There are many versions of the story of The Jersey Devil.

This version is the most popular one.

     The year was 1735. Mother Leeds was expecting her thirteenth child. Burdened by too many children, Mother Leeds wishes that her thirteenth child be a spawn of the devil. Some local women help deliver the baby one stormy night. Mother Leeds gives birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Suddenly, the baby starts to change before the women's eyes. The baby grows wings, hooves, and a tail and turns into a hideous animal. The beast lets out a blood curdling screech and escapes through the window.

      In the nineteenth century there were a handful of Jersey Devil sightings. Commodore Steven Decatur, a Naval Commander, was testing cannons at The Hanover Iron Works. When he spotted The Jersey Devil, he fired a cannonball at it. The cannonball left a huge hole in the creature. The Jersey Devil was unfazed and just flew away. Also in the early 1800's, Joseph Bonaparte, son of Napoleon, spotted The Jersey Devil near his Bordentown estate while hunting. During 1840-1841, there were numerous reports of raids on sheep and chickens. Strange tracks were discovered at the scene of these raids and there were reports of a piercing scream. In 1899, there were raids in Vincentown and Barrsville. Again, many sheep and chicken disappeared.

      The legend of The Jersey Devil was limited to the Pine Barrens and was relatively unknown throughout the rest of the state. All that changed one very eventful week in January 1909. During the week of January 16-23, there were over one thousand reported sightings of The Jersey Devil and/or its tracks in over thirty towns from Cape May to Trenton. It all started on Sunday, January 16 when Thack Cozzens of Woodbury saw a flying creature with glowing eyes flying down the street. In Bristol, John McCowen heard and saw the creature on the banks of a canal. Police Officer James Sackville, fired at it and it flew away with a piercing scream. The Postmaster of Bristol, E.W. Minister, also saw it and described it as a "bird-like creature with a horse's head". Again, there was a report of a piercing scream. When the sun came out, the residents of Bristol discovered strange footprints in the snow.

     On Monday, January 17th, The Lowdens of Burlington found some hoof prints in their yard. Many other residents of Burlington also found strange tracks. The tracks were on rooftops and were in the middle of fields. There were also strange tracks found in Columbus, Hedding, Kinhora, and Rancocas. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson of Gloucester City watched the Jersey Devil from the window inside their home. For ten minutes they watched the Jersey Devil prance around the roof of their shed. Mr. Nelson was quoted in the newspaper. "It was three and a half feet high, with a head of a collie and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say "Shoo" and it turned around barked at me and flew away."

     On Tuesday, January 18th, two hunters tracked the devil for 20 miles in Gloucester County. A group of people saw it in Camden and it barked at them and flew away.

    On Wednesday, January 19th, a Burlington City police officer saw it. Three posses in Haddonfield tracked it. In Collingswood, a group of people saw it fly away. John Smith of Maple Shade saw it at the Mount Carmel cemetery. George Snyder also saw it and described it exactly as John Smith had done. In Riverside, hoof prints were found on rooftops and also around a dead puppy.

     On Thursday, January 20th, a trolley full of people in Clementon saw the Jersey Devil. In Trenton, a councilman, E.P. Weeden, heard wings flapping outside his door. When he went outside, he saw hoof prints outside his door. Strange prints were also discovered at the arsenal in Trenton. The West Collingswood Fire Department turned their hose on the Jersey Devil. It charged at them and then flew away. In Camden, Mrs. Sorbinski discovered the Jersey Devil attacking her dog. She chased the devil away with a broom. The devil charged at her and then flew over a fence. Mrs. Sorbinski examined her dog and noticed that the devil tore a huge chunk of flesh from the dog. Her screams drew a crowd, including the police. The crowd heard screams coming from Kaigan Hill. The police followed the screams and found the Jersey Devil. They shot at it and it flew away.

     By Friday, January 21st, terror swept through all of South Jersey. People refused to leave their homes. Schools and factories closed. A Camden police officer saw the devil drinking from a horse's trough. By the end of the week, things had settled down. There were a few more sightings of the Jersey Devil. The following February, there were some more reported sightings.

     In 1927, a cab driver was driving alone to Salem. His taxi got a flat. While changing the flat tire, the cab driver saw the Jersey Devil land on the top of the cab and shake the car. The terrified cab driver fled the scene.

     In 1951, the Jersey Devil frightened a 10-year-old boy. A posse tried to hunt the creature but was unsuccessful. Witnesses described the creature as a bloody faced hairy man over 7 feet tall. (Sounds more like Bigfoot to me.)

     In 1961, two couples were parked in a car in the Pine Barrens. They heard loud screaming and the roof of the car was smashed in. They fled the scene. When they returned later, they heard screaming. They looked up and saw the Jersey Devil flying through the trees.

     In 1981, a young couple spotted the creature at Atsion Lake.

     The last known sighting of the Jersey Devil was in Vineland in 1987. A German Shepherd was found devoured and mutilated. There were strange footprints near the carcass that no one could identify.

     It is believed that the birthplace of the Jersey Devil is the Shroud's house in Leeds Point. People who try to find it have a hard time because only the foundation and some rubble are left.

     There are many theories related to the Jersey Devil. Many people believe that the Jersey Devil is just folklore and that the events of January 1909 were caused by mass hysteria. Some people believe that Mother Leeds gave birth to a deformed child and the women who assisted her in childbirth started false rumors about the baby. Some people believe that the Jersey Devil is of supernatural origin and that it is a harbinger of wars or other disasters. Some scientists think that the Jersey Devil is actually a family of pterodactyls that have survived since prehistoric times living in an underground cave. Whatever the origin, it seems that the legend of the Jersey Devil is here to stay.


Jersey Devil Links

New Jersey Online: The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil's Haunted Woods

The Jersey Devil (Fact or Fiction)



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