And yes, I do live in the Pine Barrens, and no, I haven't seen it..... yet!
The Jersey Devil, sometimes called the Leeds Devil, is a legendary creature or cryptid said to inhabit the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many variations.
There are many possible origins of the Jersey Devil legend. The earliest legends date back to Native American folklore. The Lenni Lenape tribes called the area around Pine Barrens "Popuessing", meaning "place of the dragon". Swedish explorers later named it "Drake Kill", "drake" being a Swedish word for dragon, and "kill" meaning channel or arm of the sea (river, stream, etc.)
The most accepted origin of the story as far as New Jerseyans are concerned started with Mother Leeds and is as follows:
"It was said that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after giving birth to her 12th child, stated that if she had another, it would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends. Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to a creature with hooves, a horse's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines. In 1740 a clergy exorcised the demon for 100 years and it wasn't seen again until 1890."
"Mother Leeds" has been identified by some as Deborah Leeds. This identification may have gained credence from the fact that Deborah Leeds' husband, Japhet Leeds, named twelve children in the will he wrote in 1736, which is compatible with the legend of the Jersey Devil being the thirteenth child born by Mother Leeds. Deborah and Japhet Leeds also lived in the Leeds Point section of what is now Atlantic County, New Jersey, which is the area commonly said to be the location of the Jersey Devil story.
Some skeptics believe the Jersey Devil to be nothing more than a creative manifestation of the English settlers. The aptly named Pine Barrens were shunned by most early settlers as a desolate, threatening place.
Being relatively isolated, the barrens were a natural refuge for those wanting to remain hidden, including religious dissenters, loyalists, fugitives and military deserters in colonial times. Such individuals formed solitary groups and were pejoratively called "pineys", some of whom became notorious bandits known as "pine robbers". Pineys were further demonized after two early twentieth century eugenics studies depicted them as congenital idiots and criminals. It is easy to imagine early tales of terrible monsters arising from a combination of sightings of genuine animals such as bears, the activities of pineys, and fear of the barrens.The Jersey Devil has killed cattle, dogs, and other creatures.
Outdoorsman and author Tom Brown, Jr. spent several seasons living in the wilderness of the Pine Barrens. He recounts occasions when terrified hikers mistook him for the Jersey Devil, after he covered his whole body with mud to repel mosquitoes.
Not surprisingly, the Jersey Devil legend is fueled by the various testimonials from alleged eyewitnesses who have reported to have encountered the creature, from precolonial times to the present day, as there are still reported sightings within the New Jersey area.
Many contemporary theorists believe that the Jersey Devil could possibly be a very rare, unclassified species which instinctually fears and attempts to avoid humans. Such elements that support this theory include the overall similarities of the creature's appearance (horselike head, long neck and tail, leathery wings, cloven hooves, blood-curdling scream), with the only variables being the height and color.
Another factor that supports the cryptozoological theory is the fact that it is more likely that a species could endure over a span of several hundred years, rather than the existence of a single creature living for over 500 years.
Modern popular belief is that the Jersey Devil is nothing more than an old time Bogeyman, stories created and told by bored Pine Barren residents as a form of entertainment and told to children who stayed up past their bedtime.
Some people think the Sandhill Crane (which has a 7 feet wingspan) is the basis of the Jersey Devil stories.
The physical descriptions of the Jersey Devil appear to be mostly consistent with a species of pterosaur such as a dimorphodon.
Reportedly in 1778,Commodore Stephen Decatur visited the Hanover Iron Works in the Barrens to test cannonballs at a firing range, where he allegedly witnessed a strange, pale white creature winging overhead. Using cannon fire, Decatur purportedly punctured the wing membrane of the creature, which continued flying – apparently unfazed – to the amazement of onlookers
Additional legend puts this encounter at 1819 and at the behest of President James Monroe. Work on Decatur's House in DC from 2007 -2008 has led to speculation that his Jersey Devil sighting was more than mere chance. Decatur was definitely in New Jersey testing the quality of cannonballs produced by Batsto and Hanover. Included in his entourage was Dr. James Killian, famed abnormalist and cryptid hunter from the 19th century. Legends throughout New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania have these two men in scientific pursuit of the animal.
