Tag Archives: New Jersey

The Jersey Devil

Background: 

My informant, NK, is 19 years old and of South Korean descent from both her mother and father’s sides of the family. Her grandparents live close to her, so she spends a lot of time with them. She is very passionate about cooking. Even though she is majoring in biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley, she has always been, and remains to be, extremely interested in conspiracy theories. While she may not necessarily believe them, she enjoys hearing lore from across the world. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance:

NK: So, there’s this urban legend in New Jersey, called the Jersey Devil. I’ve heard about it from different like conspiracy shows or websites, and just word of mouth. Um, and it’s one of those things like Bigfoot. The myth goes that there’s a woman – there’s some variations obviously – but she had one kid or thirteen, depending on who you ask, and she had a pact with the devil or hooked up with him, or something. And so either that one kid or the youngest one was born deformed, so he had like wings and a beak and was human-like but also bat-like. He grew up to huge sizes, and then would be seen around New Jersey, I’m not sure which area. And then there’s been sightings, I’m not sure when the first one was, but there were a lot in the 20th century. I wanna say it’s similar to Mothman: big wings, red eyes, part human. 

SW: Do you know anything about the origins of the story?

NK: I’m not sure, but I think there were some sightings that were hard to explain, so people kind of made up the lore to explain them. 

Thoughts:

I love urban legends. As NK pointed out, like many urban legends, it’s safe to assume that the legend of the Jersey Devil developed in response to some unexplained sightings in an effort to make sense of them. There are a few different variations of the Jersey Devil legend. Most seem to identify the woman NK mentioned as Mother Leeds, as Leeds was one of the first settlers in New Jersey, and family with the name Leeds can still be found there today. There have been numerous accounts and sightings of the Jersey Devil, many of which can be found all across the internet. For more background on this urban legend and personal sightings of the Jersey Devil, see “The Jersey Devil.”

Annotation:

“The Jersey Devil.” Weird NJ, Weird NJ, 13 Jan. 2017, weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/.

“Shoobies”

  • Context: The informant (T) is a 56 yr. old woman originally from Philadelphia, PA. She owns a shore house in South Jersey where she and her extended family spend the summer. She explains to me the term Shoobie and the negative connotation it holds among the inhabitants of Philadelphia and South Jersey. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of a previous encounter she had had in which she used the insult “shoobie” against someone. 
  • Text:

T: “A Shoobie is somebody that would come down from the… Philly… Philadelphia.. to the… the shore… and they would bring their… all their stuff; their lunch, their suntan lotion in a shoe box. And that’s what… they would walk onto the beach with their shoe box for the day and that’s how they got their nickname Shoobie.”

Me: “So whose a Shoobie now? Who says that? Like who do you call a Shoobie?”

T: “A Shoobie now is basically somebody who… still comes down for the day…”

Me: “Comes down where?”

T: “Comes down to the shore for the day… comes down to the beach… or Shoobies are also people who just rent a house for a week.”

Me: “And what’s the shore?”

T: “The shore is the beach… in New Jersey?”

Me: “Like anywhere in New Jersey?

T: “I don’t know if Shoobie goes past, like, Atlantic City, like north of Atlantic City… I don’t know… because I don’t live there.”

Me: “Is it like a good thing to be called a Shoobie?”

T: “Uh-uh. No. You don’t wanna be called a Shoobie.”

Me: “Have you ever called someone a Shoobie?”

T: “Yes.”

Me: “Who’d you call a Shoobie?”

T: “This girl that was on the beach one day who was using really foul language around my parents.”

Me: “Have you ever been called a Shoobie?”

T: “No, I actually haven’t.”

Me: “Are you a Shoobie?”

T: “No. I’m the least amount of a Shoobie!”

  • Analysis: Growing up going to the Jersey Shore, I had always known the term shoobie, and I had always known I never wanted to be one. To be called a shoobie is to say you don’t really belong on the island – you’re not a local. In my town, there is even a restaurant called “Shoobies” in reference to the colloquial term. I think the reason such a term was created was in order to create an in-group and an out-group. It separates those who own houses at the shore and those who rent a house at the shore or just drive down to the beach for the day. It is looked down upon to have outsiders on the beaches, because most of the beach towns are small and everyone in the town knows each other. Different shore towns also have different reputations. For example, you are more likely to find a shoobie in Wildwood or Atlantic City than you are in Stone Harbor or Avalon, so the term is more commonly used as an insult in the towns with less shoobies. As the informant explained, the history of the word comes from day travelers coming to the beach for the day with their lunch in a shoe box, which interrupts the local life. To be considered a shoobie is to be considered lower class, and ultimately unwelcome.

