Sunday, August 30, 2009

UFO FYI: Creature Files- The Jersey Devil


(Wikipedia) 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. The Jersey Devil has worked its way into the pop culture of the area, even lending its name to New Jersey's team in the National Hockey League.

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 Jerseyians 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 devil 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.

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. Dating on this encounter is incorrect, as Decatur was not born until 1779.

Additional legend puts this encounter at 1819 and at the behest of President James Monroe. Work on Decatur's Hounse 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 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.

Since 1909, the Jersey Devil has continued to be sighted by people all over New Jersey. The number of sightings that have been reported to the authorities has dwindled over the years. This could be attributed to the fact that people don't want to be branded as crazy. Even though the number of reported sightings has dropped, there's still a considerable amount of sightings in the post 1909 era.

(Above) gif animation by MARTIN KLASCH

They think it was a Hoax..What do You Think ???

from the
Elk Township (on-line) Local Area Mythology Page:

In the early 19th century, Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero, was testing cannon balls on the firing range when he saw a strange creature flying across the sky. He fired and hit the creature but it kept right on flying across the field. Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain and brother of Napoleon, saw the Jersey Devil in Bordentown, NJ, between 1816 and 1839 while he was hunting. In 1840-41 many sheep and chickens were killed by a creature with a piercing scream and strange tracks. In 1859-94, the Jersey Devil was seen and numerous times and reportedly carried off anything that moved in Haddonfield, Bridgeton, Smithville, Long Branch, Brigantine, and Leeds Point. W.F. Mayer of New York noticed while visiting the Pine Barrens, most of the locals would not venture out after dark. The devil was sighted by George Saarosy, A prominent business man, at the NJ/NY border. This was the last reported sighting before the turn of the century.

In 1903, Charles Skinner, author of American Myths and Legends, claimed that the legend of the devil had run it's course and that in the new century, residents of New Jersey would hear no more of the devil. New Jersey rested easy with that thought for 6 years, until the week of January 16-23. 1909. During this week, the devil would leave his tracks all over South Jersey and Philadelphia. He was seen by over 100 people. This was his largest appearance ever. It all started early Sunday morning, January 16, 1909. Thack Cozzens of Woodbury, NJ, saw a flying creature with glowing eyes flying down the street. Over in Bristol, P.A. , John Mcowen heard and saw the strange creature on the banks of the canal. Patrol James Sackville fired at the creature as it flew away screaming. E.W. Minister, Postmaster of Bristol , P.A, also saw a bird-like creature with a horses head that had a piercing scream. When daylight came, the residents of Bristol found hoof prints in the snow. Two local trappers said they had never seen tracks like those before.

On Monday, the Lowdens of Burlington, NJ, found hoof prints in their yard and around their trash, which was half eaten. Almost every yard in Burlington had these strange hoof prints in them. The prints went up trees, went from roof to roof, disappeared in the middle of the road, and stopped in the middle of open fields. The same tracks were also found in Columbus, Hedding, Kinhora and Rancocas. A hunt was organized to follow the tracks but the dogs wouldn't follow the trail.

On the 19th the Jersey Devil made his longest appearance of the week. At 2:30 am, Mr & Mrs. Nelson Evans of Gloucester were awakened by a strange noise. They watched the devil from their window for 10 minutes. Mr. Evans described the creature they saw.

It was about three feet and 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 palso 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. Tuesday afternoon 2 professional hunters tracked the devil for 20 miles in Gloucester. The trail jumped 5 foot fences and went under 8 inch spaces. The hoof prints were found in more parts of South Jersey. A group of observers in Camden, NJ, saw the devil. It barked at them and then took off into the air. The next day, a Burlington police officer and the Reverend John Pursell of Pemberton saw the Jersey Devil. Rev. Pursell said, "Never saw anything like it before".

Posses in Haddonfield found tracks that ended abruptly. In Collingswood, NJ, a posse watched the devil fly off toward Moorestown. Near Moorestown, John Smith of Maple Shade saw the devil at the Mount Carmel Cemetery. George Snyder saw the devil right after Mr. Smith and their descriptions were identical. In Riverside, NJ, hoof prints were found on roof tops and also around a dead puppy.

