[3/?]: The Jersey Devil
According to popular folklore, the Jersey Devil originated with a Pine Barrens resident known as Mother Leeds. The legend states she had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, claimed that the child would be the Devil. During 1735, the child was born normal but changed into a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming, it killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and heading into the pines.
According to legend, while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect his cannonballs being forged, Commodore Stephen Decatur sighted a flying creature flapping its wings and fired a cannonball directly upon it, to no effect. Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon, is also claimed to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Bordentown estate in 1820. During 1840, the devil was blamed for several livestock killings. Similar attacks were reported during 1841, accompanied by tracks and screams.
During the week of January 16 through 23, 1909, newspapers of the time published hundreds of claimed encounters with the Jersey Devil from all over the state. Among alleged encounters publicized that week were claims the creature “attacked” a trolley car in Haddon Heights and a social club in Camden. Police in Camden and Bristol, Pennsylvania supposedly fired on the creature to no effect. Other reports initially concerned unidentified footprints in the snow, but soon sightings of creatures resembling the Jersey Devil were being reported throughout South Jersey and as far away as Delaware and Western Maryland. The widespread newspaper coverage created fear throughout the Delaware Valley, prompting a number of schools to close and workers to stay home. Vigilante groups and groups of hunters roamed the pines and countrysides in search of the devil. During this period, it is rumored that the Philadelphia Zoo posted a $10,000 reward for the creature.
In Greenwich during December 1925 a local farmer shot an unidentified animal as it attempted to steal his chickens, and then photographed the corpse. Afterward, he claimed that none of 100 people he showed it to could identify it. On July 27, 1937, an unknown animal “with red eyes” seen by residents of Downingtown, Pennsylvania was compared to the Jersey Devil by a reporter for the Pennsylvania Bulletin of July 28, 1937. In 1951, a group of Gibbstown, New Jersey boys claimed to have seen a ‘monster’ matching the Devil’s description and claims of a corpse matching the Jersey Devil’s description arose in 1957. During 1960, tracks and noises heard near Mays Landing were claimed to be from the Jersey Devil. During the same year the merchants around Camden offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured.