Spring Heeled Jack returns

by MJ Wayland

I came across the following stories quite by accident, I was actually investigating a claim by a witness that they had seen a UFO, when I asked them if they had any other encounters of the paranormal, they began to tell me about the strange encounters of Westbury Street, Attercliffe, Sheffield.

I knew there had been many strange sightings at Attercliffe from the many reports I received from different witnesses over the past ten years. I can only assume that during the 1970’s the strangeness level had been turned up to eleven. Reports of huge birds, black dogs, UFOs crashing into chimneys, ghosts and “strange entities” are common from this area, but in 1977 the Sheffield Council levelled the greater part of this area.

The witness began to tell me about the “Prowler” of Westbury Street, “When we moved into our house in 1973, our neighbours told us to be careful at night because there had been trouble with a prowler. Apparently he had knocked on windows, punched men and grabbed women. We were also told this is the reason why there were police cars always parked at the end of the road. One night, I was coming back from town with my new boyfriend when we saw a dark figure slip into one of the alleyways, we were cautious and decided to walk in the middle of the road, slowly we walked passed the alleyway. Suddenly we noticed two bright red circles, they came closer then we realised it was his eyes. We began to run and my boyfriend felt something hit his back, he turned around and lying on the floor was a pitchfork type tool, like a hay fork, he picked it up then we ran home. We contacted the police and a Detective Constable Trevor Bassendale, came and took the fork away for evidence..the strange thing is he didn’t offer no explanation at all for what we saw.”

The witness’s father then decided to tell his story, “I always remember one night we heard laughter coming from our attic, we also heard banging and shouting. Reluctantly, I had a look. The attics of the terraced houses of Westbury Street were not cordoned off, and somehow the prowler had got into the attics, there were five maybe more people chasing after him across the beams. I always remember that one of them put his foot through our next door neighbours ceiling, the strange thing is though was that the prowler ran across the ceilings without crashing through. This lasted for about half an hour, the prowler laughed all the time.”

“Can you describe him?” I asked.

“Oh, he was tall, very tall 6 feet 6inches at least, dressed in black, he also had a black cape that night, but his face I can’t remember just those burning red eyes, I honestly think he was the Devil.”

I was very intrigued about these sightings than the actual sighting I was there for. I must say though, I took a pinch of salt with the sightings, after all it was nearly forty years ago. Then two weeks later I received a phone call from a gentleman in Worksop, Notts. He lived in Westbury Street in the 70’s and wanted to report a UFO sighting that took place. After taking his sighting I politely asked if I could ask him some questions. The first being “Do you know anything about a prowler?”.

The reply was quite shocking, “Oh, you mean him who ran up the side of buildings? Well, I never saw him personally but I heard all about him, about the mid seventies we moved to a road off Broughton Lane (the next road along). They were nice small houses, over looking Attercliffe and Westbury Street. Our next-door neighbour was a lovely old woman, a real salt of the earth type and not the kind to believe in the paranormal. One day she came round to our house quite shaken, when we asked her what was up, she told us that she had seen the prowler.

The night before she was looking over Attercliffe looking towards the Steel Works when she saw a figure “jumping” across the roof tops. At first she thought it was a thief running away from the police but then she noticed he was jumping huge distances, sometimes twenty to thirty foot, this scared her. This lasted about five minutes until she watched him walk down the side of a pub’s wall and into the scrap yard.

I have no reason to doubt her, and she certainly wasn’t one for telling lies.”

My investigation then lead me to “check out” the witnesses, the records showed that they lived on Westbury Street and Broughton Lane, they also lived quite far a part from each other (Westbury Street was a long road) and therefore a chance they didn’t know each other. I had asked and both denied knowledge of each other.

I checked the local papers but nothing was ever reported, the only interesting fact I did find was the high rate of strange deaths in Attercliffe. Many people died in very strange circumstances, some were found with their necks broken, stabbed to death in their caravans, very gruesome indeed but I very much doubt it had anything to do with Spring Heeled Jack.

I decided to ask the witnesses what had happened to the prowler? Both told the following story, “One night, the police had followed him from Woodburn Road across the rooftops, as usual he was laughing and dancing, goading the police. Two coppers went after him across the roofs but he ran down the side of the buildings on Arris Street. He then went into the yard of Dexel Tyres (still standing) and that is where the police surrounded him in the back room.

The police got the order to get him, then the prowler disappeared. There was no trace of him at all. We never saw him again. Detective Constable Trevor Bassendale told us never to mention it to anyone, which we haven’t up to now and we now know he has died.

As quickly as he appeared, the legend of Spring Heeled Jack disappeared again, will he be back in another hundred years time? Is he a fantasy figure running through our folklore like fairies and elves? Is he an old wife’s tale or merely a manifestation of the Universal Prankster?

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