Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jersey Devil: The Legend That Won't Die

In 1735, it was the first mention of a cryptid being that was evil, scary, and otherworldly looking. This being came to be referred to as the Jersey Devil and thought to inhabit the pine barrens of the State of New Jersey in the eastern US.


The legend begins hundreds of years ago with a woman called "Mother Leeds" who was said to have been a mistress to a British soldier and a witch. The combination of shame, the enemy and witchery makes this legendary woman the trifecta embodiment of all things evil. It was said her 13th child she cursed and it was born a devilish demon that began to terrorize the region and still does to this day.

SOURCE LINK:  According to, Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon, is also claimed to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Borden town estate around 1820.

The story follows as:

"One snowy afternoon, [Joseph Bonaparte] was hunting alone in the woods near his house when he spotted some strange tracks on the ground. They looked like the tracks of a two-footed donkey. Bonaparte noticed that one foot was slightly larger than the other. The tracks ended abruptly as if the creature had flown away. He stared at the tracks for a long moment, trying to figure out what the strange animal might be."

At that moment, Bonaparte heard a strange hissing noise. Turning, he found himself face to face with a large winged creature with a horse-like head and bird-like legs. Astonished and frightened, he froze and stared at the beast, forgetting that he was carrying a rifle. For a moment, neither of them moved. Then the creature hissed at him, beat its wings, and flew away."

There are many variations of this legend that involve a cursed man, traitors, the enemy, witchcraft and more. It has morphed many times over the telling so that it's hard to tell what it the truth, but when held up against the Native People's legend, as well, the one common factor is some kind of dragon-like creature seen in the forest over hundreds of years.


The Pine Barrens in New Jersey is a heavily forested area that runs through seven counties and got its name for its combination of pines and the fact that the soil was unable to used for crops due to its acidic, nutrient-poor soil.  It has largely been undeveloped and also contains the purest water aquifer in the country. It also is a large producer of cranberries in cranberry bogs. Efforts are made to retain this historic and natural setting.

Native Legends

The name the local Lenape Tribe had for the area was "place of the dragons." They believed a dragon-like creature inhabited the woods. It is interesting to note that Native People's legends tell of real incidents and try to make sense of the extraordinary encounters. What to them was a dragon, to the local European settlers was a hideous biped monster, the result of adultery with the enemy and practicing witchcraft. 


The Jersey Devil is said to walk on two legs, have a horse-like head, red eyes, hooves for feet, antlers, kangaroo-like body, and wings. As you can tell, this extraordinary set of features seems impossible to find in nature, but descriptions when seeing something unusual can often focus on one thing and not the others. One person might be so caught up in the wings, that they see something in the head area but later consider it antlers, when it was actually horns. Given the centuries of descriptions, it seems rather interesting that features are being repeatedly revealed. It gives credence to some kind of unusual sighting of an odd creature that somehow has either procreated and been seen for centuries or lived for centuries. It is perhaps one of the most exceptional cryptid sightings in existence.


In 1909, they had enough sightings that it was making the paper.  For one week, there were hundreds of sightings.  The extraordinary sightings went into neighboring states and culminated in a reward for this "winged kangaroo creature." 

Photo by Dave Black

A man named Dave Black told a story of a sighting at a golf course where he thought he was seeing a llama at first. He reported it was running through the trees when it began to use its wings and fly. He swears it is not a hoaxed photo and he simply wants an explanation of what it was.


Repeated descriptions of something from the time before the settlers to the early settlers and on into today that involves a creature with wings that defies any logic we know about anatomy and appears to be almost hybridized is something of note. Had it been a legend that came out out in the 1970s, like the Bunnyman in Northern Virginia, it would be easily dismissed, but given the length of time these reportings have occurred and the very odd variety of features, there seems to be something in those woods that is either a collective residual haunting image or something that once was, a misunderstood explainable, something folks are jumping to conclusions about because of the location's history, or the most massive hoax ever perpetrated. It's up to you to make an individual assessment. 

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