Spring Heeled Jack
Author's Note: This story crosses over slightly with the universe of the TV series Highlander with the character of Adam Pierson. Hope you enjoy.
Everybody knows the story of Jack the Ripper: Whitechapel in London, 1888, a madman roaming the streets murdering women of the night and sending letters to Scotland Yard, one presumably with half of a kidney he extracted from one of his victims. Five murders credited to him for sure and several more left to speculation as to whether the same man was responsible. I've previously given my own statements on Jack the Ripper as well as the accounts of my own encounter with him. This story isn't about that, this is about another Jack from 19th Century England, who was also never found and never identified.
Spring Heeled Jack first popped up so to speak sometime around 1837 when the first accounts of him came out; and they came out on again and off again up until the early 1900s, which left questions as to whether all the sightings could have been caused by the same man. For some reason the legacy he left behind has not been too well remembered in certain parts of the world. Some say he was a man who made unbelievable leaps into the air with the assistance of some kind of custom made spring loaded shoes; other people say he was a demon out of hell with red glowing eyes and metal claws that he used to tear at people's skin with. All the facts about him may never be known, but one thing is for certain: Spring Heeled Jack was very real.
The last thing I ever expected to have after the several years I spent getting hired and fired from news agencies all over the country, and after being discredited, disbelieved and arrested at almost every turn, was somebody who believed me, other than my reluctant editor Tony Vincenzo that is. So imagine my surprise when one night I'm in a bar drowning my frustrations when this college kid starts up a conversation; and a dozen beers later I'm telling him about my encounter with Janos Skorzeny the vampire from Las Vegas who drank the blood of young cocktail waitresses and stole entire blood bank units from hospitals. And then about my encounter with Dr. Richard Malcolm, a 144 year old serial killer who came out every 21 years to spend 18 days finding six women to strangle and steal blood from their brains for his elixir of life; and this kid is listening, seems to actually be paying attention. I thought he must've been drunk at the time because he said he actually believed me.
The kid's name was Adam Pierson, tall and thin, short dark hair, very young looking even though he was old enough to be in college; nice boy but he didn't strike me as being too bright, especially if he intended to hang around the likes of me, and what more believe what I told him. I'd spent so much time having police, FBI and even my editor shoot down my reports that I was starting to believe myself that I'd gone crazy. We'd both had too much to drink that night and I started telling him about all the tapes I'd recorded since my first encounter with the vampire, and he said he wanted to listen to them. I'm not used to having people take my word on these matters, so I agreed to it. He listened to my accounts of vampires, Jack the Ripper, werewolves, and voodoo zombies, and he found it all very interesting.
"I ought to take you along with me the next time I find myself on such an assignment," I said, even at the time I had no idea why I'd said it.
"You may regret that," Adam had said, "I may take you up on it."
And boy did he. But in addition to not knowing he was serious, I didn't know he was going to bring a friend with him.
April 14th, 12:30 A.M., I had just come from a new kind of crime scene that involved a young woman: one Lisa Baker, aged 25, height 5'4, weight 128 pounds, cocktail waitress who had just gotten off work, was found dead in an alley two blocks from where she worked, and she was found with what appeared to be claw marks on her face and chunks of hair ripped out of her head. Of course the police on the scene were very hush hush about it if not downright rude to me when I inquired what could've made the marks on the dead girl.
After the chief of police made a snide remark about what I could do with my camera, I decided to vacate the area before he decided to arrest me just for the sake of getting me out of his hair for an evening. Ironically enough I decided I could probably find out more by eavesdropping down at the local precinct, and it was while en route to the station that I encountered my new friend Adam again. Oddly enough he too was heading down to the station but not for the same reason; he had to bail out a friend who had gotten herself into a bit of trouble.
Up till that night I had not had the privilege of meeting one Jodie Cox; and when I saw her, I was surprised. Adam barely looked old enough to drink, but she looked too young for even him. Still, it wasn't any of my business and hopefully any friend of Adam's would prove helpful to have later on. She looked maybe 17 though she said she was 19, she stood at 5'6, had short blonde hair, and must've been a new kind of insomniac because she had rings around her eyes but I never saw her so much as yawn. This girl must've been hauled in to the precinct enough that she owned the pair of handcuffs she was wearing when we found her because she walked out with us still wearing them. Adam got us acquainted as he sought to open the cuffs with a lock pick.
"Adam's told me about you," she said, "He says that you…hunt vampires."
I laughed and replied, "Only when they're in season."
