The Real Jersey Devil? Dec 9, 2013 0:00:08 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Dec 9, 2013 0:00:08 GMT -5
Will the Real Jersey Devil Please Stand Up?
Every guido and guidette knows the story of the Jersey Devil. Mother Leeds was a promiscuous lady, pumping out twelve kids and finding herself heavy with child once again. Exhausted and exasperated, she exclaimed, “I’d just as soon have a devil in the house as another baby,” or words to that effect, and she learned the hard way to be careful what one wishes. When she gave birth, the child had horns and hooves, ran around the room and flew up the chimney and into the annals of legend.
One of the latest theories behind the Jersey Devil is from the skeptic camp, courtesy of Kean University’s Brian Regal. The long and short of his theory posits the Jersey Devil as the product of an 18th century flame war between Benjamin Franklin and Titan Leeds. The former needs no introduction, the latter hails from a royalist, loyalist family dabbling in ye olden analogue to blogs known as almanacs. Ben, posing as “Poor” Richard Saunders, accused Titan of engaging in sorcerous acts, echoing Quakers who condemned Titan for including astrology in Titan’s New Almanack. Titan died in 1738, but the Leeds legend remains strong in the 21st century.
Brian, a historian, pimped his latest book at the Kearny Library last spring and making some good points on the basis of folklore. With every other breath, he shut down any discussion of cryptozoology by testily responding “It doesn’t exist,” when people inevitably brought up Bigfoot and the possibility of a flesh and blood Devil. When pressed on hard evidence, footprints, hairs and the rest, Brian responded with the boilerplate “I’m not a biologist.” Can’t blame him for playing it safe, but why throw the 13th baby out with the bath water? There are compelling arguments for the existence of the Jersey Devil.
From a blood and guts aspect, there are many popular suspects. South Jersey is a haven for birdwatchers and sandhill cranes are often sighted. With the popular description of an elongated head, bipedal stance and wings fits the description of the devil, especially when taking exaggeration into account. Another possible specimen was photographed in Oklahoma, of all places, and turned out to be a hairless squirrel. An African fruitbat, Hypsignathus monstrosus, certainly resembles the Jersey Devil, but there are no known sightings of H. monstrosus in North America, plus it’s much smaller than the creature eyewitnesses claim to have seen.
Yet another theory suggests the Jersey Devil could be a macropod. These are kangaroos and wallabies. During the 1909 Jersey Devil flap around Philadelphia, canny carnies exhibited a poor, green-painted kangaroo with tin wings as the bona fide Jersey Devil. These critters meet the criteria of the devil’s appearance, wings notwithstanding, and Americans tend to keep weird pets. One hundred years after the devil scare, a woman claimed to have found kangaroo roadkill in Raritan Township. Considering the number of kangaroo sightings throughout North America, the odds are in our favor.
Many sightings throughout history attribute supernatural powers to the Jersey Devil, such as running up walls, squeezing through tiny holes or simply being bulletproof. These are just stories and the best thing about writing is making up such things. But there is an intersection between the supernatural and “real” world. Take Slenderman, a meme gone wild, borne of Something Awful’s forums, included in many bricksworthy videos and stories. Ask anyone on or off the internet and they’ll acknowledge there’s no such thing as a Slenderman. A cursory Google search suggests a nascent trend in real world Slenderman sightings. Most likely these authors are attention whores looking to boost their post count or karma, but the stories are now out there. Read late at night by bored netizens and the gullible, the seeds of myth will find fertile soil in active minds, spreading among family and friends, in ever-growing circles, eventually taking form – just like the Jersey Devil.
As the mascot of a sports team and Weird New Jersey, star of comic books, video games and films, not to mention a Bruce Springsteen song, Mother Leeds’s demon child is alive and well in popular consciousness. Like so many kids clapping their hands so Tinkerbell will live, the Jersey Devil finds strength in belief. As long as people love a good story, he’ll continue haunting the Pine Barrens.
Source: Charles Savia, AnomalistNews, December 5, 2013.