The story of the Jersey Devil dates back to the eighteenth century. A woman named Deborah Smith came from England to southern New Jersey. In Pine Barrens, she married a man named Mr. Leeds and began what was to become a large family.
The thirteenth born is the acclaimed Jersey Devil. The story of how the Leeds came to have thirteen children varies. In one version, it is said that Mr. Leeds was a wealthy and conceited man who wanted many heirs to continue the family name. In another version, Mr. Leeds is a drunk who does not provide well for his wife and twelve children. In each version, however, it is clear that Mrs. Leads is tired of bearing children and upon learning of the upcoming thirteenth, she sets the wheels of the curse in motion by stating, “may this one be a devil.”
Mrs. Leeds was to have her wish granted a few months later on a very stormy night. After giving birth to what seemed to be a healthy baby boy, the infant began to grow. At an alarming rate, horns began to grow on the boys head, as did cloven hooves, a tail, and claws. The legend says that he began to wail and shriek loudly as he attacked his own mother, her midwife, his father, and his siblings. Some stories say none survived, which is contradicted because of Leeds descendants still being found in New Jersey. Other stories say some survived and lived to tell of the horror seen on the stormy night the Jersey Devil was born.
It is agreed by most the Jersey Devil made his escape through the chimney, where he went to the Pines to stay and make it his own. It is said that he will terrorize anyone who comes too close.
Many believe the Jersey Devil is real and steady reports of encounters with the beast over the years seem to prove just that. To date, the most severe would be in January 1909 when literally thousands of people claimed to witness the beast during the week of January 16-23, causing the whole state of New Jersey to panic. In addition to this week of havoc, there have many other reports of incidents ranging from track reports to sightings, to attacks.
As the story of the New Jersey Devil spread throughout the state, the beast became more and more popular. Now somewhat of a celebrity, you can find the Jersey Devil on t-shirts, in comic books, and portrayed in toys. New Jersey’s NHL team even picked up his name.
Some New Jersey residents believe the beast is a piece of folklore and a product of many imaginations. Others believe he is a real threat. Some change their minds after a single night in the Pine Barrens. Whether you believe in him or not, this legend isn’t likely to go away anytime soon