On Thursday, the Jersey Devil was seen by the Black Hawk Social Club. He was also seen by a trolley full of people in Clementon as it circled above them. The witnesses descriptions matched others from the days before. In Trenton, Councilman E.P. Weeden heard the flapping of wings and then found hoof prints outside his door. The prints were also found at the arsenal in Trenton. As the day wore on the Trolleys in Trenton and New Brunswick had armed drivers to ward off attacks. The people in Pitman filled churches. Chickens had been missing all week throughout the Delaware Valley, but when the farmers checked their yards that day, they found their chickens dead, with no marks on them. The West Collingswood Fire Department fired their hose at the devil. The devil retreated at first, but then charged and flew away at the last second.

Later that night, Mrs. Sorbinski of Camden heard a commotion in her yard. She opened the door to see the Jersey Devil standing there with her dog in it's grip. She hit the devil with a broom until it let go of her dog and flew away. She started screaming until her neighbors came over. Two police officers arrived at her house where over 100 people had gathered. The crowd heard a scream coming from Kaigan Hill. The mob ran toward the creature on the hill. The Policed shot at it and the devil flew off into the night. The streets of Camden were empty after this.

On Friday, Camden police officer Louis Strehr saw the Jersey Devil saw the devil drinking from a horses trough. The school in Mt Ephraim was closed because no students came in. Mills and factories in Gloucester and Hainesport had to close because none of the employees came to work. Many New Jersey residents wouldn't leave their houses, even in daylight. Officer Merchant of Blackwood drew a sketch of the creature he saw. His sketch coincided with the descriptions from earlier in the week. Jacob Henderson saw the devil in Salem and described it as having "wings and a tail"4. The devil was only seen once more in 1909 in February.

In 1909, a track walker on the electric railroad saw the devil fly into the wires above the tracks. There was a violent explosion which melted the track 20 feet in both directions. No body was found and the devil was seen later in perfect health. In 1957, the Department of Conservation found a strange corpse in a burned out area of the pines. It was a partial skeleton, feathers, and hind legs of an unidentifiable creature. The devil was thought to be dead, but reappeared when the people of New Jersey thought that this time his death was real. Each time he is reported dead, he returns. Sometimes this year. The Jersey Devil will be 260 years old. It seems the devil is immortal, which a supernatural being would be. Another thing that supports this theory is the incredible distances the devil could fly in a short period of time. No animal could travel as fast as the devil did in 1909 when he was sighted in South Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York through out the week.

In 1927, a cab driver on his way to Salem got a flat tire. He stopped to fix the tire. As he was doing this, creature that stood upright and was covered with hair, landed on the roof of his cab. The creature shook his car violently. He fled the scene, leaving the tire and jack behind. Phillip Smith, who was known as a sober and honest man, saw the devil walking down the street in 1953. The characteristic screams of the Jersey Devil were heard in the woods near Woodstown, NJ, in 1936.

This sighting was at Fort Dix either right before or just after World War II, a soldier was on guard duty. He and another sentry saw something white jumping from the top of one vehicle to another. They looked at each other and said "Do you see what I see". It was seen by numerous people that nite and slashed tents and so on. We hear it was reported to officals of Fort Dix. Around a week later they came back to camp from leave and saw the whole camp was lined up. The officers had their pistols drawn and enlisted men had pitch forks and racks in their hands. They walked into the woods in a line because the whole camp had sighted it this time. One person says it was dark out there and that he chased a white thing into the woods with the rest of the soldiers.

Around 1961, 2 couples were parked in a car in the Pine Barrens. They heard a loud screeching noise outside. Suddenly the roof of the car was smashed in. They fled the scene, but returned later. Again they heard the loud screech. They saw a creature flying along the trees, taking out huge chinks of bark as it went along. There have been other sightings since 1909, such as the Invasion of Gibbsboro in 1951. The people there saw the devil over a 2 day period. In 1966, a farm was raided and 31 ducks, 3 geese, 4 cats, and 2 dogs were killed. One of the dogs was a large german Shepherd which had it's throat ripped out. In 1981, a young couple spotted the devil at Atsion Lake in Atlantic County.

