The Jersey Devil Legend

The Jersey Devil Legend

The following versions have been culled from various sources (see bibliography under books and links). I’m not attempting to delineate fact from fiction here, just an archival list of all the versions I’ve heard and read over the years. If you have a version that is not listed here, email it or send it to me. Don’t make it up, because that’s not the purpose of the listing. (Although I’m quite sure they were all made up.) I want the listing to be based on the legends that have been passed down verbally over the years.

Version 1.0

Probably the most well-known version, outlined in The Jersey Devil, goes something like this:

In 1735, a woman named Leeds, who had already had 12 children, gave birth to a 13th. During labor she proclaimed, “May the Devil take this one!”. The baby, upon being born, turned into a monster with the head of a collie, the wings of a bat and cloven feet. It promptly flew out the window and has been haunting the Pine Barrens ever since, mutilating animals, scaring the locals and bringing bad luck.

Version 1.1

The woman was called Mother Leeds. Her first name may have been Lucy.

Version 1.2

The woman was called Mrs. Shrouds, but she lived in Leeds Point, NJ.

Version 1.3

Mother Leeds was a witch, which is why her baby was a monster.

Version 1.4

The baby looked normal at first, then turned into a monster.

Version 1.5

The monster ate the family and then flew out the chimney.

Version 1.5.1 (Sent in by on 6/7/03)
Mrs. Leeds had 12 children. Her children wanted to have another sister or brother. Once she gave birth it killed her in labor. The devil crawled out of the womb and crawled up the chimney. The baby was deformed and mutilated. The jersey devil did had the head of a collie . It frightened the children as it crawled away. After that many sightings have been reported for many years. It was called the Leeds Devil (aka Jersey Devil) He was born in the woods in the shack that the Leeds lived in.

Version 1.6

The monster flew out the window, but would return every day to his mother’s doorstep. She kept shooing it away and eventually the Devil never returned.

Version 1.7

The monster was the 7th son of a 7th son, born on the 7th day, at the 7th hour at the--- You get the idea. This numerical coincidence created the devil.

Version 1.7.1 (Sent in by Patricia Gooding on 6/2/03)
i have another story to it it goes like this the jersy deavil was born on the 6th day on the 6th month and the 6th hour and the 6th min.

Version 1.8

They called the Jersey Devil the Leed’s Devil.

Version 1.9

The devil was actually born in Estellville, NJ in Gloucester county, but flew to the swamps of Leeds Point.

Version 1.9.1

The devil was born in Burlington, NJ

Version 1.9.2

The devil was born in Pleasantville, NJ in the 500 block of South Main Street.

Version 2.0

This is a more realistic version of the story:

Mrs. Leeds had a baby that was so deformed, it tore her open when it was born. The deformed baby was kept out of sight by the family, because it was so hideous. The birth was the result of Mrs. Leeds promiscuous lifestyle and the townspeople all shunned her.

Version 2.1

Leeds was married to her brother and thus the deformity.

Version 2.1.1 (Sent in by Fletcher Keene 6/1/03)
i heard a different story:
A woman gave birth to a jauntus baby (skin is slightly neon yellow colored) and they thought it a demon. they cast it iout of their home when it was old enough to find food for itself and the like. It stayed alive for some time because of it's diet of swamp slime and minsects of the jersey's swamps. Eventualy he got electrouted and he went from jauntus to a flourescent green and has been there after the Jersy Devil.

Version 2.2

The baby was kept locked up in the Leeds house.

Version 2.3

The locals hated Leeds because she was kind of a slut. They branded her a witch and shunned her, which is why they concluded the birth of her deformed son was connected to Satan and witchcraft.

Version 3.0

This is one of the more embellished versions of the story. I copped it from The Folklore and Folklife of New Jersey, but he is quoting one of the earliest versions of the story in print, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1859.

“There lived, in the year 1735, in the Township of Burlington, a woman. Her name was Leeds, and she was shrewdly suspected of a little amateur witchcraft. Be that as it may, it is well established, that, one stormy gusty night, when the wind was howling in turret and tree, Mother Leeds gave birth to a son, whose father could have been no other than the Prince of Darkness. No sooner did he see the light than he assumed the form of a fiend, with horse’s head, wings of a bat, and a serpent’s tail. The first thought of the newborn Caliban (the deformed slave from Shakespeare’s Tempest) was to fall foul of his mother, whom he scratched and bepommelled soundly, and then flew through the window out into the village, where he played the mischief generally. Little children he devoured, maidens he abused, young men he mauled and battered; and it was many days before a holy man succeeded in repeating the enchantment of Prospero (again, from Tempest). At length, however, Leed’s devil was laid--- but only for 100 years.”

