Friday, January 9, 2009
A Monkey and man named Jack
Mass hysteria has been blamed for countless weird events over the centuries. Recently it was blamed for sightings of a “Monkey Man” in India, who apparently randomly attacked people over a period of a few days in May 2001. There were even confirmed animal bites by the 4ft to 5 1/2ft tall Monkey Man.
After a few days of panic caused by this Monkey Man, who was described as either a naked man sized monkey or a man sized monkey wearing a helmet and jumpsuit with glowing red eyes, no more reports came in. That is of course if you don't believe that he boarded a plane to Moscow. I doubt any sane Monkey Man would do that when he could have just as easily hopped over to neighboring Tibet to chill with the Dalia Lama. It's what I would've done, either way though, the authorities wrote it off as mass hysteria, case closed, except for two brief appearances in 2002 to keep his fans happy.
All monkey business aside however, a even more interesting case of possible mass hysteria spread through Victorian era England. Instead of a jumpsuit wearing helmeted monkey however this was a man, devil, or perhaps some dashingly brilliant scientist guy from the future trying to act out his steampunk fantasy. I am of course talking about the awesomely named Spring Heeled Jack.
Jack made his first appearance sometime in 1837 hopping over a cemetery wall, afterward landing in front a passer by who described him as appearing muscular and devil like.
Later on in October, Spring Heeled Jack made his second appearance. Feeling a bit amorous Jack decided to accost a young woman. Immobilizing her, he began to kiss her neck and face while ripping her blouse and feeling her flesh with his claws that felt “cold and clammy as those of a corpse.”
He apparently enjoyed scaring the ladies, and continued with this activity. Also one for showing off, he would commonly leap in front of oncoming carriages when going after a victim. This of course caused even more chaos when he appeared, spooking the carriage drivers who would often wreck, while Jack jumped over or onto (the behavior that earned him his name) walls that were 9ft or higher, cackling like a true madman.
Another difference between India's monkey menace and Spring Heeled Jack was that Jack never fully disappeared. Sightings and encounters with Jack continued on into 1938 and even later, becoming even more bizarre as his presence remained. In two cases he even had flames coming out of his mouth, while wearing something that in this day and age would be considered “kinky”. He was also apparently bullet proof and to make things even crazier, the key suspect, the Marquis of Waterford, married and moved to Ireland, all while the sightings continued in England.
Eventually with all the media coverage, Jack became something of a folkloric character, as well as a villain and a hero in the Penny Dreadfuls, which were Victorian Era pulp fiction magazines. He was even used in place of the Devil in some plays at the time and was cited as a possible cause for the “Devil's Footprints” which appeared in Devon England. Eventually, just like the Monkey Man, he was written off as nothing more then mass hysteria, thanks in part to the media. However, on occasion, similar characters have made their appearance across the world, including Texas, Czechoslovakia, and of course in jolly old England.
Sources and Further Reading:
Monkey-man of New Delhi - Wikipedia
Monkey Man on CNN article 1 & article 2
Spring Heeled Jack - Wikipedia
Spring Heeled Jack - The Shadowlands
The Legend of Spring Heeled Jack - The Cobra's Nose