In 1987, in Vineland an aggressive german Shepherd was found torn apart and the body explosion upon. the body was located 25 feet from the chain which had been hooked to him. Around the body were strange tracks that no one could identify. The sightings and prints are the most substantial evidence that exists. Many of the theories on the Jersey Devil are based upon that evidence. Some theories can be proven invalid, while others seem to provide support for the Jersey Devil's existence.

The Jersey Devil of the Pine Barrens
by Anthony Perticaro

"It is a haunted place where the blood red waters of the Mullica River rise in the bog of a New Jersey town.... The cedars that line the river banks stain the waters their deep color. Stunted pitch pines stand motionless, their shallow roots anchored precariously in gleaming white stands. Silence reigns." So writes Helena Mann-Malnitchenko in her autobiographic memoir, "A Haunted Place," an eloquent sketch of the Pine Barrens.

The Pine Barrens are a dark, beautiful area of land which seem to belong in a fictitious fairy tale of Eastern European origin. They are, however, quite real and comprise two thousand square miles of Southeastern New Jersey. Originally inhabited solely by the Lenni Lenape Indians, white settlers would not set foot there until Henry Hudson, under the funding of the Dutch government, first explored the region in 1609. Initially, the area did not look very promising as it was extremely dry and so infertile, it could not support farming.

The region later became a hot bed of industry when bog iron was discovered. The iron mined out of the Pine Barrens would supply a large percentage of the ammunitions used during the American Revolution. Its prominence as an industrial mecca would be short lived. Higher grades of iron discovered in the west would shut down the Pine Barren's main source of industry.

The area's great oaks, cedars and, of course, pine trees became the natural resources relied upon, this time for the wood industry. These trees supported the wood cutting, glass making, and paper milling professions. This new economic foray did not prove profitable for very long. When the wood industry collapsed, the Pineys, the derogatory nickname for the Pine Barren's residents, were thrown into poverty.

Man's interference not withstanding, the area maintained its wildlife population quite well. Many animals call the Pine Barrens their home: foxes, deer, bear, various birds and, possibly, the Jersey Devil.

A recent episode of The X-Files borrowed the legendary creature for a story idea. The show had its facts mixed up. In the episode, the Jersey Devil is misrepresented by a primal, savage woman whose origin is owed more to the phenomena of Wild Children (children who are raised by animals in the wild and adopt traits found only in animals) than a creature of Northeastern American folklore. To confuse matters further, this Wild Child bears no resemblance to any of the facts found in documented cases of wild children. Then, she is linked directly to Bigfoot who has nothing to do with either of the two! Let's let the truth about the Jersey Devil be told.

The Jersey Devil of lore does not look like anything humanoid. It is a creature with the head of a horse, large wings and claws, and has a roughly four-foot-long serpentine body. When a person sees the Devil, he or she sees an omen of disaster to come. According to early legends, its appearances have come before shipwrecks and the outbreak of war.

Interestingly, the Jersey Devil is not the only legend which originates from the Pine Barrens. The area is home to two others. The first is the White Stag, a ghostly apparition which appears to help people at the moment of disaster. In Melnitchenko's article, she mentions the Stag was once supposed to have detoured an out-of-control stagecoach from crashing into a river.

The other legend is of James Still, "The Black Doctor." Still was a black man whose goal in life was to become a doctor. In the 19th century, the color of his skin made this an impossibility. Still retreated into the Barrens to study medicine from text books and learn herbal remedies from local Indians. Still then helped people in need who had ventured into the Barrens. Before his death, Still became a hero to those around him.

But of all the legends in the area, the Jersey Devil is the most famous and prominent. The origin of the creature dates back to the 18th century. The story goes as follows: when Mrs. Leeds, an indigent woman living in secluded poverty with her twelve starving children, found out she was to have another child exclaimed: "I don't want any more children! Let it be a devil." When the child was born, it was horribly deformed. It crawled from the womb and up the chimney and out into the woods. It is rumored to have fed on small children and livestock while haunting the area for years to come. Hence, the creatures other name is the Leeds Devil.

