The Jersey Devil Mysteries
The story of this mythical creature began while the country was still a British colony.
The Jersey Pine Barrens is a stretch of swampy, forested wasteland where survival is still a struggle.
According to the most prevalent legend, in 1735 a Mrs. Jane Leeds became despondent upon learning she was to have a thirteenth child. She declared if it was born it would be a "Devil".
The tale states that when the child was born it transformed into a grotesque beast with a reptilian body, leathery wings, a long forked tail, and a head like a horse. It immediately flew out of the house and disappeared into the surrounding swamps.
For the next few years, this "Devil" was blamed for many calamities. Dogs, cats, and smaller farm animals were allegedly taken and consumed by the beast. It was blamed for the disappearance of children and supposedly could dry up the milk of cows and kill the fish in the rivers. Grown men began to fear the beast and would refuse to go out into the darkness of the night.
By 1740 the residents of the Jersey Pine Barrens were desperate for some relief from their trials. A local minister was pressed to perform an exorcism of the creature. It was hoped the blessing would keep the area free of the Jersey Devil's depredations for a hundred years. Regrettably, within sixty years sightings of the Jersey Devil began once more.
Among the most notable and credible witnesses to sight, the beast was the U.S. Navy hero Commodore Stephen Decatur. In 1800 he was visiting the Hanover Iron Works inspecting the cannon shot they were producing. During a test firing maneuver, he spotted a strange beast flying over. Shots were fired and several were reported to hit the beast but it continued on its way.
Some years later the former king of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte, brother to the French Emperor, Napoleon, was leasing a house near Bordertown. He reported seeing the Jersey Devil while on a hunting trip into the Pine Barrens.
By 1840, the Devil was back in force and once more began its depredations of the countryside. While the actual sightings were few during the late nineteenth century, by 1909 sightings of the Devil reached epidemic proportions. Policemen, a postmaster, and many other reputable citizens encountered the beast directly. The beast would usually flee even though it did not seem to suffer harm even when shot at.
Sighting continued throughout the twentieth century and hit a peak of activity in 1960 with more small animals being carried away by the beast.
The last official sighting of the creature is most likely the reported encounter in 1993 by Forest Ranger John Irwin who came upon the beast in a roadway. They stared at each other for several minutes before it fled the area. Despite several substantial rewards being offered for the capture of the Jersey Devil, no one has yet to produce the creature or its body.
There are several large predatory birds that also inhabit the area of the Jersey Pine Barrens and skeptics claim that these are what people are seeing and misidentifying.
There are large cranes in the area that could, in a poor light, be taken for the reported appearance of the Jersey Devil.
Lately, improvements in the area have diminished the reports of seeing the creature although by now, New Jersey has grown rather fond of their local monster.
Short of someone actually capturing or killing a strange creature there, they are almost willing to be careful at night and be glad it is still somewhere, roaming the depths of the historic Pine Barrens region.
© 2020 Sid mark