Thursday, 4 October 2012

Spring Heeled Jack

One of the more intriguing creatures I’ve come across in my readings is Spring Heeled Jack. I had never heard of him until I read the name in a short story by Stephen King called Strawberry Spring, in which the murderer on campus was dubbed Spring Heeled Jack. Thinking the name must have some kind of significance; I immediately looked it up and found that Spring Heeled Jack was a creature that popped up in England in the Victorian era.

Named for his unique ability to jump great distances and heights, Spring Heeled Jack was said to have clawed hands and eyes that resembled “red balls of fire”. Some accounts describe the creature wearing a black cloak, a helmet and a white oilskin garment that fit tightly over his tall and thin frame. Many stories give him Devil-like features and the ability to breath out blue and white flames and at least two accounts claimed that he could actually speak English.

According to legend, Spring Heeled Jack was first spotted in London in 1837 by a businessman walking past the Barnes Cemetery. He claimed to have seen a mysterious creature jump with impossible ease over the cemetery railings and landed in his path. He described what he saw as muscular man with pointed ears and nose and protruding eyes that glowed like the fires of hell.

He was spotted a few more times that year but soon his appearances began turning into attacks, mainly on women. Two cases in particular helped spark the panic and fear of the elusive Spring Heeled Jack, that of Jane Alsop and Lucy Scales.
Jane Alsop – On the night of February 18, 1938, Jane heard a knocking at the door and a man’s voice calling out: “I'm a police officer-for God's sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring Heeled Jack in the lane.” Eager to assist, Miss Alsop ran out to the man to give him a candle. The man was wearing a large black cloak and a helmet. When the man brought the candle towards him, she noticed that his eyes resembled “red balls of fire” and that he was spitting blue and white flames out of his mouth. She also reported that the man was wearing very tight fitting clothes which resembled white oilskin. Before she could do anything, the man grabbed hold of her and began tearing at her clothes with claws that Alsop described as “metallic”. She screamed for help as he began tearing at her neck and arms. She was rescued by her sister who managed to pull her back into the house. The man knocked several times and then vanished as soon as the help the girls had called for arrived.

Lucy Scales – Eight days after the Alsop attack, Lucy Scales and her sister were walking home from visiting their brother in Limehouse. When they were walking past Green Dragon Alley, they spotted a man standing in an angle in the passage. He was wearing a large black cloak. Lucy was walking in front of her sister and as she came near the man he spat blue flames in her face which temporarily blinded her. A search was started for the mysterious man but to no avail.
Much fear and panic resulted as of these stories and the sightings of Spring Heeled Jack increased and came to a head at the end of the 19th century. The last reported sighting of Spring Heeled Jack was in Liverpool in 1904 around William Henry Street.

No one was ever caught or brought forward in these attacks and combined with the long period he was around, his extraordinary abilities and his devilish features, the mysterious legend of Spring Heeled Jack lives on.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


(D)jinn or genies are an Arabic mythical being with magical abilities. They are one of three sentient creation of Allah along with Angels and Humans. Like Humans, the Jinn were given free will and thus can be good or evil.

According to the Qur’an, the Jinn are made of smokeless flame or “the fire of a scorching wind.” As their name indicates, Jinn roughly translates to “hidden”, they are invisible to humans. Some people believe that we are assigned a Jinn at birth which acts as a guardian spirit.

Genie is the more popular known name for Jinn in today’s culture. Even though the Jinn were created by Allah with free will, the story of Aladdin made popular the legend that Genies are imprisoned and will grant you three wishes if you set them free by rubbing a lamp. According to the book The Thousand and One Nights, you summon a Jinn by writing the name of God in Hebrew upon a sword or knife and use it to draw a diagram using symbols and incantations.

