Book Review: The Mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack by John Matthews

28688069Title: The Mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack

Author: John Matthews

Genre: Nonfiction, Historical

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher.

An extensive investigation of the origins and numerous sightings of the mysterious and terrifying figure known as Spring-Heeled Jack
• Shares original 19th-century newspaper accounts of Spring-Heeled Jack encounters as well as 20th and 21st-century reports
• Explains his connections to Jack the Ripper and the Slender Man
• Explores his origins in earlier mythical beings from folklore, his Steampunk popularity, and the theory that he may be an alien from a high-gravity planet
Spring-Heeled Jack–a tall, thin, bounding figure with bat-like wings, clawed hands, wheels of fire for eyes, and breath of blue flames–first leapt to public attention in Victorian London in 1838, springing over hedges and walls, from dark lanes and dank graveyards, to frighten and sometimes physically attack women. News of this strange and terrifying character quickly spread, but despite numerous sightings through 1904 he was never captured or identified.
Exploring the vast urban legend surrounding this enigmatic figure, John Matthews explains how the Victorian fascination with strange phenomena and sinister figures paired with hysterical reports enabled Spring-Heeled Jack to be conjured into existence. Sharing original 19th-century newspaper accounts of Spring-Heeled Jack sightings and encounters, he also examines recent 20th and 21st-century reports, including a 1953 UFO-related sighting from Houston, Texas, and disturbing accounts of the Slender Man, who displays notable similarities with Jack. He traces Spring-Heeled Jack’s origins to earlier mythical beings from folklore, such as fairy creatures and land spirits, and explores the theory that Jack is an alien marooned on Earth whose leaping prowess is attributed to his home planet having far stronger gravity than ours.
The author reveals how Jack the Ripper, although a different and much more violent character, chose to identify himself with the old, well-established figure of Spring-Heeled Jack. Providing an extensive look at Spring-Heeled Jack from his beginnings to the present, Matthews illustrates why the worldwide Steampunk community has so thoroughly embraced Jack.

The Mystery of Spring-Heeled Jack was a different kind of read than I had expected. The book focused a lot on the origins of the creature, and on newspaper reports of that time, which I found difficult to focus on. Spring-Heeled Jack, a paranormal / supernatural creature I had never heard about, or who could be one big, elaborate prank copied time and again – which one is it? I still can’t say for sure.

The myth of Spring-Heeled Jack is apparently well known in parts of the UK, but in Belgium it’s practically never heard of, and overshadowed by other folk characters, like Robin Hood, or real-life murderers, like Jack the Ripper.

I found parts of the book interesting, but other parts dragged on for too long. Had I already known more about the myth, I might’ve been more interested, but as it stands, I found the writing style a little dry. Not a bad book, and if you have an interested in Spring-Heeled Jack, or want to know if he’s real, fake, or something inbetween, I recommend reading it.

Book Review: Nessie by Nick Redfern

28700182Title: Nessie: Exploring the Supernatural Origins of the Loch Ness Monster

Author: Nick Redfern

Genre: Nonfiction, Monsters

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Dive into the Dark and Turbulent Domain of Nessie, the World’s Most Supernatural Monster
Deep in the black waters of Loch Ness lurks a long-necked, hump-backed monster that for centuries has fascinated those lucky—or unlucky—enough to see it. From the earliest sightings in 565 AD to the Nessie craze of the twentieth century, this creature has been steeped in the world of supernatural strangeness.
Join Nick Redfern on an exciting journey into the paranormal origins of Nessie, exploring ideas that go far beyond the ordinary. This comprehensive guide offers lore, unique theories, hot spots, and photographs. Experience firsthand encounters, discover how Nessie is connected to the occult, and meet other mysterious monsters that live in Loch Ness. Nessie presents a fresh approach to the mystery, one that will take you down new and sometimes frightening paths as you hunt for the truth.

When I saw Nessie on Netgalley, I was intrigued. I read Nick Redfern’s previous books Chupacabra Road Trip, and gave it 4 stars. In that book, I thought the author did an admirable job of getting to the bottom of the mystery, providing both plausible, scientific and less plausible, supernatural, explanations for the origins of the Chupacabra. I also really enjoyed reading about the author’s own investigation visiting the “crime scenes” where the chupacabra had hurt animals, and talking to locals.

I expected something similar from Nessie. A run-down of historical research, the author’s own investigation on site, talking to the locals and some other Nessie specialists, and offering a wide range of explanations, from the plausible to the less plausible.

Unfortunately, the author lost me almost right from the start. He focuses on the regular explanations (Nessie being a dinosaur, some type of unknown animal, and so on) for a very brief timespan, maybe a chapter at most, and then jumps straight into the supernatural. It’s not even that I mind the supernatural as an explanation for Nessie – it’s that I doubt it’s the only possible one. Also, the book goes into so many different directions, always jumping back to names mentioned chapters prior, and telling stories that have little, or nothing to do with Nessie.

For example, the author devotes several chapters to Alastair Crowley, who spent some time in a house near Loch Ness, yet only said one or two things about Nessie – yet the author thinks this warrants a lot of page time, in regards to the Nessie investigation. There’s also mention of several other wizards/ warlocks, similar to Crowley, who may or may not have had anything to do with Loch Ness.

The author likes to explain everything away by blaming it on the supernatural. You can’t take a decent photograph of Nessie? Must be paranormal. Nessie appears different to several people? Must be a) there’s several Nessies and b) it’s paranormal. The list goes on and on. The author also refers to high-strangeness, and to how some people’s lifes were forever influenced after they investigated Nessie, as if something paranormal warned them to stay away.

Then there’s also a chapter on UFO’s, men in black, and really, there’s no end to all the strangeness mentioned in the book. It was over the top. Is Nessie paranormal now, or is she an alien?

I expected this book would debunk some theories regarding Nessie, and investigate some other theories, or the author’s own theory, but it focuses primarily on the paranormal theory, and hardly tries to debunk the others. After reading it, I don’t know much more than I did before – I still don’t know what Nessie is, but my money is still on a prehistoric monster / animal we simply haven’t encountered yet, rather than a paranormal shape-shifting kelpie.