One of my favorite toys as a little girl was the Clown Jack-in-the-box that sat on the shelf in my room. Being that I only have fond memories of this classic toy, I wasn't too pleased when I read the history of it. Nonetheless, here is what Wikipedia says about it: "A theory as to the origin of the jack-in-the-box is that it comes from the 13th century English prelate Sir John Schorne who is often pictured holding a boot with a devil in it. It is believed in folklore that he once cast the devil into a boot to protect the village of North Marston in Buckinghamshire. If it's true, it would explain why in French, a jack-in-the-box is called a "diable en boîte" (literally "boxed devil")."
Although I think Jack-in-the-boxes are a part of innocent child's play, they have repeatedly been portrayed in movies and cartoons as sinister little things. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that they are a mischievous toy. This cartoon expresses how some might view JITB's as disturbing toys. This clip from the movie "Elf" cracks me up. It reminds me of when I present my Jack-in-the-boxes (as such) and people still jump up in surprise! (click on the play button twice)