"The Jersey Devil"
Elk Township (on-line)
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HERE IS A BREAK DOWN OF EVENTS
THROUGH THE YEARS ABOUT
The Jersey Devil's Birthplace is generally regarded to be in Leeds Point, in
what is now Atlantic County. Differing legends put the birthdate at 1735, 1778, 1850,
1855, and 1857. The remains of the old Shourds house, reputed to be the birthplace
in Leeds Point, can be found in the woods, locals say.
House on the Hill.
Naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur fired a cannonball through the Jersey Devil
in the early 1800s at Hanover Iron Works in Hanover. Legend has it the gaping hole
did not effect the Jersey Devil, which flew casually away.
Commodore Stephen Decatur.
Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Spain and brother of Napoleon, made a sighting of
the Jersey Devil while hunting on his estate in the early 1800s. He had finally settled in New Jersey under the name of the Count de Survilliers (Americans tended to call him Mr. Bonaparte)--taken from his Mortefontaine estatesin early 1817. He acquired title to over 1000 acres of land near Bordentown, on the Delaware River .
Many reported Jersey Devil raids in 1800s, include an 1899 raid on Vincentown
and Burrsville, during which many sheep and chickens disappeared.
The largest spate of Jersey Devil sightings took place in January 1909, when
thousands of residents of more than 30 towns in and around the Delaware Valley saw
Checking Foot Prints.
In Burlington, panic gripped the city after the Devil's hoof prints were found
in backyards and on snowy rooftops.
The same week, in Jacksonville, hunters organized a posse, but their dogs were
too scared to follow its tracks.
In Gloucester City, a man watched the Jersey Devil cavort on the roof of his
woodshed for 10 minutes. He described the creature as "three and a half feet
high, with a head like a collie and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings
about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's
First Artist Drawing.
A telephone lineman working in a desolate Pines spot near Pleasantville was chased
up a telephone pole by the Jersey Devil. He stayed there until a co-worker arrived
and shot the Devil in the wing, wounding it. The Devil escaped into the surrounding
The Jersey Devil attacked a dog in Camden, relinquishing it only when the pet
owner charged at it with a broom. The devil dropped the dog and flew at the broom-wielding
woman, then disappeared over a fence. The monster had torn a chunk from the dog's
In 1951, in Gibbstown, the bloody-faced Devil shocked a 10-year-old boy. A posse
tried to hunt the creature down, but failed. Witnesses described it as a "hairy
man" towering over 7 feet tall.
In 1987, in Vineland, a German Shepherd was found chewed and torn apart, lying
25 feet from its chain. Around the body were strange tracks that no one could identify.
WANT TO HUNT FOR THE JERSEY DEVIL YOURSELF, HERE'S HOW TO GET
TO THE HOME WHERE HE WAS BORN.
(it's a good place to start)
The Shourds House (Leeds Point, Atlantic County)
This crumbled ruin of an
old stone house is ground zero for Jersey Devil fans. It's where Mowas Leeds allegedly
gave birth to the beast many years ago. Take the Garden State Parkway south to Route
9. Take Route 9 south toward Smithville. Turn left on Rte. 561. The Shourds House
is somewhere off on the right side of the road, about 2 miles down. Beware, there
are no markers for it.
The Pinelands (Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean Counties)
This wild, wooded
region in South Jersey is the Jersey Devil's stomping grounds. The Pinelands National
Refuge encompasses nearly a million acres, including Bass River State Forest, Batona
Trail, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Lebanon State Forest and Wharton
State Park. For Pinelands information, call the Pinelands Commission at (609) 894-9342.
F.Y.I. - In 1973 NJN did a documentary called "Mother Leeds' 13th
Child". For anyone in Jersey, you can borrow it from any branch
of the Ocean County Library
Batsto Village (Wharton State Forest, Burlington County)
The Village is
a restored community that celebrates the Pinelands legacy of iron- and glass-making
as well as farming. And because it's in the heart of the Pinelands, you-know-who
may drop by as well. Take Route 9 to Rte. 542. Batsto Village and its visitor center
is on Rte. 542, about 12 miles from Route 9. Call (609) 561-0024.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE STORIES TOLD ABOUT THE
THROUGH THE YEARS.
