So yes, my first post is about NJ. Why start here, at the armpit of the country? Because I feel like it, that’s why, and also because there’s a ton of interesting things that seem to happen in New Jersey. Lucky for us, there’s even a number of books out called Weird N.J. that talk about all this craziness. So I’ll probably be using that as a source for topics to come just to give you a heads up.
No matter where you live, you’ve probably heard the legend of the NJ Devil. Even if you live across the country, you probably have some idea of what it is. There’s a hockey team named after it for Christ’s sake. Granted, the hockey team isn’t as scary as the stories and folklore of the actual devil, but you get the idea. He’s kind of a big deal.
I have a number of friends that grew up in Southern NJ near the pine barrens. One of my friend’s dad was actually a forester. So we spent a lot of time in the woods. Whenever I would go and visit, we would camp outside and there would always be scary stories of the NJ Devil, as well as ghosts and what not. Considering the backyard campfire was no more than 200 feet from the edge of a dark creepy forest, you can understand how we would all be a little scared. You have to give us some credit. We were ballsy enough to sleep out there, at the NJ Devil’s doorstep, and most nights we were just fine and ended up forgetting about what creepy dangers and grotesque creature may be lurking just out of our sight. Some nights though, we just couldn’t shake that feeling like there was something out there, watching.
Now I know that the whole idea of the NJ Devil is founded on the belief of the supernatural. That it was the 13th child of Mother Leeds back in the mid 1700’s and that it was fathered by the Devil himself. It is supposedly a creature that stands on two hooven feet, has the head of a goat, and large leathery wings like a bat, and short arms with claws. It runs and flies through the woods, screeching horrible sounds, hunting and killing livestock and even people. Over the past couple centuries, there have been many claims of people who have seen and even tried to kill the NJ Devil. Unfortunately, there has not been any hard evidence to support their claims. There is only folklore and stories passed down from generation to generation that keep this legend going.
The skeptic in me says of course the Jersey Devil is just some fictional beast conjured up to scare kids and bring some mystery to a quiet area. There is no actual proof, like pictures, or samples from the animal itself, such as hair, teeth, blood, feces. . . . anything. So being as logical as I can be, I find it very hard to believe in the NJ Devil. On the other hand, the 13 year old boy in me doesn’t care about logic. He only remembers the fear and the unshakable feeling that something was wrong while riding bikes through the woods. He remembers the screeching sounds coming from the forest and something darting in between the shadows of the trees at night. Every once in a while he would see two red dots in the dark reflecting the light of the camp fire. Where they the eyes of the devil watching us, waiting?
The grown up in me says you can’t prove he exists. The kid in me says you can’t prove he doesn’t. Maybe one day someone will prove one of them right. Until then, I guess we’ll keep telling his tale.