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New Jersey Devil
New Jersey, USA
© - 01

Fact? Fiction? Fantasy? Of these three categories, only one can fully describe the enigma of the Jersey Devil. As a resident of New Jersey for more than 350 years, the Jersey Devil has aroused much doubt, fear, and intrigue. Doubt because such a creature existing on this planet betrays the intelligence of the human mind. Fear because of the creature's demonic appearance, renowned strength and the mangled bodies of its discovered victims. Intrigue because of the beast's cryptic nature and elusive behavior.

Many attempt to relate the story of this animal's arrival to earth. One Mrs. Leeds of Estelville is said to have given birth to her 13th child in the year 1735. Calling down curses on this child, she supposedly gave birth to a devil who sprouted wings and alighted up the chimney. Another claims that it was Mrs. Shrouds of Leeds Point who gave birth to the devil. Still others claim different personages. These stories indeed stretch the limits of credibility, and it is the belief of True Authority that they are mere creations of fearful human minds endeavoring to explain the frightful monster.

However, too many reputable people have claimed to have seen the Jersey Devil for it to be a mere myth, and in the next few thoughts, I would like to bring forth some of the facts surrounding the mystery of the Jersey Devil.

Over 1,000 reputable people have witnessed this mysterious being. Most of the accounts describe the creature as a four foot tall animal with a horse's head, bat's wings, crane's legs, horse's hoofs, and sometimes having a forked tail. The descriptions vary in nature and details, but that is the basic overview. As with the Loch Ness Monster, the Jersey Devil has been sighted by characters such as doctors, lawyers, policemen, and citizens of good standing. A particularly abnormal sighting occurred in the 1800's when Commodore Stephen Decatur was firing a cannon with his men. Suddenly, a hideous creature flew into view. As it was flying across their firing path, the officer was able to hit the Devil with a cannon ball in mid-air. According to his account, the ball passed right threw the beast, yet it continued on as if nothing had happened. While this may sound far fetched to the skeptic, the officer was of a reputable nature and was not prone to conjure up wild fairy tales.

Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Spain and the brother of Napoleon, was hunting in the area when, according to his report, he saw the Jersey Devil. This happened in 1816 and in 1839. Interestingly, a rather strange period of sightings happened in the early 1840s. Over a certain period of these days, large amounts of sheep and chickens were killed by an unknown creature. Many abnormal footprints were discovered, and many witnesses reported hearing piercing screams.

Throughout the past 200 or so years, there have been both periods of peaceful quiet and periods of sighting mayhem. Generally, the sightings involve the carcasses of some farm animal or animals who were unlucky enough to be in the cryptid's way. At times of increased sightings, many hundreds of people were reported to have seen the beast many times in one night as it sneaked around their neighborhood. In summation, the sightings could be categorized as "pre-1909," "January 16-23, 1909," and "post-1909".

The grouping of the sightings revolves around the year 1909 for a specific reason. In that year, during the week of January 16-23, the whole state of New Jersey was terrorized by its strange inhabitant. As the week progressed, people were so terrified that nobody would venture outside, even in the day time. Schools were closed, as no children came to fill them. Factories shut down, as no workers dared to come to work. Fierce German shepherd dogs were found completely mutilated, livestock dismembered, chickens and cats slaughtered. All around the gruesome corpses, strange hoof-like tracks were found. Many brave men tried to follow the tracks, but found that they stopped completely in the middle of a field, or road, or started on a rooftop, etc.

A certain Thack Cozzens of Woodbury saw a flying creature with glowing eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Evans of Gloucester were awakened one night by something in their front yard. For 10 minutes they observed the Jersey Devil. This is the account of what they saw:

"It was about three feet and half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo', and it turned around, barked at me, and flew away."

There are many theories as to what the Jersey Devil might be. Mrs. Cassidy of Clayton thought that it was a bird called the Scrowfoot Dick. The only problem with this consideration, however, is that they are much too small to fit the description. Others thought that it was a Sand Hill Crane. The crane has a similar high pitched scream, and feeds on corn and wheat. This, in actuality, explains several crop invasions. However, although it will fight if cornered, the Sand Hill Crane does not kill animals, especially fully grown German Shepherd dogs. A professor named Bralhopf believes it to be a pre-historic survivor, possibly a Pterodactyl.

Some, in contrast, believe it to be a deformed child born to Mrs. Leeds in 1735 that has lost its human nature. However, in 1909, the child would have been 174 years old, and this does not explain the creature flying.

Still others are convinced that the Jersey Devil is the very essence of evil, a harbinger of war. Right before the Civil War, it was seen several times. Likewise the Spanish-American War, WWI, and in 1939, before WWII. On the eve of December 7th, 1941, it was sighted, as well as before the Vietnam War.

These theories do not adequately explain the enigma that is presented. However, the fact remains that something seems to be lurking out there . . . something that, just perhaps, is waiting to be discovered.


1. James F. McCloy and Ray Miller Jr., The Jersey Devil (Wallingford, PA, The Middle Atlantic Press,1976), p.45.


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