"So Carl, what's the special of the night?" Adam asked as he got the handcuffs to open.
"There was a young woman found murdered a few blocks from here, so far the police have it locked down pretty well, they all but chased me out of there with a pitchfork, I barely managed to get even a couple of pictures. The only excuse for an official word I heard from them is perhaps she was attacked by a dog, but I don't buy it. I couldn't get a very good look at the body, all I know at this time is that the girl had some kind of claw marks on her face and sections of hair ripped out of her head."
I knew then that something was seriously wrong because the two looked at each other like they knew what I was talking about.
"Do they have any witnesses?" Adam asked, "Anybody who saw him getting away?"
"I don't know yet," I said, then it hit me, "What's going on around here?"
"It's Spring Heeled Jack all over again," Jodie said to Adam with a worried look on her face.
"Who?" I asked.
That apparently had been the wrong thing to ask because I spent the next two hours finding out in both ears; it turned out that one of Adam's majors this semester was in a class of folklore and myths, and Jodie had apparently heard every ghost story ever told, including the legend of Spring Heeled Jack, a supposed half man half monster that like Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound. The demon part of him it was said, possessed red eyes and steel claws and an ability to breathe blue fire on people; there was in fact, they said, a report that was all over the newspaper in 1838 telling of one young woman who was attacked by Jack, who when she gave her statement to the police, also had claw marks on her face and neck, and had some of her hair ripped out.
I still wasn't used to others sharing in the same theories I was having, so I said, just to make sure I wasn't hearing them wrong, "Then you think it's the same person now who killed that woman tonight?"
"The legends of Spring Heeled Jack never died out," Adam said, "There'd be periods, years at a time where there wouldn't be any sightings, but they always came back, come the early 20th century the stories migrated out of England and over here to America, they're not so popular now that everybody is so much more intelligent and dignified and scientific, but people still make claims to have seen him, so I definitely think it's possible."
"But you do realize for that to be so, he'd have to be almost 200 years old, don't you?" I asked.
"We know," Jodie said, "And we believe it."
"Uh huh, I see, but how? I mean with Richard Malcolm that was explainable, he used the blood of his victims for an elixir that kept him young for 21 years at a time, but what about this?"
"The age thing isn't what worries me," Jodie said, "It's that he's out on the prowl again killing women again."
"It's unusual though," Adam said, "In all accounts of Spring Heeled Jack attacking people, he almost never killed any of them, which means either it's a copycat who got carried away…"
"Or he's escalating now almost 140 years later for some unknown reason," I added.
"Or maybe he killed her by accident," Jodie suggested, "You can't tell until the coroner's report is finished, can you?"
"I know one way we could," Adam said.
"How?" I asked.
"It'll involve taking a trip to the morgue."
My line of work doesn't leave much room for making friends, and maybe it's just been too long since I had any, but somebody forgot to pass the memo that the in thing now with young people was breaking and entering into the morgue to examine the cadavers themselves. Common sense probably should've told me before now that something was off with my friend Adam, but I never knew anybody who attended medical school before regular college. For some reason, he believed he could take a look at the girl's body and determine the cause of death from that alone.
I haven't paid a lot of visits to morgues outside of the newspaper's but I was surprised to see that there wasn't anybody on guard to make sure nobody came in or out that shouldn't be there. But I suppose it only made sense, after all who in their right mind would break into a morgue? Besides the three of us that was.
Adam had Jodie watch the door incase anybody would come in; though I don't know what our story would be if somebody caught us, it's hardly believable that we just took a wrong turn. But while she kept watch for anyone coming in, he and I went to the drawers and opened them up one by one to find out where our guest of honor was. It took a few tries but we finally found the late Lisa Baker, who was by now a nice shade of gray and her blouse and miniskirt had been traded in for a plain white sheet. Six hours ago this had been a beautiful, young, active woman full of life, and only a few minutes of work at the hand of a madman had reduced her to this.
"What's the verdict, Adam?" Jodie impatiently asked after what seemed like an eternity that we stood there in the dark and unnerving silence.
"In my professional opinion?" he asked, "If ever Spring Heeled Jack did exist, he did this, and it was no accident."
"Well how did she die?" I asked.
"Blood loss?" Jodie guessed.
Adam shook his head, "No, I believe she was scared to death."
I felt my jaw drop as I asked Adam, "What then makes you think Spring Heeled Jack is responsible?"
