Everyone knows the story of the Jersey Devil. In 1735, a witch named Mother Leeds gave birth to a hideous “child” with a horse-like head, cloven hooves, a long tail and bat-like wings. It yelped menacingly at the ragged, dull-witted family, then flew up and out the chimney to spend eternity harassing anyone who encountered it along the lonely back roads of the Pine Barrens.
Unfortunately, everything you think you know about the Jersey Devil is wrong. It is not a monster of the woods, but of politics. It is not a devilish horse haunting our present, but a scapegoat lost to our memory.
This is complicated and crazy and you might not buy it. But it’s probably true. The origins of the Leeds Devil were something completely different than a monster animal but it then became a useful spin-off point for the Jersey Devil.
I’m seeing a trend… Origin stories of cryptids are REMARKABLY revealing. By going FAR past the same, tired anecdotes passed along from mass market paperback to paranormal encyclopedias are demolished as complete fiction.
What do people see in the Pine Barrens of NJ. Lots of things – owls, deer (the infamous Paranormal State episode), and probably other people. There is no monster roaming the woodlands except the ones we create.
I look forward to Brian Regal’s book on this subject. Like the book Abominable Science (see right sidebar and BUY IT), true scholarship in cryptozoology is being done not by cryptozoologists but by skeptics. I’m very pleased to play a small role in that and promote these great projects.
Last night, before this article came out (though I knew about it), I talked about this topic on The Fringe Radio show. The download is here.