A great many strange and mysterious things have happened in the streets of London over the centuries. Murders have gone unsolved; killers uncaught and supposed monsters largely unseen. Here at East End tours we have a keen interest in the lesser known aspects of history, so have compiled a number of the capitals notable unsolved mysteries for your reading pleasure!
Before the infamous Jack the Ripper, there was another Jack which terrorised the streets of London. Dubbed Spring-Heeled Jack by the media, this mysterious fellow was first documented in 1837 when a girl named Mary Stevens claimed that she had been attacked by a leaping figure with claws who was dressed in black on Clapham Common.
Other sightings followed soon after, with some reports stating that a figure, bedecked in black would leap out in front of moving carriages before disappearing at great speed. However, perhaps the most notable sighting was known as the Alsop report. Jane Alsop was accosted by a man in a thick, black cloak. When she got closer, he flung off his disguise and “presented a most hideous and frightful appearance.” Alsop reported that he wore a helmet and a tight fitting, white oilskin suit. What’s more, his eyes were “red balls of fire” and he breathed blue and white flame. She fled, but he attacked her with what she described as metallic claws.
Though the last official sighting of the creature was in 1904, occasionally stories still emerge of a thin figure dressed in black, who can leap incredible distances and scale walls with ease…
The London Monster
Reports of this so called monster date back to 1788, and like Spring-heeled Jack, seemed to have a liking for attractive women. The attacker had the rather strange habit of pricking women on the behind with a knife or needle, and though the attacks were never fatal they none the less shocking for the poor women involved.
The assaults usually involved the woman in question behind followed by a large man, who would then grab them and stab in the buttocks or legs; some even said the assailant wore knives attached to his knees for this purpose. When women started receiving fairly substantial wounds, the press dubbed the knife wielding lunatic the Monster of London and promptly instigated a panic, leading to many unconfirmed and fraudulent sightings; the hysteria was so bad at one point that men formed a No Monster group and wore pins to show women not to fear them.
It all came to a head when Rhynwick Williams was arrested a tried for the crimes, he protested his innocence and even had alibis, but was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Even after he was imprisoned the attacks continued.
The Beast of Sydenham
According to folklore, the UK has its fair share of monsters lurking in the darker more mysterious parts of the country, but we tend not to worry about them. However, when Londoners report being attacked by a large black cat then panic is sure to follow.
In 2005, a man reported being attacked a 5ft long, black, four-legged animal. Now, this could easily be discredited as the ravings of a mad man or a drunk, except that he was treated for his injuries by paramedics and the animal was seen by several others in Sydenham. The Sydenham Beast, as it was dubbed by the tabloids, was believed to be a giant cat. It soon became something of an urban legend, but as sightings and reports of further attacks became commonplace, the police took an interest.
The authorities started scouring the area with Taser guns and torches, but to no avail; the police even went as far as to inform local schools of the hazards of big cats! The creature was reportedly last seen in 2009 when it chased a jogger.
If these tales of mystery and monsters have whetted your appetite for more historical tales from our capital, join us on one of our many London tours. Full details and booking information can be found on our website.