Halloween Legends: The Jersey Devil
Originally published Oct. 2011.
As a boy, growing up in New Jersey, I heard a lot of tall tales concerning monsters and strange creatures often around camp fires or during walks through thick forests. Yet one story was always stuck in my head and that is the story of the Jersey Devil. With the body of a dragon, wings of a bat, pig’s feet, a dog’s head and the face of a horse, the Jersey Devil struck fear into my heart as a child. It supposedly haunts the southern region of New Jersey throughout the thick brush of the Pine Barrens.
As the legend goes, it was a dark and stormy night at the Leeds house in 1735. Mother Leeds, a suspected witch had proclaimed her thirteenth child would be of no mortal descent by exclaiming “let this one be a devil!” Many of the town’s women filled the Leeds home in curiosity waiting for Mother Leeds to give birth. Finally, the child was born and to a great relief the baby was absolutely normal. However, moments later the child began to change at a staggering rate and turned into a beast beating all the women as well as his mother with his giant tail. The beast let out an intimidating howl and then flew up the chimney into the storm.
The Jersey Devil was blamed for livestock killings, strange tracks and reported abnormal howls. Its presence had been reported starting in the mid 1800’s. However, the tale of the Jersey Devil did not gain significant press coverage until the week of January 16 through the 23 1909. During this time hundreds of people encountered the Jersey Devil in South Jersey and as far as Philadelphia and Delaware. Police in Bristol, Pennsylvania had even fired on the beast and their bullets had no effect what-so-ever.
Can something of this nature be true? A beast spawned from the womb of a witch turned devil that destroys farmer’s crops and poisons creeks? It seems impossible yet there are hundreds if not thousands of reports of the Jersey Devil and some even from reputable people. Nevertheless I am skeptical of the existence of this beast or animal maybe because I have never encountered it myself; However people in the past have sworn that they saw the Jersey Devil sometimes in the air or even right in front of their face. Although I cannot say that I have personally seen this winged creature, I have been to a location where he has been sighted on numerous occasions.
In Pemberton, New Jersey lies a road off of route 70 called Mt. Misery Road. This road drives straight through the heart of the Pine Barrens which is supposed to be the Jersey Devil’s personal quarters. I drove along these roads not too long ago with friends as were destined to get spooked by anything in the Pine Barren wilderness. I began driving down the poorly paved roads of Mt. Misery passing many ominous trees and suspicious shadows. My friends and I saw a dirt path so we decided to investigate. We got out of my car and walked down this dirt path only to find a wooden archway and stairs leading into the woods. The stairs brought us to a section of wooden pews and in front of them a podium with a giant wooden cross hanging high in the background. It was a scary sight along with a creepy silence filling the air as we quickly retreated back to my car. Mt. Misery has had reports of Satanists and devil worshipers performing odd rituals so we did not want to take any more chances outside of the car.
We continued our journey through Mt. Misery traveling down many dark uninhabited roads. We soon found a dock leading to a river and to our astonishment and disbelief the river looked as if it were filled with blood. We did not know at the time that this is common for the Mullica River to resemble the color of blood, but it still set the ominous tone. At this time I decided to pear into the woods by myself as my friends waited impatiently in my car. As I got farther into the woods I could hear what seemed to be chanting in the distance. With the thought of ritual performing Satanists I quickly ran back to my car and decided enough was enough. My friends and I traced our way out of Mt. Misery shaken by the area’s negative energy.
Although we did not encounter or hear any traces of the Jersey Devil. Mt. Misery would be an excellent location for it to inhabit. With its many trees and thick brush along with endless, creepy roads this is an ideal environment for a devilish beast to hunt and harass. Although the story of the Jersey Devil is ridden off as folk-lore, many New Jersey inhabitants to this day believe in its existence. Personally, I am unsure that an animal of this stature can exist, yet if it did truly exist, Mt. Misery Road in Pemberton, New Jersey would be the perfect place for the Jersey Devil to slumber.