On Thursday morning, I suddenly felt like listening to the Rolling Stones — specifically to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I’m not a huge Stones fan and only own two of their albums, neither of which includes “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” so I listened to it on YouTube.
I remembered that when I was a little kid and heard that song on the radio, I had always assumed that “I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a gas gas gas” was a reference to Spring-heeled Jack, perhaps with a secondary allusion to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon — Jack and the Gasser being two characters I knew from the “true unsolved mysteries” books I liked to read in those days. Wondering if I had perhaps been right, I looked the song up on Wikipedia and found that it had actually been inspired by Jack Dyer, the gardener at Keith Richards’s country house — not by the spring-heel’d Terror of London. Then I skimmed the Wikipedia article on Spring-heeled Jack for good measure. (It didn’t mention the Stones song, but it did compare Jack to the Mad Gasser.)
That night, I came home to find my wife watching TV. It was a sci-fi program in which the heroes somehow get hold of a velociraptor (not sure how they do this, since I missed the beginning) and, trying to send it back in time to where it belongs, they accidentally send it back to Victorian London instead. The raptor of course starts killing people, but the deaths are blamed on Spring-heeled Jack. Then the heroes go back to Victorian London themselves to catch the velociraptor, and they too are accused of being Spring-heeled Jack!
I regularly go for years at a stretch without ever once hearing, reading, speaking, or thinking of Spring-heeled Jack — so having him cross my path twice in one day — well, it was kind of a gas!