Exploring The Unexplained

Open your mind to the paranormal world

The Legend Begins

The Jersey Devil or Leeds Devil has haunted New Jersey and the surrounding areas for almost 300 years. This entity has been seen by over 2,000 witnesses during this period. It has terrorized towns and caused factories and schools to close down, yet many people believe that the Jersey Devil is only a legend, a mythical beast that originated from the folklore of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The thousands of witnesses disagree and still recall the terror they felt after encountering signs of the Jersey Devils presence or the creature itself. The following will show there is evidence to support the existence of an animal or supernatural creature known as the Jersey Devil. The evidence consists of the stories of the Jersey Devil's origin, sightings, and finally the theories surrounding its existence.

 

There are many different versions of the birth of the Jersey Devil. One of the most popular legends says Deborah Leeds, also known as mother Leeds, of Leeds Point, NJ found out she was pregnant with her 13th child and she said that if she were to have one more child, "Let this  one be a devil".

Mother Leeds went into labor a few months later on a stormy night. No longer mindful of the curse she had utter previously regarding her unborn child. Her children and husband huddled together in one room of their Leeds Point home, while the local midwife was delivering the baby in another. By all accounts the birth went routinely, and the thirteenth Leeds child was a seemingly normal baby boy.

 Within minutes however, Mother Leeds’s unholy wish of months before began to come to true. The baby started to change right before her very eyes. Within moments it transformed from a beautiful newborn baby into a hideous creature unlike anything the world had ever seen. The wailing infant began growing at an incredible rate. It sprouted horns from the top of its head and talon-like claws tore through the tips of its fingers. Leathery bat-like wings unfurled from its back, and hair sprouted all over the child’s body. Its eyes began glowing bright red as they grew larger in the monster’s snarling face. The creature savagely attacked its own mother, killing her, then turned its attention to the rest of the horrified onlookers who witnessed its tempestuous transformation. It flew at them, clawing and biting, voicing unearthly shrieks the entire time. It tore the midwife limb from limb, it continued maiming some and killing others.

The monster then knocked down the door to the next room where its own father and siblings cowered in fear and attacked them all, killing as many as it could. Those who survived to tell the tale then watched in horror as the creature sprinted to the chimney and flew up, destroying it on the way and leaving a pile of rubble in its wake. The creature then made its escape into the darkness and desolation of the Pine Barrens.

 

 

Sightings

 

The origins provide some validity to the existence of the Jersey Devil, but the sightings are the most substantial pieces of evidence.

 

As the story spread, even grown men declined to venture out at night. It was said that the beast carried off large dogs, geese, cats, small livestock and even occasional children. The children were never seen again, but the animal remains were often found. The Devil was also said to dry up the milk of cows by breathing on them and to kill off the fish in the streams, threatening the livelihood of the entire region.

 

In 1740, the frightened residents begged a local minister to exorcize 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 Border town 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.

 

A police officer named James Sackville spotted the monster while walking his beat one night. He was passing along a dark alley when a winged creature hopped into the street and let out a horrific scream. Sackville fired his revolver at the beast but it spread its wings and vanished into the air.

 

 

 In spite of the sightings, the beast was always considered a regional legend until the bizarre flap in 1909, which even the most sceptical researchers admit contains authentic elements of the unexplained. Many people saw the creature during the month of January, including E.W. Minster, the postmaster of Bristol, Pennsylvania, which is just over the New Jersey border. He stated that he awoke around 2:00 in the morning and heard an “eerie, almost supernatural” sound coming from the direction of the Delaware River. He looked out the window and saw what looked to be a “large crane” that was flying diagonally and emitting a curious glow. The creature had a long neck that was thrust forward in flight, thin wings, long back legs and shorter ones in the front. The creature let out a combination of a squawk and a whistle and then disappeared into the darkness.

