Monday, 24 July 2017

When Springheel Jack Wore Galoshes

This is the full story of Spring Heeled Jack in Warrington in 1927 
as told through the newspapers of the period:

The Warrington Examiner
20 August 1927 
Hue and Cry in Haydock Street After Tall Figure in White
A very evil-looking man in a black suit.
A tall figure dressed all in white. 

These, literally, are the principal figures in a “Dracula” like story which comes from the Haydock Street district. Strange happenings have been reported during the week, and hundreds of people have had the not altogether unpleasant thrill of the “ghost” hunt. The most serious side of the story is that many women and girls have been alarmed, and a very sensible solution, told to the investigator, is that the “ghost” is either a practical joker or the accomplice of a thief who may be endeavouring to draw people from their homes to enable his confederate to have better facilities for breaking in. 

The story begins last week when it is stated “a very evil looking man” in a black suit” was seen prowling around in a very mysterious manner. This fact is authenticated by several residents of Haydock Street. 

In the early hours of Sunday morning the whole neighbourhood was thrown into excitement by the news that a “ghost” had been seen. It was stated that between the hours of one and two o’clock a “tall figure dressed all in white” was seen passing along the streets adjoining Haydock Street and completely disappearing from time to time. Two women who witnessed the apparition were so overcome that they fainted and had to be revived by the crowd which soon assembled. A diligent search was afterwards made, but no trace of a supposed visitor from another world was to be found. 


Comparatively few people saw the figure on Sunday morning, but on Sunday night a crowd of some hundreds of people from all over Warrington gathered in Haydock and Furness Streets armed with pokes, bottles, shovels, brooms, carving knives and hay making implements prepared to lay the ghost. Many of them ridiculed the suggestion that anything had been seen, but they were less sceptical when, about eleven o’ clock the “ghost” made its appearance once again. Immediately the cry went up “There it is”” and the crowd set off after the apparition. 

After beckoning to various people, the ghost took to its heels and, instead of vanishing as all well-bred ghosts should, darted down a narrow entry in Furness-street. At the end of the entry is a high wall, but this did not stop the ghost in its flight, for its placed its hands on the top of the wall and sprang over like-to use one woman’s expression-“the famous Spring Heeled Jack”. From that point on all trace of it was lost. The search continued, however, until four o’clock in the morning , but nothing further was seen.

The occurrence had such an effect on the people however that many of them could not get any sleep, and windows were bolted, extra fastenings were put on the doors, and some men even stayed up until daylight, in readiness for any other appearance that the “ghost” might make. On Monday morning however, many girls were hysterical and could not be calmed. If they moved from one room into another they had to take their father or mother with them, even when they were getting ready for work. Many of those who go early to work had to be escorted the greater part of the way. One girl said “ I was so frightened that I kept looking behind me for fear the ghost should get me." 


Mrs Flanaghan of Furness-street and her three daughters were among the first to see the apparition. “I was standing at the door” said Mrs Flanaghan, about eleven o’clock on Sunday night and, happening to look across the road, I suddenly saw something white. I cried out “There it is” and my three daughters and a young man to whom we were talking, saw it too. The young man wanted to run after, but he was held back because we feared the “ghost” might have a knife under the white covering. The apparition was very tall, about six feet, and was covered from head to foot with something white, the only part of it visible being the eyes. When a chase was attempted it ran down the entry, taking off the white covering as it went, and we noticed that it had on a dark suit. It must of have had galoshes or something on its feet, for we heard the “pit pat” as it ran.” 

Another person who had a “close up” of the figure was Mrs Ellison of Scott-street, who was walking home with her husband on Sunday night after visiting a friend. “When nearing Furness-street” said Mrs Ellison “ I saw a ghostly figure in white. I was startled and cried to my husband “Oh a ghost”. He replied there were no such things as ghosts, but when he turned and saw it he said “My God it is a ghost!”. He said he would see if it really were a ghost and grabbed my umbrella. When the ghost saw this it put its hands up in the air, just like a ghost, and then ran down the entry.” 

