All Things Warrington

Spring Heeled Jack

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Few ghost stories have captured the imagination of the Warrington public like Spring Heeled Jack - a tall, evil looking apparition that teased, terrorised and sometimes entertained Warrington homeowners in the summer of 1927.

The ghostly white figure, whose appearance was often accompanied by a peculiar squealing noise and bright white light would stare through the windows of houses in and around the Orford Lane area before leaping over high walls and disappearing into the night.

'Spring Heeled Jack', as the apparition came to be known, was first seen in the early hours of Sunday 14 August 1927 when two ladies reported seeing "a tall figure dressed all in white" disappearing in and out of view in Haydock Street. Overcome with fear, the pair fainted and were so shaken on their revival that they had to be comforted by local residents.

News of the incident travelled fast and later that evening a large crowd with pokes, bottles, shovels and brooms gathered in the neighbourhood in case the spectre reappeared. Although many in the crowd were sceptical - the two ladies who made the sighting may well have been on their way back from the gin shop - as the midnight hour approached their scepticism was shattered when the ghost appeared again.

After "beckoning to various people", eyewitnesses reported the figure shot off down a narrow entry in Furness Street before leaping over a high wall like the famous Spring Heeled Jack who terrorised London in the 1830s. "It must have had galoshes or something on its feet," said one of its pursuers who claimed the ghost made a "pit-pat" sound as it ran.

In the weeks that followed local and regional newspapers were abuzz with tales of the Warrington ghost.

Encounters with the spectre were reported in Birchall Street, where a man with "a very large mouth and ugly face” surrounded by bright light was spotted in someone's back garden, and Algernon Street, where a resident saw a mysterious figure in a long white macintosh coat and "no feet" disappear "like a shadow".

As late summer turned into early Autumn, sightings of the ghost continued in Neston Street, Chorley Street and Hamilton Street causing interest in Warrington's jumping jack flash type character to reach fever pitch.

Some claimed Jack was nothing more than a prankster and the bright light that emanated from him was caused by a powerful 'electronic' torch he carried.

This view was given added credence when a group of young men, who claimed to have cornered the perpetrator against a corrugated iron wall, reportedly heard him say “My time’s up on Thursday”, suggesting he was carrying out his mischievous campaign for a bet. However, even they were unsure if the perpetrator was human or not when he leapt up and over the 10 foot high wall in a single movement, making a strange howling noise as he went (maybe he trapped something on his way over?)

As time progressed, the way the ghost moved and the extraordinary manner in which it jumped over obstacles lead people to surmise it had springs and not galoshes on its feet.

This was certainly the view of
Wally Barnes the prolific chronicler of Warrington's supernatural, who investigated the story of Spring Heeled Jack in the 1990s.

Wally - who got his facts from people who claimed to have witnessed Spring Heeled Jack in the flesh - reported that the acrobatic ghost would dart out of narrow alleyways not just in Orford, but also nearer to the town centre wearing shoes with springs attached, catapulting himself over horses and carts, tossing somersaults as he went.

Although some of Wally's tales seem a little exaggerated (there is no documentary evidence for example that Jack joined a 1920s walking day parade and sprang "here, there and everywhere" to whoops of delight from the carnival crowd), it is clear that whoever he was - man, myth, legend or ghost - he made a lasting impression with townsfolk at the time.

In one of his later books Wally declared that Jack may have been a real person called Jack Ledgar who lodged in Hardy Street, just off Orford Lane, and was employed in the wire-working trade. According to Wally, Ledgar was a tea-total fitness fanatic who left Warrington to join the merchant navy and later drowned on the Russian convoys. However, a search of official documents shows no record of such a person - if any readers know otherwise, please get in touch.

Although the jury is out on whether Jack was a real person or not, the town's 1927 newspaper reporters and Wally were united on one fact: Jack's activities ended abruptly - and by all accounts deliberately.

Wally claims Jack's parting shot was to yell "You'll not see me again" after springing over Central Station, whereas the local papers, as previously mentioned, had him declaring "My time's up on Thursday" before jumping over a tall iron wall.

Exactly what was said matters not. The fact is by the time 1928 arrived Spring Heeled Jack was gone, never to be seen again. But don't rest too easily in your beds folks. For according to Wally, the day after his remarkable leap over Central Station, whitewashed in big letters all along Cockhedge Lane wall was the message: "WHEN THE FIELDS ARE WHITE WITH DAISIES I'LL RETURN".

Perhaps the story of Spring Heeled Jack should end with the words 'to be continued…?'


Sources:
WARRINGTON EXAMINER: 'A Ghost In Galoshes'. 20/8/1927
MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS: 'Weird Happenings In Warrington. 10/9/1927
LIVERPOOL EXPRESS: “Ghost Face At A Window". 10/9/1927
MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS: 'Warrington Disturbed Again' 17/9/1927
WALLY BARNES: Ghosts Mysteries & Legends Of Old Warrington, Vol 3.
Spring Heeled Jack

Spring Heeled Jack's stomping - or should that be 'springing' - ground extended from Central Station to the far end of Orford Lane and beyond. Many of the streets referred to in the story have now been demolished.

London

Like the Spring Heeled Jack of Victorian London (pictured above looking uncannily like Bruce Forsyth), Warrington's Spring Heeled Jack had the ability to leap over high walls and fences. But that is where the similarity ends. Whereas the London 'ghost' wore a black cloak, had sharp metallic claws and could breathe blue and white flames, Warrington's incarnation wore a white outfit, talked with a Warrington accent and never once said "Nice to see you, to see you, nice.".

Warrington Central Station at Night

Central station - a structure Spring Heeled Jack was said to have jumped over in 1927.

THE SIZZLING BACON INCIDENT
One of the most bizarre encounters with Spring Heeled Jack occurred in Alder Street where a sleeping couple reported being wakened by the sound of "fizzling" noises coming from downstairs. The man of the house went to investigate only to discover a plate of fried bacon in his kitchen and the sound of someone's feet pit-patting down the yard. Although the incident could be unrelated, it occurred when sightings of Jack were at their peak. Hopefully Jack managed not to spill brown sauce down his shiny white cape!

More Warrington ghost stories can be found in the
ghosts section of All Things Warrington.


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