The Jersey Devil, the supposed mythical creature of the New Jersey Pinelands,
has haunted New Jersey and the surrounding areas for the past 260 years. This entity
has been seen by over 2,000 witnesses over this period. It has terrorized towns and
caused factories and schools to close down, yet many people believe that the Jersey
Devil is a legend, a mythical beast, that originated from the folklore of the New
Jersey Pine Barrens. Others disagree with this point of view. The following text
will show there is evidence to support the existence of an animal or supernatural
bring known as the Jersey Devil. The evidence consists of the stories of the Jersey
Devil's origin, the sightings of it, and finally, the theories on it.
There are many different versions of the birth of the Jersey Devil. One of the
most popular legends says a Mrs. Shrouds of Leeds Point, NJ made a wish that if she
ever had another child, she want it to be a devil. Her next child was born misshapen
and deformed. She sheltered it in the house, so the curious couldn't see him. On
stormy night, the child flapped it's arms, which turned into wings, and escaped out
the chimney and was never seen by the family again. A Mrs Bowen of Leeds point said,
"The Jersey Devil was born in the Shrouds house at Leeds Point." 1 Another
story that also placed the birth at Leeds Point said that a young girl fell in love
with a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. The people of Leeds Point cursed
her. When she gave birth, she had a devil. Some people believe the birth of the devil
was punishment for the mistreatment of a minister by the Leeds folk.
Another story placed the birth in Estelville, NJ. Mrs. Leeds, of Estelville,
finding out she was pregnant with her 13th child, shouted,"I hope it's a devil".
She got her wish. The child wad born with horns, a tail, wings, and a horse-like
head. The creature revisited Mrs. Leeds everyday. She stood at her door and told
it to leave. After awhile, the creature got the hint and never returned.
Burlington, NJ, also claims to be the birthplace of the Jersey Devil. In 1735,
Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends.
Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the devil himself.
The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to
a creature with hooves, a horses head, bat wings and a forked tail. It beat everyone
present and flew up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines.
In 1740 a clergy exercised the devil for 100 years and it wasn't seen again until
There are many other versions of the legend. The legends say it was the 6th,
8th, 10th, 12th, or 13th child, It was born normal or deformed, and the mother confined
it to the cellar or the attic. Although there are many discrepancies in all of these
stories, there are 3 pieces of evidence that tie all of the legends of the Jersey
Devil's origin together.
Front Page of the Paper.
The first thing that ties the legends together is the name "Leeds".
Whether the mothers name was Leeds or the birth place was Leeds Point, all of the
stories include the name Leeds. Alfred Heston, the Atlantic County Historian, believes
that the devil could be a Leeds or a Shrouds baby. He discovered that a Daniel Leeds
opened land in Great Egg Harbor, NJ, in 1699. His family lived in Leeds Point. He
also discovered a Samuel Shrouds, Sr. came to Little Egg Harbor, NJ, in 1735 and
lived right across the river from the house of Mother Leeds. The 3rd fact ties in
the Burlington story with the others stories. Professor Fred MacFadden of Coppin
State College, Baltimore, found that a "devil" was mentioned in writings
from Burlington as early as 1735. He also indicated that the word Burlington was
used to was the word used to names the area from the city of Burlington to the Atlantic
Ocean. This means that the name that is now used for the birthplace such as Leeds
point or Estelville, could be the same place referred to in the Burlington Legend.
The origins provide some validity to the existence of the Jersey Devil, but the
sightings are the most substantial pieces of evidence. The sightings have been divided
up into 3 time periods, pre 1909, January 16-23, 1909, and post 1900.
From the pre 1909 era, few documented records of sightings still exist. The ones
that do confirm the existence of the devil.
