There’s an infamous cryptid hunting its prey around areas of New Jersey affectionately known as the Jersey Devil. First documented some two hundred and fifty years ago, this creature may have originated in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and was originally known as the Leeds Devil after a woman known to history as Mother Leeds (thought to be Deborah Leeds) claimed to have birthed it in 1735.
Distraught at delivering what would be her thirteenth child, Leeds reportedly cursed to the heavens “Let this child be a devil!”
As a lesson to all delivering mothers to hold their tongues, you can probably guess what happened next. Two months after uttering those faithful words, Leeds delivered the child. While held against her bosom, Leeds’s newborn transformed into a hideous creature with an elongated face resembling a bat; wings sprouting from its shoulders. The newborn’s legs grew long, its feet became hooves, claws tore out from its fingertips and the eyes turned from blue to deathly yellow. The creature lept up and ran to the next room where it devoured another of Leeds’s baby boys laying defenseless. In a manner quite impressive even for a newborn cryptid, the creature killed the rest of the children in the house and the midwife before flying off into the night, leaving behind its devastated mother. Although, there are some versions of the story reporting Leeds was the first person killed by the little
The next five years were filled with death and slaughter at the hands of the creature until an exorcism was performed by a priest to protect the local townsfolk from the creature’s appetite. As with all good legends and lore, the priest warned that the exorcism would only hold the creature at bay for a hundred years.
In the years following the exorcism, as proclaimed by the priest, no-one was killed though the creature was seen on numerous occasions.
Adding weight to the credibility of the Jersey Devil’s existence, there are well documented sightings by well known historical figures.
One such sighting was reported by Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero of his day, who claimed to see a strange creature flying overhead while visiting the Hanover Iron Works. As fortune would have it, the Hanover Iron Works manufactured cannon balls and Decatur is reported to have fired one at the creature. The projectile struck its target, piercing the creature’s wing, but wasn’t enough to stop it before disappearing from Decatur’s field of view.
As if a war hero wasn’t enough, another famous sighting was by the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Bonaparte. J. Bonaparte reported observing the creature while hunting during his stay at his Borden town, New Jersey estate sometime around 1820.
True to the priest’s word, in 1841, approximately one hundred years after the exorcism, the killings began again. At first, animals were found partially eaten and mutilated. However, it wasn’t long after until the first human victims were discovered. The Jersey Devil’s attacks continued and it’s hunting territory widened; at one time including Spring Valley, New York.
Over the years, the Jersey Devil has become quite the cryptid celebrity with some very notably highlights.
During a week period starting January 16, 1909, more than a hundred people claim to have seen the Jersey Devil. Caught in the grip of fear and desperate, residents were afraid to send their children to school and workers stayed home. Although many reports indicate the creature was fired upon by civilians and law enforcement, the creature’s carcass was never found.
Sightings of the creature spiked again during the years 1951-52 in the Gibbstown-Paulsboro area of New jersey. Townsfolk formed a posse but their dogs refused to track the creature and gradually sightings trailed off.
Reports have been made as recently as 2009 sighting the creature and, doubtless, there are many more sightings where people have convinced themselves they have seen something common or are too afraid of ridicule to report it.
Whether the Jersey Devil is one single cryptid with an unnaturally long lifespan, or a population of cryptids breeding and reproducing, there is no doubt that something hunts in the Pine Barrens. A tall, winged creature makes the area its home, though it appears to have learned to control its murderous urges and hopefully this continues. Perhaps the Jersey Devil is the offspring of a love affair between Mother Leeds and a vampire – it’s unfortunate she’s not around to ask.