Friday 6 April 2007

A London man-beast ?

When the panic pertaining to the Spring Heeled Jack crimes began in London during the late 1830s, reports of the frightful humanoid seemed confused. However, the general consensus of opinion was that 'Jack' was indeed a darkly cloaked nobleman with springs in his boots and iron-like claws used to attack women. However, also during the hysteria there were several mentions of a 'devil' or bear' in the vicinity of St. John's Wood which may well have been unconnected with the 'Jack' crimes. A solicitor at the time, reading to a packed Common Hall of stunned listeners, when speaking of the cloaked intruder, gave mention also to another mystery being, stating -

"There have been rumours in St John's Wood and its neighbourhood, for the last fortnight, of the appearance of the monster alluded to in the police report of yesterday of the Mansion House, inserted in THE TIMES this morning. The bet is, however, understood to be of an even more grave nature than is there stated, and, if it be true, amounts to murder. As far as the writer had been informed, the bet is, that the monster shall kill six women in some given time.
It is asserted that he has been seen in St. John's Wood clad in mail, and as a bear".

Even with all the manic confusion of the period when, previous to 'Jack' and his name being created, there were many a mention of a 'demon figure' or 'ghost', it still seems intriguingly odd that a 'bear' should come into the equation. Spring Heeled Jack was an agile and elusive assailant, but nowhere does there exist reports of a hairy creature running on all fours. Whilst bears can stand on two legs and walk for a short distance, this kind of creature does not resemble any of the SHJ mannerisms or descriptions which tended to be darkly clad, tall, fiery eyes, wearing a hat and shadowy.
Was there in fact a very separate creature roaming London's leafy suburbs during the 1800s ? Was it an escapee, maybe a large cat such as a puma, or something entirely unknown ?

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