Some did not Believe.
think it was a Hoax..What do You Think ???
In the early 19th century, Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero, was testing
cannon balls on the firing range when he saw a strange creature flying across the
sky. He fired and hit the creature but it kept right on flying across the field.
Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain and brother of Napoleon, saw the Jersey Devil
in Bordentown, NJ, between 1816 and 1839 while he was hunting. In 1840-41 many sheep
and chickens were killed by a creature with a piercing scream and strange tracks.
In 1859-94, the Jersey Devil was seen and numerous times and reportedly carried off
anything that moved in Haddonfield, Bridgeton, Smithville, Long Branch, Brigantine,
and Leeds Point. W.F. Mayer of New York noticed while visiting the Pine Barrens,
most of the locals would not venture out after dark. The devil was sighted by George
Saarosy, A prominent business man, at the NJ/NY border. This was the last reported
sighting before the turn of the century.
In 1903, Charles Skinner, author of American Myths and Legends, claimed that
the legend of the devil had run it's course and that in the new century, residents of New Jersey would
hear no more of the devil. New Jersey rested easy with that thought for 6 years,
until the week of January 16-23. 1909. During this week, the devil would leave his
tracks all over South Jersey and Philadelphia. He was seen by over 100 people. This
was his largest appearance ever.
It all started early Sunday morning, January 16, 1909. Thack Cozzens of Woodbury,
NJ, saw a flying creature with glowing eyes flying down the street. Over in Bristol, P.A. ,
John Mcowen heard and saw the strange creature on the banks of the canal. Patrol
James Sackville fired at the creature as it flew away screaming. E.W. Minister, Postmaster
of Bristol , P.A, also saw a bird-like creature with a horses head that had a piercing
scream. When daylight came, the residents of Bristol found hoof prints in the snow.
Two local trappers said they had never seen tracks like those before.
On Monday, the Lowdens of Burlington, NJ, found hoof prints in their yard and
around their trash, which was half eaten. Almost every yard in Burlington had these
strange hoof prints in them. The prints went up trees, went from roof to roof, disappeared
in the middle of the road, and stopped in the middle of open fields. The same tracks
were also found in Columbus, Hedding, Kinhora and Rancocas. A hunt was organized
to follow the tracks but the dogs wouldn't follow the trail.
On the 19th the Jersey Devil made his longest appearance of the week. At 2:30
am, Mr & Mrs. Nelson Evans of Gloucester were awakened by a strange noise. They
watched the devil from their window for 10 minutes. Mr. Evans described the creature
It was about three feet and half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face
like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were
like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves.It walked on its back legs and held
up two short front legs with palso on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while
we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the
window and say, 'Shoo', and it turned around barked at me, and flew away.
Tuesday afternoon 2 professional hunters tracked the devil for 20 miles in Gloucester.
The trail jumped 5 foot fences and went under 8 inch spaces. The hoof prints were
found in more parts of South Jersey. A group of observers in Camden, NJ, saw the
devil. It barked at them and then took off into the air.
The next day, a Burlington police officer and the Reverend John Pursell of Pemberton
saw the Jersey Devil. Rev. Pursell said, "Never saw anything like it before".3
Posses in Haddonfield found tracks that ended abruptly. In Collingswood, NJ, a posse
watched the devil fly off toward Moorestown. Near Moorestown, John Smith of Maple
Shade saw the devil at the Mount Carmel Cemetery. George Snyder saw the devil right
after Mr. Smith and their descriptions were identical. In Riverside, NJ, hoof prints
were found on roof tops and also around a dead puppy.
On Thursday, the Jersey Devil was seen by the Black Hawk Social Club. He was
also seen by a trolley full of people in Clementon as it circled above them. The
witnesses descriptions matched others from the days before. In Trenton, Councilman
E.P. Weeden heard the flapping of wings and then found hoof prints outside his door.