In some legends, the Jinn who grant wishes are known to take what you wish for very literally so it is important to remember to be careful what you wish for.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Jersey Devil

The legendary creature of New Jersey has haunted the Pine Barrens for over 260 years. The Jersey Devil, sometimes refered to as the Leeds Devil, is so popular a legend in the New Jersey area that it had New Jersey's NHL team named after it.

The Jersey Devil was described by Nelson Evans of Gloucester, a witness from the 1909 sightings, to look
“…about three feet and half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them.”
Since it first appeared in the 1700's, it has terrorized the citizens of the New Jersey area, destroying crops and is believed to be a harbinger of war. It was seen before the start of the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I and II, on December 7, 1941 before Pearl Harbour was bombed and was seen before the Vietnam War.

So where did the Jersey Devil come from?

There are many believed origins of the Jersey Devil, the most popular story is that he was the spawn of "Mother Leeds", a supposed witch who resided in Burlington, New Jersey. The story goes that on a stormy night in the year 1735, she gave birth to a child which was believed to be the son of the devil himself. The child came out normal but soon changed shape, growing wings, hooved feet, a forked tail, and the head of a horse. It flew into a violent rage, beating everyone present in the room before flying up the chimney and towards the pines.

The Jersey Devil has been spotted by thousands of witnesses including policemen, politicians and highly respected members of the community over the years.

One of the first sightings of the Devil was by Commodore Stephen Decatur who was overseeing the forging of his cannonballs when he saw a strange creature flying in the sky. He fired a cannon at it, striking it and yet the creature continued flying, unphased.

Some say the mysterious creature still roams the Pine Barrens to this day.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Tower of London

England is steeped in rich history and intrigue, so it is no surprise that there are many famous tales of hauntings across the country. One of the more famous spots for ghostly activities is in the Tower of London. It was built in 1080 in the center of William the Conqueror’s enormous fortress and was added to by other Monarchs in later years. Because of its use as a prison and execution grounds, the Tower is rife with ghost stories. Here are just a few of the ghosts that haunt the Tower:

Arbella Stuart
Stories say that she haunts the Queen’s house, which is considered the most haunted place within the Tower grounds. She is recorded as marrying William Seymore, Lady Jane Grey’s nephew, without King James I’s permission in 1610. Arbella was put under house arrest in Lambeth while William was sent to the Tower. Being spirited and rebellious, Arbella managed to escape and disguised as a man, was able to get William released from the Tower. William missed their rendez-vous and Arbella was forced to set sail without him. She was eventually caught and sent to the Tower while William made it safely to France. She died in the Queen’s House in 1615.

To this day, she is said to haunt the Lennox room of the Queen’s House, where she was possibly murdered. In 1994, Major General Geoffrey Field and his wife, Janice came to live in the house. While making up the Lennox bedroom, Janice felt a violent push on her back which propelled her out of the room. Several women who have slept in the room, claim to have woken up in terror with a feeling that they were being strangled. Soon after, it became a house rule that no woman would stay unaccompanied in the Lennox room of the house.

The Grey Lady of Hampton Court
Dame Sybil Penn, otherwise known as the Grey Lady, is said to haunt the state apartments and the Clock Court as well as several other places on the grounds. Dame Sybil resided in Hampton Court and was the nurse of Prince Edward and also cared for Elizabeth I while she was sick with small pox in 1562. Tragically, Dame Sybil succumbed to the same disease shortly afterwards.

After her tomb was disturbed, strange noises were heard through the walls of Hampton Court. The noises sounded similar to that of someone using a spinning wheel. When the building was searched, a hidden chamber revealed an antique spinning wheel inside.

Skeletor was the name given to a ghostly spectre which appeared on the palace’s CCTV cameras in 2003. Three days in a row, palace staff had been called to close a particular fire door near the Palace’s Introductory Exhibition. On the first day, the doors were captured on CCTV camera flying open with a great force on their own. On the second day, the doors once again flew open but this time, the cameras picked up a ghostly figure dressed in period close the doors. On the third day, the doors flew open but this time there was no sign of the eerie spectre.

