The creepy origins of the ‘Jersey Devil’
It was in January of 1909 that New Jersey was gripped by reports of multiple sightings of the infamous New Jersey Devil.
If you’re unfamiliar with the legend, there are multiple origin stories for the beast, but of the on most popular says that in 1735, a woman in the Pine Barrens named Jane Leeds was giving birth to her 13th child when she cried out, “Let the devil take this one!” Apparently, 12 children were enough for her.
When the child was born, so the legend goes, it turned into a monster with the head of a collie, the wings of a bat and cloven feet. Other accounts include claws for hands, horns and a split tail. It is identified by its blood curdling scream.
So, anyway, during the week of Jan. 16-23, 1909, it reportedly attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights where police shot at it but the beast escaped; according to the New Jersey Historical Society:
Councilman E.P. Weeden of Trenton claimed to have been awoken by flapping wings outside his bedroom window. The Councilman said he found cloven footprints in the snow and several other instances of similar footprints were reported in Trenton at the time. Hundreds, if not thousands, of other people also claimed to have seen the Devil within a week or so of the Councilman's "sighting" and news of the multiple sightings were reported in local papers. The January 1909 sightings were not limited to New Jersey...there were reported sightings across the river in Pennsylvania and some sightings in Delaware as well.
This prompted groups of hunters/vigilantes to comb the Pine Barrens.
It was reported that the Philadelphia Zoo offered a reward for the capture of the creature, spurring the hunt even more.
The Devil was never captured and inhabits the Pine Barrens until this very day (or so the legend goes).
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.