For more about Shoobies, visit…

Ravo, Nick. “FOR EARLY TOURISTS, A TEPID WELCOME AT JERSEY RESORT.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 1987, www.nytimes.com/1987/02/16/nyregion/talk-long-beach-island-for-early-tourists-tepid-welcome-jersey-resort.html.

The Fudgy Wudgy Man

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 15 year old high school student who spends his summers at the Jersey Shore in South New Jersey. He explains a summer job that mainly men, but some women, have that is a staple of South Jersey culture – the Fudgy Wudgy Man. The conversation arose when speaking about what summer jobs for which he should apply. He not only explains the job itself, but the song sung by the Fudgy Wudgy Men. 
  • Text:

A: “The Fudgy Wudgy man… he pushes the ice cream cart… uh… there’s the Spongebob bar, the… uh… Chipwhich, the… uh… um… cookie sandwich… Choco Taco!”

Me: “So he pushes the cart? When?”

A: “On the beach… from like a certain time period. I don’t know when it starts or when it ends.”

Me: “What do you mean? He pushes the cart on the beach?”

A: So… this man, well men… and women… um… he pushes an ice… well like a cart, that has ice in it and it has ice cream in it and he sells the ice cream to people… on the beach…

They go…

‘FUDGY WUDGY… CHOCO TACO… CHIPWICH… HOW ABOUT AN ICE CREAM'”

Me: “And just anyone can do this?”

A: “I think you have to apply for it, but I’m not quite sure…”

Me: “How do you know they’re the Fudgy Wudgy Man?”

A: “‘cus their shirts say ‘The Fudgy Wudgy Man’ and they have a flag that says ‘The Fudgy Wudgy Man’… uh… they also have 2 Ball ScrewBalls, Fudgesicles, Orange Creamsicles, Banana bars, Strawberry bars, Lemon Water Ice, Cherry Water Ice… water… that’s some good water…”

  • Analysis: The Fudgy Wudgy Man is a constant in the Jersey shore culture. The Fudgy Wudgy man sells shirts with the job title and a smiling popsicle graphic. He sings a song about his job to boost morale and notify the children of the ice cream cart. This phenomenon is similar to that of Ice Cream Man and Ice Cream Trucks, but instead the carts are pushed along the beach by hand. Many kids apply for the job in order to get a tan and get buff while walking up and down the beach, but their participation prolongs an essential part of South Jersey culture.

Going Out the Road

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 19 year old college student who lives at the Jersey Shore in South New Jersey in the summer. He explains to me the colloquial term used in his town when a person is driving from the island on which they live to stores inland. The conversation came up during a family discussion whether or not everyone in the town of Sea Isle City, NJ knows the term “out the road” means going inland or if it is specific to the informant’s family (this was never resolved). 
  • Text:

A: “Out the road is when you’re down at the shore in New Jersey… which is the southern part of Jersey in between Atlantic City and Wildwood.

And… uh… when you’re going out the road you drive inland and south towards where the shopping centers are in middle New Jersey… uh… and there’s a TJMaxx and there’s a couple other stores…

And you go out the road when you uh… when you want things… anyway that’s what out the road is.”

  • Analysis: “Out the road” is a term used to describe going from the islands to the inlands because you physically must go out the road. There is only one road leading in and out of the island in New Jersey where the informant spends his summers, so it makes sense that there is a term for this action. It creates a group of those who know the local terms and those who do not. It also creates a group of inlanders and islanders and the two are physically separated by a road as well as a specific term/speech.

The Fisherman and His Wife

Text:

Informant: So anyways, it’s something to the effect of, I don’t remember it very well but it was, it was part of a theater thing that we did and apparently it’s a very old story where, like a fisherman catches like some magic fish that, he and his wife were kind of down on their luck, and the fisherman catches a magic fish and the magic fish gives him a wish every time he catches it, but the fish doesn’t like being caught. So, he gets, he gets them like I don’t know, just kind of enough to feed themselves for like however long they want to be fed because they were kind of born destitute and like need it. And he gets it. And then his wife starts to ask for like, more and more and starts to live a more and more lavish lifestyle, so every day he goes back and catches the fish and wishes for some new thing and the, and eventually the fish just gets fed up with it and takes everything away. And it’s kind of, I don’t know if I would call it, yeah sad, I guess it’s a little bit sexist because it’s one of those like “women are gold diggers” or whatever. That’s basically what the message of it is, but I guess in a larger sense, in just relating to the audience members regardless of gender, it’s just “don’t ask for too much” and “don’t get, don’t get caught up in wanting more when you already have everything you need.”