 

Sightings continued. On January 19, 1909, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Evans were awakened in the early morning by the sound of a large animal on the roof of their shed. They described it as: “about three and a half feet high, with a face like a collie and a head 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.”

 

One afternoon of that same week, a Mrs. J.H, White was taking clothes off her line when she noticed a strange creature huddled in the corner of her yard. She screamed and fainted and her husband rushed out the back door to find his wife on the ground and the Devil close by, “spurting flames”. He chased the monster with a clothesline prop and it leapt over the fence and vanished.

 

A short time later, the creature struck again. This time, it attacked a dog belonging to Mrs. Mary Sorbinski in south Camden. When she heard the cry of her pet in the darkness, she dashed outside and drove the Devil away with a broom. The creature fled, tearing a chunk of flesh from the dog. Mrs. Sorbinski carried her wounded pet inside and immediately called the police.

By the time that patrolmen arrived, a crowd of more than 100 people were gathered at the house. The crowd was witness to the piercing screams that suddenly erupted from nearby. The police officers emptied their revolvers at the shadow that loomed against the night sky, but the Devil escaped once again.

 

Eyewitness accounts of the Devil filled the newspapers, as well as photos and reports of cloven footprints that had been found in yards, woods and parking lots. The Philadelphia Zoo offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Devil, but there were no takers.

          

 

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the Devil vanished again.

 

The creature did not return again until 1927. A cab driver was changing a tire one night while headed for Salem. He had just finished when his car began shaking violently. He looked up to see a gigantic, winged figure pounding on the roof of his car. The driver, leaving his jack and flat tire behind, jumped into the car and quickly drove away. He reported the encounter to the Salem police.

 

In August 1930, berry pickers at Leeds Point and Mays Landing reported seeing the Devil, crashing through the fields and devouring blueberries and cranberries. It was reported again two weeks later to the north and then it disappeared again.

 

In November 1951, a group of children were allegedly cornered by the Devil at the Duport Clubhouse in Gibbstown. The creature bounded away without hurting anyone but reports claimed that it was spotted by dozens of witnesses before finally vanishing again.

 

Sightings continued here and there for years and then peaked once more in 1960 when bloodcurdling cries terrorized a group of people near Mays Landing. State officials tried to calm the nervous residents but no explanation could be found for the weird sounds. Policemen nailed signs and posters everywhere stating that the Jersey Devil was a hoax, but curiosity-seekers flooded into the area anyway. Harry Hunt, who owned the Hunt Brothers Circus, offered $100,000 for the capture of the beast, hoping to add it to his sideshow attractions. Needless to say, the monster was never snared.

 

The most recent sighting of the creature was said to have been in 1993 when a forest ranger named John Irwin was driving along the Mullica River in southern New Jersey. He was startled to find the road ahead of him blocked by the Jersey Devil. He described it as being about six-feet tall with horns and matted black fur. Could this have been the reported Jersey Devil? Or some other creature altogether? Irwin stated that he and the creature stared at one another for several minutes before the monster finally turned and ran into the forest.

 

Today, there are only a few, isolated sightings of the Jersey Devil. It seems as though the paved roads, electric lights and modern conventions that have come to the region over the course of two and a half centuries have driven the monster so far into hiding that it has vanished altogether. The lack of proof of the monster’s existence in these modern times leads many to believe the Devil was nothing more than a creation of New Jersey folklore. But was it really?

 

If it was merely a myth, then how do we explain the sightings of the creature and the witness accounts from reliable persons like businessmen, police officers and even public officials? They are not easy to dismiss as hearsay or the result of heavy drinking. Could the Jersey Devil have been real after all? And if so, is it still out there in the remote regions of the Pine Barrens - just waiting to be found?  

           

 

 

Theories

 

Many theories abound as to what the Jersey Devil is. Many are proposed in seriousness but some in jest. Some believed that it was a prehistoric creature trapped in a submerged limestone cave. With plenty of air and a constant supply of food, life could continue separated from the rest of the modern world. The caves could have been opened by seismic activity. The Grand Banks area is

known for earthquakes, could one of these have opened up the cave that held the Devil?

