For those of you not familiar with New Jersey folklore, the Jersey Devil is a legend. The creature is supposed to inhabit the Pine Barrens Forest in south Jersey. The NHL team New Jersey Devils is named for this mythical creature. It is drawn as more of a flying dragon than a devil with horns.
It is believed that in the 1700's Deborah Leeds had twelve children and became pregnant again. She was upset, cursed number thirteen and said she wished it was the devil's child. The child was born with hooves for feet and grew a tail. It then ate its siblings and parents! It then flew away and still terrorizes people in the Pine Barrens.
The following is from Wikipedia - ["There are many possible origins of the Jersey Devil legend. The earliest legends date back to Native American folklore. The Lenni Lenape tribes called the area around Pine Barrens "Popuessing," meaning "place of the dragon." Swedish explorers later named it "Drake Kill", "drake" being a European word for dragon, and "kill" meaning channel or arm of the sea (river, stream, etc.).
Some skeptics believe the Jersey Devil to be nothing more than a creative manifestation of the English settlers. The aptly named Pine Barrens were shunned by most early settlers as a desolate, threatening place. Being relatively isolated, the barrens were a natural refuge for those wanting to remain hidden, including religious dissenters, loyalists, fugitives and military deserters in colonial times. Such individuals formed solitary groups and were pejoratively called "pineys", some of whom became notorious bandits known as "pine robbers". Pineys were further demonized after two early twentieth century eugenics studies depicted them as congenital idiots and criminals. It is easy to imagine early tales of terrible monsters arising from a combination of sightings of genuine animals such as bears, the activities of pineys, and fear of the barrens.
Outdoorsman and author Tom Brown Jr spent several seasons living in the wilderness of the Pine Barrens. He recounts occasions when terrified hikers mistook him for the Jersey Devil, after he covered his whole body with mud to repel mosquitoes. Not surprisingly, the Jersey Devil legend is fueled by the various testimonials from reputable eyewitnesses who have reported to have encountered the creature, from precolonial times to the present day, as there are still reported sightings within the New Jersey area.
Many contemporary theorists believe that the Jersey Devil could possibly be a very rare, unclassified species which instinctually fears and attempts to avoid humans. Such elements that support this theory include the overall similarities of the creature's appearance (horselike head, long neck and tail, leathery wings, cloven hooves, blood-curdling scream), with the only variables being the height and color.
Another factor that supports the cryptozoological theory is the fact that it is more likely that a species could endure over a span of several hundred years, rather than the existence of a single creature living for over 500 years. Some people think the Sandhill Crane (which has a 7 feet wingspan) is the basis of the Jersey Devil stories."]
Note - my father-in-law thinks it is really a great time to scare my kids - and the rest of the grandkids - by telling them about the Jersey Devil! I tell him that if he tells any more stories that his phone will be ringing at 2:00 am when my kids are up with nightmares!