I remember the day well, back in 1735, at Leeds Point, New Jersey. Mr. and Mrs. Leeds were a couple who lived out in the Pine Barrens with their 12 children. Yeah, that was back before anyone worried about contraception or abortion or the rhythm method or anything, and if the husband wanted some boinkie, he sure as hell was gonna get himself some boinkie.

Anyway, Mrs. Leeds wasn't that fond of spending her time (A) being pregnant and (B) giving birth, and when she found out that she was pregnant yet again, she said, "Well, God damn the little beast! It might as well be the devil!" Well, it was a tough pregnancy, and when the time for child-birthing finally came, Mrs. Leeds suffered through a more lengthy and difficult labor than you'd expect for a woman giving birth to her 13th child. And when the child finally clawed its way free, it was closer to devil than human. It had bat's wings, a horse's head, cloven hooves, and a barbed tail. It flew off into the night, its mother's screams still echoing through the countryside...

Since then, the Jersey Devil is seen occasionally. Back in January 17-22, 1909, Mrs. Leeds' youngest was seen in 30 different towns from Bristol, Pennsylvania to Salem, New Jersey. It showed up in a woman's backyard in Philadelphia and brawled with firefighters in West Collingswood, New Jersey. It's been described as a big, hairy humanoid (like Bigfoot), as a "walking alligator", as a "dog-monkey", and even as a "jabberwock". People still see it sometimes, usually under the influence of alcohol, overactive imaginations, or the love of a good hoax. But sometimes...

Primary research: Suppressed Transmission: The Second Broadcast by Kenneth Hite, "Libertatia or Death", pp. 82-84. And a little personal reminiscing...

There are many different myths surrounding the Jersey Devil because they are an original part of New Jersey's oral history. Pine Barrens folk lore has no greater monster (and occasionally hero).

The more common myths center mostly around the Devil's birth and a few of its apperances in civilization. Mostly the Devil's birth is attributed to Mrs. Leeds (also known as Mrs. Shrouds) of Leeds Point (also said to be Estelville, Burlington) sometime in the 1700's. Historical documents have been found in all three cities that record the birth of some sort of "devil". It is also known that there was a family of Leeds living at Leeds Point at the time. The Devil was born the thirteenth child of Mrs. Leeds, who was so tired of giving birth she hoped it was a "devil." When it was born the child was so grotesque that the other women present helping with the birth all screamed and fell to their knees to pray. Usually the devil is described as having wings, sharp teeth, various different shaped heads, and a tail. The poor Devil was so frightened by his mother's treatment that he flew up the chimney and away into the Pine Barrens.

The Devil is said to have many different homes in the Barrens. One of them is the Blue Hole. Legend has it that if you visit this pond at night you may just see the Devil. Other legends say that the Devil has no true home, and instead spends most of its time wandering 'round the Barrens.

Many legends surround the Devil:

Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero, was drilling his troops at firing cannons. Suddenly, a large winged beast was seen flying over the field and although the Commodore fired directly at the monster, it continued to fly until it was out of sight. This was in the late 1800's.

There have been many cases of cars breaking down in the woods and when the drivers got out to fix the problem the Devil appeared. In 1927 a cabby on his way to Salem saw the Devil as he fixed a flat tire. A pair of young couples saw the Devil in 1961 as they drove through the Barrens. Their car was significantly damaged when it landed on the roof.

There are numerous accounts of Devil sightings in South Jersey, but none so amazing as during the middle of January 1909. During the Week of the 16th through the 23rd, newspapers from all over South Jersey, including Camden, Woodbury, and even from Philadelphia, reported sightings of a "winged beast" flying and landing near homes and shops. Tracks were spotted, strange rumblings heard from on top of roofs, and a dead puppy was left in the road after a sighting. A hunting party was organized and people were cautioned to stay indoors at night. At the end of the week the Devil disapeered as abruptly as it had come. Over 1,000 people were witness to this event.

The Devil seems to get especially stirred up during times of world strife. It went unseen for decades and then sightings began to pour in during both WWI and WWII. It was also seen before the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and Vietnam. It has often been called a harbringer of war and when sightings increase suddenly, you can tell a war is brewing.

There are many theories as to what the Devil really is. Many people believe it to be different birds living in the Pine Barrens; one professor believed it was a Pterodactyl. Whatever the case, it is widely believed that something is actually out there, because of the number of sightings in somany different cities of New Jersey. Whether or not its a Devil is anybody's guess.

Now the Jersey Devil has been 'honored' by being the mascot of some sports team. It was also seen in the X-Files episode "Jersey Devil" which is an interesting spin on the legend, but quite annoying for anyone interested in folk lore.

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[Editor's Note, 12/22/2005: Fixed a link to Pine Barrens and added </p> tags.]

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