Did Spring Heeled Jack the demon in English Folklore visit Perthshire? One of two sightings of him near Auchterarder can be explained the other also has a possible rational explanation but I find the strange encounter witnessed by several railway workers in Perth Station to be very curious.
Spring Heeled Jack was a strange shape-shifting demon like figure with red eyes of fire that had springs on his feet allowing him to leap and bound over houses and hedgerows. He attacked women and terrorised the population of London, first appearing in 1837. Sightings of this strange creature were then reported all over England throughout the Victorian period.
As winter approached Perthshire during October 1876 the inhabitants of Auchterarder and the village of Aberuthven were terrified. Someone or something was jumping out on people travelling between the town and village along what is now the A824 during the hours of darkness. If this was not bad enough at the other end at of Auchterarder near the standing stones on the road to Tullibardine, another ghostly figure was spotted, described as Spring Heeled Jack it alsojumped out at people passing by.
It was found that the figure on the A824 was in fact not an anguished restless spirit but a tormented young man. He was seeing a young girl who lived in Aberuthven and he was extremely jealous of any of her young male friends from Auchterarder, they would often walk along the road to Aberuthven in the dark evenings to pay the girl a visit. In an age of widespread belief in ghosts, this suffering young lover thought if he could create the idea that this road was haunted these nocturnal male visits would cease. The identity of the ghostly figure at the standing stones was never revealed although I suspect that as this figure was seen on the run up to Halloween and was reported in the Dundee Courier on the 31st of October, this was more natural than supernatural, but who knows.
A curious incident was reported in the Dundee Evening Post on the 15th December 1900 under the heading “Spring Heeled Jack at Perth” this took place at the Railway Station. I always find railway stations creepy places especially if it is late at night and quiet. When I was researching my book No Fair City dark stories from Perth’s past I was surprised at just how many people were killed on the railway at Perth. Regarding industrial deaths, the railway network around Perth was by far the biggest killer. You have also got the passengers who fell, stumble or jumped in front of oncoming trains. It is hardly surprising that train stations are eerie places.
One dark December night in 1900 between 10.00 pm and 11.00 an old frail man shuffled into Perth Station. He walked slowly with a stick and was almost doubled over, he asked a porter for a ticket for a train travelling north the railway man thought the man so old and infirm that he took his arm and gently escorted him onto a northbound train and took him to his seat.
From the platform the porter then saw the old man open the door at the other side of the carriage, exit the train and then described him as “creeping over the line” then the curious old man climbed up onto the platform. An impossible task for someone who had just acted so old and frail I would have thought.
A shout of “stop him” rang out and the porter and several others on duty that night ran after the old man who took to his heels. Despite being much younger than the elderly stranger the man easily outran the porters, the newspaper described the old fellow, saying, “He spanked along the platform at a rate which defied his pursuers to catch him.” This Spring Heeled Jack ran along the lines and disappeared into the darkness.
Was this the same Spring Heeled Jack who terrorised London, making an appearance in Perth 63 years later? He would have been a very old man in 1900. Certainly, the porters at the station were convinced that what they had witnessed that dark night was not from this world and word would have quickly spread around the city that Spring Heeled Jack had visited Perth. What or who it was at the
station it is certainly a very strange story.
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