This regionalized name hides perhaps a variety of creatures that have been haunting the New Jersey Pineland forest for over 260 years, but well focus on the main cryptid.
There are many possible origins of the Jersey Devil legend, but it has no known basis in Native American folklore of the area, and it is thought to be a creative manifestation of European settlers.
The most widely-known version of the tale can be traced back to the eighteenth century and a woman named Deborah Smith. Ms. Smith emigrated from England to marry an older rich man named Mr. Leeds. Leeds wanted several children to ensure that his family name was carried on, and consequently, the new Mrs. Leeds was always pregnant.
She gave birth to twelve healthy children and found herself pregnant with lucky number thirteen. The story goes that Mrs. Leeds invoked the devil during a very difficult and painful labor and that when the baby was born, it either immediately, or very soon afterwards, (depending on the version of the story), grew into a full-grown devil and escaped from the house to begin a reign of terror.
(In sharp contrast, Native American legends usually depict the devil as a friendly protector of the Pines. Sightings of the devil were believed to be a sign of good fortune.)
Another version of the story says it was when Mrs. Leeds found out she was pregnant with her 13th, that she said that if she were to have one more child, "may it be a devil".
Another version is that the child/devil was the result of a family curse.
Another version is that Mrs. Leeds, who was a Quaker, had refused to be converted from the Quaker faith and that the clergyman who had been trying to convert her was so angry that he told her
that her next child would be an offspring of Satan.
Another version is that the child was born a monster and that Mrs. Leeds cared for the child until her death. In this version the child/devil "flew off" into the swamps after Mrs. Leeds' death.
In 1778, Commodore Stephen Decautur visited the Hanover Iron Works in the Pine Barrens to test cannonballs at a firing range, when he allegedly witnessed a strange, pale creature winging by overhead. Using cannonfire, he punctured the wing of the creature, which continued flying, apparently unfazed.
In 1840, 1841, 1859, and 1873, multiple livestock were killed, accompanied by unearthly screams, wails, and strange tracks found in the snow in the areas of Haddonfield and Bridgeton.
January of 1909, however, saw the most frenetic period of devil sightings ever recorded. Thousands of people claimed to witness the Jersey Devil during the week of January 16 - 23. Newspapers nationwide followed the story and published eyewitness reports. Hysteria gripped the entire state during the terrible week.
- 16th (Saturday) - The creature was sighted flying over Woodbury.
- 17th (Sunday) - In Bristol, Pennsylvania, several people saw the creature and tracks were found in the snow the following day.
- 18th (Monday) - Burlington was covered in strange tracks that seemed to defy logic; some were found on rooftops, while others started and stopped abruptly with no apparent origin or destination. Similar footprints were found in several other towns.
- 19th (Tuesday) - Nelson Evans and his wife, of Gloucester, allegedly saw the creature outside their window at 2:30 AM. Mr. Evans gave a descriptive account as follows: "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."
Two Gloucester hunters tracked the creature's perplexing trail for twenty miles. The trail appeared to "jump" fences and squeeze under eight-inch gaps. Similar trails were reported in several other towns.
- 20th (Wednesday) - In Haddonfield and Collingswood, posses were formed to find the devil. They supposedly watched the creature fly toward Moorestown, where it was later seen by at least two more people.
- 21st (Thursday) - The creature attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights, but was chased off. Trolley cars in several other towns began to maintain armed guards, and several poultry farmers found their chickens dead. The devil was reported to collide with an electric rail in Clayton, but was not killed. A telegraph worker near Atlantic City claimed to have shot the devil, only to watch it limp into the woods. The creature apparently was not fazed as it continued the rampage through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and West Collingswood, New Jersey (where it was supposedly hosed by the local fire department). The devil seemed poised to attack nearby people, who defensively threw any available objects at it. The creature suddenly flew away -- and reemerged in Camden to injure a dog, ripping a chunk of flesh from its cheek before the dog's owner drove it away. This was the first reported devil attack on a living creature.
- 22nd (Friday) - Last day of sightings. Many towns were panic stricken, with many businesses and schools closed in fear. Fortunately, the creature was seen only a few times that day and did not attack.
In addition to these encounters, the creature was seen flying over several other towns. Since the week of terror in 1909, sightings have been much less frequent, but did not end by any means. In 1951 there was another panic in Gibbstown, New Jersey, after local boys claimed to have seen a screaming humanoid monster. As recently as 1991, a pizza delivery driver in Edison, New Jersey described a night encounter with a white, horselike creature. In Freehold, New Jersey, in 2002, a woman supposedly saw a huge creature with batlike wings near her home.
