12. Spring Heeled Jack’s motive seems to have been to cause fear
The motivation behind Spring Heeled Jack’s attacks was perplexing. For although the attacks were undoubtedly vicious, neither were they rape or robberies. On the whole, society classed Jack’s attacks as ‘pranks’ and ‘outrages.’ However, they were ‘jokes’ that caused a great deal of distress to the victims. In January 1838, just before the attacks on Alsop and Scales, Sir John Cowan, the mayor of London revealed the contents of an anonymous letter he had received to a public meeting in the Mansion House. The letter, simply signed “a resident of Peckham,” revealed amongst other things, that Spring Heeled Jacks’ activities had resulted in at least seven ladies losing of their senses. Two were unlikely to recover. One maidservant answering the door had been sent into a fatal swoon by simply by Jack’s frightening appearance.
There were numerous similar accounts in the newspapers. Reporters undoubtedly exaggerated some of the details for effect. However, Spring Heeled Jack’s attacks did cause genuine trauma. For the cases of Lucy Scales and Jane Alsop were thoroughly investigated and documented by the police. These accounts show that terror and intimidation rather than physical harm were on Jack’s agenda. Jack’s attacks were undoubtedly vicious. He held Lucy Alsop in a headlock and tore out her hair. He also breathed fire at both women and scratched their flesh and tore their clothing. This violence was not designed to cause lasting physical damage. It would, however, have caused immediate, observable terror.
To cause and enjoy the palpable fear of his victims seems to have been Spring Heeled Jack’s primary aim. It was for this reason he stayed outside Lucy Alsop’s home after her rescue, to watch the women of the house panic over his presence. According to one report, “the wager according to which Spring John plays his pranks, runs that he is to kill six females with fright.”
Then there was the aftermath of his attacks. For through the newspaper’s Jack would have learned that Lucy Scales was left “suffering from hysterics and great agitation, in all probability the result of fright.”These newspaper stories allowed Spring Heeled Jack himself to enjoy the lasting effects of his outrages long after he had left the scene of the crime.