January 1909: When the Jersey Devil Came Out of the Woods Jan 23, 2015 18:59:24 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Jan 23, 2015 18:59:24 GMT -5
The week the Jersey Devil came out of the woods
This week marks the 106th anniversary of when many in New Jersey became convinced that a real life monster – horns, fangs, claws and all – was lurking in the Pine Barrens. Farmers and townsfolk across South Jersey repeated similar stories: nocturnal shrieks and hisses, bumps in the nights, a strange figure on rooftops, odd markings and footprints in the snow and even mutilated pets. Although the legend of the Jersey Devil is purported to have haunted the nightmares of New Jersey residents since the 1730s, it was this week in 1909 that its place in the folklore of the Garden State was rendered permanent.
As authors James F. McCloy and Ray Miller describe in their 1976 book, The Jersey Devil, the rash of sightings between January 16 and Jan. 23, came from reputable officials such as a police officer in Bristol, Penn., just over the Delaware River, who claimed to have shot at the creature in the early morning hours of January 17, before it flew off into the darkness. E. P. Weeden, a Trenton councilman at the time, told reporters he was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of what he surmised were giant, flapping wings outside his bedroom window, according to the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark Weeden claimed he even found pairs of cloven footprints in the fallen snow outside his home the next morning, which coincided with reports of similar footprint-sightings made by other residents across a snowy state capital.
"This city has joined in the South Jersey towns in the 'What is it?' stir," read a January 21, 1909 news report out of Riverside Township published in The Trenton Times. "The unknown animal, believed by local residents to be a one-legged, one-footed bird, has been lurking about this city the past thirty-six hours. Though never seen, its tracks are found mainly about small buildings and chicken coops. It visited the outhouses of Joseph Manz and next morning he found his pup dog dead. ... Manz declared that the culprit wore small horse shoes on his shoes, the tracks of which he found all about his place, even on the top of the building," the report read.
In their book, McCloy and Miller refer to this public panic as "Phenomenal Week" and no rational explanation for what really happened that week has ever been offered.
Source: Erik Larsen, The Courier-Post, January 21, 2015.