Jersey Outcast Births The Jersey Devil
There is an urban legend that speaks of a Jersey Devil that carries off children and screams in the night. The story of it’s birth is a frightening one that takes place in the deep desolate forest of the Pine Barrens. And as not so many of us know, tragically this creature with wings, hoofs and a horse’s head is claimed to be the cursed and unwanted child of a New Jersey family of outcasts.
The origin of the story claims that when a woman known as Mother Leeds, was giving birth to her 13th child, she screamed out, “Oh, let this one be a devil!” Just as she wished the “child” was born with a hideous resemblance to a devil with bat-like wings and hoofs. His head was shaped like a horse and he was crowned with horns like a goat. The hideous newborn flew up and out of the chimney, disappearing into the dark night to hide in the Pine Barrens forest forever. Many people at the time actually believed this outlandish story because the father of this gruesome baby devil was the town astrologist. His name was Daniel Leeds. In the early 16th century astrology was considered dark magic, therefore his fellow Quakers directly condemned his work as evil. When Leeds used astrology to publish an Almanac he was publically accused of being Satan’s messenger because the Quakers considered his astrological symbols and inappropriate language to be those of a “pagan” devil. In 1688 he published a book called The Temple of Wisdom, which included stories of angels, natural magic, astrology and the behavior of devils. This of course did not help his reputation!
There are many additional factors in the Leeds family history and in the culture and values of society in the mid 1700’s that aided in the formation of the Jersey Devil Legend. Coincidently, the Leeds family crest was a dragon-like beast with clawed feet and bat-like wings. His almanac was considered inappropriate to Christianity, his book was evil and he was accused of being Satan’s messenger. The Quakers were against anything that conflicted with their religious belief and used gossip to spread judgment against Daniel Leeds and his family. Oddly Daniel Leeds had 3 wives that tragically died, and to add to his already tainted hardships he also had several children die at young ages. And finally, the Leeds Family owned and lived on the land known as the Pine Barrens, which was and still is an impenetrable forest that is dark and forbidding in the heat of summer.
Eventually the name “Leeds Devil” soon morphed into The Jersey Devil. Although these days most people do not know of the true origin of the legend, many of them swear that the Jersey Devil still lurks in the woods of the Pine Barrens. He is known to emerge periodically on late summer nights to terrorize residents of local towns. This hideous creature is considered the culprit of many destroyed crops and murdered farm animals. Where he roams mayhem is in his path. There have actually been documented sightings by police officers, ghost hunters and many others who have witnessed the Jersey Devil on the prowl!
Maybe there is a vengeful ghostly presence lurking the Southern New Jersey towns? Perhaps one of the Leeds’s Family ancestors will not rest until it has claimed its revenge on the people who inhabit the towns where his family was shunned and ostracized? We may never know. But if you see something strange in the woods along the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night, keep in mind that you might be in the presence of the mysterious and legendary Jersey Devil.
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