[What If?]

Who’s Afraid of the Jersey Devil?

Jersey Devil

Imagine being a 10-year-old elementary school child and learning with your classmates about the misshapen monster roaming the woods of New Jersey from your teacher. You sit there stunned to learn that the father of this chilling creature is no less than the devil himself and that it exhibits no mercy to passersby. Your Catholic upbringing questions how the devil could father children, but you always take the word of your teacher as the Bible truth. So, there can be no question that this monster is in the woods and does not care for modern Christian values.

Well, folks, this child was me and that’s how I learned of the tale of The Jersey Devil. I still vividly remember that afternoon in my elementary school library, and that’s probably because I was stunned. I wonder if teaching children about scary local folklore is still part of the curriculum for school-aged kids or if that was just how things were done in the ’90s in New Jersey?

To this day, being in the woods alone frightens me and I question if it’s because the terrifying tale of The Jersey Devil is rattling around somewhere in the back of my head. That and The Blair Witch Project. When that movie came out in 1999, I didn’t even want to be in a park alone. But I digress, let’s get back to the ever-popular, Jersey Devil. Here are 5 things you should know about it, in case you ever want to sound well-informed when visiting my home state.

  1. The Jersey Devil was the 13th child of Mr. and Mrs. Leeds. How lucky. On a side note, my great-great-grandmother also had a large number of children. While none of them did anything to have a folk tale named in their honor, she did name the 10th of her brood Decimo, which means 10 in Italian.
  2. Apparently, this devilish creature does not terrorize all wooded areas in New Jersey, just the Pine Barrens. If only I knew that piece of information growing up, I might have been a little less scared of the woods and rural areas of New Jersey in general. Knowledge is truly power.
  3. The Jersey Devil is hoofed, like its devil father, has the wings of a bat, which could also be from its father, and the face of a horse, which if Mrs. Leeds was not a looker, could be from her.
  4. While this creature has been known to roam the woods of New Jersey since 1735, it did not make an appearance in the newspaper until 1909. That newspaper depiction is the one we all know and love and brought together all of the oral histories of The Jersey Devil into one creature we could fear.
  5. This famous New Jerseyan is known to shriek and eat farm animals alive. This taste for farm animals is not unlike the Chupacabra, which I learned about from none other than cable television’s finest, Unsolved Mysteries.

So, there you have it. The Jersey Devil. Born to a woman who wanted no more children and the Dark Lord himself, and is now the namesake of a major league Hockey Team. It’s something that could only happen in a colorful place like New Jersey.

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