Tag Archives: jersey devil

The Jersey Devil


KJ: “The Jersey Devil is like a donkey, kind of, with sharp teeth and bat wings. It also has legs. And it’s supposed to be really big. And I feel like it’s very much a big foot thing, like you’ll see it in the woods. It’s like a devil-dinosaur-goat thing. I feel like a New Jersey Big Foot is a good way to describe the lore surrounding it.”


The informant is a 19-year-old college student from Montclair, New Jersey. KJ described the legend of the Jersey Devil as being commonly known among people from New Jersey and remembers hearing about it from her peers, but also remembers reading about it in a magazine called ‘Weird NJ.’ Though she doesn’t know of any specific ways that the monster is supposed to attack or hurt those who see it, she remembers her peers in middle school stoking vague fears that “the Jersey Devil is going to get you.” KJ claimed that she and her friends ran from the Jersey Devil after seeing it in a public park when she was in eighth grade and describes it as a “lanky” figure with “smoke coming out of its face.” Though she thinks she probably imagined the figure, her friends similarly remember seeing it and they have not been able to explain it.


The Jersey Devil is a pervasive legend which may trace all the way back to 18th century colonial New Jersey. Brian Regal describes a popular mythic origin story of the monster, which is that a witch called Mother Leeds gave birth to “a ‘child’ with horse-like head, bat-like wings, clawed hands and hooved feet” (Regal 79). He argues that this legend arose from conflict between New Jersey Quakers and Daniel Leeds, the patriarch of a Quaker family who published a book called ‘The Temple of Wisdom for the Little World’ in 1688 which promoted belief in a peculiar cosmology, an amalgamation of “theology and the budding Scientific Revolution” which “included sections on angels, natural magic, astrology, theology, philosophy, and the behavior of devils” (Regal 90). Quakers disapproved of Leeds’ philosophy and public espousal of secular or untraditional faith or magic. Regal argues that the public controversy surrounding Leeds’ work, persona, and unconventional beliefs led to the creation of the Jersey Devil.

            While the origins of this legend have to do with Christianity, I don’t think that the Jersey Devil speaks to contemporary fears about religious deviance and alternative faiths. As with legends like Big Foot, people enjoy the mystery of the creature, hearing stories about sightings and arguing about its existence. Moreover, the legend’s long history and specificity to the state makes it a part of New Jersey culture which people can identify with and bond over. The legend is extremely popular, with the state’s football team being named The New Jersey Devils.

Just as La Llorona can be interpreted as warning children to be safe around bodies of water, it’s possible that the Jersey Devil sends a message about safety. The legends popularity among children and adolescents, during periods when individuals are afforded new independence, could speak to fears of encountering dangers one can encounter alone in the world. One could argue that the figure implicitly promotes that young people be cautious among strangers and in dangerous places such as the woods.


“The Jersey Devil.” Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained, edited by Una McGovern, Chambers Harrap, 1st edition, 2007. Credo Reference, https://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/chambun/the_jersey_devil/0?institutionId=887. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.

For another description of the Jersey Devil, consult page 79 of this source:

Regal, Brian. “‘The Jersey Devil: A Political Animal.’” New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, pp. 79–103., https://doi.org/10.14713/njs.v1i1.13. 

The Jersey Devil


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).


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. 


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.”


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

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.


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.”


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.

The Jersey Devil

Tags: Jersey Devil, Mythical, Creature

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.