Joseph Bonaparte (eldest brother of Emperor Napoleon) is said to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Bordentown, New Jersey estate around 1820
In 1840, the devil was blamed for several livestock killings. Similar attacks were reported in 1841, accompanied by strange tracks and unearthly screams. The devil made an 1859 appearance in Haddonfield. Bridgeton witnessed a flurry of sightings during the winter of 1873. About 1887, the Jersey Devil was sighted near a house, and terrified one of the children, who called the Devil "it"; the Devil was also sighted in the woods soon after that, and just as in Stephen Decatur's encounter, the Devil was shot in the right wing, but still kept flying.
January 1909, however, saw the most frenetic period of Devil sightings ever recorded. Thousands of people claimed to witness the Jersey Devil during the week of January 16–23. Newspapers nationwide followed the story and published eyewitness reports.
16th (Saturday) – The creature was sighted flying over Woodbury.
17th (Sunday) – In Bristol, Pennsylvania, several people saw the creature and tracks were found in the snow the following day.
18th (Monday) – Burlington was covered in strange tracks that seemed to defy logic; some were found in several other towns.
19th (Tuesday) – Nelson Evans and his wife, of Gloucester, allegedly saw the creature outside their window at 2:30 AM .
Evans gave a descriptive account as follows: "It was about three feet and a half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo!' and it turned around, barked at me, and flew away."
Two Gloucester hunters tracked the creature's perplexing trail for twenty miles. The trail appeared to "jump" fences and squeeze under eight-inch gaps. Similar trails were reported in several other towns.
20th (Wednesday) – In Haddonfield and Collingswood, posses were formed to find the devil. They supposedly watched the creature fly toward Moorestown, where it was later seen by at least two more people.
21st (Thursday) – The creature attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights, but was chased off. Trolley cars in several other towns began to maintain armed guards, and several poultry farmers found their chickens dead. The devil was reported to collide with an electric rail in Clayton, but was not killed. A telegraph worker near Atlantic City claimed to have shot the devil, only to watch it limp into the woods. The creature apparently was not fazed as it continued the rampage through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and West Collingswood, New Jersey (where it was supposedly hosed by the local fire department). The devil seemed poised to attack nearby people, who defensively threw any available objects at it. The creature suddenly flew away—and reemerged in Camden to injure a dog, ripping a chunk of flesh from its cheek before the dog's owner drove it away. This was the first reported devil attack on a living creature.
22nd (Friday) – Last day of sightings. Many towns were panic stricken, with many businesses and schools closed in fear.
During this period, it is rumored that the Philadelphia Zoo posted a reward for the creature's capture. The offer prompted a variety of hoaxes, including a kangaroo with artificial wings
In addition to these encounters, the creature was seen flying over several other towns. Since the week of terror in 1909, sightings have been much less frequent.
In 1951 there was another panic in Gibbstown, New Jersey, after local boys claimed to have seen a screaming humanoid monster.
A bizarre rotting corpse vaguely matching the Jersey Devil description was discovered in 1957, leaving some to believe the creature was dead. However, there have been many sightings since that time
In 1960, the merchants around Camden offered a 10,000 dollar reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured. To date, the reward has been unclaimed
In 1991, a pizza delivery driver in Edison, New Jersey described a night encounter with a white, horselike creature.
In 2002, an episode of Scariest Places on Earth aired, where a group of Jersey Devil hunters searched for the creature. It ended with the lead investigator Laura Leuter running in horror from what is supposedly the Jersey Devil but actually was a fellow Devil Hunter returning from his investigation.
In Freehold, New Jersey, in 2007, a woman supposedly saw a huge creature with bat-like wings near her home. In August of the same year, a young man driving home near the border of Mount Laurel and Moorestown, New Jersey reported a similar sighting. He claimed that he spotted a "a creature resembling a gargoyle with enormous bat-like wings" perched in some trees near the road.
On January 23, 2008 the Jersey Devil was spotted again this time in Litchfield, Pennsylvania by a local resident that claims to have seen the creature come barreling out of the roof of his barn.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Posted by Judith at 6:35 PM