New Jersey Devil a/k/a the Leeds Devil
Although there are many devilish creatures throughout the world, there’s a famous devil in New Jersey that is known as the Jersey Devil, a/k/a the Leeds Devil a/k/a the Jersey Gargoyle. This particular horned one has been sighted thousands of times throughout New Jersey and in Pennsylvania over the last two hundred years, from the time when New Jersey was still a British Colony, and up to the present.
The Devil has been compared to a monkey, a giraffe, and a kangaroo. It is usually reported to have a long neck, huge leathery wings, and split hooves. Some say it has a long tail, long legs, and a head shaped like that of a horse. It has also been described as having a head similar to that of a ram, with curled horns. Its height varies from a few feet to well over eight feet. With glowing red eyes, and an eerie high scream, it would be a daunting sight to encounter! The creature has been seen flying, jumping, and even squeezing through small spaces.
Many varying stories relate how the Devil came to exist in the Pine Barrens. One interesting legend tells of Deborah (or Jane) Smith (or Shrouds) from England immigrating to the Pine Barrens to marry Mr. Leeds. She bore twelve healthy children, but in 1735 she discovered that she was once again pregnant! This made her very unhappy, and she cursed the unborn child. The baby was born with cloven hooves, claws, and a tail (remarkably similar to “Rosemary’s Baby”). Mrs. Leeds cared for the strange child until her death. After that, the child took off for the Barrens, becoming The Jersey Devil.
Another version is that the newborn baby gargoyle ate his entire family immediately, then grew wings (as gargoyles tend to do), then flying up the chimney to reside in the Pine Barrens.
There is also a story that a young woman fell in love with a British soldier, and her baby was cursed by the townspeople.
An interesting legend is that the creature was found by Abigaile (not Deborah or Jane) and Arthur Leeds, and raised as their own.
One tale is that Mrs. Leeds offended a preacher trying to convert her from the Quaker faith, who subsequently cursed her forthcoming offspring.
Another popular folktale is that the bottomless Blue Hole located near Winslow, New Jersey, is actually a gateway to Hell, from which the Jersey Devil emerges upon will.
Interestingly, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans called the area now known as the Pine Barrens “Popuessing” which means “place of the dragon.”
There is a local legend, that frightened citizens in the area, convinced a local preacher to exorcize the Devil in 1740. It is not believed to have worked indefinitely as the beast has been seen countless times since.
Sources/References/For further information:
Coghlan, Ronan. A Dictionary of Cryptozoology. Bangor: Xiphos Books, 2004.
Coleman, Jerry D., Strange Highways. Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003.
Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America. NY: Paraview Pocket Books. 2007.
Coleman, Loren and Jerome Clark. Cryptozoology A to Z. NY: Fireside, 1999.
Hauck, Dennis William. The National Directory of Haunted Places. NY: Penguin, 1996.
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