16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil

Shannon Quinn - January 7, 2019

In 1773, a legend spread throughout Philadelphia and the neighboring southern New Jersey that the “Leeds Devil” was loose on the massive woods known as the Pine Barrens. According to legend, a woman named “Mother Leeds” was having her 13th child, and she wished that the child would be a devil. After coming out of her womb, the child truly did transform into a winged creature with hooves, and it flew out the window into the dark night. For hundreds of years, the legend of the Jersey Devil has spooked residents of southern New Jersey who believe that the creature is still running a muck.

It turns out that this story was actually concocted by none other than Benjamin Franklin himself. The Leeds family was in direct competition to Franklin’s Farmer’s Almanac, and by spreading the rumor that Mr. Leeds was a drunk, and his wife gave birth to a demon, it ruined the family’s reputation. At a time when people still believed in superstitions and were very religious, it wasn’t that unbelievable that a demon could exist in the woods. Even in modern times, some people still believe that the Jersey Devil exists, and there have been several sightings throughout the years. Keep in mind that all of these are alleged encounters, and even if they are actually fairytales, we can still learn a lot of about folklore.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Joseph Bonaparte was Napoleon’s brother. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

16. Napoleon’s Brother Joseph Bonaparte Spotted The Beast In the Winter of 1813

Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph, was the King of Spain, but he lost a war against the English during the Peninsula War, and he had to step down from his throne. So, where does a former king go to live out the rest of his days? New Jersey, of course. Actually, he first moved to New York City, and spent time in Philadelphia before he built a huge mansion in Bordentown, New Jersey, because it was located in-between both of those cities. The mansion was very similar to country estates in France with manicured gardens and lavish parties. It was so big, it had its own lake, and a winding road that went through the forest.

When he moved to New Jersey, he heard about the legend of the Jersey Devil. In the winter, he was left all alone in this country house, and he decided to go hunting in the woods on his property. He saw very strange tracks in the snow that were unlike any animal he had ever seen before. They looked like a donkey’s hooves, but there were only two feet, instead of four. When he turned around, he saw a huge creature with a horses’ head and wings. It screeched and flew over his head. He told the story to everyone he knew, swearing that it truly was the Jersey Devil.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Birds eye view of the Pine Barrens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

15. In 1835, The Jersey Devil Met a “Pine Rat”.

Back in the 1800’s, people who lived in the middle of the Pine Barrens were given the nickname “Pine Rats”, because they were often living in huts and cabins in the middle of nowhere, scavenging for supplies whenever they could find it. Today, they’re called “Pineys”, or, like everywhere else in the country, just plain out “rednecks”. The woods were filled with moonshiners, criminals on the lamb, runaway slaves, and men who deserted the draft. Basically- everyone was hiding in the wilderness from something, and it was even more of a reason to give them a rude nickname. Most Pine Rats were superstitious, and told a lot of spooky campfire stories about local legends, especially during the 1800’s. So it was very rare for residents to go out into the woods after dark, for fear of the Jersey Devil.

In an issue of The Atlantic Monthly, a woman named Hannah Butler, who was labeled to be a “pine rat”, was drinking a strong apple cider that was known as “Jersey Lightning”, so she lost her fear at night, and started walking in the forest. Sure enough, the one time she decided to go out, and heard the bloodcurdling screams that became famous for the Jersey Devil. She came face-to-face with the Jersey Devil, and described it as having black fur and hooves. Its face looked like a horse or a goat, but it stood on only two legs, and had large leathery wings.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Who would ever want to kill these cute little guys? Credit: Wikimedia Commons

14. In 1840, The Jersey Devil Ate Farmer’s Sheep

Between the years 1840 to 1844, farmers reported hearing an other-worldly scream and screeching noise, and when they went outside the next morning, their sheep were either slaughtered, or completely missing. It would seem to be more logical if wolves, dogs, or coyotes attacked these sheep, but the farmers apparently thought that there was no logical explanation for these killings, unless it was the Jersey Devil. A posse of men gathered to kill the beast that was eating all of the livestock, but they never found the beast that was responsible for killing their livestock.