There are currently several websites and magazines (such as Weird NJ) which catalog sightings of the devil.
Many different descriptions have been offered by alleged witnesses of the creature, which are as follows:
"I looked out upon the Delaware and saw flying diagonally across what appeared to be a large crane, but which was emitting a glow like a firefly. Its head resembled that of a ram, with curled horns, and its long thick neck was thrust forward in flight. It had long thin wings and short legs, the front legs shorter than the hind." ¯ E.W. Minster, Bristol, PA. Sighted on January 16, 1909.
"It was three feet high... long black hair over its entire body, arms and hands like a monkey, face like a dog, split hooves … and a tail a foot long". ¯ George Snyder, Moorestown, NJ. Sighted on January 20, 1909.
"In general appearance it resembled a kangaroo... It has a long neck and from what glimpse I got of its head its features are hideous. It has wings of a fairly good size and of course in the darkness looked black. Its legs are long and somewhat slender and were held in just such a position as a swan's when it is flying...It looked to be about four feet high". ¯ Lewis Boeger, Haddon Heights, NJ. Sighted on January 21, 1909.
"As nearly as I can describe the terror, it had the head of a horse, the wings of a bat and a tail like a rat's, only longer". ¯ Howard Campbell, who claimed to have shot the devil near Atlantic City (see above). Sighted on January 21, 1909.
While the descriptions vary, several aspects remain fairly constant, such as the devil's long neck, wings and hooves. The creature is often said to have a horselike head and tail. Its reputed height varies from about three feet to more than seven feet. Many sightings report the creature to have glowing red eyes that can paralyze a man, and that it utters a high, humanlike scream.
The Dover Demon
The Dover Demon is a classic cryptid, with a large variety of theories abounding as to what it was. The Demon was first sighted on April 21st, 1977 by three teenagers who were driving through the Dover area when the car's headlights illuminated something in the road. Something bizarre. Something unearthly. Something inhuman looking, crawling along a stone wall on Farm Street.
It was the first sighting that cued a wave of sightings, all by teenagers, none below 15, none over the age of 18. None old enough to drink, none young enough to still see monsters in the closet or under the bed.
Bill Bartlett, 17.
John Baxter, 15.
Abby Brabham, 15.
Will Traintor, 18.
All four teens saw the Demon within two days. All four gave matching descriptions and sketches of a creature with a disproportionately large, watermelon-shaped head and illuminated orange eyes like glass marbles. It had long, thin arms and legs with slender fingers and toes, which it used to grasp the pavement and the wall. It was hairless and had rough, fleshtoned skin, described as tan and sandpaper-like. The creature's appearance was very plain, with no nose or ears, and no mouth was seen. The witness drawings portray its head as having a skull shape, forming the contour of a circle on top with a more elliptical ending projecting down to include where the nose and mouth would be.
All of the teenagers witnessed the Demon seperately, save for Brabham and Traintor, who witnessed it from inside Traintor’s car.
Theories surrounding the origin of the creature have ranged from it being an alien to being a baby moose. Many people have stated that it is perhaps an alien (perhaps the commonly known Alien Grey) or some sort of escaped mutant. Others theorize that it is really a being from another dimension, accidentally transferred into our world through a dimensional warp. One skeptic even wrote that the description of the creature's head matched that of a baby moose. The Demon bears some similarity to the Mannegishi creature, which is native to the mythology of the Cree Indians in Canada. It could also be a Backoo, as evidenced by the similarities in the body structures.
In Chile in May of 2004, a civil engineer named Germán Pereira was taking photographs of two mounted Carabineros (Chilean national police), and found a strange creature that closely resembles the Dover Demon in one of the photos. This is perhaps the only recent reported Dover Demon sighting.
The Shunka Warak'inIn December 2005, a strange wolf-like animal started killing livestock in McCone, Garfield and Dawson counties, Montana. By March 2006, it had struck six herds of sheep in McCone and Garfield Counties, wounding 71 and killing 36 ewes. The counties, Montana. By March 2006, it had struck six herds of sheep in McCone and Garfield Counties, wounding 71 and killing 36 ewes. The total cost of the damages is estimated to be upwards of $19,000. The thing even reached the status of being named The Creature of McCone County, but it has been around for far longer than a few years.
The Shunka Warakin (also shunka warak'in) is an American beast from Native American mythology and which is said to resemble a wolf, a hyena, or both.
It has been reported from the Great Plains area of North America during pioneer days, by both white settlers and Native American tribes alike. Sightings have become much less common in the last century, causing most supporters to suggest that the creature is now extinct.