This is the most well known and "accepted" origin tale of the entity. Other variations of its birth state the child was deformed when Mrs. Leeds angered a clergyman. In other stories, she angered a gypsy. Other versions stated she practiced sorcery and the child was cursed by God. (Note: all these versions are akin to the werewolf lore of Eastern Europe.) One version states the child's father was a British soldier and God cursed the child since it was born out of an act of treason.

Whatever its birthright may be, the creature was alleged to have been exorcised from the area in 1740. The exorcism ritual performed could only banish it for one hundred years, allowing it to return in 1840.

Of course, these origin stories are pure myth and folklore. In all probability, these tales did not originate until the 1800s. Some accounts of the creature are fairly absurd, including it has been seen in the company of Mermaid and Captain Kidd's ghost! What was undeniable, however, was that the population of the area held a solid belief in the creature's existence and a deep-rooted fear of it.

Documented sightings would start to appear in the middle 1800s. Sketchy accounts--probably preserved by word of mouth for years before being put to print--of the Devil being sighted by townsfolk have been recorded in 1859, 1873, and 1880. One report states that Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, claimed to have seen the creature while hunting.

Records of sightings of the creature in established newspapers did not appear until the advent of the Twentieth Century. It is safe to speculate that any written records prior to the 1900s were either lost or destroyed over time. One of the earliest sightings recorded by local Philadelphia newspapers was in 1899 and it involved a businessman named George Saarosy who was awoken one night by loud, high-pitched screams in his yard. When he looked out his window, he saw the Jersey Devil fly past his house.

The most incredible flurry activity regarding the Devil did not happen until 1909 when literally thousands of encounters with the beast were reported. Articles printed in the now defunct Philadelphia Record chronicled the Devil's exploits. During the week of January 16th to the 23rd, the Jersey Devil reached a crescendo of popularity while managing to terrorize the entire population of the Delaware Valley. So immense was the attention paid to the creature, it received national news coverage.

On Saturday January 16, in the town of Woodbury, New Jersey, a man named Zack Cozzens reported seeing it on a roadside. This experience was chronicled in James Maloy and Ray Miller's book The Jersey Devil, which proved indispensable in writing this article. In it, Cozzens was quoted as saying: "I first heard a hissing sound. Then, something white flew across the street. I saw two spots of phosphorus--the eyes of the beast.... It was as fast as an auto." Later that same night, a group of people reported spying it in Bristol, Pennsylvania. The reports did not stop there.

A Mr. and Mrs. Nelson spotted the animal cavorting on their shed for ten straight minutes; police officers filed reports of shooting at it; and even a Trenton city councilman (name withheld in the source material) claimed an encounter. He had heard a hissing sound at his doorstep late one night. When he opened the door, he found cloven hoofprints in the snow. These bizarre footprints were turning up all over the New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Delaware region. Animal mutilations, occurring at random throughout the area during the week, were blamed on the Jersey Devil.

Although the sightings were front page news in Philadelphia and across the country, they were, of course, being met with total ridicule by the press. One editor went so far as to dismiss the whole thing as figments of the imagination of "complete idiots." The Philadelphia Zoo, as a joke, offered a $10,000 reward for its capture. Then, "the creature" was "captured" by Norman Jefferies and Jacob Hope.

Actually, Jefferies and Hope acquired a Kangaroo, painted stripes on it, and glued claws and wings onto it. They claimed the creature was not a demon spawn, but rather a breed of Australian vampire!

As quickly as it had come, the Jersey Devil disappeared from public view. In February of 1909, Leslie Garrison caught a fleeting glimpse of the creature flying over a clump of trees and out of sight for several years. The next recorded account--a very sketchy one--was not made until 1927 when a cabdriver (name unknown) alleged to have seen it after experiencing a flat tire. Then, the Devil would not be seen for another twenty-five years.

It was not until 1951, that there would be another outburst of Devil sightings. As reported in The Philadelphia Record, a ten-year-old boy sighted a creature "with blood dripping from its face" outside the boy's window. With that, the Jersey Devil was back in vogue once again.