Although another lady from Chorley-street states there are no such things as ghosts, the apparition frightened her when she came upon it suddenly on Sunday night. It was dressed all in white and was a very terrifying spectacle. 
The people of the neighbourhood are doing their best to lay the “ghost” as it is causing so much annoyance in the neighbourhood and the search was continued on Monday and Tuesday nights, but the ghost kept itself to itself. 

Each night through the week parties of people, mostly young, have waited until the early hours of the morning with the hope of seeing, and, as one young man said, “doing for” the apparition. One evening an “Examiner” representative spent an hour or two in the district but, until after midnight, nothing was seen or heard except for a few ghostly wails which , when investigated, were found to proceed from very human throats-those of young children who took a delight in trying to frighten the watchers. Time after time persons would shout “There it is” but their imaginations were playing them a trick, for the “ghost” did not show its face. 

Manchester Evening News
Saturday 10 September 1927
Warrington has a ghost! 

Women in the Orford Lane district of Warrington have been terrified during the past week by weird happenings. A remarkable series of incident began three weeks ago when hundreds of people in the Haydock-street district chased a ghost-a figure in white which disappeared by jumping over a high wall,. Shortly before the appearance of the “ghost” the residents report that a person variously described as “ a very evil looking man” and “a tall strange man” was seen in the vicinity. 

Last Sunday the ghost reappeared. At about 10.15 on Sunday night Miss May Evans of 26 Neston-street was sitting in the kitchen, sewing, while her brother Bernard aged nine years, was playing with a toy engine on the floor. The back gate and the door of the shed adjoining the house were unfastened. 

While sewing she heard a peculiar squealing noise in the shed, and turned the key of the door leading into the shed. Thinking no more about the matter she resumed her work, and suddenly Bernard exclaimed: “Oh look at the window”. 

“I looked” said Miss Evans to our representative, “and had the fright of my life. There was a face, almost covered with something white, pressed to the window, while a hand over the bottom of the window held a big electric torch. It must have been a very powerful torch for it lit up the whole of the kitchen, thought the gas [light] was full on. I was frightened and could not move. At last I ran to the front and neighbours came out to see what was the matter. They made a search but could not find anything.” 

The only noise Miss Evans heard was the “squealing” before the apparition appeared at the window. 

Neighbours state that on the Sunday night all the dogs in the neighbourhood barked and howled for hours. Another appearance occurred in the Birchall-street district on Tuesday evening. Mrs Bird of 23 Chorley-street was sitting in the house with her little boy when she heard a loud rapping on a piece of three-ply wood which had been inserted in place of a broken window pane. 

“We went to bed” said Mrs Bird “and after a time we were awakened by a commotion at the back. We went down and found that the “ghost” had been visiting a house down the road”. 

  • The Liverpool Express of the same date on page 5 also carried the story with even more alarming headlines:


“Women in the Orford-lane district have been during the week been terrified by weird happenings in the night and crowds of people have gathered in Neston Street to watch for a ghost. 

One man went about with a truncheon up his sleeve, and another with a blank shot pistol, but nothing supernatural or otherwise has been captured. 

Excitement began three weeks ago, when the people in the Haydock Streetdistrict chased a “figure in white” which jumped over a high wall. Shortly before the appearences of the ghost, residents had reported that a person described as an “evil looking man” and a “tall strange man” had been seen in the district.” 
  • The paper then went on report the story of May and Bernard Evans in almost the same language as the Manchester Evening News, adding that the little boy had to be given restoratives and that the face at the window had moved from side to side. Likewise the story of Mrs Bird. There was also the story of Mrs Bate of 44 Birchall Street. She and her family were going to bed when “one of the family went into the kitchen. There were three loud bangs on the window, and the woman ran into the kitchen and said she had seen a large fist come to the window and bang on it three times” 
  • The next Saturday the Manchester Evening News had more on the ghost to report (17 September) 
Warrington Disturbed Again
(From Our Own Correspondent.)
Warrington: Saturday

The now famous Warrington ghost has been up to his usual tricks again this week and the latest description of him which comes from the Birchall-street district is that he is “ a second spring-heeled Jack” who makes a noise similar to the howl made in “The Face at the Window”. 

Mrs Garner of Birchall-street was in the front room with her husband when they heard weird noises at the back. There were tappings on the window panes and a peculiar howling noise in the air. 

Although not unduly troubled about the matter, Mr Garner took the precaution of nailing up the back room window. 

