Jersey Devil

Flying Hum ANOID of t he east ern Unit ed St at es.

Variant name: Leeds devil.

Physical description: Lengt h, 3-11 feet. Alliga-t or skin. Head like t hat of a horse, ram, or dog. Horns. Large eyes. Bat like wings, 2 feet wide. Small front legs with paws. Cloven hooves. Long tail.

Behavior: Loud nocturnal cry like a squawk, whist le, moo, or screech. Said t o spew flames from its mouth and glow in the dark. Foul smell. Kills livest ock and dogs.

Tracks: Lengt h, 3 inches. Widt h, 2 inches. Like hooves or horseshoe print s.

Habitat: Pine woods.

Distribution: Southern New Jersey; eastern Pennsylvania; Delaware.

Significant sightings: Brist ol, Pennsylvania, post mast er E. W. Minst er, John McOwen, and police officer James Sackville all separat ely saw a

256 japanese hairy fish

winged, screaming creat ure on January 17, 1909. Minst er described it as resembling a large crane wit h a head like a ram's, long t hin wings, and short legs. On January 21, something apparent ly left hoofprint s in t he snow in Trent on, New Jersey, near t he st at e arsenal building and in t he yard of Cit y Councilman E. P. Weeden. These event s init iat ed a weeklong spat e of sight -ings in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Schools and businesses were shut down, posses roamed t he pine woods, and t rolley drivers in Trent on and New Brunswick armed t hemselves against an at t ack.

A minor set of sight ings occurred in lat e November 1951 in the Gibbstown, New Jersey, area when a t en-year-old boy collapsed aft er seeing a horrible-looking creature outside the Dupont Clubhouse.

Park ranger John Irwin saw a 6-foot-tall biped wit h black fur st ep in front of his car as he drove along t he Mullica River in t he Whart on St at e Forest , New Jersey, in mid-December 1993. Its deerlike head had piercing red eyes.

In lat e 1995, Sue Dupre was driving near Po mpt o n Lakes, New Jersey, when a hopping animal wit h an armadillo-like face raced across t he highway.

Present status: Said to be t he devilish offspring of a Mrs. Leeds (or Shrouds) of Leeds Point or Burlington, New Jersey, in about 1735, this creat ure only came int o prominence in 1909, when a wave o f sight ings made headlines. Nowadays, any New Jersey crypt id, fro m an Eastern Puma to a Hairy Biped, is designat ed a Jersey devil by t he media. Possible explanations:

(1) An elaborat e hoax in 1909 designed t o lower real est at e prices and creat e a buyer's market. Ivan T. Sanderson claimed t o have discovered t he fake feet used t o make t he foot print s in t he snow. Jersey devil pranks and hoaxes have been frequent over t he subsequent years.

(2) A st ray Sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) would be t all and weird-looking, but t his bird no longer wint ers in t he Pine Barrens.

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The Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is about the same size, however, and is a yearlong New Jersey wetlands resident.

(3) The nocturnal calls might originate from a Red fox (Vulpesfulva), an Eastern screech-owl (Otus asio), a Long-eared owl (Asio otus), or from ice breaking on rivers.

(4) A surviving pterosaur, a fossil Flying Rep HIE that supposedly died out at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years agĀ°.

(5) Some sightings might be attributable to a kangaroo, though no escapees were reported from local zoos.

Sources: Henry Charlton Beck, "The Jersey Devil and Other Legends of the Jersey Shore," New York Folklore Quarterly 3 (1947): 102-106; Jeremiah J. Sullivan and James F. McCloy, "The Jersey Devil's Finest Hour," New York Folklore Quarterly 30 (1974): 231-238; James F. McCloy and Ray Miller Jr., The Jersey Devil (Wallingford, Pa.: Middle Atlantic Press, 1976); William H. McMahon, Pine Barrens Legends, Lore and Lies (Wallingford, Pa.: Middle Atlantic Press, 1980), pp. 36-39; James Pontolillo, "An Interpretation of the Jersey Devil," INFO Journal, no. 57 (July 1989): 17-19; Loren Coleman, "Jersey Devil Walks Again," Fortean Times, no. 83 (October-November 1995): 49; James F. McCloy and Ray Miller Jr., Phantom of the Pines: More Tales of the Jersey Devil (Moorestown, N.J.: Middle Atlantic Press, 1998); Loren Coleman, Mysterious America, rev. ed. (New York: Paraview, 2001), pp. 232-244.

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