London, UK (WKQ – London News): The investigation of the vicious attacks on Samantha Grey, 27, and Catherine Hulme, 32, last week in Greenwich has taken a strange turn. Their mysterious assailant, dubbed the “Leaping Man,” is now believed to be re-enacting the Spring-Heel Jack mystery of the 1800s.
In related news, Professor Robert Enthel of the University of Essex claims that these attacks have occult connections. As proof, he points to the recent construction of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which he believes broke several ancient Gaelic seals that allegedly marked the intersection of two ley lines over Greenwich.
Professor Enthel has gone on record that he believes the Leaping Man assailant is in fact Spring-Heel Jack, returned after a century long absence. Vice-Chancellor Marcus Roy has called for Professor Enteli’s resignation . . .[More…]
The Spring-Heel Jack mystery involved a series of bizarre attacks in England throughout the 1800s. They began in September of 1837 in London, when a businessman returning home late from work one night reported seeing a strange figure who vaulted effortlessly over 10-foot-tall cemetery railings, landing directly in his path. The creature was described as tall and human-like, but had pointed ears, a wicked smile, large glowing eyes that resembled red orbs, and a long conical nose.
A short time later, a similar creature attacked a group of four people, all of whom ran after spotting the creature except for one Polly Adams. Witnesses claimed that the creature tore off the top of her blouse, grabbed her breasts, and clawed at her stomach. Polly was knocked unconscious and was discovered later that night by a patrolling policeman.
A Creature Gets Its Name
In October of 1837, a servant named Mary Stevens was returning to her employer’s home on Lavender Hill. While passing through Clapham Common, a creature sprang from a dark alley, tightly wrapped its arms around her, roughly kissed her on the face, and began running its hands up her blouse. When she screamed, the creature bounded from the scene. Several people heard Mary’s scream and searched for her assailant, but he was never found.
The following day, the creature struck again near where Mary Stevens was attacked. It sprang in front of a passing carriage, causing a crash. Witnesses claimed the creature jumped effortlessly over a 9 foot wall in a single hop. Soon after the carriage incident, the creature accosted another woman near Clapham Church. Investigators found two footprints, gouged three inches deep into the roadside, suggesting the assailant wore some type of spring mechanism in his shoes. This clue gave rise to the attacker press moniker as “Spring-Heel Jack”.
In January of 1838, London’s Lord Mayor Sir John Cowan officially declared Spring-Heel Jack a public menace after several similar reports of attacks. A posse searched for Spring-Heel Jack that winter and spring, and its members included many of London’s elite, including the Duke of Wellington. Unofficial sources claim that the Duke had several close encounters with the creature, but Spring-Heel Jack eluded the posse.
On February 20, 1838, Lucy Scales and her sister Margaret Scales were returning home in the evening, walking near the Limehouse area in London. Spring-Heel Jack attacked the Scales girls and spat blue fire in Lucy’s face. According to documentary evidence, Lucy was ‘blinded’ as a result. Witnesses claim that Spring-Heel Jack escaped by making a standing jump from the street to the roof of a nearby house, and then bounded out of sight.
On February 22, 1838, Jane Alsop was in her home on Bearhind Lane when she answered a rapping on the front door. The black-cloaked man on her doorstep said,
“I’m a policeman. For God’s sake girl, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-Heeled Jack in the lane!”
Jane fetched a candle and — as she handed it over — its light shone on the face of Spring-Heel Jack himself. He cackled and spat a blue fire at her. Jane tried to run back into the house, but the creature grabbed her by the hair. Jane’s sister heard the commotion and rescued her from the creature’s grasp by slamming the door. Spring-Heel Jack left quickly and dropped his cloak in a field near the Alsop home. Another person was seen collecting the coat soon after and leaving the area, leading police to believe that Spring-Heel Jack had an accomplice. The police took Jane’s statement:
“He wore a large helmet and a sort of tight-fitting costume that felt like oilskin. But the cape was just like the ones worn by the policemen. His hands were as cold as ice and like powerful claws. But the most frightening thing about him was his eyes. They shone like balls of fire.”
The following day on nearby Turner Street, Spring-Heel Jack again knocked on a resident’s door and a servant boy answered. Spring-Heel Jack asked to speak to the master of the house, Mr. Ashworth, and as the boy turned to call Mr. Ashworth he noticed that the caller was not human. Spring-Heel Jack waved his fist at the boy and leapt over the entire house.
The Attacks Cease for 20 Years
After the Ashworth incident, attacks continued, and then just as mysteriously as they began the attacks stopped until 1843. The attacks then ceased again for several decades before starting anew in 1877, when several reports surfaced of Spring-Heel Jack traveling across the town of Caistor, Norfolk, by jumping from rooftop to rooftop.
In August of 1877, Spring-Heel Jack appeared before a group of soldiers in North Camp Aldershot. Private John Regan was standing sentry when he heard someone dragging something metallic down the road. He went to investigate and was unable to find the source of the noise. Upon returning to his post, Spring-Heel Jack leapt at him and spat blue flames from his mouth into the sentry’s face. Other sentries heard the attack and ran to his aid. Witnesses claim that Spring-Heel Jack jumped over the men, clearing them by more than 10 feet. One of the sentries fired at the creature, but the bullets reputedly had no effect.