Context: The informant learned this story from a theater group in New Jersey, where he was told that it was a theater story. It had been passed down from other actors. This story was recorded by the Brothers Grimm in 1809 (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Von dem Fischer un syner FruKinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales — Grimms’ Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no. 19.). That said, it likely has origins outside of the New Jersey theater community.

Analysis: I tend to agree with the second analysis given by the informant, with the sentiment of “don’t ask for too much.” While it is technically the wife’s desire to have more, that doesn’t mean that the husband isn’t also wanting the same things. At the same time, I also feel like the tale could show how hard work and persistence can lead to getting your goals (at least before they are taken away). Essentially, the idea is to know when one is successful enough to stop taking advantage of others to garner more success when it’s unnecessary. Overall, the idea of complacency and assuming that you can keep all good things is a theme of the tale that resonates with me, especially because of the emphasis on capitalist ideals in America.

New Jersey “Vanishing Camaro” Legend

Main Piece: “On this really tough stretch of road, there is a part that has a severe turn which can be difficult for drivers to make when going at highs speeds. Well one night, a woman was driving her Camaro down this road and she lost control and got into an accident, which immediately killed her. However, this was not the last time she was to be seen… In fact… apparently at night if people are driving down the road, this very same Camaro will randomly appear and chase the driver until it finally vanishes into thin air. There really isn’t much that triggers the sighting, but most people say that if you or someone in the car talks about the woman who died and her car, it will act as a call to her and she will appear.

 

Background: KC said that this one is what scared him the most after he heard it from his friends. Because he has to do a lot of driving, and sometimes he will pass that road late at night, he said that he was always keeping an extra head over his shoulder to ensure nothing happened to him. He also said that he saw this story as a way to remind young people about the dangers of unsafe driving, and what the consequences of that can be on someone so young.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were in my apartment discussing some of our most memorable stories about haunted houses, or ghost stories from our areas that we grew up in. He knew this one very well, and was delighted to tell the story of how creepy the vanishing Camaro was. He wanted me to understand just how much spooky stuff happened in and around the area from which he grew up. He even said that because driving was always something that kind of had him on edge, this idea of a spectral Camaro chasing him really had an impact, so much so that he remembered it pretty well.

 

Analysis: This legend is another interesting ghost story that I think definitely has a deliberate point to it. Much like KC said that he believes that this story could potentially be a warning to young people so that they do not make the same mistakes as the woman who died in her Camaro. I also find the symbolism of the car following the people on the road to be very fascinating. Personally I read this as a literal specter and a reminder of the past, and I think in some ways this story is trying to tell people: “No matter what, the consequences of your actions will follow you until the day you die. And if your mistakes hurt others, then that is something that will be with them until the day they die.” So while it is most certainly a ghost story to tell to friends and families, I think its themes are indicative of New Jersey’s paranoia to keep people safe, as they have seen a lot of death, and they don’t want to lose anymore young men or women.

“Cross Castle” New Jersey Legend

Main Piece: “There is a castle off Clifton road, called Cross Castle and it is notorious for being super weird and having some strange stuff happening over there.  It is said to be the sight of many satanic rituals and also it is supposed to be super haunted. People went up there one time to investigate it and see if they could find anything crazy, and they were camping outside when they started to hear whispers and chanting coming… from inside the Castle. When the chanting started, one of the members started having a seizure and after a few more seconds the chanting stopped and so did the seizure. They left soon after that, but it is also known that people who entered the castle would have seizures, and only after they exited the castle would they stop.”

 

Background: KC said that Cross Castle was a staple of legends that he remembers hearing from his friends as a kid, especially the ones who wanted to see the remains of the Castle and see whether or not it was really haunted. KC also mentioned that in the 50’s there was a serious problem with teenagers and drug dealers hanging out in the castle and doing a bunch of things that were either illegal or unsafe. For that reason he tried to stay away from the area, but his friends were very persistent and would continuously ask him to go with them to visit the castle.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were in my apartment discussing some of our most memorable stories about haunted houses, or ghost stories from our areas that we grew up in. He knew this one very well, and was delighted to tell the story of how creepy Cross Castle was. He wanted me to understand just how much spooky stuff happened in and around the area from which he grew up and went to school and work.

