USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘jersey devil’
Legends
Narrative

Pineys and the Jersey Devil

“So I grew up in NJ, but not in the part of NJ that’s near new York. I grew up in the part of New Jersey near Philadelphia, and that’s considered South Jersey. In South Jersey, toward the Jersey Shore, there’s an area called the Pine Barrens, and the people who live there are referred to as Pineys. They’re described as not having running water or electricity. They live in a very primitive way, and live in shacks. Their families have lived in the Pine Barrens for generations. And there’s a legend that in the Pine Barrens lives a creature called the Jersey Devil, and if anything unexplained or violent or weird happened, it would be in South Jersey in the Pine Barrens. So people would say it had to do with these people who are not very sophisticated and live just among themselves and don’t mix with others combined with the evil that is the Jersey Devil. People in South Jersey really believe that there is this phantom Jersey Devil.”

Context: The informant was raised in Cherry Hill, South New Jersey.

 

Interpretation: It seems clear that the Pineys and the Jersey Devil are both used as a scapegoat for New Jerseyans’ anger and sadness in response to tragic and/or unexplained events. The Jersey Devil could also be viewed as the embodiment of New Jerseyans’ negative feelings toward Pineys. Instead of explicitly citing the elusive, exclusive Pineys as the root of evil, they can veil their hatred in a more fantastical being and dehumanize whoever is being blamed for such events. For another interpretation of the Jersey Devil, see the “Jersey Devil & Folklore” page of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance website.

 

Folk Beliefs

The Jersey Devil

Title: The Jersey Devil

Interviewee: Steven Miao

Ethnicity: Chinese-American

Age: 19

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): In his room at Webb tower, at USC in Los Angeles. Me and the interviewer.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “It lives in a forest. The forests what remaining forests we have. Apparently people disappear, and they get eaten by the devil. There are also sightings from time to time. Its humanoid, but the devil. And it eats people. Oh it lives in the Pine Barrens. I heard it from my friends that live around Jersey. It kills livestock and attacks humans. It looks like a kangaroo with goats head and it has bat wings. Random sightings of it randomly. It is the reason that the hockey team is called the New Jersey Devils. They are named after the devil.”

Interviewer- “Why do you like this story so much?”

Interviewee- “Well its more than a story to me, I mean it is pretty much something that I believe in, I guess it’s more than just a story to me is all I’m saying. Where I grew up people never really talked about it much, but it was just one of those things that everyone knew about. I don’t know. It was something in our sub-conscience I guess.”

Interviewer- “Do you remember where you first heard of it or from who?”

Interviewee- “No, not really. I only remember that eventually, like when I got into middle school, I knew about the Jersey Devil. I don’t remember the first time I heard about it.”

Analyzation:

This mythical story of the Jersey Devil appears to be closely kept and remembered by the Interviewee, as he was in a defensive mindset when asked further about the story. Even though the Interviewee has not had a personal encounter with the mythical creature, he still believes deeply in the monster, or at least believes in continuing the story and telling others about it. Similar to the headhunters of Borneo, where they embraced something that at first is a little embracing, but they embrace it nonetheless simply because it sets them apart from the rest. The Interviewee cherishes the story because it marks him apart from the other people of Los Angeles, it marks him as someone from New Jersey. It makes him unique.

 

For another story of the Jersey Devil detailing its birth, see “The Jersey Devil” in the USC folklore archives.

http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=24054

Tags: Jersey Devil, Mythical, Creature

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends

Jersey Devil

Ok so it’s all about… it’s like the 1800s there’s this like hooker, and she has so many kids and she says that if she gets pregnant one more time, she’s gonna give birth to the devil, and so she gets pregnant again and has the kid, and at first it looks fine, but five minutes later, it turns into a monster with wings and everything, and it flies out of there and they’re all like whoa. And so then it goes and lives in the woods, and a bunch of people say they see it, and it kills people and it’s a lonely thing like… a whole Frankenstein scenario… but sometimes its just an asshole who lives in the woods. This is specifically to New Jersey, specifically called the New Jersey Devil. There are tours and stuff like the Pine Barrens of New Jersey… yeah its like a lot of … there’s like t shirts and stuff they sell about the Jersey Devil…

 

Background: I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me in person. I had never heard of this before, so it was interesting to hear about folkore that was very well-know in another part of the United States where I had never been before. The informant says it was not very important to him and he was not sure if he believed it entirely, but it was something was was just so heavily discussed and publicized that he had heard of it many times.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Jersey Devil

Ok so it’s all about… it’s like the 1800s there’s this like hooker, and she has so many kids and she says that if she gets pregnant one more time, she’s gonna give birth to the devil, and so she gets pregnant again and has the kid, and at first it looks fine, but five minutes later, it turns into a monster with wings and everything, and it flies out of there and they’re all like whoa. And so then it goes and lives in the woods, and a bunch of people say they see it, and it kills people and it’s a lonely thing like… a whole frankenstien scenario… but sometimes its just an asshole who lives in the woods. This is specifically to New Jersey, specifically called the New Jersey Devil. There are tours and stuff like the Pine Barrens of New Jersey… yeah its like a lot of … there’s like t shirts and stuff they sell about the Jersey Devil…

 

Background: I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me in person. I had never heard of this before, so it was interesting to hear about folkore that was very well-know in another part of the United States where I had never been before. The informant says it was not very important to him and he was not sure if he believed it entirely, but it was something was was just so heavily discussed and publicized that he had heard of it many times.

general

The Jersey Devil

This piece was collected from my friend who grew up in New Jersey. To her, it wasn’t a very important part of her life, but it was well-known where she was from because it’s one of the most popular pieces of folklore from New Jersey.

