PHILIP DAVIES looks into the story of Bloody Jack, Shrewsbury’s one and only reported serial killer whose spirit still stalks the grounds of Shrewsbury Castle
As it is with all the best legends and folklore, the story of Bloody Jack (or to use the name he was given at the time, ‘Bloudie Jack’) has its roots in local history. However, as a story has been retold and embellished over the years so it becomes increasingly difficult to tell what is real history and what isn’t, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good ghost story.
Jack be nimble
It was during the 12th Century that Jack Blondell rose to infamy and created a local legend. Jack was a soldier stationed at Shrewsbury Castle and was given the role of caretaker or warden whist he was there.
Not long after Jack’s arrival in Shrewsbury local girls began to go missing. Jack was apparently quite the charmer and he would spend some time chatting up the local girls, asking each of them to keep his affections a secret.
After a little while, having gained a girl’s trust and confidence, Jack would invite her back to his private quarters in the castle. Here he would rape and murder the girl and, with the foul deed done, collect ghoulish trophies from his victim. He then disposed of the remains by either feeding them to the pigs kept at the castle, or by throwing them into the nearby River Severn.
Jack be quick
Jack’s eighth victim was a girl called Mary-Anne and it would be her that lead to his discovery and subsequent execution.
Unlike his other victims, Mary-Anne had in her excitement told her sister that she was going to marry a soldier called Jack. Suspicious, and fearing for Mary-Anne’s safety, her sister headed for the castle. She arrived just in time to see Jack dragging Mary-Anne’s bloody corpse across the forecourt and into the castle.
She fled in terror from the scene, but returned a few days later to investigate further. Jack was away from his post, so she broke in to his quarters and found a small wooden chest. With a little hesitation she slowly opened it. Inside, sat in neat rows, were eight sets of fingers and eight sets of toes, the trophies Jack had collected from the girls he had murdered.
Jack had his head stuck up on a stick
Mary-Anne’s sister was horrified by what she had found and she hurried to the find the town militia. Jack was arrested and was sentenced to be executed at the top of Pride Hill in Shrewsbury, only a short distance from the castle where he lived.
Standing on the scaffold, an unrepentant Jack hurled curses and insults at the gathered crowd, but this didn’t stop his punishment being carried out. He was hung, drawn and quartered and his head skewered on a spike along nearby Wyle Cop.
It wasn’t long after his execution that the spectre of ‘Bloudie Jack’ was seen dragging a kicking and screaming Mary-Anne across the courtyard of Shrewsbury Castle to her fate and to this day there are still stories of ghostly screams heard drifting around the area.
Although today it is almost impossible to tell what is truth and what is fiction one thing is sure, it is difficult to imagine that anyone given the nickname ‘Bloudie Jack’ would rest easy in their grave.
PHILIP DAVIES lives in Shrewsbury and is an Undertaker, Funeral Celebrant and writer. He is also the curator of Islwyn’s Legacy, a collection of esoterica and paranormal curiosities left to him by his late Great Uncle.