The Jersey Devil

Last week’s Care for Magical Creature had a form to vote on what weird thing you wanted to hear about this week. It was a tie between the Jersey Devil and Shadow People, which was AWESOME because I’ve never really heard of the Jersey Devil and wanted to write about that as much as Shadow People. If you missed the Shadow People post, you can find it here.

jersey devil

THE JERSEY DEVIL

The Jersey Devil is so named because it is seen in southern New Jersey among the Pine Barrens. It is a winged, hoofed, biped that looks something like a kangaroo and screams like a banshee. Is it a legend, or is there weight to the story? It has haunted this region of New Jersey for 260 years and has been sighted by more than 2000 people. It has terrorized factories and towns and has even caused schools to close down. Is all of this hype? People playing tricks on superstitious locals? Like always, I can’t say yes or no, just present the research and leave it up to you to decide.

The origin story:

“It was said that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, stated that this one 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 goat’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.”

Another story states that a young girl from Leeds Point fell in love with a soldier and got pregnant. The people cursed her because of her whorish ways, and she gave birth to the devil.

THE LEGEND

“In 1740, the frightened residents begged a local minister to exorcize [sic] the creature and the stories stated that the exorcism would last 100 years, however the Devil returned to the Pine Barrens on at least two occasions before the century was over. Legend has it that naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur visited the Hanover Iron Works in the Barrens in 1800 to test the plant’s cannonballs. One day on the firing range, he noticed a strange creature winging overhead. Taking aim, he fired at the monster and while some say that his shot struck it, the Devil continued on its path.

The second sighting took place a few years later and this time the Devil was seen by another respected witness. Joseph Bonaparte, the former king of Spain and the brother of Napoleon, leased a country house near Bordertown from 1816 to 1839. He reported seeing the Jersey Devil while hunting game one day in the Pine Barrens.

In 1840, as the minister warned, the Devil returned and brought terror to the region once again. It snatched sheep from their pens and preyed on children who lingered outside after sunset. People all across South Jersey locked their doors and hung a lantern on the doorstep, hoping to keep the creature away.

The stories continued to be told and the lore of the Devil was recalled throughout the 1800’s, although actual sightings of the creature were few. Then, in 1909, the Jersey Devil returned again and literally thousands of people spotted the monster or saw his footprints. It became so bad that schools closed and people refused to go outside.” (Mystery of the Jersey Devil)

CONCLUSION

There are numerous accounts of strange tracks that could obviously be fabricated in a number of ways, but it’s more the eyewitness accounts that are interesting.

Despite what people say about the folklore and the crackpots who report seeing the Jersey Devil, there are a large number of reputable people in law enforcement, government officials, state workers, and business people who have seen the Jersey Devil. Could they just be seeing a large shape in the sky and miscalculating the size and shape. Is it a strange creature that we haven’t documented yet, or are they seeing the real thing; are they seeing a devil?

Have you had any experience with the Jersey Devil? It would be awesome to hear your stories! Leave a comment and lets chat about it. What weird thing would you like to hear about next week? Vote and send me your feedback, the most popular topic gets the post!

 

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