In a heavily forested area of coastal plains along Southern New Jersey lies the Pine Barrens. The Pines are called such due to their sandy acidic nutrients and poor soil. The area is largely rural and undisturbed. Because of the wildlife present in the area, the Pines were made part of Pinelands National Reserve. They served as the first National Park.
Their claim to fame was not only due to their status as the first National Park. The Pine Barrens are also known for the Jersey Devil. The Jersey Devil was born in 1735 to Deborah and Japhet Leeds of Leeds Point. He was her thirteenth child and before his birth, Mrs. Leeds stated that he would certainly be the Devil. Whether it was her words that cursed him or whether the rumors were true that he was fathered by the Devil himself, the Jersey Devil was born.
Other rumors circulated that Deborah Leeds was a witch and that was how her son had come to be fathered by the Devil. Despite the cause, on the night of his birth, he emerged a hideous monster. He attacked his mother and nurses before killing the midwife and flying out the chimney. He disappeared and his story quickly spread.
It was said that in 1740, a clergyman exercised the Jersey Devil for one hundred years. It was not until 1890 that the Devil returned and stories began to quickly spread again. He was described as a flying biped with hooves. The Jersey Devil appeared to be a kangaroo-like creature with a goat head, bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail. He moved very quickly and made blood curdling shrieks.
The Jersey Devil made a lasting impression on the estimated 2,000 witnesses of his terror. In the early nineteenth century, Commodore Stephen Decatur was checking the cannonballs at Hanover Mill when he saw the flying creature flapping his wings and headed his direction. He fired a cannonball straight at it with no effect. The Devil was seen by Napolean Bonaparte’s brother while hunting in the early 1800s. Stories emerged regarding farm animal deaths in the 1840s, and carrying objects off in the late 1800s.
Stories quieted down until the 1900s when a creature with glowing red eyes was found and later, cloven hoof prints were located in the snow. Local residents began to see the hoof prints around their homes and began having pets and wildlife disappear. Others reported the shrieking from a similarly described creature at all hours of the day and night. One thing in common with most of the sightings or attacks was that it involved a group of people. The groups could hardly believe their eyes or verbalize what they had seen. The sightings into the early 1900s caused families to stay locked in their homes, factories and schools to be closed, and towns riddled with panic.