In the language of the American Indian Ute (yoot) people, shunka warak'in means "carries off dogs." The best evidence of its existence was a specimen shot and preserved around the 1899-1900 turn of the century by a member of the settler in Montana. It appeared to be a wolf-like creature with a long head, slightly resembling a feral boar. Some people say it looks more like some prehistoric or Ice Age creatures, perhaps surviving to the present day like the thylacine. Those who got a good look at the beast described it as being nearly black and having high shoulders and a back that sloped downward like a hyena, and cried like a person when they killed it.
The creature was later mounted in a general store owned by a man in Henry Lake, Idaho, with the name Ringdocus. This information was recorded by zoologist Ross Hutchins, grandson of the man who shot it. This only known piece of physical evidence was never examined by qualified scientists and is now missing, although recent rumors indicate it is in the Yellowstone region.
The Shunka Warak'in has never been recorded as walking upright, though there is still the possibility that it is a skinwalker, therianthrope, or merely just a wild wolf, with the possibility of a pack of hyenas or other carnivores that were released into the wild and reproduced not exempt.
The cryptid that was terrorizing three counties in Montana was shot on November 2, 2006, in Garfield County. The 106-pound reddish-yellow beast has been unable to be identified by Montana wildlife officials. Its coloration seems unexpected for a wolf. The animal shot in Garfield County had shades of orange, red and yellow in its fur, unlike the Northern Rockies wolves, which tend more toward grays, browns, and blacks, said wildlife officials.
It may take months, but DNA analysis is occurring at the University of California in Los Angeles, and the carcass is now at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, for genetic analysis.
Spring Heeled Jack
Reports of a strange leaping figure began in southwest London in 1837; the descriptions of the strange character ranged from a monster with wings and horns to a powerfully built man in a shiny suit with helmet and cloak spitting fire. "Devil-like" was the only description given of the strange figure that escaped with incredible leaps and bounds after attacking Polly Adams, a farmer's daughter who worked in a south London Pub; the description was
given of the assailant of another woman in Clapham churchyard. But it wasn't until a year later, in 1838, that the rumors were terrifyingly confirmed.
In January 1838, the Lord Mayor, Sir John Cowan, drew public attention to a letter he hadreceivedd from a resident of Peckham giving details of an attack by the so-called "Spring-Heeled Jack"; this public acceptance of the rumors by the Lord Mayor then led to a flood of letters from individuals who had been too frightened and embarrassed to report their own encounters previously. A few weeks later, on a February night, young and pretty Jane Alsop, who lived with her father and two sisters, answered a violent knocking at her front door. There was a man in the shadows by the front gate who identified himself as a police officer, and asked her to bring a light... he claimed to have captured the infamous "Spring-Heeled Jack"! Excited, Jane fetched a candle and hurried it out to the gate.
As she handed it to the man, he grabbed her neck and pinned her head under his arm, then began to rip up her dress and body. Screaming, she freed herself and ran only to be caught again; holding her by the hair, the wildman clawed at her face and neck. One of Jane's sisters, hearing the struggle, ran into the street and called for help; but before anyone could stop him, Spring-Heeled Jack leapt away into the shadows.
Jane Alsop later described her attacker as wearing a helmet and a tight-fitting white costume, "like an oilskin," under a black cloak. His face was hideous, with eyes like balls of fire; he had claws on his fingers, and vomited blue and white flames.
Jane was not the only victim. Lucy Scales (or Squires, depending on the version) was 18 years old when she met Jack, only a few months after Jane. The sister of a butcher, she had just left her brother's house to walk home with her sister. As they entered Green Dragon Alley in Limehouse, an empty street, a tall, cloaked figure leaped from the shadows and belched blue flames into Lucy's face, blinding her.
Sometime after the attack on Lucy Scales, a strange figure was seen scaling the spire of a London church, leaping away into the darkness after a short time. Rumors spread of the same unknown entity being seen on the Tower of London.
Spring-Heeled Jack was sighted all over England through the 1850's and 1860's (especially in the Midlands). In the 1860's, according to one report, the villain had been cornered by a mob only to escape by jumping a hedge. Parents kept their children off the streets for fear of the bouncing terror. In the 1870's army authorities set traps for him after he slapped sentries with his icy hands and jumped atop their guard boxes. One night in 1877, angry townspeople tried to shoot him, to no avail.
The last time Jack was definitely seen was in Liverpool in September 1904, where he was jumping from street to rooftops and back again, and/or just jumping over a building in William Henry Street. When some brave citizens tried to corner him, he simply leaped away into the darkness. Some say that sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack continued until after World War II, but these are unconfirmable.