The prints were also found at the arsenal in Trenton. As the day wore on the Trolleys
in Trenton and New Brunswick had armed drivers to ward off attacks. The people in
Pitman filled churches. Chickens had been missing all week throughout the Delaware
Valley, but when the farmers checked their yards that day, they found their chickens
dead, with no marks on them. The West Collingswood Fire Department fired their hose
at the devil. The devil retreated at first, but then charged and flew away at the
Later that night, Mrs. Sorbinski of Camden heard a commotion in her yard. She
opened the door to see the Jersey Devil standing there with her dog in it's grip.
She hit the devil with a broom until it let go of her dog and flew away. She started
screaming until her neighbors came over. Two police officers arrived at her house
where over 100 people had gathered. The crowd heard a scream coming from Kaigan Hill.
The mob ran toward the creature on the hill. The Policed shot at it and the devil
flew off into the night. The streets of Camden were empty after this.
On Friday, Camden police officer Louis Strehr saw the Jersey Devil saw the devil
drinking from a horses trough. The school in Mt Ephraim was closed because no students
came in. Mills and factories in Gloucester and Hainesport had to close because none
of the employees came to work. Many New Jersey residents wouldn't leave their houses,
even in daylight. Officer Merchant of Blackwood drew a sketch of the creature he
saw. His sketch coincided with the descriptions from earlier in the week. Jacob Henderson
saw the devil in Salem and described it as having "wings and a tail"4.
The devil was only seen once more in 1909 in February.
Since 1909, the Jersey Devil has continued to be sighted by people all over New
Jersey. The number of sightings that have been reported to the authorities has dwindled
over the years. This could be attributed to the fact that people don't want to be
branded as crazy. Even though the number of reported sightings has dropped, there's
still a considerable amount of sightings in the post 1909 era.
In 1909, a track walker on the electric railroad saw the devil fly into the wires
above the tracks. There was a violent explosion which melted the track 20 feet in
both directions. No body was found and the devil was seen later in perfect health.
In 1957, the Department of Conservation found a strange corpse in a burned out area
of the pines. It was a partial skeleton, feathers, and hind legs of an unidentifiable
creature. The devil was thought to be dead, but reappeared when the people of New
Jersey thought that this time his death was real. Each time he is reported dead,
he returns. Sometimes this year. The Jersey Devil will be 260 years old. It seems
the devil is immortal, which a supernatural being would be. Another thing that supports
this theory is the incredible distances the devil could fly in a short period of
time. No animal could travel as fast as the devil did in 1909 when he was sighted
in South Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York through out the week.
In 1927, a cab driver on his way to Salem got a flat tire. He stopped to fix
the tire. As he was doing this, creature that stood upright and was covered with
hair, landed on the roof of his cab. The creature shook his car violently. He fled
the scene, leaving the tire and jack behind. Phillip Smith, who was known as a sober
and honest man, saw the devil walking down the street in 1953. The characteristic
screams of the Jersey Devil were heard in the woods near Woodstown, NJ, in 1936.
This sighting was at Fort Dix either right before or just after World War II, a soldier was on guard duty. He and another sentry saw something white jumping from the top of one vehicle to another. They looked at each other and said "Do you see what I see". It was seen by numerous people that nite and slashed tents and so on. We hear it was reported to officals of Fort Dix. Around a week later they came back to camp from leave and saw the whole camp was lined up. The officers had their pistols drawn and enlisted men had pitch forks and racks in their hands. They walked into the woods in a line because the whole camp had sighted it this time. One person says it was dark out there and that he chased a white thing into the woods with the rest of the soldiers.
Around 1961, 2 couples were parked in a car in the Pine Barrens. They heard a
loud screeching noise outside. Suddenly the roof of the car was smashed in. They
fled the scene, but returned later. Again they heard the loud screech. They saw a
creature flying along the trees, taking out huge chinks of bark as it went along.