Stories like this are not too uncommon in American folklore with stories about mysterious creatures- from werewolves to aliens. It is more likely that it was a wild animal who was hungry, or even another human being, and not a mythical creature. However, at a time when meat was precious, taking care of livestock was a very serious undertaking, and it was important for these men to make sure they kept their animals safe, otherwise, the village would not have any meat readily available to eat.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
The Arch Museum claimed that they caught the Jersey Devil. Credit: PhillyHistory.org

13. In 1883, The “Jersey Devil” Was On Display at the Arch Museum in Philadelphia

Just like P.T. Barnum’s museum of curiosities and Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Atlantic City, the Arch Museum in Philadelphia specialized in displaying hoaxes. It spread posters around town claiming that they had captured the Jersey Devil, and that it was on display at their museum. They actually took a curiosity they once called “The Australian Vampire”, which was a taxidermy abomination. It was really the body of a kangaroo with wings attached, and they rebranded it into the Jersey Devil.

At that time, a lot of Americans had not seen what kangaroos looked like, so it’s possible that some people might have been fooled. In the posters around Philadelphia, they announced that they caught the beast after a long struggle. Tickets were only a dime, but there were enough customers that it helped keep the business afloat for a few weeks longer. However, the museum was going bankrupt, and soon enough, people were tired of the beast, so they had to shut its doors.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
This sketch of the Jersey Devil was made in 1909 to show people what the creature looked like. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

12. In 1909, The Navy Started A Mass Panic In the Pine Barrens

In 1909, members of the Navy were running drills at the Hanover Mill Works in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A Navy Commander named Stephen Decatur claimed that they were practicing shooting cannons, when they spotted the Jersey Devil in the distance. They claimed that they even shot the creature with a cannonball. According to witnesses, they saw the cannonball come in direct contact with the Jersey Devil, and yet it was still alive.

When this story got out, people had no choice but to believe it must be true, because it was coming from Navy officials. The public went into an even deep state of panic. Over 1,000 people contact the police claiming that they saw The Jersey Devil, too. School was canceled in the towns surrounding the Pine Barrens.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Taxi cabs looked like this in 1927. Credit: Flickr

11. 1927 The Jersey Devil Attacked a Cab Driver

In 1927, a cab driver got a flat tire in the middle of the night in Salem City, New Jersey. Years before electric street light, the street would have been extremely dark, and the woods of the Pine Barrens were surrounding him. He got out of the car to change the tire, but the terrifying creature emerged from the woods and tried to attack him, screeching and screaming. The driver got back in the car, but the Jersey Devil was pounding on the roof of the car, as if it was trying to get inside.

Aside from sounding like a scene out of a horror movie, it’s difficult to imagine what kind of animal would attack someone unprovoked. It could have been a large owl, but they usually try to hunt prey, not cars. The taxi driver reported the incident to the police, claiming that he saw the Jersey Devil. Of course, nothing ever came of it.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Greentree Road in South Jersey. Credit: Evesham Township

10. In 1972, A Massive Jersey Devil Crossed Greentree Road

In Southern New Jersey, Greentree Road is a very long street that runs through several towns. A woman named Mary Ritzer Christianson was leaving the town of Blackwood and heading towards Glassboro, when she spotted a creature crossing the street in her rearview mirror. The animal was roughly 25 feet away from the back of her car. It had the head of a horse, and woolly haunches, like a goat. But it stood upright like a man, and had a set of leathery wings. Most likely, she slammed her foot on the acceleration and got out of dodge.

While this area has a lot of woods surrounding it, Greentree Road does not actually run through the Pine Barrens. But based on its description, it sounds exactly like what the Jersey Devil is supposed to look like. For people who believe in the existence of the Jersey Devil, they think that the creature was born in the Pine Barrens, but that it has the ability to fly to other parts of New Jersey. Christianson probably told everyone she knew about the creature she spotted that night, and this story ended up being published in Weird NJ Magazine.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Many of the roads throughout Wharton State Forest still look exactly like this. Credit: NYNJTC.org

9. The Wharton State Forest Deaths of 1980

The Wharton State Forest is smack dab in the middle of the Pine Barrens, and it contains the Batsto Village, which has been intact since the 1700’s. In 1980, the chief forest ranger named Alan MacFarlane was called out to a South Jersey farm near the Wharton State Forest. The entire pack of the farmer’s pigs had been brutally slaughtered in the middle of the night. The back of each pig’s head had been eaten, as if something perched on their backs and ate their brains. Their backs were scratched, but whatever killed the pigs left the rest of the body alone, and moved on to the next animal in the pack.