This is how she explained it to me:

“I’m from New Jersey, and there’s a southern part of the state called the Pine Barrens, it’s filled with trees, it’s a very forest-y area. And for years and years it’s been said that there’s the Jersey Devil that lives in the pine barrens, hence the name the New Jersey Devils, the hockey team… there’s ben songs written about it…stories written about it. There are lot of versions of what it actually is. Some say it’s an actual devil or it’s more like a beast, like an animal. It’s kind of like a yeti or something, to this day people still say they see when they go to the pine barrens. I think I learned about it honestly in school when we learned about New Jersey myths, I’m pretty sure it was mentioned, and the only way is just through word of mouth”

Even though the Jersey Devil is very popular, there’s still not a consensus on what it looks like (or even what it is exactly) So, the legend can be interpreted differently by each person. However, it has been incorporated into things like sports teams, where it might become less folkloric because it would be portrayed in a certain way and would probably be trademarked. Also, the informant described it as a New Jersey myth, however, it would more accurately be categorized as a local legend or folk belief.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Jersey Devil

Informant Bio

My informant grew up in Hudson County, New Jersey, in the 1960s and 1970s, spending most of his childhood in Secaucus. He remembers having friends whose family members had ties to the mob, and in fact his own father worked as a Teamster (a cement mixer driver, specifically) for the Teamsters local 560, the chapter of the Teamsters union run by notorious Italian mob boss Tony Provenzano. He does not recall that living in such a mob run area ever caused him or his family any anxiety, it was simply a fact of life in Hudson County.

Though my informant lived for almost twenty years in Ohio during and after college, and now resides in California, his New Jersey accent slips back into his voice when he tells stories about New Jersey. This story was recorded at a family gathering in California when some of my informant’s family from the east coast were visiting.

The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is a mythic creature that reportedly roams the Pine Barrens (a stretch of undeveloped wilderness) in New Jersey. My informant related to me the tale he heard as a kid of how the devil came to be.

During the Revolutionary War days, the Pine Barrens were a place that the outcasts of society, those too poor to afford better, lived. The tale goes that a poor couple with many children lived there, and they were so poor they could barely feed the family. With another child on the way, the husband decided to make a deal with the Devil (as in Satan of Christian lore, not the Jersey devil) that if he performed certain tasks the Devil would grant them enough wealth to feed the family and allow them to move out of the Pine Barrens to a better place.

My informant couldn’t remember the tasks the Devil gave the man exactly, only that instead of doing them, the husband tried to fake that he had done them somehow.  The Devil was, naturally, not fooled. So he cursed the couple’s unborn child. The wife gave birth to a hideous beast with cloven hooves and leathery wings, and as soon as it was born it flew up the chimney and out into the Pine Barrens.

The beast was given the name “the Jersey devil,” and it is rumored to prowl the Pine Barrens to this day, attacking people and eating children, as such beasties will do. It is well known in New Jersey that one should never go into the Pine Barrens alone, or at night, because the Jersey devil might get you.

What would appear to me to be a scary story that could be told to children to keep them from wandering off into dangerous woods and getting lost, actually has a more important message for the residents of Hudson County, New Jersey, where my informant was from. He explained that the Pine Barrens are nowhere near Hudson County, so to him the tale is a parable for not double-crossing the mob. Replace Satan in the story with the mob, and you see the warning: that if one doesn’t fulfill their side of a bargain with the mob, they may not take it out on you, they might take it out on your loved ones; your family.

Appearances in Authored Literature

The Jersey devil has become such a beloved part of New Jersey popular culture that it has most famously become the mascot for the New Jersey Devils Hockey Team. Reported sightings of the creature, and even people who claim it attacked them, keeps the story alive and in the public consciousness. A piece on the Jersey devil appears in the popular travel book Weird NJ, where a different version of the tale tells of a woman who, after having 13 children by a jobless drunk, in a fit of rage asked the heavens to turn her next child into a devil.

The devil even made it into an episode of the X-Files, a popular show during the 1990s that featured two FBI agents who exclusively investigated reports of paranormal phenomena. In that episode, sightings of the devil were attributed to a Neanderthal-like creature that may have been the product of an evolutionary mutation.

Cited

Carter, Chris, prod. The X-Files: The Jersey Devil. Perf. David Duchovney and Gillian Anderson. 1993. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <www.netflix.com>.

Moran, Mark, and Mark Sceurman. Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. New York: Sterling Publishers, 2009. Print.

New Jersey Devils Team Site. National Hockey League, 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://devils.nhl.com/>.

 

 

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