 

Analysis: I find this story to be intensely creepy, and the meaning behind it seems to be very apparent given the circumstances of what the castle had become to the youth of the present. In Jersey, KC mentioned that there wasn’t always the greatest level of supervisor from parents, and so there were many kids that ended up getting themselves into trouble by doing dumb things. This story seems to scare people away from this specific location, and I would imagine that is mostly motivated by people’s desire to keep young adults and drug dealers away from the location. Seeing as how there was a growing problem at this location with drugs, it would be entirely reasonable to suspect that perhaps this story was meant to scare kids, teens, and adults away from this place. Also the seizures mentioned in the story, could even be linked to showing people the consequences of over using drugs, as again, KC mentioned that there was a serious problem with drugs being bought and used at this place.

 

“Clinton Road” Hellhounds

Main Piece: “So there’s this road in Jersey called Clinton road, it’s in west Milford, and this road that is haunted in multiple ways. But the biggest thing is that people that go down there, swear they see a giant black dog with glowing red eyes just roaming around the road. It’s said that this creature is supposed to be a hell hound or something, and that if you get too close it will try and attack you by ramming the side of your car, and then it will disappear. A bunch of people also say that if you see this hellhound, and it attacks you it means that you will have an untimely death in the near future, and it is even believed that this road may even be close to some entrance to hell because there are mad sightings of these hellhounds.”

 

Background: KC grew up in New Jersey, and he mentioned that this road was one that he and his friends were highly aware of growing up as it was always a topic of conversation. He said that he heard this from one of his friends, who also tried going to this road late at night in the hopes of seeing the famous hellhound, but he didn’t have any luck. Nonetheless, because he told KC that he heard some really strange noises and howling while he was there, he was convinced that something must be out there. KC said that because this was a fairly dangerous road, he doesn’t know if he believes the hellhounds but that he certainly thinks its some warning to people to be extra diligent and cautious on that road.

 

Context of the performance: KC told me this story in my apartment as we were talking about some of the spookiest places that we know from our hometowns. Me being from LA, I was not familiar with this story and he was eager to relay the information about one of the most infamous roads in New Jersey.

 

Analysis: I find this story to be incredibly fascinating and very eery, as I feel that it must have some role in trying to ensure drivers are paying attention on the road while they are driving at night. KC mentioned that this road is kind of notorious for accidents happening and because of that, I think its safe to assume that while this story may certainly be a product of someone seeing a creature in the night, I think it most certainly has an extra layer to it.This extra layer of course being that cautionary aspect, pleading drivers to pay extra attention so as not to get into another accident.

New Jersey Bridge Ghost Story

Main Piece: “On this stretch of road theres a long and old looking bridge. Apparently back in the early 1900’s this was a place where some kids would constantly play on and such. One day a little boy was playing on the bridge, and a car came across the bridge going mad fast, and it didn’t see the boy until the last minute. The car tried to steer out of the way but it hit the kid and sent him flying off the bridge and into the river below. It is said that to this day that bridge is haunted by the little boy, and sometimes people have said that they see him at the edge of the bridge, however the most common story is that if a person goes to the bridge and throws something into the water, like a coin or a rock… the item gets thrown right back at you.”

 

Background: KC doesn’t necessarily like this piece, but he said that it is so popular in his community and in the people that he is close with that it is a story that he heard all the time. He mentioned that one time his friends went to the bridge and were trying to see if they could see any weird happenings, and that they didn’t see anything in the water but at the far end of the bridge they thought they saw the shape of a small boy walking down towards the river below the bridge. KC also talked about how his friends would try and get him to go and check out the bridge with them, but he never wanted any part of that, but he admits that to this day he is still wildly curious about the bridge, albeit very hesitant to visit it.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were talking about some of our favorite ghost stories. After we had talked about there being some very questionable drivers on the road in LA, he remembered this story about the bridge and felt that he had to tell me, especially cause he know that I liked scary stories.

 

Analysis: This is a super creepy ghost story and one that I found to be very tragic and dark as well. Seeing as how this revolves around a careless driver killing a child, in an area where children have been known to play, it seems to function as a warning for two very different types of people. Firstly it seems to be a warning for careless drivers to make sure that they stay paying attention while they are driving on the road. And secondly, it appears to be somewhat of a cautionary tale for children as it displays the consequences of playing in dangerous areas. KC mentioned that in New Jersey, there isn’t always the most parental supervision, at least where he was from, so I think that its very possible that this ghost story can double as that cautionary tale in order to try and keep children and young adults safe.

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.