Any creature that's been around as long as THE JERSEY DEVIL, is bound to have been seen many times. From the 1730's to the present there have been thousands of recorded sightings and not just in New Jersey. Creatures believed to be Jersey's famous demon have been spotted in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maryland, California (!?), Texas (!!??) and even Canada.
Many of these sightings amount to nothing more than someone waking up in the morning and finding strange footprints in the fresh snow, or mysterious sounds heard off in the marshes at night. Some are more frightening. There are many reports of people witnessing the devil devouring their livestock. Occasionally, someone will claim to have been chased down some lonely dirt road by the monster. So let's look at some of the more famous cases.
According to legend, Commodore Stephen Decatur (the famous American naval hero), saw the creature while at the Hanover iron works in 1803. He supposedly fired a cannonball straight through it with no effect at all.
Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain and brother of Napoleon, Who lived in Bordentown, saw the devil when he was hunting in the pine barrens.
In 1840, the monster went on a rampage, eating livestock throughout the pine barrens.
Many people reported sightings of the devil flying up and down the coast in 1860 and 1861.
In Atlantic city, in 1870, the creature was seen swimming in the ocean with a mermaid. This is not the first time it has been linked to other supernatural beings, it is often observed with the headless ghost of a pirate, or the ghost of a beautiful girl on the beach.
In 1917, a strange creature is killed and put on display, it is said to be the Jersey devil. Years later, the hoaxer confessed.
In 1920 the citizens of Barnegat are chased through the streets by a demonic creature resembling a flying horse.
Later that same year, in Salem, a posse drove the devil into a tree, but it evaded capture.
In Swedesboro, in 1925, the body of the Jersey devil is found in a tree. No explanation is given as to what the thing was or where it went after the report.
A man claimed in 1927 that the devil approached him on the banks of the Mullica river, near Batsto, then ran off into the woods.
The Jersey devil is seen by two men blasting the tops off of trees (presumably with it's fiery breath?) near Erial, in 1930.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, 1941, the body of a strange creature, described as a "sea serpent", washed ashore. Once again, it is thought to be the Jersey devil.
In 1944, Walter Edge, former governor of New Jersey, United States senator and ambassador to France, claims that he believed the stories about the devil as a child, and was frightened of it.
A mysterious carcass is found in 1957, destroyed in a forest fire near Hampton Furnace. The remains were of bones, fur, feathers and claws, causing people to suspect that the Jersey devil was dead (again!).
At the Glassboro fish and wildlife management area, in 1965, police were called out to investigate strange noises, they fire into the woods (duh!), but nothing is discovered.
In 1968-1970, a Howell township resident reports that the devil repeatedly came onto his property, and he had even shot at it.
In Mercer county, a woman claimed, in 1970 (?), that the Jersey devil had attacked her child, pulling hair out of her head.
The Jersey devil is seen throughout Texas in 1976. This prompts a mock-battle between Texas and New Jersey over the ownership of the devil. Jersey politicians jokingly threaten to invade Texas if they do not return the creature to it's home state.
Later that year, apparently after the beast had been returned by the evil Texans, some guy in Jackson Mills claims that the devil follows him home every night after work.
In 1977 a woman picking blueberries in the pines said the creature was following her as she went, taking the berries out of the boxes she left them in.
In Penn's Grove that same year, a large, hairy creature grabbed hold of a woman's car door and ran along side the car as she sped away.
In 1981, a Canadian newspaper quoted the Mayor of Bass River, NJ as saying that the Jersey devil was breeding with the women of that town. The citizens, in an outrage, demand the mayor's resignation.
In the fall of 1984 woodcutters walk off a job in Chatsworth, claiming that the devil was lurking in the woods, and his screams were so loud they could hear them above the chain saws.
In 1993 a woman in Winslow Township said that the devil frequently visited her property.
A motorist claimed that the Jersey devil flew over his car, in Sayerville, in 1996.
Also, in one amazing example of the beast's fury, one man's entire livestock in his outdoor shed (including 31 ducks, a few cats, geese, etc.) were mutilated. Whats more.. teo Dobermans, dogs fully capable of defending themselves, were found torn to shreds.
In one of teh most recent stories I've heard, a boy was out hiking in the woods when he stopped to have a snack on a fallen tree. Soon he heard what sounded like a deer walking through a line of brush. He stood and walked around the brush quietly to see what looked like a orangish brown leg, crooked like a horses's leg, from around the other end of the line of bushes (back around where he had sat for a snack) and long red hair dragging the ground like someone's who had been lost in the woods for years and hadn't cut it. He was confused for a moment at the sight and then heard a boyish giggling.. confusion turned to horror and he turned to run. He didn't look back, but traveled back there a few days later to get his pack and things he left. The snacks were gone and nearby was a red lock of hair caught on a tree. He supposedly keeps it in a fireproof box at his home these days.
A PORTENT OF DISASTER:
Many people claim that the Jersey devil's appearances are signs of wars or disasters. Sightings increased drastically before the out-break of every war the United states was involved in, since the revolution. Some believe that it is trying to warn us about these events.
