Dr Karl Bell is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Portsmouth and director of the Supernatural Cities project. His research interests include magic and the occult, supernatural folklore and gothic monsters. He is the author of The Magical Imagination: Magic and Modernity in Urban England, 1780-1914, and the award-winning The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack: Victorian Urban Folklore and Popular Culture. He is also co-editor of Dark City, a collection of ghost and horror tales set in Portsmouth. Follow him on Twitter on @imaginetheurban or @drkarlbell.
In 1838, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, London was bedevilled by a clawed, fire-breathing, shape-shifting demon popularly