Thursday, February 11, 2010
Phenomena on Trial: Jersey Devil
Defendant: Jersey Devil, popularly talked about flying beast witnessed in the Pine Barrens area of New Jersey. Described as having the head of a horse, the wings of a bat, the scaly body of a reptile, the forked tail of a demon, and red eyes.
Defense's opening statement: This creature has been witnessed for 260 years! We’re talking about an exceptionally supernatural being to have so many generations experience the same creature in the same area. Numerous credible people have witnessed this monster over the centuries and the descriptions have been consistently the same. This tells us that they are seeing the same unbelievable beast.
Defense witness: January 19, 1909, At 2:30 am, Mr & Mrs. Nelson Evans of Gloucester were awakened by a strange noise. They watched the devil from their window for 10 minutes. Mr. Evans described the creature 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."
Defense Evidence: January 15, 1909: The Lowdens of Burlington, NJ, found hoof prints in their yard and around their trash, which was half eaten. Almost every yard in Burlington had these strange hoof prints in them. The prints went up trees, went from roof to roof, disappeared in the middle of the road, and stopped in the middle of open fields. The same tracks were also found in Columbus, Hedding, Kinhora and Rancocas. A hunt was organized to follow the tracks but the dogs wouldn't follow the trail.
Prosecution's open statement: What the defense has avoided telling you is the legend on which this ridiculous creature was created. A woman 260 years ago apparently giving birth to her 13th child, wished it was a devil. It was born deformed and hideous and then flew up the chimney and for the next century and a half has tormented the people of the Pine Barrens. Had they told us the tale on which the creature is based, we could have cancelled this trial right away!
Prosecution witness: (photo above) Great horned owl. This creature has a wingspan up to 5’, eyes that glow red at night. Its tufted ears look like horns. They have also been known to attack humans.
Prosecution Evidence: The great horned owl has been in this region and breeding for more than 260 years, the likelihood of running into one of these exceeds the chance of running into a deformed 260-year-old creature that was born to a human and can fly. We do not have to prove the Jersey Devil does not exist because it is quite obvious by lack of any evidence that it is nothing but a local legend.
Prosecution’s closing argument: An epidemic of sightings were reported in 1909. Set off by one tale, a neighbor suddenly encountered the creature, on and on until thousands reported witnessing it. Then, suddenly it fizzled out and no more reports for many decades. That might sound like an incredibly reliable proof of the existence of something exceptional. It is not. You see, these thousands of reports were made during one week. One single week in 260 years something supposedly showed itself. What we can gather from this is that hysteria spread fast in a small community and then ran its course. It would never have been reported again if people didn’t read the old newspaper reports and attribute something large flying by as the Jersey Devil.
Defense’s closing argument: Thousands of people over hundreds of years are being dismissed by the prosecution. These people live in a rural area. They know their horned owls and their cranes. They do not mistake farm animals for flying monsters. The vast wilderness of the Pine Barrens affords this creature sanctuary, as well as ample food supply and waterways. Thousands of people cannot be all wrong. Even if a few truly saw what they describe, it should make us all very afraid.
at 7:09 PM