The legend of the Jersey Devil goes back as far as 1735 and begins with the Leeds family. As much as we know, Mother Leeds, who was living in the Pine Barrens, became pregnant with her 13th child. Already in the process of taking care of 12 other children, she cursed the 13th unborn baby to be the devil. As the child was born, all seemed normal at first. Unfortunately, soon after, the child began to transform into a creature with bat wings and hooves and began to scream and growl. The creature proceeded to kill the midwife and quickly fly off, where it is said to murder local children.
By the early 1800’s, the “Leeds Devil” later known to be called “The Jersey Devil”, became well known in the southern Jersey area. Many accounts and tales of the “Leeds Devil” have been printed as far back as 1856 but more detailed accounts start emerging in the 20th century in 1909.
Many believe the “Leeds Devil” now known as “The Jersey Devil”, is just a combination of campfire horror stories told by early English settlers. Although, throughout the years, there has been many accounts of people witnessing the Devil for themselves.
According to Wikipedia…
“…while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect his cannonballs being forged, Commodore Stephen Decatur sighted a flying creature flapping it’s wings and fired a cannonball directly upon it to no effect.
Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon, is also claimed to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Bordentown estate about 1820. During 1840, the devil was blamed for several livestock killings. Similar attacks were reported during 1841, accompanied by tracks and screams.
In Greenwich during December 1925 a local farmer shot an unidentified animal as it attempted to steal his chickens, and then photographed the corpse. Afterward, he claimed that none of 100 people he showed it to could identify it. On July 27, 1937, an unknown animal “with red eyes” seen by residents of Downingtown, Pennsylvania was compared to the Jersey Devil by a reporter for the Pennsylvania Bulletin of July 28, 1937. In 1951, a group of Gibbstown, New Jersey boys claimed to have seen a ‘monster’ matching the Devil’s description and claims of a corpse matching the Jersey Devil’s description arose in 1957. During 1960, tracks and noises heard near Mays Landing were claimed to be from the Jersey Devil. During the same year the merchants around Camden offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured.”
The most recent encounters, according to nj.com..
“In 1960, several residents of Mays Landing heard horrifying screams in the night. There was no explanation for the noises and people began to panic. Police hung flyers assuring residents that the Jersey Devil was a hoax, but a circus owner countered the appeal by offering a $100,000 reward for anyone who could capture the creature.”
“Mary Ritzer Christianson told Weird NJ that she got the “heebie jeebies” one night in 1972 when she spotted the Jersey Devil on Greentree Road. Christianson was driving from Blackwood to Glassboro when she says she saw a towering figure crossing the road about 25 feet behind her car. She described the figure as standing taller than the average man, with thick haunches like a goat and a huge, wooly head.”
“In the late 1980’s, a group of friends went camping and riding dirt bikes in the Pine Barrens. While riding down a trail about 100 yards from camp, the bikes all stalled. One said it could have had to do with terrain or the nearby power plant. However, as suddenly as the bikes quit running, the men heard a piercing, inhuman scream coming from the woods. When they returned to camp, those who stayed behind said they also heard the screams. That evening, one of the men went into a local bar and told the bartender about the screams in the woods. The man informed the visitor that he had most likely had an encounter with the Jersey Devil.”
“One of the most recent sightings occurred in Galloway Township in October of 2015. Little Egg Harbor resident David Black said he was driving along Route 9 near a golf course when he saw what he thought was a llama walking in and out of the tree line on the side of the road. Suddenly, the creature spread its wings and flew away. He captured the beast’s image with his cell phone and the photo went viral.”
In closing, “The Jersey Devil” ranks up there along with Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster in my opinion. Tons of questionable stories and evidence with no real concrete evidence to prove this creature is in fact real. Therefore, let the stories and questionable evidence continue as we move on and keep this legend alive!