It was just as well for the visitor came back again to the house on Tuesday evening and this time appeared to try and get in, for finger marks were found all over the window.

Two days later Mrs Garner went into the back room and saw something at the window. A white light flashed. 

At the window was a man with “a very large mouth and ugly face”. The light which flashed was, according to Mrs Garner, about six times brighter than the light from the gas mantle.

Although hundreds of people were out within three minutes after the occurrence, no sign of the man could be found. 


A little later the same evening the ghost appeared to have made its way round to Algernon-street. A Mr Dunn was in the yard when he suddenly saw a man’s head and shoulders appear above the gate, which is 5ft 6inches [about 1.65m.] high. It was an ugly face and he made a smack at it with his fist. His hand however hit the top of the gate and the ghost made off. 

Mr Dunn opened the gate and ran after the “thing” but it disappeared like a shadow. It did not run but seemed to glide. It had a long white coat like a mackintosh (rain coat PR), and appeared to have no feet at all. 

The ghost also made an appearance in Hamilton-street, where it tapped a young man on the shoulder, and frightened him so much that he ran into a shop and fainted. 

Another unusual occurrence comes from Alder-street. A woman was in bed, and she told her husband she could heard a fizzling noise downstairs. Her husband went down to investigate and he found a plate of fried bacon in the back kitchen. He heard a sound as of someone running down the yard, but when he made a search nothing was revealed. 

  • Here is how it was presented in the two weekly newspapers in the town on Saturday 24 September 1927. First there was the more populist paper, the Liberal Warrington Examiner. That went in for the sensational approach: 

Appearance Before an Armed Mob: White Robe and Folded Arms

“We think it is somebody playing pranks and, more than anything else, it is women who “have got the wind up”, is the opinion of the police with regard to remarkable happenings which have taken place in the Orford-lane and surrounding districts during the past few weeks. 

This is probably a common sense view of the whole matter, but at the same time there is no doubt that the repeated appearances of some individual posing as a “ghost” have created a big sensation in that part of Warrington, and is causing a lot of discomfort and alarm amongst the more nervous women and children. 

The Examiner” learns that in many cases, parents have put their clocks on at night in order to get their children to go to bed before the time when the “ghost” is supposed to appear: and that the children themselves are becoming frightened of leaving their homes in the evening.

During the last week-end another probable solution to the mystery was arrived at following a message shouted to some young men by the “ghost”, which was being chased. “My time’s up on Thursday” was the message, and this would make appear that the “ghost” is carrying out his queer programme for a wager.

When the ghost was reported to be in Margaret-street on Sunday night, hundreds of men, women and even children, armed with pokers, fire tongues, bottles, truncheons, “chilalahs”, [shillelaghs] and other weapons rushed in a mob to the neighbourhood with the object of “finishing it off”.  

The Warrington “ghost” however is very brave and seems to care not what manner of revenge the public have planned for him, for he walked past the crowd with only a few feet separating them from him. “There he is!” shouted the people and after him they went. Down Margaret-street, which is blocked at one end by railings separating the street from the railway, he went over the rails “like greased lightning”. The crowd uprooted the rails to get on to the embankment, and there was the “ghost” in his white robes and folded arms, staring at them.  

They again took up the chase and after flashing his powerful torch on a wall of corrugated iron, which is very jagged at the top and is about 10 feet high, over he went, making the peculiar howling noise which generally announces his coming. From that point he disappeared. Later however, however, he was again heard in a backyard at the other end of the street, but before the crowd could get hold of him he had once more disappeared. One man got so close to him as to almost touch him, but his hand came into contact with a wagon or something, and the “ghost” got away. 

Thus matters went on until about two o’ clock, but although the people saw the light being flashed in various places, nothing came of their searching. 

Earlier in the evening Mr Frangleton, of Margaret-street, was in his yard, which adjoins the railway, when he saw the “ghost” dressed all in white standing in the middle of the yard with its arms crossed, staring at him. According to Mr Frangleton’s daughter, her father called for his slippers, but the ghost disappeared from the yard as if by magic. It had an extremely ugly face, which must have been a mask, for no human could have a face so ugly, and the eyes appeared to be green and illuminated. On his chest was something that resembled an electric light switch. 

