New Jersey April 05, 2018
There’s A Jersey Devil Festival Happening In New Jersey And You’ll Absolutely Want To Go
Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster, Puerto Rico has the Chupacabra, and New Jersey has our very own Devil. The legend got its start centuries ago and has become a big part of Garden State lore. If you grew up here, you probably know at least some of the story…
The legend of the Jersey Devil originated centuries ago in a small New Jersey town.
That town is Leeds Point, an unincorporated community in Galloway. Minutes from the charming village of Historic Smithville, Leeds Point is still pretty secluded. Other researchers believe the legend originated in Estellville (Estelle Manor, near Mays Landing).
The story goes something like this... In 1735, Mother Leeds, a Pine Barrens native, gave birth to her 13th child. Some say she was a witch and that the child's father was the devil himself. Born on a stormy night, the baby was anything but human. It killed the midwife and flew off into the woods. For years, it tormented local children and farmers, killing livestock. Researchers theorize that the story began as an attempt to discredit the Leeds Family by political rivals or local Quakers who did not approve of their non-Quaker religious beliefs. Known as the Leeds Devil until the early 1900s, sightings were occasionally reported. Even Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Joseph claimed to have spotted the winged devil while hunting in 1820. Sightings continued into the 1840s but died down a bit, for a time.
In 1909, sightings were reported by the dozen.
From January 16th through the 23rd, New Jersey newspapers published hundreds of claimed encounters with the Jersey Devil from all over the state. Reports even spanned as far as Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania; the sketch shown above was published by a Philadelphia newspaper. Reports claimed that the creature attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights and a social club in Camden. Camden police are purported to have fired on the creature, but it was unaffected.
People were in a panic and schools all along the Delaware River Valley were shut down. The Philadelphia Zoo even offered a $10,000 reward for the creature. While some refused to go to work, vigilantes went out to hunt the Devil. But then, it disappeared and life went back to normal.
For the most part...
In December of 1925, a Greenwich Township (Gloucester County) farmer shot an unidentified animal as it attempted to steal his chickens, and then photographed the corpse. In 1951, a group of Gibbstown boys claimed to have seen a 'monster' matching the Devil's description. Every now and then, a reputable member of the local community reports a sighting; many of us have stories of our own. In honor of all things spooky, share yours in the comments.
I'll start! I was around 10 or 11, and visiting a friend that had moved from our city into a more rural area of the Garden State. She told me she had heard scratching outside the window and she thought that it might be the Jersey Devil. She also said that animal carcasses were being found en masse throughout her neighborhood. Then, she dared me to go into the woods with her. We heard a rustling and ran so fast! Sure, it probably wasn't the Jersey Devil and maybe she was making up the stories to scare me - but that's part of the fun.
Us New Jerseyans take pride in our devious Devil and love to celebrate its existence.
While many of us have been on Jersey Devil hunts, there's another fun way to enjoy the legend - a festival! A two-day event, the celebration starts at 7 p.m. on April 6th with the Jersey Devil Film Festival at The Show Room in downtown Asbury Park! Enjoy short films about the supernatural beast, and come back on April 7th for even more entertainment.
Saturday's festivities start at 1 p.m., are based out of Paranormal Books & Curiosities, and include poster, tattoo, and costume contests, a storytelling contest, live music, and a variety of art and craft vendors. At 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., there will be free Jersey Devil walking tours - they are family friendly but participants must register. At 4:30 p.m., the summoning starts. March with enough spirit and perhaps you'll wake the beast. There will be a reading of the Devil's ancestors, and you can even have your name added to the list!
For more details, check out the festival host’s website by
clicking here. To learn about another spooky New Jersey legend, click here.