Version 3.1

The Devil ran amok until 1740, when a brave clergyman used bell, book and candle to exercise the Devil for 100 years.

Version 4.0

This is the great Jersey Devil hoax of 1909. Jacob F. Hope and Norman Jeffries took advantage of public hysteria about the Jersey Devil. They offered a $500 reward for the capture of the monster, claiming it was a rare Australian vampire. After “capturing” the Jersey Devil, they dressed up a kangaroo in green paint, feathers and antlers and put it on display in Philadelphia for any sucker that would pay. For more details about the hoax, read The Jersey Devil, by James McCloy and Ray Miller, Jr.

Version 4.1 (Sent in by Kimberly Jeffries on my birthday on 3/9/03. Happy Birthday to me!)

Hi my name is Kimberly Jeffries, I'm 16 years old and lived in Ocean City New Jersey, and I was reading your website when i came across version 4. I believe from what my family has told me is that that version is true but only part of the actual story. I know it probably seems weird that a 16 year old has researched this story for 3 years but i have because Norman Jeffries was my uncle, and he married the sister of ol' J.D. himself. I heard this from my grandmother and dad they told me it was time i knew the truth.
The Story from what my dad and grandmother could remember my grandfather telling them was that norman jeffries heard about the Jersey Devil which back then was supposidly true you know the actual myth killer blah blah blah well he went to try and find this "devil on earth" and put out posters that any information on this creature would be valuable the reward depended on the information. Well this on really pretty girl came to him one day and told him to stop he didn't know what he was talking about. But Norman lol never gave up he went into the woods and everywhere he turned this girl was there trying to stop him. At first he thought she was annoying but then after a couple months he started to get these feelings for this girl, so later down the line he married her, they raised a family not 13 kids lol. And when she was lieing in her death bed about to die she asked him if he remembered how they met, he said he did and asked why she had brought that up. So she told him the story She was the sister of the "jersey devil" and ol' J.D. wasn't a creature but a kid with a mental disability that her parents left in the woods to fend for himself when he was young. So he ended up killing chickens and other animals which is why people thought there was an animal. And thats the story the whole real truthful story.

Version 5.0

The entire tale was “transported” to the U.S. either by Hessian or Slavic immigrants who eventually settled in the area. Since the Pine Barrens is notoriously hard to farm, the locals blamed all their trouble on an imaginary, Satanic monster.

Version 6.0

The X-Files episode, which, to my knowledge, was complete fiction except for the use of the Jersey Devil name, implied there was no real monster. Primitive humans supposedly roam the Pine Barrens, hiding from the eyes of civilized man, while foraging for food. They were mistaken for the Jersey Devil.

Version 7.0

Leeds was married to a British soldier during the Revolutionary War and the town cursed her, which is why her baby was a devil.

Version 8.0

The father of the devil was the local minister, who was mistreated by the town. The baby was born as a devil to punish the townspeople.

Version 9.0

In October of 1830, a man named John Vliet of Vienna, NJ, used some sort of mask to entertain his children on Halloween. The event became an annual ritual, which blossomed into the Jersey Devil story.

Version 10.0

Around 1850, a woman refused food to a traveling gypsy, so the gypsy cursed her and she gave birth to the Jersey Devil.

Version 11.0

The Jersey Devil was born along the Mullica River to a Jane Leeds Johnson and Jake Johnson in a house on Cale Cavileer’s Lane.

Version 12.0

The New Adventures of Johnny Quest Episode: Well, I was a big fan of the old Johnny Quest toon, but this one has lost something in the translation. The characters have been put through the PC ringer. In this episode, Dr. Quest, Johnny, Haji and Bandit (Race Bannon is suspiciously absent.) investigate the Jersey Devil legend. The beginning of the episode, which I missed, apparently retold the birth of the devil fairly okay in flashback. However, when the Quests get to the Pines it's snowing big time and everywhere you look there are mountains! Ha, hahahahahaha! Mountains in South Jersey, give me a break. Anyway, the whole Jersey Devil legend quickly takes a backseat as the Quests get caught up in a 200 year-old feud between the descendants of the Red Coats and Minute Men, if you can believe that. In the episode, the devil is a real creature, about 5 feet tall, green with wings. The group gets caught up trying to recover the "real" Declaration of Independence and in the end, the Devil helps them recover it.

Version 13.0 (Sent in by Rachelle 5/29/03)
Thestory that i heard was that once there was this lady that was pregnant with her 13th child and the other 12 were born sick so she said while in labor, "if this child be sick let it be the devil." the child was born sick and came out the devil which killed all the nurses and the mother. This story was on T.V. the show was Real scary stories where they actually went out and taped the jersey devil chasing them growling. to prove if it was real or not. which came out to be true. the title real scary stories means that they are real.

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