Mrs Denmade and Miss Fragleton saw the “ghost” again in a wooden building on the railway.

On Monday night the people of the neighbourhood arranged a systematic search of the district around Margaret-street, but nothing unusual was seen. 

The extraordinary manner in which the “ghost” moves and the way it surmounts high walls lead people to surmise that is has springs on its feet. 

Another unusual occurrence, which may or may not be associated with the ghost is reported from the Alder-lane district. The report goes that a lady was in bed when she thought she head a frizzling noise downstairs. Her husband went down to investigate, and found a plate of cooked bacon in the back kitchen. He heard a sound as of somebody running down the yard, but when he made a search nothing was revealed.  

  • This was essentially the story that appeared in the Liverpool Express and Manchester Evening News of September 19th. They clearly had a common source. Similar stories also appeared in the Manchester Evening Chronicle but add no further details. The rival Conservative and somewhat more upmarket Warrington Guardian was much more sober in its reportage: 

The silly pranks of some persons who have been referred to as the “Haydock Streetghost” has caused considerable disturbances in that neighbourhood. Stories have been circulated of an ugly face, weird noises and green eyes, and children and credulous people have been unnerved. It was reported early this week that the man shouted a message to some young men who chased him saying “I won’t be sorry when my time’s up on Thursday”

Mr Stanley Trantum of 45 Laira Street, called at the “Guardian” Office on Monday and stated that at 11.30 on the previous evening he was at the house of a friend in Chorley Street when he heard screams. Running out, he saw a crowd of people in Margaret Street, where a man was being chased. Mr Trantum followed and almost caught the man when he scaled a corrugated iron wall. He says that on the far side of the wall he fell into an iron box and then became entangled in some wire: otherwise, the man would not have escaped. The man was wearing a light fawn raincoat and was carrying an electric lamp. 


Mr Trantum had not reported the matter to the police, and when a “Guardian” reporter visited Superintendent Holland with the information, he said he thought the story of the “ghost” was “all bunkum”. We think it is somebody playing pranks” he added and “more than anything else, that it is hysterical women who have “got the wind up” and imaged most of the things which are reported.  
  • That was that, with the police pronouncement the story left the presses. It was to linger in the memories of older people and in Ghost, Mysteries and Legends of Old Warrington by charity worker Wally Barnes (Owl Books 1990), where there is a wildly exaggerated account of his activities. Far from the back streets of the original reports Barnes has “Spring Heel Jack” bouncing up Horsemarket Street, (the portion of the main road leading up to Warrington Central Railway Station from the central roundabout) on shoes with springs on their soles. He is now seen bounding along in 15ft leaps along John Street and leaping as high as bedroom windows in Hardy Street and leaping along Cockhedge Lane in 20ft leaps.  
  • The areas at the centre of this story were streets of terraced housing in a working class district to the north of Central Railway Station in Warrington. They can be seen on this 1910 map in comparison with a 21st century one here:
  • Much of the housing was demolished in the 1970s, and though street names survive, the scene is quite different. There are no images of the streets at this period in the public domain (photographers concentrated on the main shopping streets and little of the working class housing was ever generated)
  • Ghosts were in the news in this period; in July a man in Towcester refused accommodation proffered because a man had committed suicide there 30 years before and it was said to be haunted (e.g. Western Daily Press 21 July 1927) 
  • The Warrington “ghost” was just one of three according to this report in the Aberdeen Journal of 23 August 1927: 


Police Baffled by Weird Apparitions. Three ghosts are stalking abroad, if the evidence received is to be accepted—one in London, one in Barry, Wales, and one in Warrington, who stalks six feet high with a menacing mien. That they were not members of the same Trade Union of Departed Spirits is very evident, for while the white-haired ghost of London gently kissed a sleeping woman on the forehead and silently stole away, he of Warrington shocked two women into a faint and leaped over a ten-foot wall like Spring-Heeled Jack, when angry husbands armed with bottles and carving knives, gave chase in the dead of night.  

