Wherever you go, folklore and urban legends lie in wait. Whether it’s a mythical creature or a curse or a ghost, lore of this sort is scattered from city to city, town to town. In the state of New Jersey there is said to be a creature that roams the Pine Barrens, and it is known as the Jersey Devil.
According to legend, in 1735 Mother Leeds — a resident of the Pines — was pregnant with her thirteenth child. In some stories she cries this out when she find out she is once again with child, in others it is during labor, but according to legend Mother Leeds raises her hands to the heavens and cries: “Let this one be a devil!” Whichever version you believe, she goes into labor on a stormy night surrounded by midwives while her husband and children were in another room. The child was born — a normal baby boy — however, the baby began to transform, twisting itself into a hideous creature. The tiny child was no longer so small as it grew in size, horns and talons and bat-like wings sprouting from his body as feathers coated his flesh. Finally, the child’s eyes began to glow red as they grew into its snarling face.
The child turned on its own mother, killing her, and then went after the midwives. It flew at them, ripping them apart — some lost their lives, others were maimed — and once it was done it went to the rest of the family and killed most of them. As quickly as it had attacked, the creature fled up the chimney before the few survivors’ eyes, demolishing it into rubble, and escaped into the Pine Barrens where it has dwelled ever since.
Another version states that the creature fled after its birth and returned every night to visit Mrs. Leeds, though she turned it away until it came around no more. Whichever story you believe, it all leads back to the Devil being loose in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Of course, what kind of creature would it be if it didn’t have stories of being spotted? One of the most famous accounts comes to us from the beginning of the 19th century when a Commodore Stephen Decatur — a naval hero — was testing cannon balls when he spotted a strange creature flying across the sky. He fired — and hit — the creature, but it continued to fly away. Others have seen the creature since, continuing into modern times with the most recent repost coming to us from 1987 when a german shepherd was found gnawed on and surrounded by mysterious footprints that could not be identified.
Whether you believe that the devil killed its human family or visited them, it all comes down to that curse Mrs. Leeds cried out. The child was, in fact, the devil, and can still be found eating livestock and pets, stalking the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. One thing is for sure: stay away from the Pine Barrens at night, or the Jersey Devil just might make an appearance.
For more reading on the Jersey Devil (sources):