With books on Spring Heeled Jack by Karl Bell and Mike Dash in the offing - see HERE - the owing account of his visits to Manchester and district should be of interest. The description bears some considerable similarity to the illustration below, taken from a typical 'penny dreadful' of the period. The story demonstrates that over a hundred years ago people were already projecting images from the mass media into ambiguous stimuli. This account is taken from the Manchester Courier of 4th February, 1886:
"A Manchester Ghost Scare: The superstitious and credulous of Stretford, Gorton, Cheetham Hill, and other suburbs of Manchester have lately had much reason for the exercise of their imaginative faculties. Nightly, for several weeks, unprotected women been attacked by some individual who has not been detected. The operation of the so-called ghost appears to consist of a jump out of some secluded corner or over hedge into the roadway: he seizes his victim, whom lightly shakes, and afterwards runs away. The unwelcome visitor attired in a covering of skin, with two horns the top of his head.
"Robbery does not appear to be the object of the 'ghost.' as no person been relieved of any property. Evidently the depredator is a person of considerable activity, as has shown remarkable alacrity in running away on a few occasions. Various rumours, of course, are afloat. It is said the so-called ghost, who, in some districts, has obtained the name of 'Spring-heeled Jack', has wagered that he will disturb the districts for six months without detection, and that a part of the programme is to walk Market-street at 11 o'clock each night. As some terror has been created among women and children, it hoped the police will soon make the acquaintance of the offender."
Speaking of the mass media, some time ago I commented on the role of mass market publications, especially men’s adventure magazines in the publication of 'true' stories of the paranormal, mainly UFOs, mystery animals and amazing adventures in the sort of places where only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Many UFO and Fortean figures such as Donald Keyhoe, Ivan Sanderson and of course John Keel wrote for them. Doug Skinner has a long list of them on his John Keel celebration website. One that I remember from later times was Saga which was also noted for its adverts for body building courses that would make the girls drool after you, and X-ray glasses! (Presumably the latter would be unnecessary if the former was successful!)
There were a range of gender neutral magazines such as Fate and Prediction, of which the last survivors might be Fortean Times and Paranormal (if the latter still exists). I note however that nowadays many of these tales appear in women’s 'confessional' magazines, alongside stories such as “Evil Hubby Sacrificed my Pussy to Satan” or “Wicked Dad Made Me Eat my Own Toes”. This seems not just to represent a feminisation of the paranormal, but a projection of the feminine as weak and vulnerable. Quite different from the feminist icons of past times such as Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson.
It is not therefore surprising that a recent survey of ‘women in ufology’ found most were either abductees or abduction researchers, another part of the cult of the victim. I offer the suggestion that ufology might be dividing into the separate 'masculine ufology' centred on tales of crashed flying saucers and conspiracies, and 'feminine' ufology centred on abductions.
I note that postings on the UFO UpDates discussion group are now claiming that the often quoted figure of 95% of UFO reports being IFOs is an urban legend. There is no way they can pretend the figure is much lower, based on three early years of Project Bluebook. The most reliable recent figures are from Allan Hendry’s “UFO Handbook” (1979), based on cases submitted to CUFOS via the police. This gave out of 1,281 cases which could be analysed, 1,168 (91.2%) were IFOS, 18 (1.4%) near IFOS, 50 (3.9%) were problematic, 25 were “good” (1.95%) and 20 (1.6%) were “excellent”. Even without lengthy on-site investigation the proportion of IFOS is at least 91%, no doubt with such detailed investigation that figure would rise higher, so the 95% looks entirely reasonable. That is on a sample which has already had some filtering, the figure for reports in the press looks even higher. I believe Jenny Randles gave a figure of 98% for the cases she investigated.
It should also be remembered that when Hynek and the Hendry re-examined the Bluebook Files, their proportion of unknowns was even lower than the Blue Books own estimate.