Jack did not appear at St Francis Xavier’s Church in Everton in 1904. His alleged appearance at the church dates to the 1880s. The actual account is non–contemporary and vague in the extreme. According to an interview reported by Richard Whittington–Egan in Liverpool Colonnade (Manchester 1976) pp.139-40:
‘An elderly man, still living, has also told how, one night in 1888, when he and a number of his fellow-members of Everton’s St Francis Xavier’s Boys’ Guild were playing in the school-room, someone came rushing in with the news that the dread Spring-Heeled Jack was in Shaw Street. Out into Haigh Street ran the boys, and up William Henry Street. When, however, they reached Shaw Street, they saw no sign of the weird creature, although an excited crowd told them that he was crouched on the steeple of a nearby church.’
• No Liverpool witnesses in either 1888 or 1904 described ‘a tall muscular man, fully dressed in white and wearing an “egg shaped” helmet’. No accounts describe hysterical laughter, Jack running towards a group of dismayed women, or taking a gigantic leap over their heads.
The press reports in the Liverpool papers of the time actually describe an apparent poltergeist case and make no mention of SHJ. London papers of the same date do, but not in the exaggerated terms employed by later authors, who are plainly guilty of extensively elaborating their accounts. The most detailed account appeared in the News of the World (25 Sep 1904) - not, then or now, a paper of good repute - and even this states merely:
‘Everton (Liverpool) is scared by the singular antics of a ghost, to whom the name of ‘Spring Heel Jack’ has been given, because of the facility with which he has escaped, by huge springs, all attempts of his would-be captors to arrest him. William Henry-street is the scene of his exploits, and crowds of people assemble nightly to seen them, but only a few have done so yet and, ‘Jack’ is evidently shy. He is said to pay particular attention to ladies. So far the police have not arrested him, their sprinting powers being inferior.’
Years later, an elderly woman named Mrs A. Pierpoint, who had lived in the area at the time, gave an account to a Liverpool newspaper suggesting that the ‘Spring–heeled Jack’ rumour had originated in the activities of a local lunatic. The Liverpool Echo of 19 May 1967 reported:
‘Mrs Pierpoint also had a story to explain the so-called “Spring-Heeled Jack” of that same district at the time. “He was a local man slightly off balance mentally,” she said. “He had a form of religious mania and he would climb on to rooftops of houses crying out: ‘My wife is the Devil!’ “They usually fetched the police or a fire-engine ladder to get him down. As the police closed in on him, he would leap from one house roof to the next. That’s what gave rise to the ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’ rumours.”’