|The Legend of the Jersey
When the fan voting for naming the new NHL hockey team in New Jersey was going on, there were many
choices such as the Blades, the Americans, and the God-awful name of the Meadowlanders. But there was one
that stood above the rest.
... You're not really gonna make me restate the obvious, are you?
But what about the story of the creature that the team is named after? What about the Jersey Devil?
There are many different versions of the story, but one of the more popular ones goes like this:
Back in the 1700s, an English woman named Deborah Smith immigrated to the Pine Barrens, an area of mostly
forest in the southern part of what would become New Jersey. (Also an area that is largely undeveloped even
today, despite being between Philadelphia and Atlantic City.) She would meet a Mr. Leeds (Sorry, don't know
his first name.) and marry him. His plan was to have a large family in order to continue his family name. Hence,
she was continually pregnant, and ultimately, they had 12 healthy children.
When Mrs. Leeds learned that she was pregnant yet again, she was dismayed. She had stated that she would
rather bear the devil than another Leeds.
And that's just what happened according to this story. The child supposedly was born with claws, hooves, and a
tail. It also supposedly ate its other siblings and its parents (Later debunked/contradicted by an article in the New
York Times about a few Leeds descendents living in Atlantic City as late as the 1990s.) and escaped through the
chimney to run roughshod though the area.
Another variation states that Mrs. Leeds said "May it be the devil," (Not much different than what I had already
stated.), as in deformed. During that period, deformed children were looked at as being a work of Satan.
It supposedly took up residence at a clear-watered, unusually cold lake just outside of Winslow (near Camden)
called the Blue Hole. The lake has a very steep shoreline, leading to the belief that it's bottomless, and was also
billed as a portal to Hell.
From that point, the Jersey Devil would terrorize those that entered the forest. So there were many sightings of it,
although sightings in the last century have decreased. Descriptions of the beast have varied throughout the years,
but all of them have three things in common: the long neck, wings, and hooves. (As you can see in the picture
above.) Most descriptions also include a head and tail similar to a horse, red glowing eyes, and a high-pitched
humanlike scream. How tall the beast is varies from person to person; it has been reported as anywhere from 3
feet tall to 7. The basis of the story many believe to stem from the Sandhill Crane, a bird which doesn't even
inhabit anywhere in New Jersey.
January 16 through the 23rd, 1909 was the busiest time for the Devil. Many sightings of the beast were reported
during that week, going as far east as Atlantic City, and even terrorizing Philadelphia. By the end of that week,
many school and local businesses were closed out of fear of the beast, and during that period, the Philadelphia
Zoo offered a $1,000,000 reward for the capture of the beast, an offer that still stands today, but also brought on
numerous blatant hoaxes.
Supposedly (I know I use that word a lot.), the beast was found dead in 1957. A rotting corpse that matched the
Devil's descrption was discovered. (Where, I don't have any info on.) But reported sightings of the beast still
raged on, even as recent as January, 2008 up at a farm in Pennsylvania.
Hmm... Pennsylvanians being terrorized by a mythical creature from New Jersey. That's probably why the Flyers
haven't won a game in the state for a lot of years.