a long time, I didn't believe this report had an existence that pre-dated an interesting article on Spring-Heeled Jack published in 1961 by a gentleman named J. Vyner... every single other mention of this incident I ran across after 1961, until Dash's study on Spring-Heeled Jack in 2012, were simply details copied from what Vyner had published. Since Vyner's article on Spring-Heeled Jack was a wondrous pile of inventive nonsense (see the link below), there was no reason to believe this event actually existed; and I'm still surprised to find that - somehow - Vyner had gotten hold of the one newspaper article on the matter, apparently before anyone else I've been able to track.

        So, until I can get a copy of the original report, which apparently ran in the February 27, 1838, issue of the Morning Herald - a local paper from the London area, so not easily available to me - I can neither consider the report reliable, nor guarantee what details were actually reported. Anyone in London willing to email me a copy?

 

2) The Lucy Scales Attack: A Word upon the Dating of this Incident

        While I now fully believe this incident happened - I've seen sources within a year of the event that describe it as above - the matter of the date of occurrence is still unreliable. Why?

        The attack on Lucy Scales has been reported for a wide variety of dates in modern sources... to name a few: March 8, February 21, 25, 26, & 28, or even more vaguely 'February 1838,' 'the early months of 1838,' just plain '1838,' or 'five days later' than the attack on Jane Alsop, or even 'years later'! Why all the confusion? It's not exactly easy to say, but a great deal of it has been caused by newer sensational repeating of the Spring-Heeled Jack story; many authors over the past sixty years or so appear to have changed the reported dates for the Alsop, Scales, and Turner incidents mostly dependent on the way they wanted to tell the overall story... so the order of the incidents often got juggled, and since the original reports were very hard to find no one could definitively say that the dates were wrong. Another part of the problem appears to be confusion between the date the incident was reported in papers, the date Scales told the police, and the date the matter may have actually happened.

        For an example, let's look at the earliest reference to this event that I could get my hands on - The Annual Register, or a View of the History of Politics of the Year 1838 - published in 1839, only a year after the event occurred. In this volume, a note is listed for Monday, February 26, 1838, that states Lucy Scales and her brother made their statements regarding the assault at the Lambeth Street police office on this day, with the further note that the assault happened "on the Wednesday last"... which would be February 21, the day after the Alsop incident. On the other hand, the Alsop incident is also listed in this volume on February 20, 1838... the day it occurred. This implies that the authors listed the scales attack on February 26 because they felt that was the day it occurred, and that the note about having occurred on the "Wednesday last" may have just been quoted text from the account they were copying. Of course, February 26 is a Monday, not a Wednesday... so the event couldn't have happened on that day either! Confused yet?

        Given that the date was screwed up before a year had passed, it's not too surprising that it's been inaccurate ever since. I choose to take the date above - February 28 - for two reasons: first, the 28th is the next Wednesday after the Alsop attack that isn't the exact day after; I suspect it's reasonable to assume Scales was not attacked the day after the Alsop affair, or the matter might have gotten more attention. Second, a researcher I trust some - Mike Dash - claims to have seen the one and only actual newspaper report of the Scales attack that all other reports stem from - from the Morning Post of March 7, 1838 - and that report is said to give the 28th as the day. Ultimately though, until I can get a copy of the article that Dash quotes I'm taking his word for the date being right... so I have to consider it unreliable until double-checked (anyone have a copy?).