The Jersey Devil at the New Jersey Folk Festival
According to Weird New Jersey, it was in 1735, that a Pines resident known as Mother Leeds found herself pregnant for the thirteenth time. (Leeds is the name of one of New Jersey’s earliest settlers, and many descendants of the Leeds family can still be found throughout NJ to this day.) Mother Leeds was not living a wealthy lifestyle by any means. Her husband was a drunkard who made few efforts to provide for his wife and twelve children. Reaching the point of absolute exasperation upon learning of her thirteenth child, she raised her hands to the heavens and proclaimed “Let this one be a devil!”
Mother Leeds went into labor a few months later, on a tumultuously stormy night, no longer mindful of the curse she had utter previously regarding her unborn child. Her children and husband huddled together in one room of their Leeds Point home while local midwives gathered to deliver the baby in another. By all accounts the birth went routinely, and the thirteenth Leeds child was a seemingly normal baby boy.
Within minutes however, Mother Leeds’s wish of months before began to come to fruition. The baby started to change, and metamorphosed right before her very eyes. Within moments it transformed from a beautiful newborn baby into a hideous creature unlike anything the world had ever seen. The wailing infant began growing at an incredible rate. It sprouted horns from the top of its head and talon-like claws tore through the tips of its fingers. Leathery bat-like wings unfurled from its back, and hair and feathers sprouted all over the child’s body. Its eyes began glowing bright red as they grew larger in the monster’s gnarled and snarling face. The creature savagely attacked its own mother, killing her, then turned its attention to the rest of the horrified onlookers who witnessed its tempestuous transformation. It flew at them, clawing and biting, voicing unearthly shrieks the entire time. It tore the midwives limb from limb, maiming some and killing others.
The monster then knocked down the door to the next room where its own father and siblings cowered in fear and attacked them all, killing as many as it could. Those who survived to tell the tale then watched in horror as the rotten beast sprinted to the chimney and flew up it, destroying it on the way and leaving a pile of rubble in its wake. The creature then made good its escape into the darkness and desolation of the Pine Barrens, where it has lived ever since. To this day the creature, known varyingly as the Leeds Devil and the Jersey Devil, claims the Pines as its own, and terrorizes any who are unfortunate enough to encounter it.
According to legend, the Jersey Devil seldom leaves the Pine Barrens, and the creature is rarely spotted as far north as New Brunswick. But nearly every April, the Jersey Devil makes an appearance at the New Jersey Folk Festival, perhaps as a courtesy visit, because he is featured on our official logo. So keep on a sharp lookout. You may be able to catch a rare glimpse of this legendary creature.