First reports of the New Jersey Devil date back to the time of the
Native Americans. In what was later to become the Devil's main haunt,
the Indians of the region gave the land the name of "Popuessing", which
translates to "place of the dragon". Later Swedish explorers to the
area renamed it, "Drake Kill", drake being a European name for dragon.
As more settlers entered the region, Devil reports increased, resulting
in an mid-1700's exorcism. Rampages in 1840, 1873-74, 1894-95, and 1909
left scores of slaughtered livestock and scared settlers. For a while,
he New Jersey Devil terrorized members of the State Legislature in
Trenton, leaving footprints on roofs and in backyards.
The Devil eventually began to enjoy status of local legend, (and even
became the state's "official demon" in the 1930's) tales of his beginnings
filling the conversations of pubs and churches alike. The most common
folktale is that the Jersey Devil is the offspring of one Mrs. Leeds, who,
in 1735, after hearing she was pregnant with her 13th child, was overhears
saying "it might just as well be a devil as a child." Devil it was, and it
flew directly from womb to the swamps, cursing it's mother on the way out
the chimney. This ignores claims of the Devil's pre-1735 debuts, but it
undoubtedly cured blasphemy in the realm of New Jersey childbirths.
Descriptions of the Devil range from a "flying lion" to "an eagle with four
legs" and everything in-between, but one attribute that does not change from
report to report is the Devil's call, a combination howl and whistle. When
harassing the good people of New Jersey, the Devil would eat livestock,
attempt to steal children, and scare the bejezus out of everyone in the
process, often leaving cloven footprints to corroborate the stories of
The evidence of the existence of the New Jersey Devil may not be
convincingly concrete, but the fact that reports are all contained in the
same general region over 400 years does lend a bit of veracity to the phenomena.
Today, the Jersey Devil is generally dismissed as a colorful legend to scare
the children of Halloween, but reports of the beast still come in from time
to time. One would hope that time would reveal the mystery of the
New Jersey Devil, but time has kept it's maw silent for the past four
centuries; the Devil is still at large.