The Jersey Devil
The Legend of the Jersey Devil
Deep in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey lives a creature that has brought fear and mystery to the region since the 1700s. This creature is known simply as the Jersey Devil.
It is described in most accounts as having a horse's head, a long tail, bat-like wings and long hind legs with cloven hooves. Some people have also claimed to witness it breathing fire. Nearly all reported encounters with the Jersey Devil mention its bloodcurdling scream.
Origins of the Jersey Devil
There are many versions of how and where the Jersey Devil was born.
The most predominant and widely accepted involve a Mrs. Leeds (aka Mother Leeds) who was pregnant with her 13th child around 1735. Depending on which version of the tale you follow, Mother Leeds either cursed the child before it was born because she didn't want another; or she cursed it after birth because it was deformed.
It's not clear what happened next. One variation is that the creature escaped right away (after possibly eating some of its siblings). Another is that Mother Leeds locked it in the cellar for a time before it eventually escaped into the wild.
Other versions of the story claim it was a Mrs. Shrouds who gave birth to the child or that Mother Leeds was possibly involved in witchcraft.
The Jersey Devil on the Web
- The Devil Hunters
A group of researchers committed to discovering the truth about the Jersey Devil and its legend.
- Channel 6 Special Report
The ABC affiliate in Philadelphia did a special report on investigations of Jersey Devil sightings.
- The Jersey Devil on Wikipedia
Along with a list of well known sightings, Wikipedia has a listing of JD's appearances in books, movies, TV shows and even video games.
- Legend or Truth?
Ghosts of the Prairie has a good synopsis of the story and Jersey Devil sightings that is a little more readable than some other sites.
- Ed Sheetz - Jersey Devil Artist
Ed Sheetz is an artist who created one of the most popular drawings of the Jersey Devil.
Things Named After The Jersey Devil
In addition to various local bars, drinks, shops, sandwiches and organizations, the Jersey Devil has lent his name to some nationally known things.
- New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing
The Jersey Devil even has his own fighter wing equipped with F-16s. Don't mess with JD.
- The New Jersey Devils
Yes, JD has his own NHL hockey team. Where did you think they got the name?
- Jersey Devil Port Wine
If you venture out on a moonlit night to hunt for the Jersey Devil, you may need a little liquid courage. Valenzano Winery produces their Jersey Devil Port wine in the heart of the Pine Barrens.
Recommended Reading - Books about the Jersey Devil
The authoritative and best selling guide to the Jersey Devil. I first read this book as a teen and recently read it again with one of my kids. It's a quick and informative read covering the numerous reported sightings and theories surrounding the Jersey Devil. My copy is from the original printing with the red cover which is a little more sinister looking than the current edition.
The Jersey Devil's Birthplace
Jersey Devil Based Fiction
Several authors and movie producers have incorporated the Jersey Devil and other Pine Barrens folklore into their fictional works. I've even seen an episode of the Jonny Quest cartoon series that included the Jersey Devil in the plot.
More About The Pine Barrens
The Pine Barrens is a vast track of woodlands covering large parts of southern and central New Jersey. The area is rich in history and environmental diversity. It's also home to the "Pineys", a proud and independent group of people who have inhabited the Pines for generations.
Unlike Vegas, what happens in the Pines doesn't always stay in the Pines. The Jersey Devil has also been sighted in the Philadelphia area.
Sources & Bibliography
Much of the above information on the Jersey Devil legend and the area is from my own personal experience growing up in South Jersey. I also used the references below to research variations of the legend, dates and information on specific sightings.
What do you think of the Jersey Devil? Have you or someone you know had a run in with J.D.?