Monday, February 9, 2015

Devil in the Pine Barrens

Since the early 1730s, there have been reports of a horrid winged beast roaming the wilds of northern New Jersey's Pine Barrens, known by legend as the Jersey Devil. Throughout the decades, people have claimed to have seen this creature, from first hand face-to-face encounters, to simply hearing strange, unknown sounds coming from the woods.

There have been several stories depicting the origin of the Jersey Devil, however the most popular one is that of mother Leeds and her thirteenth child. The story goes, that Mother Leeds, who had twelve children and lived in a cabin in an area which is now known as "Leeds Point", became pregnant with her thirteenth child. Local townspeople believed her to be a witch, and that the father was the Devil himself. When Mother Leeds went into labor, the pain was so unbearable, that she screamed "May it be a devil!," and finally gave birth to a son. The child was born normal, but suddenly began to transform into a hideous monster. It sprouted horns, wings, hooves, and had a horse-like face. The creature let out a terrible cry and began flying inside the cabin until it finally escaped through the chimney. Since then, sightings of this creature have been reported, dating back to even the Civil War.

The Pine Barrens themselves are not as barren as the name claims. In fact, the Pine Barrens is teaming with an assortment of wildlife such as deer, birds, fish, and reptiles and amphibians that have adapted to the environment. Plus, the area of the Pine Barrens stretches through a majority of the state. So, an unknown winged creature should be able to survive and remain virtually undetected right? Scientists believe that the existence of the creature is false. They argue that a creature such as the Jersey Devil, being that there is supposedly only one of its kind according to reports, could not possibly exist for such a long period of time without a stable population. There have also never have been any documented proof such as bone/tissue samples, and any so called evidence that is out there consists mainly of out of focus photos, blurry videos, and eye-witness testimony. Scientists speculate that the sightings are of a result of misidentification, and that the eyewitnesses are actually seeing creatures like owls, bats, deer, or black bears, and that certain conditions have impeded them from accurately identifying them.

So the question stands, is the Jersey Devil just a story made to frighten little children who are afraid of the dark, or is it a real creature, that by some miracle, has been able to roam the woods of New Jersey for as long as it has, scaring everyone that crosses its path? WE may never know for certain, but the imagination along with the dark can be a powerful thing. Is that eerie sound you hear at night in the woods an owl, the wind, a figment of your imagination, or is it the devil, lurking somewhere in the shadows?

Michael Fala

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