Among the oddest criminal cases in history is that of Spring-Heeled Jack. Starting in 1837, with a sighting as recent as 1987, this paranormal creature was said to be capable of very high leaps reminiscent of someone bouncing on springs.
He wore a tight fitting helmet and skin-tight clothing described as something like an oil skin, and was claimed to exhale blue flame and complete with red glowing eyes. Often dismissed as a folktale, there was a very disturbing aspect to the creature that could only be taken as attempted sexual assault. In October of 1837 Mary Stevens, who worked as a servant girl, was walking near Clapham common, a 200 acre grassy area in south London. The creature leapt at her, grabbed her by the arms, and began kissing her and ripping her clothing off. She began screaming, caught the attention of others nearby and the creature fled. This is not typical of Victorian period romanticized folktales, which generally contain just about everything except sex.
Word spread through England, and hysteria formed. Multiple sightings ensued, and the descriptions of the creature grey to include have metallic claws on his hands. Girls were claimed to be assaulted and struck dumb by the creature, and all manner of supernatural phenomena were associated with the creature, including a claim that he was an incarnation of the devil. Mixed with these widely varying accounts were more sexual assaults. On February 20th, Jane Alsop answered the door of her father's house to find the voice of a man claiming to be a police officer saying that he had caught spring-heeled jack and that she should bring him a light. When she did, she was assaulted by the creature, who ripped at her dress and hair. A suspect was apprehended, and even confessed, but Alsop claimed that he was not the perpetrator in that he could not breathe blue flame.
Sightings continued. In 1870 a group of soldiers spotted him, and even shot at him. The creature disappeared before suddenly reappearing, slapping one of the soldiers and bouncing off. Later that year, a mob cornered the creature and shot him, but claimed that while he was obviously hit, the bullets bounced off and made a sound as though they were hitting metal. The creature then defiantly leapt away. In 1953, across the world in Texas, a creature that may have been spring-heeled Jack was sighted in a pecan tree near an apartment complex. Three witnesses described a creature in tight fitting pants, a black cape and boots
The last recorded sighting involved a travelling salesman in England, who claimed have seen the creature leaping in his legendary fashion in 1986, dressed in the usual skin tight clothing, with an elongated chin. Once again, the creature stopped and slapped him.
What exactly this creature was, or is, is unknown. Human suspects have been put forth, but none hold up to scrutiny. Often the creature is attributed to mass hysteria, and brought to the level of a folk-talk, but this would be inconsistent with victorian attitudes in discussing sexual crimes. It seems that Spring-heeled Jack is one of those strange cases where a kernel of truth hides under a heap of exaggeration. The extremely long span of time that the sightings cover, if the accounts are to be believed, suggest that the creature wasn't human. In any case, perhaps Jack is not yet done, and will leap again into the public eye. However, this seems to be one creature that one would hope never returns.
Devils appearing to people are nothing new. Most of the time, they leave no physical evidence, and usually are the result of overactive imaginations or mental illness. But in the case of the Devon Devil, it left a trail of foot prints 100 miles long across the English county of Devon. In February of 1855, after a heavy snow, the footprints appeared. They measured 4 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide, and seem to have been made by a cloven-hoofed creature walking on two feet. They began in the middle of a garden and ended abruptly in a field in the town of Littleham. They went through a six inch hole and crawled through a drainpipe, seemingly through walls, and across rivers stopping at one bank and starting again on the other. They even appeared to have been melted into solid ice through high heat like that of a branding iron. Not a single person saw the creature, but dogs brought to track the creature refused and whimpered.
The mystery of the prints remains unsolved, and nothing remotely close to it has happened since.