In September of 1877 in Lincolnshire, Spring-Heel Jack was seen hurdling over several houses. As in the Aldershot incident, residents fired at him with shotguns and pistols. These witnesses claimed that the shots hit Spring-Heel Jack, but they reported hearing a metallic ringing sound when the bullets found their mark and Spring-Heel Jack was unharmed.
The last confirmed sighting occurred in September 1904, south of Liverpool, when Spring-Heel Jack appeared on the roof of the steeple of St. Francis Xavier Church. Onlookers claimed a man suddenly dropped from the steeple to the ground, appearing to commit suicide from the church roof.
The witnesses rushed to the spot where he fell, only to find a strangely helmeted man clothed in white, waiting for them. The creature ran towards the crowd with arms raised and sprang into the air over William Henry Street, disappearing into the pages of history.
In Your Game
Spring-Heel Jack works in your game whenever you want your players to encounter evil or cruel fey with mysterious goals. He makes a great villain as either a solo menace, or as a race of identical looking fey. As Spring-Heel Jack tends to lustily attack helpless women, which gives PCs the opportunity to rush to defend a damsel in distress, or seek to solve a strange string of nighttime attacks (or murders). Spring-Heel Jack’s natural ability to leap great distances means that he can escape most conflicts, and could make for a recurring villain.
In a Modern Game
Spring-Heel Jack is best used in a d20 Modern game as a mysterious assailant who attacks at random on the streets of London, possibly leading to mass hysteria or a witch hunt with various citizens mistakenly identified as the culprit.
In a game without the mystical or the occult elements, Spring-Heel Jack could be anything ranging from an android, to an alien or mutant creature with powerful legs that allows it to leap great distances. Of course, Spring-Heel Jack could also just be the sadistic alter ego of someone practiced in fire-breathing and armed with spring-loaded boots and a frightening mask.
In a Fantasy Game
The persona of Spring-Heel Jack can be “created” by someone using a pair of boots of striding and springing and armed with modified spiked gauntlets and an elixir of fire breath.
Spring-Heel Jack CR 5
Male (always) Fey
NE medium-sized humanoid
Init +5; Senses Low-light vision; Listen +8, Spot +8
AC 21*, touch 16, flat-footed 20* (see below)
(+3 oilskin cloak, +5 Dex, +2 natural, +1 dodge)
hp 33 (6d6+10)
Fort +4, Ref +10, Will +8
DR 10/cold iron; Resist Fire 2/Cold 2 (only when oilskin cloak worn)
Spd 40 ft.
Melee 2 claws +8 (1d4+2)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks pounce, fire breathing, rake 1d4+1
Before Combat Spring-Heel Jack uses guerilla-style tactics, preferring to study his opponents before pouncing on a lone or unsuspecting victim.
During Combat Spring-Heel Jack focuses on one opponent at a time, and attempts to isolate them if possible. When fighting several foes, he uses his mobility to leap in and out of battle, striking from the shadows or from above.
Morale If reduced to 15 hit points or less, or if someone brandishes a cold iron weapon, Spring-Heel Jack leaps away.
Str 15, Dex 21, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 14
Base Atk +3; Grp +5
Feats Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Weapon Finesse (claws)B
Skills Balance +16, Bluff +8, Climb +10, Escape Artist +7, Hide +8, Intimidate +6, Jump +24, Listen +8, Move Silently +7, Profession (tanner) +4, Search +4, Sense Motive +6, Spot +8, Tumble +16
Languages Common, Sylvan, Elven
SQ Expert Leaper, Fey traits
Gear oilskin cloak and cap (treat as +1 leather armor with Fire/Cold Resistance 2)
Expert Leaper (Ex): Always ready to leap away at a moment’s notice, Spring-Heel Jack is never considered flat-footed unless physically immobilized. Further, Spring-Heel Jack does not need a running start to make a jump, but receives a +4 bonus to his jump check if he does make a running start. DC checks for both long and high jumps are reduced by half. Finally, Spring-Heel Jack treats all instances of jumping down from a height as 30 feet shorter than it actually is.
Pounce (Ex): If Spring-Heel Jack charges a foe, he can make a full attack, plus two rake attacks.
Fire Breathing (Su): Once every 1d6 rounds, Spring-Heel Jack may spit a line of blue fire up to 30 ft. in length, damage 4d4 fire, Reflex DC 15 half.
Rake (Ex): Attack bonus +8 melee, damage 1d4+1. If Spring-Heel Jack starts and wins a grapple check, he establishes a hold and can make a single rake attack each round he maintains the hold.
Skills: Spring-Heel Jack receives a +8 racial bonus to Jump checks, and a +4 racial bonus to Balance and Tumble checks.
Environment Rural and Urban (England)
Advancement 7-12 HD (Medium)