Adam replaced the sheet over the unfortunate girl and commented, "There are no actual deaths on record as being attributed to him but off the record there are a few, died of fright. Oh, his victims wear the claw marks alright, but that's just superficial, he scares his victims to death, he takes an immense pleasure in frightening them, and let me ask you a question, Carl, if you encountered a man with claws for hands and red eyes who breathed fire and could jump 10 feet into the air, wouldn't you be scared?"
"But do you really think it's possible?" I asked.
"It's so brilliant," Jodie said as she came up behind me, "As far as the actual murder goes you can be fully responsible and not leave a mark on them, whereas those claw marks are just for show, that's his calling card."
"As you can see, Carl," Adam said as he gestured to the body, "Aside from the scratches on her face there's not a mark on her…she wasn't beaten to death, she wasn't strangled, he didn't choke her, her neck wasn't broken, there is nothing out of place on her entire body, so it had to be a matter of the heart, he scared to the point it stopped beating. Not unusual for him."
"But why now?" I asked, "Where's he been, and why has he come out now?"
Adam looked grim as he told me, "There was never any rhyme or reason to what he did or why or when or where…nobody knows where he goes when he disappears, and nobody knows how long it'll be before he attacks again…but if he was out there tonight, I have a good idea he won't be going anywhere just yet, I think he's going to stick around to strike again. His preferences are women and young girls, for some reason he never bothered much with the men."
I looked at my watch, it was late, but that only meant there would be a lot of poor, unsuspecting women clocking out of their graveyard shifts to go home for the night. "There has to be a way we can put the word out so the public can be on alert," I said, "Any woman out on the streets tonight could be next."
"He has a point, Adam," Jodie said, "Sure up till now there haven't been many deaths related to his appearances but times have changed, who knows what he'll do to the next one?"
"Right but if we tried taking this to the police they'd lock us all up and send us to the state mental asylum," Adam replied.
"There has to be some way to find out where he went," I said to them both, "In all the accounts about him, there has to be something, he has to have a preference to where he goes after an attack, some way we could track him down."
"Afraid not, Carl," Adam said, "All reports say he disappeared as soon as anybody came hunting for him, and there was only one account in all of history that alluded to the idea of him having an accomplice. After he attacked Jane Alsop in 1838, he dropped his police cloak running from the people who came to help, somebody picked it up and disappeared, never to be heard from again in any further attacks."
"An accomplice?" I asked, "That makes it even worse than I thought. If Jack himself could last for 200 years maybe this accomplice could too and maybe he's here also, or maybe he's taken over in Jack's place. How do we find out?"
"He's most likely to strike wherever a woman's going to be traveling alone," Jodie commented though it sounded like she was just thinking aloud.
"That could be anywhere," I said.
"Not that," Adam said. He put his hand on my shoulder and pointed out, "If we're going to try and stop this thing, we'll need a decoy," he pointed over to Jodie and said, "And there she is."
After we got out of the morgue we made a couple of detours along the way to our final destination which turned out to be the cemetery. Jodie wandered off by herself to check out the empty allies and back streets in the vicinity, hopefully she'd be convincing enough to lure Jack in. While she did that, Adam and I busied ourselves with digging a grave that was going to be Spring Heeled Jack's if we could catch him. Once the grave was dug, further preparations were made that I can't even begin to explain; Adam had brought several containers of gasoline and kerosene and just for good measure, some high proof alcohol, all of which he poured around the grave and down into it, and he had brought several bottles full of the contents as well. He explained that it was a new take on the concept of hell fire; instead of being what people endured when they went, it was going to be what took Jack straight down to the bottom.
"If it works," I told him, "But are you sure it will?"
"If she can bring him here, it will work," he tried to assure me.
"But how do you know?" I asked, "And how do you know so much about this when most people never even heard of this guy?"
He looked at me like he was going to answer, but he didn't have a chance because we heard Jodie screaming from somewhere not far off. I jumped out of the grave and tried to run but he pulled me back, saying that Spring Heeled Jack had not gotten her yet. I hoped he was right, and a moment later I was relieved to find he was; Jodie was running towards the cemetery's gates and she appeared to be alone, but not for long.
In the darkness I was able to make out something behind her but I couldn't say for certain what it was; something that shot clear up into the air and then landed only a few feet behind her. It took a few seconds for it to hit me that this thing was a man, 'man' being a loose term because it was still impossible to see just what he was, but if it's possible for that thing to be a 'he' then I believe it was. Jodie got out of the way and gave Adam and myself a very good look at the man; I had no further doubts, this simply had to be Spring Heeled Jack, and the real McCoy was more terrifying than any details a penny dreadful writer could conjure up.
