The Story Grows
Thanks to the attention the Lord Mayor's letter and the Alsop assault received in the press, Spring-Heeled Jack had become something of a national phenomena... and he started to be reported everywhere. On April 13, 1838, a bizarre occurrence in Brighton, 53 miles from London, was reported in a local paper... a gardener and his dog witnessed a growling beast in the shape of a bear mount a garden wall and run across the top of it - despite broken glass on the top meant to prevent such - before the creature jumped down and chased the two of them. The beast eventually left, having merely scared its victims half to death. The Brighton newspaper opened it's account of this odd attack with "'Spring-heeled Jack' has, it seems, found his way to the Sussex coast," which seems to have set a precedent; from then on, almost any strange report had the ability to be blamed on the mysterious villain.
|A few typical Spring-Heeled Jack 'penny dreadful' covers|
Within two years of the 1838 assaults, there was a racehorse named "Spring-Heeled Jack;" and soon Jack was a character in many "penny dreadfuls," a cheap literature popular with boys of the time, full of sex, violence, adventure, and horror. Then came a number of stage plays based on Jack. It can be taken as a sign of how much Jack had captured the imagination of the average London citizen that from 1838 up to the present day, anyone who jumps about in a crazy fashion or springs out to surprise people is still referred to as a "Spring-Heeled Jack"... and therein lies a problem.
Due to all of the ways that the phrase ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ came into popular use, there was a steady appearance of the name in English newspapers all through the latter half of the 19th century. What this means, realistically, is that a casual researcher might find five articles entitled "Spring-Heeled Jack Attacks Again," and make note of another set of appearances of the devilish character... when the articles might actually be about racehorses winning races, books or plays being released, segments of a continuing story, or just tongue-in-cheek references to someone being surprised in a humorous way.
I mention all this because, chronologically, we’ve reached a historic time period between Jack’s attacks in 1838 and his next well-reported sighting in 1877 where many modern writers give vague references to the leaping terror’s supposed continuing activities. For example:
"During the 1850’s and 1860’s, Spring-Heeled Jack was sighted all over England, particularly in the Midlands."
Vague statements like the above are probably due to the overuse of Spring-Heeled Jack’s name in the newspapers of the time. Do note, however, that there were some very distinct incidents said to involve Spring-Heeled Jack during this period... but to assert the villain was seen often and everywhere is a gross exaggeration.