THE LEGEND OF THE JERSEY DEVIL: The legend of the Jersey Devil dates back to 1735. One of New Jersey's earliest residents, "Mother" Leeds, was wife to a drunkard who did little to help care for their 12 children. When she discovered she was pregnant with a 13th, she screamed "Let this one be the Devil!" The child was born on a stormy night. Seemingly normal at first, the baby transformed into a hideous, growling creature with hooved feet, clawed hands, glowing red eyes, bat-like wings and a forked tail. The devilish abomination slaughtered its mother and father, several of the midwives and many of its siblings. It then flew up the chimney and escaped to the Pine Barrens.
DEVIL SIGHTINGS: Many say the Jersey Devil continues to haunt the vast, desolate Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. Over 2,000 witnesses have reportedly sighted the Jersey Devil over the past 275 years. Unearthly screams, unidentified cloven tracks and slaughtered livestock point to the presence of an evil force in the woods, according to believers. In January 1909, the Jersey Devil was allegedly spotted several times over the course of a week, causing factories and schools to close down. Those who claim to have seen the Jersey Devil describe it as having the head of a dog with the face of a horse, deer-like antlers, a kangaroo's body, large leathery wings, a forked reptilian tale, cloven hooves and long, razor-like claws.
POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS: According to skeptics, the most logical explanation for the Jersey Devil is that it's nothing more than a story made up by English settlers, frightened of the isolated, desolate Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. Fugitives, dissenters and deserters took refuge in the Pine Barrens; some of them became notorious bandits known as "pine robbers" or "pineys," who terrorized the local communities. The threatening atmosphere of the barrens, the criminal activities of the pineys and sightings of real animals, like bears or sandhill cranes, likely inspired the tale of the Jersey Devil.