Within days of this initial report, more encounters began to occur. In separate instances, Ronald James, Mrs. Elmer Clegy, and Mrs. William Weiser filed reports of hearing unearthly screams in the woods. When sighted, the creature was described quite differently by various people. It was reputed to have been over seven feet tall in one account while resembling an average sized caveman in another. Of course, many of the sightings described the creature as it appeared in its traditional visage. Reports swamped local police offices. The police were not very amused with the situation.

Upon being called in to investigate several strange tracks found in the snow, the police discovered a stuffed bear paw attached to a stick. Soon after, the police were hanging signs across highways which read "The Jersey Devil is a Hoax." Not to be swayed, many residents took to the wood with weapons in hand with intentions of killing the Devil. Fearing that several armed civilians running around with guns could develop into a dangerous situation, the police arrested several would-be Devil hunters on sight. Civil authorities quickly dismissed any accounts of the Devil as hysteria.

After the 1951 stir, reports would die down. Random animal mutilations and strange cries in the night would continue to be reported infrequently during the next decade. In 1966, Steven Silkotch blamed the death of his entire shed of poultry livestock on the Devil. What makes this story amazing is the fact the shed also contained two large German Shepherds, animals very capable of defending themselves against large attackers. Both Shepherds were torn to shreds. This account, however, would be the last encounter with the Devil acknowledged by police and the press. From then on, both would completely ignore any reports of the creature.

The memory of the Jersey Devil did not fade away. Local inhabitants keep the memory alive. One area of the Barrens is nicknamed Leeds Point and is reputed to be the actual birthplace of the Devil. Dozens of spots across New Jersey are rumored to be its final resting place, it cause of death varying by hundreds of different reasons.

"Oh, people still talk about it," says longtime Pine Barrens resident Joe Springer, "I met an ambulance driver who was riding around one night when he heard all these screams in the woods. This was back in 1974. He tore out of here like a madman and swears it was the Jersey Devil to this day."

Granted there are dozens of predatory animals in that area of the country such as coyote, foxes, bobcats and badgers. All of these animals are known to attack and kill livestock. The only thing more terrifying than hearing the cries these animals make is seeing one up close in the wild. There is a humorous anecdote regarding a case of Jersey Devil mistaken identity.

"My grandmother knew The Jersey Devil," says Philadelphia resident John Margovich. "She knew a guy named George Bishop who was from Bensalem, Pennsylvania. In the fifties, he went a little crazy and moved out to The Pine Barrens to be alone. You know, a Walden type thing. He was all scraggly and such from hanging out in the woods. I mean, really scruffy, with a long beard and such. He would freak people out when they saw him walking in the woods. George used to love hearing about people seeing him and swearing they saw The Jersey Devil."

This is not to dismiss all incidents of the Jersey Devil on the imagination. Something very strange has scared a lot of people in the Pine Barrens over the years. Something has managed to terrorize groups of people at random intervals throughout the years in the Pine Barrens. Tales of the Jersey Devil's exploits are still remembered today and most likely will never be forgotten. In fact, most people in the Pine Barrens area revere the tales. The Jersey Devil is their own legend and locals treat it fondly.


Researched by: Carol Johnson and David Munn, Atlantic County Library

The story of the Jersey Devil is an authentic folk legend. It is as varied as the number of people who claim to have seen or heard him. For over 250 years, tales have circulated about the nocturnal ramblings of a creature emerging from the mists of a lonely desolate marsh. As interest in the supernatural has grown, tales of the Jersey Devil have grown to blend folk belief with South Jersey history.

Since the early industrial days of iron ore, southern New Jersey has seen some remarkable activity. Glass and paper manufacturing have expanded. Military complexes have been developed at Maguire Air Force Base and Fort Dix. Atlantic City and the Jersey shore have become prominent resort communities. This growth and development coupled with the emergence of a well-lit highway system have caused the Devil's appearances to be less frequent. But the legend of the Jersey Devil will not die. He has been exorcised, electrocuted, shot, incinerated, declared officially dead and declared officially foolish.