There have been other sightings since 1909, such as the Invasion of Gibbsboro
in 1951. The people there saw the devil over a 2 day period. In 1966, a farm was
raided and 31 ducks, 3 geese, 4 cats, and 2 dogs were killed. One of the dogs was
a large german Shepherd which had it's throat ripped out. In 1981, a young couple
spotted the devil at Atsion Lake in Atlantic County.
In 1987, in Vineland an aggressive german Shepherd was found torn apart and the
body explosion upon. the body was located 25 feet from the chain which had been hooked
to him. Around the body were strange tracks that no one could identify.
The sightings and prints are the most substantial evidence that exists. Many
of the theories on the Jersey Devil are based upon that evidence. Some theories can
be proven invalid, while others seem to provide support for the Jersey Devil's existence.
Paper Artist Drawings.
One theory is that the Jersey Devil is a bird. Mrs. Cassidy of Clayton thought
it was an invasion of scrowfoot ducks. The scrowfoot duck is much too small to be
mistaken for the devil. Others believe the devil is really a sand hill crane. The
crane used to live in South Jersey until it was pushed out by man. The sand hill
crane weighs about 12 lbs., is 4 foot high, and a wingspan of 80 inches. It avoids
man but if confronted it will fight. It has a loud scream whooping voice that can
be heard at a distance. This could account for the screams heard by witnesses. The
crane also eats potatoes and corn. This could account for the raids on crops. This
theory doesn't explain , however, the killing of live stock. It also doesn't explain
why people described the devil as having a horses head, bat wings and tail, all of
which the crane doesn't have.
Professor Bralhopf said that" the tracks were made by some prehistoric animal
form the Jurassic period". He believes the creature survived underground in
a cavern. An expert from the Smithsonian Institute had a theory about ancient creatures
surviving underground. He said the Jersey Devil was a Pterodactyl. The Academy of
Natural Sciences could find no record of any creature, living or extinct, that resembles
the Jersey Devil.
Jack E. Boucher, author of Absagami Yesteryear, has a theory in which he believes
the devil was a deformed child. He thinks Mrs. Leeds had a disfigured child and kept
it locked away in the house. She grew sick and couldn't feed the child anymore. It
escaped out of hunger and raided local farms for food. This doesn't take into account
the incredible life span of the devil. The child would have been 174 years old in
1909. It also doesn't account for the sightings of ther devil flying.
Only a small amount of the sightings and footprints could be hoaxes. The Jersey
Devil has been seen by reliable people such as police, government officials, postmasters,
businessman, and other people whose "integrity is beyond question." As
for the hoof prints, even if some were hoaxes, There is still no way to explain most
of the tracks, especially the ones on roof tops and tracks that ended abruptly as
if the creature took wing.
The last theory is the most controversial one. Many people believe that the Jersey
Devil could be the very essence of evil, embodied. It is said that the devil is an
"uncanny harbinger of war". and appears before any great conflict. The
jersey devil was sighted before the start of the Civil War. It was also seen right
before the Spanish American War and WW I. In 1939, before the start of WW II, Mount
Holly citizens were awakened by the noise of hooves on their roof tops. The Devil
was seen on December 7, 1941, right before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was also seen
right before the vietnam War.
The Jersey Devil's habit of being a forerunner to wars could be because of his
possible demonic origins. In 1730, Ben Franklin reported a story about a witchcraft
trial near Mt Holly, NJ. One of the origin legends say that Mother Leeds was a witch.
The devil's birth could have been a result of a witches curse.
See The Jersey Devil.
Other facts support the supernatural theory are the reports of the death of the
devil. When Commodore Decatur fired a cannon ball at the devil, it went through him
and he was unaffected.
None of these theories can give a definitive answer to what the Jersey Devil
was or is, but the sightings prove there is something out there. Whether the Jersey
devil is a bird or a demon, is still left to speculation. The people of New Jersey
have defiantly seen something out there lurking in the Pine Barrens.
Two good movies on this subject are:
The Last Broadcast & The Blair Witch Project
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