Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Post #1: The Jersey Devil

New Jersey’s oldest, most important piece of folklore is the Jersey Devil. Jerseyans have been telling stories of this mythical beast for over two hundred and fifty years (Mcmahon, 1987). Ever since his birth, he has been stalking and terrorizing local residents of the Pine Barrens. 
The story begins in 1735 with a Pine Barrens resident known as Mother Leeds. After learning of her thirteenth, unwanted pregnancy, she raised her hands to the heavens and proclaimed “Let this one be a devil!” (Weird NJ, 2019). A few months later, a seemingly normal baby boy was born. Within minutes, the mother’s unholy wish unraveled. Horns, claws, leathery wings, hair, and feathers appeared. Its eyes began glowing red as the nightmare began.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jersey Devil was very prominent in the Pine Barrens. Unearthly wails and slaughtered animals would be attributed to the Devil of the Pines. The most infamous of his incidents was around the week of January 16 through the 23 of 1909. Police, firemen, and many other local residents of the Pine Barrens witnessed the creature or the tracks it left in the snow (Orton, 2015). 
Largely due to the crazy reports of 1909, the tale of the New Jersey Devil has spread beyond the Pine Barrens. Today, he is portrayed on toys, t-shirts, in films, and as the name of New Jersey’s NHL hockey team. On top of his commercial advertisements, there is a constant stream of Jersey Devil reports. Most often, people report finding “strange, unidentifiable tracks in the sandy soil in desolate areas of the Pine Barrens” (Weird NJ, 2019).  Whether one sees it as a real creature or a figment of their imagination, one thing is certain, the Jersey Devil lurks in New Jersey, and most likely always will. 
To me, this story and overall character of the Jersey Devil brings life and mystery to NJ. Writing about him allows me to retell the story and to read about his sightings across New Jersey. When I hike or adventure in the Pine Barrens, I now get a sense of excitement, even though I do not believe in the Jersey Devil. I guess it is similar to believing in Santa Claus. At a certain age, we all know that he does not exist, however, I still remember him as if he existed.
Image result for the jersey devil


  1. Back a hundred years ago, it would was more difficult for people to get accurate information, especially over distances. This could lead to people warping stories for whatever reason, and if you add in a freaky area like the Pine barrens, which is isolated and dark, it could lead to different fables being spun. I said in my post that maybe people were jealous of the Leeds family, so this could lead to people trying to smear them by spreading misinformation.

  2. Being born and raised in New Jersey, I've always been familiar with the tale of the Jersey Devil dwelling deep in the Pine Barrens. What I didn't know, is that the story I knew was so different from everyone else's. Before attending Stockton University, my version went like this; an old woman lived in the middle of the woods and was painfully giving birth to her 13th child, while in labor she screamed curses at the child and when he was finally born, a deafening cry was heard before he disappeared into the night, becoming a legend. What I've come to learn from peers and posts is a more gruesome narrative which includes the baby growing horns and talons before the eyes of midwives and mother named Mrs. Leeds (just like the road!) who were then torn limb from limb. The story of the Leeds Devil was spread and sightings were reported.There are so many variations and narratives but what I've found, is that we tend to stick to the ones we were told as children.

  3. Growing up listening to this tale for so long, it is fascinating to see how popular it is. I don't think that I could hike in the Pine Barrens as you mentioned. I find it interesting that there were tracks left in the snow, but no one has quite a lot of detail as to what it really looks like.