For 250 years, the legend of the Jersey Devil has haunted the inhabitants of New Jersey, U.S.A. The creature, which closely resembles a demon, is said to roam the Pine Barrens. Though there’s very little evidence to prove that it actually exists, there have been numerous recorded sightings, leading groups such as The Devil Hunters to believe that there really is something out there.
While the Jersey Devil has hardly any evidence to back it up, it is shrouded in traditions and stories that can be traced back to before the Revolutionary War. Keep reading to find out 10 things you didn’t know about the Jersey Devil.
10 The Sight Of The Creature Is Terrifying
No certified photos of the Jersey Devil exist, but we can tell from the descriptions in the recorded sightings that the creature is terrifying to look at. The sightings tend to agree on certain monstrous characterisitics. The Jersey Devil is often described as having horns or antlers, hence the name “Devil”.
It is also said to walk on two legs rather than four and has hooves or pig trotters. Many of the descriptions claim that the creature has wings like a bat that enable it to fly. Overall, it is believed to resemble a kangaroo, with some sources giving it a tail and others claiming it has no tail.
9 The Devil Wreaks Terror
So, the Jersey Devil looks terrifying enough, but what does the creature actually do? Many of the sources claim that it instills terror on those around. While it hasn’t been linked to any human deaths, it has been known to kill other life.
Several dogs, chickens, and other small animals have been recorded as dying at the hands of the notorious Jersey Devil. Aside from this, the creature mainly scares people by releasing a horrifying screech at night. Also, the hoof prints left by the creature in the snow are said to be pretty scary!
8 The Creature Was Born As A Demon
The origin tales of creatures like the Jersey Devil are always fascinating. In this case, most versions of the story state that the creature was born a devil, rather than transforming into one later. According to The Culture Trip, the beast was born with wings, horns, and hooves.
The Jersey Devil was born of a human mother, largely believed to be called Jane Leeds (now known as Mother Leeds). Does that mean expectant mothers need to worry about possibly giving birth to babies that look like the Jersey Devil? No. Jane cursed her baby before it was born, leading it to manifest into a demon.
7 It Has Twelve Siblings
The most famous origin story of the Jersey Devil tells that the creature was born after Mother Leeds, who was from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, cursed her unborn child. We know what you’re thinking: why would anyone curse their own baby? The tired moms out there might understand the reason: Mother Leeds had twelve others!
Before she gave birth to her thirteenth child in 1735, she cried that this baby would be the Devil, and voila. So, the Jersey Devil did technically have twelve brothers and sisters, but was the only one of the family to be a demon.
6 The Original Tale May Have Been Anti-British Propaganda
There are lots of versions of the Jersey Devil’s birth and origins. Many of them date back to the 1700, reporting that the Leeds family produced the beast that still haunts the state of New Jersey to this day. One of the legends states that Jane Leeds actually fell in love with a British soldier. She consequently gave birth to a monster as punishment for this.
All of this was said to have taken place against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War. Therefore, it may have been conceived as anti-British propaganda.
5 It May Also Have Been Started By A Friendly Rivalry
Another version of the tale blames a rivalry as the real motivation behind the story of the Jersey Devil. Many features of the story point to two groups who lived in New Jersey in the 1700s—the Quaker population and the Leeds family.
Going into the 1900s, the monster was most commonly referred to as the Leeds Devil rather than the Jersey Devil. It was also sometimes called the Devil of Leeds. The story could have been intended as a joke between the two groups that ended up being taken very seriously.
4 Some Believe It Could Be A Bird
Historians have come up with all kinds of theories to explain the legend of the Jersey Devil. Still, there have been a number of recorded sightings of the creature. Those who don’t believe it really exists explain this by claiming that the others really only saw a bird and mistook it for the creature.
Scientists have come forward to say that it had to have been a bird or bat that was sighted, and not the mythical creature. This is because the descriptions of the creature aren’t plausible. For wings to be able to carry it, it would be a much lighter, more delicate creature than depicted.
3 There's Prize Money For Whoever Finds It
Still, many New Jersey locals still believe that the Jersey Devil really does exist. For as long as there has been talk of a monster living in the Pine Barrens, there have been recorded sightings. Over the past 300 years, nearly 2,000 people have claimed to have spotted the Jersey Devil.
A circus once offered $100,000 for whoever could capture the Jersey Devil and bring it to them. The Philadelphia Zoo also offered $10,000 for the creature, leading locals to embark on a few wild goose chases to find the Devil.
2 A Few Famous People Reported Sightings
Many of the sightings of the Jersey Devil have been confirmed as hoaxes. Nevertheless, there have been a few famous and notable people who have claimed to have spotted the creature. One such person was Joseph Bonaparte, the older brother of Napoleon, who claimed to have seen the Jersey Devil near Bordertown in 1820.
Stephen Decatur also claimed to have seen the Jersey Devil flying across the sky in the early 1800s. He supposedly fired a cannonball at the creature, but even though he hit it, it kept flying.
1 Teenagers From South Jersey Hunt It
The Jersey Devil is heavily rooted in the local culture and traditions of New Jersey. Many teenagers from South Jersey visit the woods with the hopes of hunting down the creature. It’s like a rite of passage for some locals.
There is also a group called The Devil Hunters whose purpose is to find the creature, or failing that, prove that it really is just a legend. As of yet, they haven’t had any luck finding it or proving that it exists. There’s still time!