NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

Obit Heitman (Gloucester City)
Chuckles by Jes

In 1909 the Jersey Devil was sighted in Gloucester

The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature or cryptid said to Jersey_devil inhabit the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey. The Devil is often described as a bipedal flying creature with hooves, but there are many variations.

The most popular version of the Jersey Devil legend hold that a Deborah Smith from England emigrated to the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey to marry a Mr. Leeds in the 18th Century. Mr. Leeds was a very vain man, and wanted many heirs to carry on the family name. This kept the new Mrs. Leeds continually pregnant. After bearing twelve healthy children, Mrs. Leeds was dismayed to discovered she was now carrying a thirteenth. She cursed the unborn child and declared she would rather bear the Devil's child than another Leeds. Apparently, her wish was granted when this new child was born with cloven hooves, claws, and a tail. The newborn then preceded to eat the other twelve Leeds children and escape out the chimney to begin its reign of terror. This version's major flaw is that Mother Leeds has descendants that, as of 1998, still lived in Atlantic County New Jersey according to an article on the myth in the New York Times on April 26, 1998 (Section 14NJ, Page 8). There are several other variants of the Leeds tale. Another version of the tale claims that when Mrs. Leeds found out she was pregnant with her 13th, she said that if she were to have one more child, "may it be a devil". The belief that a deformed child was the work of Satan or a curse was still common during the 1700’s.

January 1909, however, saw the most widespread period of sightings ever recorded. Thousands of people claimed to have seen the Jersey Devil during the week of January 16 – 23. Newspapers nationwide followed the story and published eyewitness reports. Hysteria gripped the entire state during this terrible week.

  • 16th (Saturday) — The Devil was sighted flying over Woodbury.
  • 17th (Sunday) — In Bristol, Pennsylvania, several people saw the creature and tracks were found in the snow the following day.
  • 18th (Monday) — Burlington was covered in strange tracks that seemed to defy logic; some were found on rooftops; others started and stopped abruptly, with no origin or destination. Several other towns found similar footprints.
  • 19th (Tuesday) — Nelson Evans and his wife, of Gloucester, found the Devil outside their window at 2:30 AM .
    • Mr. Evans gave the following account: "It was about three feet and a half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo!' and it turned around, barked at me, and flew away".
    • Two Gloucester City hunters tracked the Devil's seemingly impossible trail for 20 miles. The trail appeared to jump fences and squeeze under eight-inch gaps. Sightings were reported in several other towns.
  • 20th (Wednesday) — In Haddonfield and Collingswood, posses were formed to find the Devil. They watched him fly off toward Moorestown, where he was later sighted by at least two people.
  • 21st (Thursday) — The Devil attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights, but was chased off. Trolley cars in several other towns began to maintain armed guards. Several poultry farmers found their chickens dead. The Devil was reported to have walked into an electric rail in Clayton, but if this did happen, it did not kill the beast. A telegraph worker near Atlantic City claimed to have shot the Devil and watched him limp into the woods. If so, he was not fazed much because he continued his assault, visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and West Collingswood, New Jersey (where he was hosed by the local fire department). The Devil prepared to attack nearby people, who threw whatever they could find at it. Right as he was about to strike, the Devil flew away. He emerged later in Camden and injured a dog, ripping a chunk of flesh out before the dog's owner drove it away. This is the first Devil attack on a living creature that was witnessed.
  • 22nd (Friday) — Last day of sightings. By now many towns were in a panic, with businesses and schools closed for fear of the creature. It was, however, only seen a few times that day and did not attack anything.

In addition to the number of major attacks and sightings, the Devil was sighted flying over many other towns. Since the week of terror in 1909, sightings have slowed considerably, but by no means did they end. In 1951 there was another panic in Gibbstown, New Jersey, after local boys claimed to have seen a humanoid monster and heard screams. As recently as 1991, a pizza delivery driver in Edison, New Jersey, described a night encounter with a white, horse-like creature. In Freehold, New Jersey, in 2002, a woman supposedley saw a huge creature with bat-like wings by her house. There today exist many websites and magazines (such as Weird NJ) which catalog sightings of the Devil.

Many different descriptions have been offered by those who have seen the creature. Several eyewitness accounts follow.

  • "I looked out upon the Delaware and saw flying diagonally across what appeared to be a large crane, but which was emitting a glow like a fire-fly. Its head resembled that of a ram, with curled horns, and its long thick neck was thrust forward in flight. It had long thin wings and short legs, the front legs shorter than the hind." — E.W. Minster, Bristol, PA. Sighted on January 16, 1909.
  • "It was three feet high... long black hair over its entire body, arms and hands like a monkey, face like a dog, split hooves [...] and a tail a foot long". — George Snyder, Moorestown, NJ. Sighted on January 20, 1909.
  • "In general appearance it resembled a kangaroo... It has a long neck and from what glimpse I got of its head its features are hideous. It has wings of a fairly good size and of course in the darkness looked black. Its legs are long and somewhat slender and were held in just such a position as a swan's when it is flying...It looked to be about four feet high". — Lewis Boeger, Haddon Heights, NJ. Sighted on January 21, 1909.
  • "As nearly as I can describe the terror, it had the head of a horse, the wings of a bat and a tail like a rat's, only longer". — Howard Campbell, who claimed to have shot the devil near Atlantic City (see above). Sighted on January 21, 1909.
  • In 1909, in the midst of the sudden burst of sightings in New Jersey, the Philadelphia Zoo posted a $10,000 reward on the capture of the devil. This prompted a variety of hoaxes. One included a kangaroo with artificial wings. The reward still remains to be claimed today.

    A bizarre rotting corpse vaguely matching the Jersey Devil description was discovered in 1957, leaving some to believe the creature was dead. However, there have been numerous sightings since then.