Monster Monday: Jersey Devil

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Jersey Devil.

Sketch of the Jersey Devil from the Philadelphia Post (1909)
Sketch of the Jersey Devil from the Philadelphia Post (1909)

The Jersey Devil is a creature that supposedly stalks the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a remote, desolate area. Reports describe it as having the head of a goat, horns, cloven hooves on its back legs, short front legs ending in claws, bat-like wings, and a barbed tail.

According to the legend, a woman known as “Mother Leeds” had twelve children in the early 1700s. Upon learning that she was pregnant with her thirteenth, she was not pleased and declared, “Let it be a devil!” Sure enough, several months later during a horrible thunderstorm, she gave birth, and shortly after the baby was born, it let out a shriek, grew its claws, wings, and tail, killed the midwife, and escaped up the chimney.

Since then, there have been occasional sightings in the Pine Barrens, mostly at night, and usually in the winter. The Jersey Devil has been blamed for attacking livestock and leaving unusual tracks in the snow. It is also known for its blood-curdling scream that echoes through the pine forests.

The most famous string of sightings occurred in 1909 when hundreds of sightings were reported within the period of a week, including some in urban areas. During one sighing it reportedly attached a trolley car. Sporadic sightings continue up to the present day.

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