What Is the Jersey Devil and Where Did Its Mythology Come From?

In the vast world of cryptids, the Jersey Devil is not nearly as well-known as, say, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. However, to those who claim to have seen it, it has inspired a sense of terror that is not as commonly associated with the aforementioned creatures. Said to be the spawn of Satan himself, the Jersey Devil has been described as ravenous and blood-thirsty. And whether you’re a believer or not, its story is undeniably fascinating. Read on to discover the origins of one of history’s most vicious cryptids.

Keep in mind that the story we’re about to tell is a myth. It is up to you whether or not to believe it.

Mother Leeds and the Birth of the Jersey Devil

leeds point, where the story of the jersey devil begins
Leeds Point Today
Source: Wikipedia

Our story begins during the 17th century. In Leeds Point, New Jersey, a woman named Jane Leeds—usually referred to as “Mother Leeds”—was the town’s matriarch and mother to 12 children. The children were well-liked by the townspeople. They couldn’t believe that they had been raised by Mother Leeds, who was thought of as bitter and resentful. She was often seen berating her drunkard husband and was rumored to be having an affair with the Devil.

Perhaps there was some truth to her affair. According to legend, while giving birth to her 13th child, Mother Leeds cried out in pain, “Let it be the Devil!” Her offspring then sprouted bat wings, horns, and a forked tail as it exited her womb. The midwife cried in terror at the baby’s face and body, which resembled those of a goat. The creature flew away, giving off the signature screech that we now associate with sightings of the Jersey Devil.

Almost immediately, Leeds Point townspeople started reporting sightings of a winged creature ravaging their livestock and pets. They placed blame squarely on Mother Leeds, whose association with the occult was well-known at that point.

The Leeds Family’s History of Witchcraft – A Connection to the Jersey Devil?

a depiction of the jersey devil
Source: Wikipedia

Before Mother Leeds, the land known as Leeds Point, belonged to Daniel Leeds, a surveyor for the British crown. In 1687, he published an almanac that featured astrological symbols, which his fellow Quakers deemed blasphemous. However, their complaints only fueled his interest in the occult.

He continued to fill his almanacs with demonology. He even introduced occultism to his son Titan. Titan’s own occult-oriented almanacs became so popular that they were in direct competition with the more innocuous almanacs penned by Benjamin Franklin.

In 1728, Titan Leeds began printing his family’s crest in his almanacs. The crest depicted a bat-winged creature that resembled what would come to be known as the Jersey Devil. Could this have been the origin of the Jersey Devil myth?

Joseph Bonaparte Sees the Jersey Devil

joseph bonaparte, one of the first people to claim to see the jersey devil
Source: Wikipedia

The first major sighting of the beast came from none other than Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. After the defeat of his brother, Joseph fled France for New Jersey, where he encountered the beast while hunting. 

Other Notable Jersey Devil Sightings

  • During the week of January 16-23, 1909, a string of sightings occurred, the most notable coming from a man who local paper the Press referred to as “Captain Doughty.” Doughty was a fisherman who claimed to have fought the Jersey Devil while on a fishing trip. His boat—loaded with fish—was attacked by the winged creature. Using his oar as a weapon, he supposedly hit the creature several times until it flew away with a screech. His only proof of the attack was his torn coat and bruised arms.
  • Other sightings from that week include an alleged attack on a trolley car in Haddon Heights, as well as an attack on a social club in Camden. During the latter attack, police claimed to have fired on the creature to no effect. 
  • In December of 1925, a Greenwich farmer shot an unidentified creature that was attempting to steal his chickens. He supposedly then photographed its corpse and showed it to over 100 people, none of whom could identify it. To this day, these photos have never been released to the public.
  • In July of 1937, an unknown flying creature with “red eyes” was seen by multiple residents of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. 
  • In October of 2015, a Garden State resident David Black claimed to have caught the Jersey Devil on camera. Many laughed at his report and the evidence he presented, though he did manage to gain his share of believers.

Our Takeaway

miniature sculpture of the jersey devil
Source: Wikipedia

As is the case with all cryptids, there is no conclusive proof that the Jersey Devil exists. However, a story doesn’t need to be true to be fun. And if after four centuries, the creature still manages to stir the imaginations of the public, then we can’t deny that it makes for a great story. That being said, there are people who are vehement in their insistence that the creature does exist, and we do not wish to discount them.

Are you a believer in the Jersey Devil? Have you yourself ever had an encounter with a cryptid? Let us know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

On Key

Related Posts