 

This is a very popular theory. The sandhill crane stands about 40 - 48 inches tall and has a wingspan of 6 - 7 feet. It is interesting to note that the sand hill crane's call is a loud screech. It has been proven that the sand hill crane was once indigenous to New Jersey, but due to land development, it left the area and now resides much further south in the nation.
 
Similarities: Both the Jersey Devil and the sandhill crane are known to have wings. The legs are thin and the creature's body is tall, standing on two legs. The cry of the sandhill crane is also a loud screech.

Conflicts: The sand hill crane is an herbivore, but the Jersey Devil has been known to steal livestock and attack animals, behavior more often associated with carnivores. Additionally, the Jersey Devil has been described as being taller than the average sandhill crane.

 

Some have thought that the Hammer-Headed Fruit Bat, bears a resemblance to the Jersey Devil, and may be a possible explanation.
 
Similarities: The creature has a rounded snout, brown fur, and a brown membrane on its wings. It makes a gutteral honking/croaking noise when attempting to attract a mate, which could resemble the Jersey Devil's signature noises. It is nocturnal, can live for around 30 years, and while it mostly eats fruit, it has been known to attack chickens and drink their blood.

Conflicts: First and foremost, it is not known to live in the United States. This bat is the largest fruit bat found in Africa, and while it is rather large for a bat (around 11 inches tall, with a 2.5 foot wingspan), it's still much smaller than most of the Jersey Devil height descriptions. While it can be carnivorous, the largest thing it is known to attack is a chicken, while the Jersey Devil has reported to have taken on larger sized livestock.

 

The hybrid theory states that the Jersey Devil is a cross of different animals that do not usually mate. A good example of a hybrid is a mule - the cross between a horse and a donkey. People believe that cross mating would explain the variety of the creature's descriptions, like the horse head, wings, hooves, giraffe neck, etc.
 
Similarities: The theory only speculates on how something like this could exist, not necessarily what it would look like, so the similarities would occur based on what creatures were combined.

Conflicts: Hybrids tend to be sterile creatures, meaning that the only way for them to reproduce is to continue using the parental animals and mate them again (most hybrids can not be reproduced by hybrid - hybrid mating). This would mean that the same strange mating would have to occur over and over to keep a continuous flow of hybrid creatures. It's also hard to find the right genetic match of creatures that are capable of performing a hybrid mate. Horses and donkeys are similar species; however, you couldn't mate a dog with a bird, for example, and actually create a new animal.

 

This is a good one and is what most believe is true. The theory states that the Jersey Devil is merely a creature that has not yet been cataloged and identified by the Department of Wildlife and Conservation. After all, it is a big planet. New creatures are being discovered daily, proving that we don't know everything. It is naive to think we know every creature that inhabits earth. Perhaps there is a creature in the Pine Barrens that has not been discovered yet.
 

Similarities: The theory is pliable enough to fit with any similarity of the Jersey Devil's description, since it doesn't describe a creature exactly, but more how one could exist.

 

Conflicts: Some people think that, in this day and age, with more than 7 million people living in the state of New Jersey, it is impossible for a creature to exist without humans developing some sort of a working knowledge of it. They feel that the creature would have provided proof of its existence beyond a shadow of a doubt if it actually existed.

Or could it be Mrs. Leeds 13th child? The stories of the Devil haunting the woods might have been devised to discourage federal agents from sweeping the area looking for contraband, something hard to sneak into New York or Philadelphia, but relatively easy in the Pines. It may also have been the perversion of a mothers warning – “Don’t be out late or the Jersey Devil may get you!”

 

There are many people who refuse to go into the pines, be it daylight or night. The pines are an eerie place, physically separated from civilization only by a few miles, but lost in an age of its own.

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

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