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