The ghost of Barry a mystic Peeping Tom, peering in at windows feet above the, ground, terrorising a mother and children in flat. The London ghost, whom two women and a girl say they have seen flit across the hall of an ancient mansion house within five minutes’ walk of Denmark Hill station, is declared by a spiritualistic medium to be that of George Tavener, born in 1854, and his present mission on earth he has revealed to be a quest for an old desk of his where, a secret drawer, lie papers proving that his earthly niece is entitled to his property.  

The unearthly terror at Barry has been hunting a top-storey flat at 24, Dock New Road, near the docks. Mrs Christoforato declares his visits have extended over three weeks. A policeman has been keeping guard at night, but nothing happened while he was there. After he had gone a stealthy footstep was heard in the corridor, but when a woman dashed out there was no one there, the same night a child screamed with fright when a ghostly face appeared at the window and then vanished. 
  • According to the Derby Telegraph of 6 September 1927 a ghost at Brampton in Derbyshire led to a drunken women ending in the police courts: 

The Brampton Ghost. 
Stories of a ghost have been, running about Brampton, and when a woman was charged Chesterfield police court yesterday with being drunk and incapable, a policeman said that when appeared, wearing his white overalls, the woman sank on her knees, bowed head to the ground, and shouted “ Oh, the Brampton ghost.” She was fined 10shillings.

  • The Angus Evening Telegraph of the 27th September reports a poltergeist story 


For some time past a strange thing has been going on at the gas works in -the villageof Markinch. There are two stokers employed at different shifts, and one of them is pelted with missiles always on his nightshift week. The other man is not interfered with. Stones, half-bricks, bolts, &c., have come flying all directions, but no serious damage has been done except the smashing of a gas lamp and mantle. The “ ghost” waits till the sma’ ‘oors ayont the twal “ before he begins, and sometimes the annoyance lasts till five or six o’clock. Fully score of men have tried to discover the culprit, but have failed, not even getting a glimpse of the “ ghost.” It must be an eerie job for the poor stoker, especially on the long dark winter nights” 
  • The Dundee Evening Telegraph of 27 September 1927 reported “ghostly figures dressed in white” leading to women and children collapsing on the way to home in the north end of Dundee near Craigie Quarries. A 17 year old boy reported seeing two figures jump into the quarry, making strange noises. The next day the paper reported a flash mob on the site: 

What the Residents Think: A “ghost” hunt on a large scale took place in Dundee last night, when over 5000 people of all ages went in search of the “ spooks” which have been appearing near Craigie Quarries. The crowd gathered early in the evening, intent on laying the “ghost” or “ghosts” which have been causing such terror in the district. Nothing, however, manifested itself, and although the crowd gradually dispersed, it was steadily joined by fresh arrivals.  

Throughout the evening and up to late hour the crowd scoured the environs of Dalkeith Road and the quarries, but apparently the “ game” which they were after thought better of it than put in an appearance. Further instances of what had taken place was given by several persons who had been previously alarmed by the strange happenings. When coming home from evening School one night, a youth was greatly disturbed the sight of a white pony in one of the fields, on which was mounted a ghostly figure. There are a number of ponies grazing in a field nearby.  

Rather Have the “Ghosts.” 
Residents in the district have been greatly troubled by these unusual ongoings, but according to many they would rather have had the “ ghosts” than the crowd which gathered last night. A white sheet has been observed by more than one person lying on the high ground near the quarries. It possibly part of the equipment of the “ ghosts.” The sheet has been lying for several days. Armed with lamps, torches, and even a miniature searchlight, the crowd surged over all the waste ground in the vicinity, but failed to unearth anything of an unusual nature. 
  • The mob was back the following day:

Big Crowd Again Visits the District 
“The Ghost of Craigie Quarry,” Dundee, evidently quite pleased with the effect of its initial appearance, and refuses to give encore to the expectant crowds who would like to see it. A crowd of between 2000 and 3000 both sexes invaded the quarry and surrounding district last night in -the hope of seeing “ spectre,” and were disappointed at its non-appearance. It is unfortunate that the “ spook “ hunters are inclined to become rather noisy in their efforts to locate their “ quarry,” and the inhabitants of the district, particularly those in the immediate vicinity of the Quarry, are becoming rather annoyed their visits. 

  • The next day however only a few hundred attended. The Western Daily Press of 27 August reported on a phantom perfume haunting a Monmouthshire farm.