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The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature or cryptid said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, United States. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many different variations. The common description is that of a kangaroo-like creature with the head of a goat, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail. It has been reported to move quickly and often is described as emitting a "blood-curdling scream." The Jersey Devil has worked its way into the pop culture of the area, even lending its name to New Jersey's team in the National Hockey League, and appeared on an early episode of The X-Files. Origin of the Legend There are many possible origins of the Jersey Devil legend. The earliest legends date back to Native American folklore. The Lenni Lenape tribes called the area around Pine Barrens "Popuessing", meaning "place of the dragon". Swedish explorers later named it "Drake Kill", "drake" being a word for dragon, and "kill" meaning channel or arm of the sea (river, stream, etc.) in Dutch. The common accepted origin of the story, as far as New Jerseyans are concerned, started with Mother Leeds and is as follows: "It was said that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, stated that this one would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends. Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to a creature with hooves, a goat's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines. In 1740 a clergy exorcised the demon for 100 years and it wasn't seen again until 1890." "Mother Leeds" has been identified by some as
Deborah Leeds. This identification may have gained credence from the fact that Deborah Leeds' husband, Japhet Leeds, named twelve children in the will he wrote in 1736, which is compatible with the legend of the Jersey Devil being the thirteenth child born by Mother Leeds. Deborah and Japhet Leeds also lived in the Leeds Point section of what is now Atlantic County, New Jersey, which is the area commonly said to be the location of the Jersey Devil story. Reported encounters There have been many sightings and occurrences allegedly involving the Jersey Devil. According to legend, while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect his cannonballs being forged, Commodore Stephen Decatur sighted a flying creature flapping its wings and fired a cannonball directly upon it to no effect. Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Emperor Napoleon, is also said to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Bordentown estate around 1820. In 1840, the devil was blamed for several livestock killings. Similar attacks were reported in 1841, accompanied by tracks and screams. Claims of a corpse matching the Leeds Devil's description arose in Greenwich in December 1925. A local farmer shot an unidentified animal as it attemp- ted to steal his chickens. Afterward, he claimed that none of 100 people he showed it to could identify it. On July 27, 1937 an unknown animal "with red eyes" seen by residents of Downingtown, Pennsylvania was compared to the Jersey Devil by a reporter for the Pennsylvania Bulletin. In 1951, a group of Gibbstown, New Jersey boys claimed to have seen a 'monster' matching the Devil's description and claims of a corpse matching the Jersey Devil's description arose in 1957. In 1960, tracks and noises heard near Mays Landing were claimed to be from the Jersey Devil. During the same year the merchants around Camden offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured.