One of the most enduring legends in New Jersey is the Jersey Devil – it has become an important part of New Jersey folklore.
For almost three hundred years, people from New Jersey have told stories of a mythical creature that roams the Pine Barrens and also tends to terrorize the residents.
A few things have left people wondering about this animal, for instance, why have the Jersey Devil encounters and stories persevered for so long?
Secondly, why have people embraced the story so steadfastly and finally, if there is really such a creature haunting the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, what kind of a monster is it?
Origins of The Jersey Devil Legend
In 1735, a lady known as Mother Leeds was pregnant with her thirteenth child. Leeds was a name of one of the earliest New Jersey settlers and even today many people throughout New Jersey bear that name.
Mother Leeds was not wealthy, and her husband was an abusive drunkard. He was not very keen when it came to providing for his family.
Mother Leeds could not bear to have another child since she knew very well that taking care of thirteen children would be almost impossible. Therefore, in frustration, raising her hands towards the heavens, she declared “Let this one be a devil.”
A few months later, she went into labor having completely forgotten about the curse she had uttered a while back. She delivered a perfectly normal baby boy.
A few minutes later, her wish started to become a reality, and the newborn began to change right in front of everybody.
Within a few moments, the beautiful child had transformed into a hideous creature that was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. The wails became frightening growls as the baby began to grow at a very fast rate while at the same time sprouting horns on top of its head.
Tips of the fingers were replaced by very sharp claws and the eyes started glowing red. The creature lunged at its mother and tore her to pieces before turning onto the midwives and the rest of the onlookers and shredding them to pieces.
The few people who survived the ordeal watched in horror as the monster fled the scene by flying through the chimney. The creature disappeared into the Pine Barrens where it has lived ever since.
Jersey Devil Sightings
During the 18th and the 19th centuries, the beast was spotted periodically across the Pine Barrens. People reported hearing unearthly shrieks from the swampy bogs and the dark forests.
During that period, domestic animals would be slaughtered during the night, and the attacks were attributed to the Jersey devil.
As time went on, the beast was spotted even outside the Pine Barrens. The most frequent and notable sightings occurred between the 16th and 23rd January 1909.
The first sighting was reported in Delaware Valley where people reported seeing strange footprints in the snow. These tracks were all over the place including under and over fences, on rooftops, backyards and across fields.
More sightings were reported in Philadelphia and Camden. As expected, fear was widespread especially when rumors emerged that the bloodhounds were refusing to follow the strange tracks.
Schools were closed, and Pine Barrens mills were closed since most people took to staying indoors. In Bristol and Camden, police fired at the creature, but they were unsuccessful in subduing it.
Several days later, it had terrorized a group of people who were traveling in a trolley car. On the same day, it was spotted on a rooftop and the eye witnesses’ asserted that the creature looked like an ostrich.
Later on, the beast attacked a social gathering before flying away in the night.
Fact or Fiction?
Despite the fact that there have not been many sightings to match the 1909 frequency and intensity, sightings of the Jersey Devil have continued to be reported.
Jersey Devil encounters have left a mark in the New Jersey population to a point where the tale has been commercialized.
Films have been produced about the monster; it has also been depicted in toys and t-shirts. The New Jersey hockey team borrowed its name from the monster.
Some people believe that the Jersey monster is real and still pose’s danger to people who are unlucky enough to encounter it. People still report seeing strange tracks that look like a large bird’s footprints while others state that they look more like hooves.
Those who have had the chance to see the creature describe it as having the body of a kangaroo, the face of a horse, horns that look like those of a deer, large leathery wings and reptilian claws and a tail.
On the other hand, some people believe that the creature is nothing more than a myth and regard it as an important part of New Jersey’s folklore tales.