10 Things You Should Know About the Jersey Devil

© Amanda / Flickr
Photo of Kate Morgan
21 March 2018

You might only know the Jersey Devils as an NHL team. While the team’s home-base is in Newark, the inspiration for the name has its roots in South Jersey. Kids in South Jersey are raised on tales of the Jersey Devil, and we know exactly where to look for him.

The Jersey Devil is real

First thing’s first. This is no fairytale. If you don’t believe me, just ask your mom’s neighbor’s uncle’s pop-pop, who definitely saw him.

A drawing of the Jersey Devil from the Philadelphia Post, 1909 | © Philadelphia Post

He was born this way

Legend has it that Mrs. Jane Leeds—also known as Mother Leeds—was distressed to find she was pregnant with her thirteenth child. She cursed the baby, and on the night it was born, during a storm, the midwife was shocked to see a creature with wings, horns, and hooves.

The Pines are his domain

After the birth, the 13th Leeds child is said to have killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and out into the Pine Barrens, where he lives to this day.

The dense, occasionally creepy, South Jersey Pine Barrens | © Matt Swern / Flickr

He’s been hunted mercilessly

It’s a rite of passage for South Jersey teenagers to head out into the woods in search of the Jersey Devil. Devil hunting isn’t just for kids, though. There’s an organization called “The Devil Hunters” that routinely goes looking for the beast.

He’s been exorcized

Though it’s tough to authenticate this story, it’s said that terrified local residents called in a local minister to perform an exorcism in 1740, in hopes of banishing the Jersey Devil from their backyards.

He’s got a lot of nicknames

In addition to being called the Jersey Devil and The 13th Leeds Child, he’s also been referred to as the Hoodle-Doodle Bird, Wozzle Bug, and the Leeds Devil.

He’s been spotted – a lot

There have been nearly 2,000 reports from locals and visitors who’ve spotted the Jersey Devil over the past 300 or so years.

He’s worth a pretty penny

There have been some pretty hefty rewards offered for the Jersey Devil’s capture. A circus offered $100,000 and the Philadelphia Zoo said they’d pay $10,000 to whoever bagged the elusive quarry.

He might be a bird

There’s a theory that what those 2,000 witnesses actually saw was a Sandhill Crane, a bird with a huge wingspan that could hang out near the waterways of the Pine Barrens.

Some people think witnesses have actually spotted a large Sandhill Crane | © Steve Garvie

He’ll always be a part of Jersey lore

Whether you believe the legend or not, the Jersey Devil holds a special place in the heart of everyone who grew up in South Jersey. To this day, whenever there’s a new spotting, local newspapers go nuts. That’s because, as weird as it may seem, we love our local monster.

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