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The Spring-Heeled Jack Library

In 1838, a series of complaints were raised about an individual or group who were causing a nuisance in the villages around London for causing a disturbance. Some of these are undoubtedly linked to the urban legends of ghosts roaming of fog-swathed streets. However, in February of that year, it was reported that a figure, who came to be known as Spring-heeled Jack, violently assaulted two young women.

This figure and his "pranks" captured the public's imagination, and became the subject of plays and serial novels published weekly. The aim of the Spring-Heeled Jack project has been to make accessible the entire canon of stories and serials, including the episodes of the serials that are missing from the British Library. 

The project is now complete, running to eight volumes, 4000 pages and two million words (and an additional 50,000 words of introductory material.

A review of the first books of the Spring-Heeled Jack library is found at pp. 84–86 of Ripperologist 168 (November 2020): ripperologist168.pdf 

Spring-Heel'd Jack: The Terror of London (1863)

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Nearly 600 pages of a Gothic Penny Dreadful serial.

 

Spring-Heeled Jack: his name struck terror into the hearts of the people of London when Queen Victoria ascended the throne. Twenty-five years later, Jack became the subject of popular fiction through a serial publication about his antics. Few copies of the original publication survive. Even the British Library's collection is missing an issue. In this volume, the missing episode has been restored to complete the narrative of a masked aristocrat who becomes an avenger and defender of the oppressed and the vulnerable. This is the first volume of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library which will restore and make accessible the wildly different serials and short fictions about this focus of urban legend.

This is Volume 1 of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library

Spring-Heeled Jack: The Terror of London (1886)

Book 1 of the longest Spring-Heeled Jack serials.

 

Twenty-three years after the first of the Spring-Heeled Jack

"Penny Dreadful" serial was published, and Jack was still a notorious name across the country, featuring in plays as well as the epithet being applied to criminals, as well as sightings in military barracks attributed to Jack. His name still commanded fear.

In 1886 a new serial was published in 48 installments. Jack is no longer a trickster, but a shadowy figure whose appearance freezes the hearts of his enemies and instills courage to the vulnerable women he protects. In particular he protects Ralph Ashton from his wicked relative, Sir Roland Ashton, as Ralph tries to assert his rightful claim on the Ashton Estates.

This is Volume 2 (Book 1) of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library

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Book 2 of the longest Spring-Heeled Jack serials.

This volume picks up from where the first part of the story finishes and continues the last 24 issues as the tides turn for Sir Roland Ashton and the enigmatic figure of Spring-Heeled Jack moves in on Sir Roland and his associates.

 

This is Volume 2 (Book 2) of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library

Spring-Heeled Jack: Articles and Short Fiction

Volume 3 of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library.

This volume collates articles and shorter fiction featuring Spring-Heeled Jack. From the earliest letter published in The Times newspaper in January 1838 when a "Resident of Peckham" complains to the Lord Mayor of London about the antics of a suburban ghost, to a morality tale, a story about the origins of Spring-Heeled Jack, excepts from a novel in which schoolboys capture "Springall Jack"; newspaper stories written entirely in dialect as a warning against vigilantism, an article from 50 years after the original assaults which summarises all that was known about the incidents, and some longer standalone and fiction where Jack is a wronged character who needs to be avenged, or the alter ego of a violent criminal. This volume collects six decades of material featuring Jack, much of which is published for the first time in over a century.

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The Human Bat and The Black Phantom (1899-1901)

Volume 4 of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library.

This weekly serial was published in The Funny Wonder beginning in 1899. There is a new terror in the land. Spring-Heeled Jack, also known as the Human Bat, is terrifying the population. The picture in the newspaper bears a striking resemblance to Lionel Hope so that even his father believes him guilty of the crimes. Aided by trusty companions, Lionel attempts to clear his name and find the identity of the Human Bat. His shocking discoveries lead to a reign of terror across England. The Human Bat takes a personal interest, and his schemes make him a traitor to the Empire as he plans to overthrow the constitution of England.

Published here as a complete story for the first time, the editors of the storypaper ran a competition - a gold watch for the first person who correctly guessed the Human Bat's identity.

Dandy Dick or The King's Highway (1900-1901)

Volume 5 of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library.

Set in the eighteenth century, Dandy Dick was once an aristocrat, but is forced into the life of an outlaw when he is accused of a crime he didn't commit. In the meantime he is pursued by the notorious and corrupt thief-taker, Jonathan Wild.

With the aid of a band of loyal companions, including Colonel Blood and Dick Turpin, Dick attempts to protect the outlaws’ secret hideaway at Finchley while attempting to elude the law in the form of Office Bilberry who will stop at nothing at claiming the reward for Dandy Dick’s arrest, provided it does not require him to leave his seat in the bar.

But as Dick faces life-threatening dangers from Bow Street runners and the savage Mohawk gangs, Dick receives assistance from some mysterious allies including a friendless boy known as Will the Witless, Fangs the rat catcher, and Spring-Heeled Jack.

Spring-Heel'd Jack: The Terror of London (1904)

Volume 6 of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library.

As Spring-Heeled Jack made his final “canonical” appearance in Liverpool in 1904, 12 issues of a serial novel was published by the Aldine Newspaper Company. Set just before Britain engages in the Napoleonic wars, celebrated officer Bertram Wraydon is framed for spying for the enemy. He escapes execution and flees into hiding, but, in doing so, he forfeits his estates to his half-brother, Hubert Sedgefield. Wraydon attempts to reclaim his lost heritage, and, to do so, he is assisted by the mysterious figure known as Spring-Heeled Jack. As Wraydon is forced deeper into the shadowy underworld of espionage and treason, Spring-Heeled Jack confronts each of Wraydon’s adversaries to restore his good name. But there is a line between Justice and Law that Spring-Heeled Jack is willing to cross. All of the collections of this rare serial novel are incomplete, however, the missing issue has been located and included for this volume.

The Winged Man (1913)

Volume 7 of the Spring-Heeled Jack Library.

As Spring-Heeled Jack made his final “canonical” appearance in Liverpool in 1904, 12 issues of a serial novel was published by the Aldine Newspaper Company. Set just before Britain engages in the Napoleonic wars, celebrated officer Bertram Wraydon is framed for spying for the enemy. He escapes execution and flees into hiding, but, in doing so, he forfeits his estates to his half-brother, Hubert Sedgefield. Wraydon attempts to reclaim his lost heritage, and, to do so, he is assisted by the mysterious figure known as Spring-Heeled Jack. As Wraydon is forced deeper into the shadowy underworld of espionage and treason, Spring-Heeled Jack confronts each of Wraydon’s adversaries to restore his good name. But there is a line between Justice and Law that Spring-Heeled Jack is willing to cross. All of the collections of this rare serial novel are incomplete, however, the missing issue has been located and included for this volume.

Further Reading