Jersey Devil

Date of Discovery

The first reports of the Jersey Devil date back to Quaker and Founding Fathers times, around 1735 reports of sightings became a known and more experienced thing. To this day people report the devil to still be roaming among us and has become a staple to many household tales.

Name

Most commonly known as the Jersey Devil but originally called the Leeds Devil

Jersey Devil Sketch

Physical Description

Over 300 years of siting’s and reports have led to main versions of the Jersey Devil’s appearance, overall they can stick to three kinds of the descriptions; a horseman, a horse-bat, and a dragon-like horse. The most common features these reports all share are deep blood red glowing eye, bat-like wings sometimes having feathers one them, claws on elongated fingers, hoofed back legs, and a combination of fur and feathers across the body and neck. Depending on the over-all “class” of the devil some walk upright on the back legs, others stay true to more of a horse like posture walking on all four legs, and finally, a combination of a more dragon-like posture using each leg individually as well as being comfortable up-right on its back legs.

Origin

Originated from Pine Barrens, New Jersey USA around 1735 this devil-like creature has made its home across all of southern New Jersey. Over the next 300 years, American’s have reported the creature making its way all across the north-eastern states, even as low as Pennsylvania. There are two main theories as to how the Devil came into existent, both led back to the Leeds family who were founding settlers of the region as well as ex Quaker members. One of the most detailed reports of the Jersey Devil’s Real Story tells the tale from a more” fact-based” style rather then a man becomes a true monster-like creature. 

Mythology & Lore

As the origin theories have some variation as to when and why the Leeds thirteenth son became Leeds Devil, most have molded legend around Mother Leeds rather than her husband’s tale. The legend started in 1735 when Mother Leeds was preparing for her thirteenth child. She was living a rather poor lifestyle with a drunkard husband who did little to provide for them. Upon a stroll through the wooded area of Pine Barrens she became so overwhelmed and exasperated with emotions, she proclaimed to the heavens “Let this one be the devil”. Unknowing of the curse she had put on her unborn child she continued through pregnancy as if all were normal. A few months later she went into labor in the Leeds Point home, and by all accounts from the midwives, everything appeared to be a normal delivery. As the womanly group cleaned and prepared the baby boy for the rest of the family to see, the child began to metamorphosis right before them into the most unholy beast. The infant grew at an incredible rate, sprouting horns from on top of its head, his fingers became talon-like claws, and feathers began to cover the large body. Leathery bat-like wings exploding from his back, and his eye began to glow bright red as well as becoming two sizes bigger. The devilish creature savagely attacked the womanly group that had just brought him into this world, before turning on the rest of the family who was just down the hall. Knocking down doors the creature hunted down all the family members it could find, only leaving few survivors before flying up the chimney and leaving a destroyed wake of rubble in its wake. It made Pine Barrens it’s home from then forward, harassing and terrorizing those unfortunate enough to stroll through its woods.

 By the 18th and 19th centuries, the name was remade into the Jersey Devil rather than the Leeds Devil, as the creature was reported more spread through-out all of the southern New Jersey area. Residents to this day report unearthly wails coming from the forests, having their animals slaughtered, seeing the glowing red eyes hiding within bushes or trees, as well as a few reports of being attacked by the creature. The Devil has been sited from New Jerseys Pine Barrens area to the Delaware Valley, Camden, Bristol, and Philadelphia, Bridgeton, and Millville, and the list continues to grow more and more as modern culture accepts and adopts the tales and myths of the Jersey Devil. Many websites now keep special listings and accounts for Devil sightings, hoping to keep the community and creature hunter culture’s involved and up to date such as Weird NJ. The culture has even used this devil-like creature as a poster child for marketing and business adventures, even naming a hockey team after it. As it grows more popular the reported sightings take on more and more descriptions and behaviors the creature shows and develops. 

Modern Pop-Culture References

Books & Literature

Movies



Is there anything we missed about the Jersey Devil? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legend: The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is a creature of legend and innumerable descriptions amongst Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia folklore. A flying, hoofed biped that has been described part kangaroo or part horse, with the wings of some huge malformed bat and the forked tail of Beelzebub himself. Like an equestrian chimera inhabiting South Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the Jersey Devil is said to move very fast, some say in great leaps like a hare, and known to emit a scream like grinding machinery. Not only elusive in appearance, the Jersey Devil also has a rich history of occultism, witchcraft and – oddly enough – politics to explore.

By the early 1900s, South Jersey was abuzz with reports of the Devil. Every man and his dog claimed to have seen or even caught the mysterious mishmash of animals. Commonly described as a combination of kangaroo, bat, and pony, several museums professed to have caught it, each offering their own false promises and disappointing hoaxes. Some said the thing was white, others said brown; some said it leapt, others said it flew. By this point the Jersey Devil was becoming one of the more widespread yet confusing urban legends in Pennsylvania.

Daniel Leeds House 1600's

Originally it was known as the Leeds Devil, a name traced back to a young quaker from the late 1600s, named Daniel Leeds, who emigrated to the US. Overestimating his political prowess, Leeds became involved in government and began writing an almanac. Overestimated still were his expectations on how his peers and neighbors would react to what they described as “Pagan” ideas on astrology and magic, or how they would respond to his allegiance to the royal governor of the colony, or the British in general. Local Quakers were quick to brand him as evil for his strange outlook and even wrote pamphlets labelling him “Satan’s Harbinger”.

In 1859 a reporter’s account of stories they had heard in the Barrens was published in the Atlantic. The tales told of Mother Leeds and her practice of witchcraft, devil worshipping, and appearances from the Devil himself. So the tale goes, in 1735 Mother Leeds found herself to be pregnant, the child she bore being her thirteenth. Mother Leeds, dwelling deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, said “Let this one be the devil,” and according to the most popular lore that child was born with horns, hooves, wings, and a tail. The devil flew from the dwelling immediately and into the surrounding darkness.

The legend was helped along by a few noteworthy figures, one of which being Joseph Bonapart, older brother of Napoleon, who in 1812 claimed to have spotted the beast while hunting near his Bordentown estate. From this point it seems every animal attack and odd footprint was blamed on the Devil. One key event cementing the Devil’s legend happened in 1909. In the month of January that year around a thousand reported sightings came in from around South Jersey. Navy Commander Stephen Decatur reportedly saw the creature while testing cannonballs at Hanover Mills Works and, despite blowing a hole through the thing with one of those shells, was not able to kill it.

The Jersey Devil legend has had its peaks and valleys in terms of popularity (one peak being when it was the center of an X-Files episode), though alleged sightings have not stopped to this day. All things considered, the sound of the Devil’s screech as it flies through the Pine Barrens is an experience I would like to miss out on.

https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2016/10/13_places_the_jersey_devil_has_been_spotted_in_the.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jersey_Devil_(The_X-Files)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Devil

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/17/jersey-devil-new-jersey-myth-photo-origin-story