This type of attack is not normal behavior for many of the local animals. In all of his years of experience, Chief MacFarlane had never seen anything like it. The sight was horrifying, to say the least. The mystery has never been solved. Locals believe that the only possible explanation to this case is that the Jersey Devil must have done it.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Trails in the Pine Barrens. Credit: Adventure Motorcycle Magazine

8. Bikers Hear Screams of the Devil in The 1980’s Pine Barrens

Riding dirt bikes and ATVs is a popular hobby in New Jersey, especially around the Pine Barrens. A group of young men from the were camping in the middle of the woods and riding their bikes through the dirt trails in the 1980’s . One day, their bikes suddenly stalled out at the same time. At that moment, they heard a scream coming from the distance that did not sound human, and it was unlike any creature they could identify. The men dropped their dirt bikes and began running away. However, nothing was chasing after them.

Several men in the group were so scared, they decided to go home and soon as their bikes were working again. A few of the men were brave enough to handle it, so they decided to stay behind. Unfortunately for them, they continued to hear the screaming and screeching for the rest of the night. The Pine Barrens is popular for people who ride motorcycles, because the roads are long and straight, and it’s rare to see any police officers who will pull you over for speeding. Biker bars are located every so many miles. So the men stopped in one of the biker bars to get a drink on their way home. They told the bartender the story, and he matter-of-factly said that it was the Jersey Devil, and that those kinds of sounds are heard all the time around there.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
The Mullica River runs through the Pine Barrens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

7. In 1993, a Forest Ranger Spots The Creature Near Mullica River

In 1993, a forest ranger named John Irwin was inspecting the Mullica River, which runs through the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He was driving when he had to stop his car, because there was a huge animal in the middle of the road. He described it as having thick, black, matted fur, but it also had horns, like the devil. It stood over six feet tall. Irwin and the Jersey Devil stared at each other for several minutes. This was years before people carried smartphones, so there would be no way for John Irwin to capture any evidence, either. He did not dare to move his car, afraid that it may try to attack him. After their staring contest was over, the creature went back into the forest.

Assuming that Irwin was telling the truth, there are black bears in New Jersey, so it’s possible that this was the creature he saw. When they stand up, they can often be over six feet tall, as well. However, as a forest ranger, he should be able to tell what a bear is. There is not other creature that would possibly match this description.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
The Smithville Inn’s claim to fame is the owner’s Jersey Devil sighting. Credit: Historic Smithville

6. The Legend of the Smithville Inn

Fran Coppola, the owner of the Smithville Inn, walked outside one night to put the restaurant’s trash into the cans behind the Inn. She looked up, and saw the shadow of a winged creature looming over her. She felt very calm, and instead of running away, she just continued to stare. For whatever reason, she felt that the Jersey Devil was actually guarding the Smithville Inn and protecting it like some kind of guardian angel, rather than trying to attack the patrons.

Fran Coppola fully admits that she is a true believer in the Jersey Devil, and that she had been thinking about the legend that same day before she saw the shadow. It’s very possible that this could have been a figment of Coppola’s imagination, but she swears it’s true, and even went on record in a documentary about the Jersey Devil. Visitors to the Smithville Inn will also hear about the folklore, as well.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
The Leeds Family Home. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5. The Descendent of Mother Leeds Sees His Ancestor

In a documentary about the Jersey Devil in Smithville from the 1990’s, a man named Harry Leeds said, “I see this heaviest creature looking at me. It was hard to identify at night time, but the most distinguishing factor of that encounter was the piercing red eyes.” Leeds claims to be a descendent of the original Leeds family, including the famous “Mother Leeds”.

It is interesting that a descendent of the Leeds would be willing to perpetuate this story, because the story of the Jersey Devil was concocted to make their family look bad. It is true that the Leeds family had 12 children, and they were one of the earliest settlers in Southern New Jersey. The family was so large, there is an entire town called Leeds Point that is named after them.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
The Snallygaster has a lot of similarities to The Jersey Devil. Credit: Harry Potter Wiki

4. The Maryland “Snallygaster” and the Jersey Devil May Be One In the Same.

For anyone reading these stories, the skeptics among us might all be thinking the same thing. It’s that these sightings are probably some kind of animal in the forest, but people are imagining that it is some otherworldly demonic creature. Maybe it’s a great horned owl, a donkey, or a very strong eagle carrying a goat. Who knows. But what we do know is that New Jersey isn’t the only state that claims they see a winged creature. In nearby Maryland, they have the legend of the “Snallygaster”.