His height I could not determine but I would guess he was near seven feet tall, his body was an unearthly thin, his ribs protruded out from his skin and pressed against his clothes, his skin was a pale gray and drawn tight like he was a corpse, the same could be said for his face which looked like a skull with the flesh tightly wrapped around it. His eyes were deeply sunk in their sockets, the thing they say about red eyes, oh yes it was true, they were the brightest red that probably any man had ever seen; probably as red as the fires of hell themselves.
He was dressed in a black coat which concealed his arms but his hands stuck through the sleeves and revealed that his hands were indeed a set of claws; not a matter of fingernails grown out to an amazing length or even that he wore a pair of gloves with metal claws attached, his hands looked like they were painted a gray blue and his fingers were built perfectly like a set of sharpened steel claws and looked like they'd always been a part of him. I noticed also that they looked like they could very easily rip a person apart, so even though it wasn't the time or place, I couldn't help wondering then why he only as Adam had put it, superficially marked his victims?
He saw us and he opened his mouth and I thought he would speak, some kind of maniacal growl emerged from his throat and the next thing I knew he tilted his head back and was breathing fire at us, blue fire indeed. Adam jumped back down into the grave and just missed becoming a fricasseed special; Jack leaped into the air and closed the distance between he and the grave and landed down in it with Adam and wrapped his claws around Adam's throat. I hadn't been able to see when he got it but Adam threw a bottle of the Molotov cocktail concoction onto Jack and somebody lit a match and threw it into the mess and the entire grave went up in flames; and Adam had thrown his arms around Spring Heeled Jack's back to pull him down into the fiery grave. Before it fully hit me what had happened, Jodie had thrown herself down into the grave as well and despite being set on fire, she and Adam struggled to keep Jack in the grave with them; he fought and struggled but despite everything, they refused to let go and every time he tried to climb out they jerked him back in again, the stench of burning human flesh was great as were the screams of those that had set themselves on fire.
I don't know who called out the fire department, but they showed up a few minutes later, along with the police, and my reluctant editor, Vincenzo, all of whom I think would've been only too happy to blame me for the whole thing.
"Kolchak, what did you do this time!" he wanted to know.
I was standing just a few feet from the grave and felt my bottom jaw was down near my chest and I could only shake my head and say to him, "It wasn't me, Tony…this time it wasn't me."
When the flames were extinguished, the grave was searched and all that was found was one set of remains; an extremely long and thin body, half the skin burnt off but what was left, underneath the charring they found was skin that had been dead for a very long time and was in the midst of decay. The hands, they said, had been deformed by the fire, but the mangled claws still remained clear enough where I was concerned. Part of the clothes he had worn were still intact as well, and when the infamous boots were inspected they were found to be a normal pair of boots; no springs, no air hydraulics, nothing that would account for the wearer to be able to leap six feet into the air, just a normal, everyday pair of men's boots…from 1837.
As for my good friend Adam, and his girlfriend Jodie…they were never found. From what I could recall of the fire, both had stayed down in the grave to keep Jack pinned in the flames long enough for it to finally kill him, but the only body to be found after the fact was Spring Heeled Jack's. I never saw Adam again after that, though by all sound reasoning, he must've survived the fire, impossible though it is. I've spent the last few days and especially the nights thinking about my friend, Adam; thinking about how he knew so much about Spring Heeled Jack, how he and his girlfriend seemed to be experts on a case almost 140 years old, when all most of us have to go on are penny dreadfuls and dime novels, illustration and speculation, myths and legends. I've also thought about what he said, about Spring Heeled Jack having an accomplice in 1837 when the Alsop attack occurred; only one annal in all the history of his reign of terror where a second person aided and abetted him, and then never again.
The fact that this man somehow managed to escape from a burning grave, unseen to anyone with dozens of witnesses abound, makes me wonder just how well he might have known Jack. If you know where to look, history will show a wide range of stories regarding people who inexplicably escaped deaths that would be impossible to walk away from; people who fall from 20 story buildings and limp away, people who wake up at their own funerals, people who emerge from fires hardly singed, these people are considered to be some variety of immortal. Whether they're humans like us who have been given an extra set of guardian angels, or perhaps they're something more unusual, maybe spacemen from another planet, or maybe they're forms of the devil himself walking the earth…whatever the answer is, somehow I don't feel too anxious to see my friend Adam Pierson again. I'm not sure I want to know what the answer is.