The beast seems to be particularly active just before shipwrecks as well. There were many sightings shortly before the crash of the Hindenburg, And it was also observed the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
A BUSY WEEK FOR THE DEVIL:
One of the most amazing events in Jersey devil lore would have to be the chaos and panic that ensued the week of January 16-23, 1909. During this time, it had managed to put the entire Delaware valley in an uproar. People hid in their houses, schools and factories were closed and armed posses roamed the streets of dozens of towns, all because of the Jersey devil. Now we'll take a quick look at the events of that week.
SATURDAY 16/ SUNDAY 17: Late at night someone sees a creature they believe is the Jersey devil in Woodbury, then several people claim to have seen it in Bristol, PA. A Bristol police officer describes the beast as a giant winged creature that hopped around and made awful screeching sounds. Another Bristol resident then saw it flying across the Delaware river. He describes it as having a ram-like head with curled horns, a long neck, thin wings and four legs, the front pair shorter than the back. The next morning there were many strange hoof-prints throughout the town. It crossed over to Burlington, where it was seen and heard by residents, and left the same mysterious prints in the snow.
MONDAY 18: Burlington residents are puzzled by the rash of hoof-prints and people are relating stories about the monster they had seen Saturday night and Sunday morning. The tracks left by the nocturnal visitor defied rational explanation, being on top of barns, but not on the ground around them, or going straight through fences. Farmers set traps, and there are some who begin to hunt for the creature, though dogs refused to follow the trails.
TUESDAY 19: NJ Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Evans were visited by the Jersey Devil at approximately 2:30 am. This is one of the most vivid and well described sightings ever. Mr. Evans was awakened by strange noises. The couple stared out their bedroom window to watch the Jersey Devil standing on the roof of their shed for a full ten minutes. Mr. Evans gave the following description: "It was about three feet and a half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. it walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo!' and it turned around, barked at me, and flew away."
The next morning a trail of strange cloven hoof prints were found and two professional hunters tracked the prints for over 20 miles. For one animal to travel 20 miles in the span of one night (rather about 2:30 am to sunrise)is virtually unheard of. Some theorized a hoax (though the surrounding snow was undisturbed if someone was going along planting the tracks) or a series of animals created the trail. The strange trail leaped fences, squeezed through small holes in sheer walls, went over roofs and through the middle of streets.
WEDNESDAY 20: Early Wednesday morning it is seen in Pemberton, Haddonfield and Burlington, where a policeman described it as a "jabberwocky" with eyes like burning coals. Haddonfield residents begin hunting the creature. A man in Moorestown chases the devil into a gravel pit, where it disappears.
In Springside, a trolley car driver sees a beast resembling a kangaroo with wings dart across the trolley tracks. A plaster mold is made from Jersey devil tracks left in Riverside.
There are reports that the Jersey devil was also seen in Delaware, Maryland, Canada, and even California!
THURSDAY 21: The creature went on a rampage throughout the Delaware valley terrifying hundreds of people and leaving tracks in many towns. The Black Hawk Social Club put a hasty end to their meeting that night, as one member looked out the window and saw the devil looking back in at him! The members fled in fear, but one man tried to attack the visitor with a club (a social club?). The devil escaped unharmed.
A trolley full of passengers observed the beast on the tracks in Haddon Heights, until it finally flew off, circling overhead and hissing violently.
The devil then went north to Ewing and Trenton, where a man was confronted by the monster. Again, it hissed then flew away. Foot prints were found the next morning, on the ground, on roofs and window ledges. Many people remain indoors out of fear. Trolleys in Trenton and New Brunswick came equipped with armed guards.
Many farmers reported that their chickens were slaughtered during the night. The devil is seen in Mount Holly, Clayton and Pennsylvania. It was believed that the beast may have been killed, when it caused an explosion on the railroad tracks near Clayton, but no remains were found.
Near Pleasantville, a lineman saw the creature hanging from a telegraph pole, and fired a shot at it. He had struck the beast's wing, and it fell to the ground. The devil shrieked hideously, and ran off into the pines, dragging it's injured wing.
The devil was no worse for wear though, as it was next seen by several people flying over Philadelphia, shooting flames out of it's mouth (I guess that guy with the gun really pissed it off).
FRIDAY 22: The devil returned home Thursday night and was seen all over south Jersey. Friday night people heard hooves on their roofs in Camden. A policeman observes the creature drinking from a horse trough in front of the local saloon.
By Friday morning, most of south Jersey is in a panic, people refuse to leave their homes even in broad daylight. Schools are closed, theater performances cancelled, and many factories shut down because the workers were hiding at home.
There is a report that at 7 pm the beast had been captured in a barn in Morrisville, PA. When authorities investigate, they found that the devil had escaped again. A Woodbury policeman observes the devil flying over head. Then the creature terrorizes Salem.
Then, as suddenly as they had started, the sightings stopped. The Jersey devil returned to the solitude of its home in the pines.
There were many explanations given to what had happened that week. Some said it was all a hoax, some believed it was mass-hysteria. Still others think that there may have been something that all those people saw, but it was not a demon. More likely, a bird or some other rarely seen, large animal, that was migrating through the area. However, none of these theories can explain what was seen that week, and those who witnessed it swear that it could only have been the Jersey devil.