We know the state of New Jersey for many things: Its music scene, shores, and pizza have attracted people for years. For those into the spooky stuff, New Jersey is also home to the lore of the cryptozoological Jersey Devil. The background behind this legend is extraordinary.
Unlucky number 13
The story goes all the way back to 1735. Pine Barrens resident Jane Leeds already had a full plate with 12 children. When she discovered a 13th one was one the way, she did something drastic. We’re not talking about naming the kid after their favorite food, either. Leeds claimed the child would become the devil. This sudden proclamation stemmed from the man in the house being uninvolved with everything. “The entire burden of taking care of the kids fell on Jane Leeds. The cooking, the cleaning, chopping wood. In a moment of perhaps understandable weakness, she said ‘I hope this one’s not a child. Let this one be a devil,’” Rutgers American Studies professor Angus Kress Gillespie told NJTV News. When the child was born, everything looked normal. Seconds after entering the Earth, it transformed into a monster with a goat head, wings, and a tail. After killing the doctor, it flew away to an undisclosed location.
At a town near you
In 1909, many people from New Jersey reported sightings of the Jersey Devil. The sightings even reached the police station. A handful of officers fired at what they assumed was the devil itself. Children were forced to stay home to prevent getting snatched away by the beast. As expected, a group of people took it upon themselves to take down the creature. With hunting material in hand, they searched all over but came up short. One fisherman from Rum Point, however, claimed to have captured the devil. “He went at me with his sharp bill and his claws. I managed to land a lucky blow on him and he fell helpless in the boat, on top of my fish. I tied his feet and wings with a line and brought him in,” Captain Doughty told Asbury Park Press on May 7, 1909. Doughty stated the devil was locked away in his home. Many believe that the fisherman caught a massive bird and fabricated the whole story.
The legend lives on forever
Nowadays, the legend of the Jersey Devil has been the subject of many songs and TV shows. Professional hockey team New Jersey Devils named themselves after this creature in 1982. Oddly enough, people still believe the Jersey Devil is out there waiting for them. One of the most recent sightings took place at a golf course in 2015. “I was just driving past the golf course in Galloway on Route 9 and had to shake my head a few times when I thought I saw a llama. If that wasn’t enough, then it spread out leathery wings and flew off over the golf course,” Dave Black told NJ.com in an email. As expected, Black’s photo of the supposed monster drew criticism from some people.
A local group named The Devil Hunters has been tracking the creature’s whereabouts for years. “Our organization is a group of truth seekers, essentially. We are all hungry to find out what it is that is out there. We’re hoping to get some answers behind the Jersey Devil legend, however, we are realistic in the sense that we know we might end up proving the opposite. Whatever the truth may be, that’s what we’re all about,” Devil Hunters co-founder Laura Leuter told The Paranormal Society. There’s no telling where this creature will land next in the Garden State. Fortunately, there will always be someone looking for their next appearance.