In 1939, the New Jersey Devil was reportedly named the Official State Demon. Walter Edge, twice governor of the state, was quoted as saying: "When I was a boy. . . I was never threatened with the bogey man. . . we were threatened with the Jersey Devil, morning noon, and night." Periodic sightings and theories will probably continue for generations to come. Or at least until the Jersey Devil emerges from the mists of the Pine Barrens himself to tell us his own story.
To understand the legend of the Jersey Devil, you must first understand his birthplace. It is a remote region extending 1700 square miles across southeastern New Jersey. It is actually a giant aquifer with dense stands of white cedar. Inside, the air is calm, still and cool - the shadows heavy. The cedar stands throughout the swamp stain the streams red with tannin. One area of stunted trees is called the Pygmy Forest. While many consider it a barren wilderness, twenty-seven varieties of orchids grow there. In the early days, travel was difficult for the cedar swamps were great obstacles. Some roads are old Indian trails. Others are old stagecoach roads. Some roads are paved, others are sandy. Roads lead to places named Hog Wallow, Double Trouble, Sooy Place and Mary Ann Furnace. These names date back to colonial times when settlers first came to New Jersey. The birthplace of the Jersey Devil is called the Pine Barrens.

There are many stories, apart from that of Mother Leeds, that purport to reveal the creature's origins. One version tells of a young Leeds Point girl who had fallen in love with a British soldier. The British had come to the region because the iron furnaces at Batsto were supplying the privateers. In 1778, the British engaged the Americans at the Battle of Chestnut Neck. The townsfolk opposed the match, calling her liaison an act of treason. They cursed the girl. According to legend, when she later gave birth to a child – it became known as the Leeds Devil. A variation on the tale tells of a young woman who encounters a passing gypsy begging for food. She was frightened and refused. The gypsy cursed her for her refusal. Years later in 1850, with the curse forgotten, when the girl gave birth to her first child – a male – he became a devil and fled into the woods.

Another famous version: In October of 1830, a resident of Vienna, New Jersey, a Mr. John Vliet was entertaining his children with a mask he had made. A mask of a monstrous face. It became a yearly tradition and was adopted by the local townsmen. Its popularity grew and was repeated late in October as parents and children alike put on scary faces and costumes.

Tales of the Devil's exploits abound. He has taken on a variety of forms. Because of the Devil: crops have failed, cows stopped giving milk and droughts ensued. He blew the tops off trees and boiled streams. He was blamed for the loss of all livestock. Some believed the Devil appeared every seven years. Others said he foreshadowed disaster and foretold of war. Prominent citizens or government officials were among many who had witnessed sightings of the creature. They included businessmen, postal officials, and policemen who had seen or heard the creature and saw his tracks left in the snow. This marks the beginning of the change from local folklore to the Devil's presence in regional culture.

After the 1909 appearances, the scientific community was asked for possible explanations. Reportedly, science professors from Philadelphia and experts from the Smithsonian Institution thought the Devil to be a prehistoric creature from the Jurassic period. Had the creature survived in nearby limestone caves? Was it a pterodactyl or a peleosaurus? New York scientists thought it to be a marsupial carnivore. Was it an extinct fissiped? However, the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia could not locate any record of a living of dead species resembling the Jersey Devil.

The Devil's form has been suggested to be the blending of human and devil, as are gothic gargoyles. Devil lore began in the region about 1735 shortly after Ben Franklin's fictitious story in the Pennsylvania Gazette about a Burlington County witchcraft trial. Early folk belief was often at odds with religious or scientific doctrine of the period. The farther north you go in New Jersey, the more benevolent the stories of the Devil become. In fact, the Devil had not been known to harm anyone or break any local ordinances. Servicemen from the Vietnam War era have said the Devil is an anti-war symbol. Comparisons have been made between the Devil, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman. In 1973, he gained nationwide attention after a feature film was made entitled "The Legend of Boggy Hollow". In 1996, it was reported that Berlin-based Cosmic Comics had created a character "JD" based on the Jersey Devil who protects the environment and searches for truth.

This material collected from Atlantic County On Line

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