Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is a creature that, according to legend, lives in southern New Jersey. It is known under several different names, including Leeds Devil, Wozzle Bug and Hoodle-Doodle Bird. The Jersey Devil is a prominent part of New Jersey lore and has given name to the famous New Jersey ice hockey team “New Jersey Devils”, who in turn has named their minor league affiliates “Trenton Devils” and “Albany Devils” (former Lowell Devils). 

The Jersey Devil is a cryptid, i.e. a “creature whose existenace has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus and often regarded as highly unlikely”. The Jersey Devil is usually described as a flying animal with two hoved legs.

Pine Barrens – home of the Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil is said to inhabit the Pine Barrens, a heavily forested area of coastal plain in southern New Jersey. The soil is sandy, acidic and nutrient-poor, and the area was therefore not converted into farmland when the area was settled by Europeans. Today, 1.1 million acres of the Pine Barrens forms the Pinelands National Reserve. 

Birth of the Jersey Devil
While some regard the Jersey Devil as a yet not recognized animal, others see it is a creature with a considerably more mystical origin. According to a widespread legend that come in many different variants, the Jersey Devil was birthed by a Mrs Leeds who invoked the devil by saying “let it be the devil” during the birth of her 13th child. After the baby was born, it transformed into a devil like creature and flew off to the Pine Barrens.

In another version of the story, Mother Leeds was a prostitute who didn't want her newborn baby and left it to die in her basement. Instead of dying, the baby developed fur and escaped, becoming the New Jersey Devil.

In a third version, the mother of the Jersey Devil was Deborah Smith who left England in the 18th century to marry a Mr Leeds in New Jersey and settle near the Pine Barrens. The birth of the her 13th child was very difficult and caused Mrs Leeds invoke the devil during the pangs of labor. As a result, her newborn turned into the Jersey Devil. She cared for the child for the remainder of her life, and when she died it flew off to live in the Pine Barrens. 

Jersey Devil tidbits
One of the real persons that features in the lore about the Jersey Devil is American naval officer Commodore Stephen Decatur (1779-1820) who, allegedly, sighted a strange flying creature while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect the cannonballs produced there. According to this story, Decatur fired a canonball directly upon the creature without harming it. 

Throughout the 1800s, the Jersey Devil was blamed for numerous livestock deaths and various tracks and sounds were reported as pertaining to the creature.

In 1870, a Long Beach fisherman claimed to have seen the Jersey Devil serenading a mermaid.
In 1909, Councilman E.P. Weeden of Trenton claimed to have heard flapping wings outside his bedroom window in the middle of the night. He also claimed to have seen footprints after cloves in the snow. Within a week of Weeden going public with his story, hundreds of New Jerseyans had reported their own sightings of the Jersey Devil. Reports even arrived from across the river in Pennsylvania and from neighboring Delaware. 
In 1957, claims of a Jersey Devil corpse arose.
In 1960, a reward of $10 000 was offered for the capture of the Jersey Devil. The merchants of Camden, New Jerse even promised to build a private zoo for the creature. 
In 1978, two teenage boys reported having noticed an odor like dead fish and seeing two red eyes staring at them while ice-skating near Chatsworth in the Barrens.

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