Lurking in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a certain mysterious creature thinks he’s pretty cool. It all started with an X-Files episode back in 1993. Up to that point, only Bigfoot and Nessie had received any widespread cryptid coverage in the media. Then along came the Jersey Devil, ready to show up those amateurs (his words, not mine–I never disrespect mythical animals).
So exactly how did the Jersey Devil originate? From women bearing monster babies, of course! After all, a couple hundred years ago, any birth that didn’t produce a completely run-of-the-mill infant just had to be the work of a demon. In some stories, the Jersey Devil’s mortal mother decided her progeny should be a monster. Really. There are accounts that she actually declared, “I want my next baby to be a devil!” We’re assuming that was hyperbolic, and she simply intended for the little one to be super ornery, but who knows? Maybe her regular wingless offspring were total bores, and she wanted the challenge.
Most people name the Jersey Devil matriarch as Mother Leeds, even going so far as to say her first name was Deborah and that she was married to a guy named Japhet. Since a moniker like Japhet is truly stranger than fiction, I’m inclined to believe it. Old Japhet must have been ashamed of his hooved youngster because his will named the first twelve kids as heirs but made no mention of the unholy thirteenth. Here’s to hoping one of the Jersey Devil’s dozen siblings at least gave him that patchwork quilt he always loved before they turned him out into the cold New Jersey wilderness.
All that domestic hullabaloo happened around three hundred years ago, and you better believe the Jersey Devil still holds a grudge. So when he got a bit of press courtesy of Mulder and Scully, the fame went straight to this melodramatic biped’s horned head. He wanted to show his family who’s boss, apparently forgetting his brothers and sisters and offbeat mama long ago died natural deaths–if by natural deaths, you mean attacked by the Jersey Devil and ripped to bits. No matter. These days, the Devil and his crack marketing team have hocked his image for everything from wine to a National Hockey League team. The Hopkinsville Goblins are so jealous.
The Devil mugging for the camera. What a ham.
Lots of people have spotted this inveterate “piney,” and as these stories usually go, some of the terrified individuals even shot at him, not considering the potential theory that the Jersey Devil eats bullets for breakfast. But it’s understandable why people are so scared (though randomly spewing lead is rarely the answer). The original Fiji mermaid, the Devil looks like a weird amalgam of numerous animals. He sports bat wings, a goat or horse’s head, and a general kangaroo appearance. Oh, and he’s got a scream like a Ringwraith. Paging P.T. Barnum.
When asked to comment for this article, the Jersey Devil refused to take my calls. However, his agent did tell me the legendary cryptid has a number of projects in the works, including a biopic starring Russell Crowe. No word yet on who’s been cast as Mother and Japhet Leeds, but my vote’s for Ryan Gosling and Angelina Jolie. Respectively.
In the meantime, the royalty checks keep rolling in, and the Pine Barrens are a little more exciting with the Jersey Devil creeping about. Diva or not, he’s one of the greats.