Rochester: Destiny Books, 2016. Paperback, ix+341 pages. New.
In 1838, a tall, thin figure with blazing eyes, bat-like wings and clawed hands terrorized London, springing over hedges and walls in dark lanes and graveyards, frightening children and physically assaulting women. This figure was quickly given the name “Spring-Heeled Jack” but despite numerous sightings, was never captured or identified. John Matthews’ The Mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack is a thorough and comprehensive account of the urban legends surrounding this mysterious figure, using illustrations and newspaper reports of the period, many of which are republished here for the first time. Matthews also explores contemporary spectral figures who share some similarities with Jack, such as the West Virginia Moth man and the more recent figure of Slender Man. Drawing on folklore, mythology and historical accounts, Matthews shows how Spring-Heeled Jack’s roots go back to the denizens of fairy lore, and makes the case that the infamous Jack the Ripper identified himself with Jack. Illustrated with 15 colour plates plus monochrome plates, The Mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack is an enthralling exploration of one of Victorian London’s most infamous spectres.