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Monster of The Month: THE JERSEY DEVIL

Many regions around the States have their own monster lore.

In past Monster of the Month columns, I’ve talked about the Beast of Bray Road, a werewolf-like creature from my home state here in Wisconsin. I also discussed the mysterious Mothman, a red-eyed flying humanoid that terrorized West Virginia.

In addition to this ghastly line up, one of the more well-known chapters of cryptozoology is the story of the Jersey Devil, a bat-winged monstrosity allegedly spotted in the wooded Pine Barrens of the Garden State.

The Jersey Devil legend dates back to the 1730s, with the story saying that a cursed Jersey woman gave birth to a monster, a creature with a horse’s head, bat wings, and a devil’s tail.

The story remained as folklore until 1909, when a string of Devil sightings alarmed New Jersey and residents were afraid to go outside.

Examining the events years later, it was likely that these sightings were a mix of hoaxes, misidentification, and widespread panic. Researchers Loren Coleman and Ivan T. Sanderson’s examination of the story suggests the events of 1909 were a real estate hoax designed to scare people, which also happens to be the premise of many episodes of Scooby-Doo.

Hoaxing was accomplished with fabricating hoof prints with a horse hoof. Another pair of hoaxers actually painted a poor kangaroo and glued claws and batwings to it, charging people to take a look at their captive Jersey Devil.

Since that frightening chapter in 1909, the beast has been spotted on occasion and almost any sort of strange sighting in the New Jersey area is referred to as a “Jersey Devil.” The Jersey Devil story has left its mark on pop culture: the area’s hockey team is the New Jersey Devils and an episode of The X-Files starring the cryptid was the first of the show’s “Monster of the Week” formula.

The cryptid as seen on the television series, Supernatural

One group I had a missed connection with while working on my book Monster Hunters was the Devil Hunters, a group based out of New Jersey who for years led investigations into the Pine Barrens to look into contemporary reports of the Jersey Devil and other strange entities. They also conducted research on the subject.

I had a hope that I might join them on such an investigation, but alas, judging by their website, it appeared the group had been inactive for several years.

Their old case reports still remained on their site, but I just double checked and their site has now been replaced by some sort of Asian marriage business page. 



That’s the problem with monster hunting sometimes—your colleagues might be as mysterious as the cryptids you seek, and might disappear on you.

Tea Krulos is the author of Monster Hunters (Chicago Review Press)

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