The only demon to ever be officially designated as a state demon in the United States (in 1938), the Jersey Devil of Southern New Jersey has a fascinating origin.
The story goes, (in 1735), Mother Leeds of Estellville was a poor housewife married to a drunkard. Despite his inability to provide for his wife and children, the two of them had twelve children. When Mother Leeds learned that she was expecting a thirteenth child, she threw up her hands in exasperation and cried, “Let it be the devil!”
By the time she was in labor, she had forgotten all about the wish she had made. Surrounded by a room full of midwives with her husband and other children waiting outside, the thirteenth child was born into the world – seemingly a normal human child.
Within minutes, however, Mother Leeds and the midwives looked on in horror as the child transformed before their eyes, turning into the most hideous and terrifying creature they’d ever seen. The revolting transformation resulted in a kangaroo-like creature with the face of a horse, the head of a dog, bat-like wings, stag-like antlers, a forked reptilian trail, intimidating claws, and red glowing eyes.
The creature’s first act was to turn on its mother, resulting in her death. It then turned its attention to the midwives, killing some of them and maiming the rest. Afterwards, it burst through the door separating the birthing room from the room where Mrs. Leeds’s husband and their children waited. The creature killed its father and as many siblings as it could manage before escaping from the chimney and settling in the nearby swamp.
The Jersey Devil, also known as the Leeds Devil, has roamed the swamps of Pine Barrens ever since, sometimes crossing over the borders to neighboring towns. In January of 1909, the sightings of the Jersey Devil were so frequent that large hunting parties went out to try and capture the creature. At one point, an offer of $100,000 in reward money was offered to anyone who could capture the Jersey Devil, dead or alive. No one was ever able to capture the creature, and the scientific community was unable to formulate a reason for its existence.
The existence of the Jersey Devil, however, is supported by the plethora of evidence in the form of the personal accounts of those who have come across the creature in the Pinelands. Government officials, scientists, businessmen, and others whose reputations for integrity precede them, have recorded their experiences with the Jersey Devil.