The Snallygaster is a dragon-like beast that stalked German immigrants in the woods of central Maryland in the 1700’s. It is described as being half bird and half reptile, and that it is big enough to pick up human beings and suck out their blood. In the 1800’s, slave masters told their slaves that if they tried to leave, the Snallygaster would eat them as they ran away in the woods. Unlike the Jersey Devil, though, there are not really any modern-day sightings.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Roosevelt was known for killing big game animals. This is now illegal today. Credit: TIME Magazine

3. Theodore Roosevelt Tried to Kill a Mysterious Flying Beast

In 1885, Theodore Roosevelt apparently almost canceled a trip to go on African Safari because he heard about the legendary Snallygaster in Maryland. He never found the creature, of course, but he looked at the same. While this is not a Jersey Devil sighting, it just goes to show that back in the 1800’s, legends were still so strong, that people would believe these creatures are real, and even the likes of Theodore Roosevelt got excited by the possibility of hunting them down.

Just two weeks before the sighting of the Snallygaster, there were several reports of The Jersey Devil happening in New Jersey. So, was there really a creature terrorizing the public and flying across state lines? Or, was this story spread so much, that it scared people who were a hundred miles away? We’ll never know.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
Route 9 is so long, it stretches from the Jersey Shore all the way up to New York City. Credit: Google Maps

2. The Bayville Sighting Startled Drivers on Route 9

Route 9 is one of the major roads that runs alongside the Pine Barrens, and people use it all the time go to down to the Jersey Shore. One of the many sightings included in the Weird NJ book was a story from someone going by the name Sonny Z. He wrote that it was around 10 PM at night, and Sonny was driving through the town of Bayville. Two cars driving ahead of him had to suddenly slam on their breaks when a disgusting creature emerged from the woods.

He described it as being hairless, with strange, short ears and hooved feet. He also said it towered over the road, standing nearly 10-feet tall. He said that it looked like every classic drawing of the Jersey Devil that he had always seen, and that it galloped at high speeds across the highway. Of course, many people told Sonny that this was just a deer. But he insists that he had seen plenty of deer driving at night before, and this was absolutely no animal he had ever seen before.

16 Creepy Alleged Sightings Of The Jersey Devil
This is the image of the Jersey Devil that was apparently taken in 2015. Credit: ABC News

1. Does the Jersey Devil Play Golf?

In 2015, people claimed that they thought they saw The Jersey Devil along Route 9 in Egg Harbor Township near a golf course. The witness, David Black, thought that there was a llama standing inside of its fence along the roadway, until it suddenly whipped out gigantic wings and started flying away. David Black grabbed his cell phone, and tried to capture a video of this creature. The video clip is very short, and shows what appears to be the Jersey Devil flying across the screen, a black silhouette against a colorful sunset. There is a still photo of the same creature that is also attributed to David Black, and it kind of looks like a horned goat with wings that was thrown like a football.

However, the clip also went on the internet close to Halloween, which is why many people believe that David Black is trying to prank the internet. He told NJ.com, “I swear it’s not Photoshopped or a staged thing. People have said it’s fake, but it’s not. I’m honestly just looking for an explanation for what I saw.” However, no one else has ever come forward to say that they have seen a similar creature at the same time.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

A Jersey Devil May Have Been Spotted in New Jersey. Mysterious Universe. 2015.

13 Places the Jersey Devil Has Been Spotted. NJ.com. 2016.

The Jersey Devil. WeirdNJ.com

Joseph Bonaparte and the Jersey Devil. AmericanFolklore.net

The Jersey Devil: Legend or Truth? Troy Taylor. PrairieGhosts.com. 2002.

Jersey Devil Reported Encounters. Wikipedia.

Snallygaster. Wikipedia.

Jersey Devil. HistoricSmithville.com

Jersey Devil “Sighting” Reignites Excitement, But Experts Pour Cold Water. Alan Yuhas. The Guardian. 2015.

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

The Skeleton Man, The Jersey Devil, and a Multitude of Other Attractions. Ken Kinkel. PhillyHistory.org. 2012.