Just for the record, lest we be called Piney-haters, we must note that the Pine Barrens also contain Hammonton, New Jersey -- home of the best freakin' blueberries grown on this planet, bar-none. Those tasteless things grown in Arkansas, Texas, Florida, and elsewhere are not blueberries. Disagree? Well...a bona-fide President of the US of A has our back on this one! Yup, in 1984, Ronnie Reagan called Hammonton the "Blueberry capital of the world." Granted, we don't agree with almost anything else the man ever did or said, but he obviously knew a quality blueberry when it crossed his lips.
Now, to our story...
It was said that after giving birth to her 12th child, Mother Leeds foretold that were she to have another, a 13th, it would be the devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night, and gathered around were her friends. The child was born normal, but then changed form, from a baby to a creature with hooves -- a horse's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines....
The child? The infamous "Jersey Devil". Now, most people know the Jersey Devil as the namesake for NJ's three-time Stanley Cup winning New Jersey Devils.That's great, and we puckheads at BFK love monsieur Brodeur and company a great deal.
However, we write this post because we believe that, in the pantheon of North American "monsters"/folktales, the Jersey Devil is one devil that does not get his due, despite a royal pedigree of sorts. Did you know that Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Spain (and brother of Napoleon) had a run-in with the Jersey Devil? Yup indeedy, although it has always seemed to us at BFK that the fact this guy lived in the Pine Barrens of NJ is much more odd than that he saw the Jersey Devil.
The Jersey Devil is typically portrayed as the cartoon image to the left here, from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in 1909. Stories about the Devil don't make him out as such a quiet, friendly little feller, however. A good overview of his appearances can be found here.
The most intriguing thing about the Jersey Devil may be that his appearances forebode war. As Dave Juliano explains:
"It is said that the devil is an 'uncanny harbinger of war' and appears before any great conflict. The Jersey Devil was sighted before the start of the Civil War. It was also seen right before the Spanish American War and WW I. In 1939, before the start of WW II, Mount Holly citizens were awakened by the noise of hooves on their roof tops. The Devil was seen on December 7, 1941, right before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was also seen right before the Vietnam War. The Jersey Devil's habit of being a forerunner to wars could be because of his possible demonic origins. In 1730, Ben Franklin reported a story about a witchcraft trial near Mt Holly, NJ. One of the origin legends say that Mother Leeds was a witch."So...when you get bored with Bigfoot, no longer have a yen for Yeti, and lose your longing for the Loch Ness Monster, give the Jersey Devil a chance.