The Jersey Devil: 300 Years of Horror
Southern New Jersey is home to the Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands, which consists of more than 1.1 million acres of forested land that stretches over more than seven counties wide. Early settlers were unable to plant very many crops due to poor soil. The charcoal and iron industries that began to develop didn’t compete with more readily deposits located elsewhere. It was just a matter of time before the industrial towns that sought out wealth turned to ghost towns and the forest reclaimed its territory. The area is also known for many species of trees and plants such as the Pitch Pines that depend on frequent fires to reproduce. A location of solitude that has constantly pushed mankind away, yielding an uneasy lifestyle in a land destined to burn only makes sense for it being the birthplace to one of America’s most famous legends, the Jersey Devil.
In 1735, Deborah Leeds was believed to have been a witch whom lived in what was known as Leeds Point with her husband and twelve children. When Mrs. Leeds became pregnant a thirteenth time, it is said that she raised her hands to the heavens and shouted out, “Let this one be the Devil!” and a few months later in the midst of a storm, her agonizing labor began. Mr. Leeds and the twelve children gathered in one room of the home while several midwives and friends of the Leeds closed themselves in the room in which Deborah was to give birth in. When the baby was born it appeared seemingly normal, having beautiful blond hair and blue eyes, but within minutes the flesh began to tear and the child began to rapidly grow until it was nearly six foot in height, had an elongated horse-like head with an evil looking snout and horns, glowing red eyes full of hate, bat-like wings, hoofed feet and a serpentine tail. Hair sprouted all over its body and its teeth were sharp and long. When it finally stopped morphing before their very eyes it first attacked the mother, ripping her flesh from her bones in front of the screaming women, then it turned to rapidly feast upon and brutally mutilate the midwives, letting out a shrieking yell as it tore through the women. The husband and twelve children huddled together in fear of the sounds coming from the room, too afraid to run away when the beast crashed through the door, walked past them all and scuffled its way up the burning chimney in front of them, knocking parts of it down into the fireplace as it made its way out to the rooftop. The father heard clanking upon the roof for just a moment and then seen the demonic-like being fly away into the stormy night. For centuries this beast has been seen by very reputable people, and many blame it for missing persons reports, claiming that after almost 300 years, it’s still alive and takes people at will.
Today is the day of the Devil, or at least it is known so by many New Jersey residents, and especially those whom live around or within the Pine Barrens. January is the most likely month for a sighting of the legendary creature, with January 21st being the most common day in which people have claimed to have seen it. The residents of New Jersey have declared the week of January 16th through the 23rd as Phenomenal Week because it was in between those dates back in 1909 in which hundreds of people claimed to have witnessed seeing the appalling beast from New Jersey as far North as Maine; the most sightings being from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. The sightings caused such an uproar and widespread panic that many businesses and schools closed early to assure that people could get home before dark, to avoid being attacked or eaten by the infamous creature.
These days some of the people that have encountered what they thought to be the Jersey Devil have been those such as police officers, doctors, public officials and business owners. Many of the claims are from respectable people whom are heavily involved with their community and have nothing to gain by proposing a hoax. Among the very large list of people to report seeing the creature is a woman by the name of Laurie Winkleman and her son, Glenn. One night Laurie had forgotten to turn off some Christmas lights that were decorating a portion of their backyard so she asked her son to accompany her to go out and unplug them. As she reached down to unplug the lights, her son began to tremble in fear and was looking upwards into a nearby tree. He was scared speechless and like a deer in headlights, Glenn had frozen in his tracks. When Laurie looked up she screamed in terror and grabbed her son’s arm pulling at him to follow her. The two of them ran as fast a they could towards their backdoor when they heard what they recalled as a large swooshing sound overhead and the beast landed on their snow covered rooftop, “click-clacking around” as if it were trying to get a footing to turn back around to attack them. Luckily, the Winklemans made it back into their home alive and without harm. The next morning they noticed footprints on the roof so they took photos of it, turning it in to the authorities as evidence to their claim.
A detective made note that the footprints shown in the photo appeared to have been six inches wide and each marking was four foot apart from one another. After consulting with a few animal experts, the conclusion was that the tracks weren’t from any known animal that they could think of. They also concluded that whatever it was may have weighed anywhere from two to three-hundred pounds and walked bipedal (upon two legs). Many skeptics believe that people are mistaking the Great Horned Owl for the Jersey Devil. After all , that particular owl lives in New Jersey, is the largest owl in the United States having a wing span of nearly five-foot and massive claws. The Great Horned Owl also has large eyes that may shine red in certain light and it’s talons are large as well. However, people that have witnessed what they say was the Jersey Devil all state that what they had seen may have been at least six-foot tall, and the wings are bat-like as well. The only other known species to have the head shape and some of the features is the African Hammer Head Bat, however, once again the size and other claims wouldn’t add up. The Hammer Head Bat would also need a lot of fruit and a tropical climate to survive, neither of which can be found in New Jersey.
To further examine the situation, the detective had both Laurie Winkleman and her son take polygraph tests, which they passed with flying colors. The examiner said, “If they were in a court case they would be considered worthy witnesses, they are telling the truth and really did see something out of the ordinary in their backyard.” There are no bones, corpses or valuable evidence to prove the creature exists, yet more and more reports are given to the authorities each year. Is it possible that a mystical creature that is cursed to roam Earth until the end of days may be flying around New Jersey and many of the surrounding states?
Until next time…
~ William C. Raustler
This is a painting by George Kuchar – 1985
This is a toy figure of the Jersey Devil, available via cryptomundo.com