The Screaming Lady
Catherine Howard, known now as the Screaming Lady who haunts the Gallery of the Tower, was the fifth wife of Henry VIII. In 1541, she was accused of adultery and put under house arrest at the palace. She escaped and ran to the Gallery to plead her case to the King but she was captured and dragged, screaming, back to her room. She was later executed at the Tower of London.

Her story was so famous that when the Gallery opened to the public in 1918, it was already dubbed The Haunted Gallery and with good reason. Residents in neighbouring apartments have claimed to have heard screams coming from the Gallery and during a tour, two women fainted on exactly the same spot in the Gallery within a half hour of each other.

Friday, 30 March 2012


Ghouls are a type of monster that originates from Arabian folklore. The earliest recorded mention of the Ghoul is in the collection of short stories titled A Thousand and One Nights. They are said to devour the flesh of humans and reside in graveyards and cemeteries.

In Arabic folklore, the ghoul or ghul are a type of jinn which were believed to be sired by Iblis, the Islamic devil. Ghouls prey on young children, rob graves, drink blood and consume corpses. While they do dig up corpses to eat they delight in killing their meals as well.

Its appearance can vary as it is known to be able to shape-shift into animals. It can also take the form of the last human it devoured. Often times they are portrayed in drawings as decaying corpses or skeletons in rags.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Lady in White

A white lady is a type of female ghost usually seen in rural areas and is usually associated with a local legend or tragedy. Legends of Ladies in White span the globe and a common theme to the stories is that of a lost loved one or betrayal by a fiancĂ© or husband. They are often thought to be a harbinger of death much like a banshee, ravens or the Black Shuck. In fact, in medieval times, the White Lady was said to appear in a person’s house day or night when someone was going to die and were believed to be the spirit of a dead ancestress.

One of the most famous Lady in White stories, is that of a young prom couple whose car crashes. The girl dies but the boy lives. Some motorists may catch a glimpse of her walking along the road, forever searching for her Prom date, her lost love.

Whether the White Lady is a death omen or simply a lost and lonely spirit, her story will continue to mystify and mesmerize us for all time.

Does your town have a White Lady legend? Feel free to share in the comments.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Frankenstein's Monster

Mary Shelley's version of Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus is widely regarded as one of the best classic horror stories. It is widely regarded as one of the first examples of Science Fiction and is about the dangers of playing God.

The name Frankenstein has been incorrectly attributed to the monster in the story but actually refers to the character Victor Frankenstein who creates the monster. The monster in the novel goes unnamed marking Frankenstein’s rejection of his creation by refusing to give it an identity. He refers to his creation only as “monster”, “daemon”, “it”, “wretch”, “fiend”, and “devil”. Mary Shelley did refer to the monster as “Adam” during a telling of Frankenstein and the monster himself refers to himself as the “Adam of your labours” when addressing his creator. This obviously refers to the first man in the Garden of Eden and further relates to Victor Frankenstein’s role as God in creating his first man.

It is ironic that people think of the monster when they hear the name Frankenstein these days for it can be argued that the true monster of the story is Victor Frankenstein himself while his creation, the monster, can actually be viewed as a somewhat tragic figure. He is a creature rejected by his own creator who is doomed to be alone as no one will accept him.

Frankenstein’s monster is described by Shelley as an 8 foot tall, hideously ugly creation, with translucent yellowish skin pulled so taut over the body that it "barely disguised the workings of the vessels and muscles underneath"; watery, glowing eyes, flowing black hair, black lips, and prominent white teeth.

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster

Of course Boris Karloff’s look in the 1930’s film version of Frankenstein is the most popular version even today. Now the monster appears mainly as a tall, flat-headed monster with bolts on its neck and green skin. It normally wears a black suit and walks with a slow gait rather than being quicker and more agile than man as described in Shelley’s novel.

Frankenstein’s Monster will always terrify us and teach us that there are some things man should never mess with.