Did the Jersey Devil Lose His Hand in a Car Accident?
Updated: Mar 23
Although he might not be the most well known Cryptid outside of the North Eastern United States, the Jersey Devil is actually one of the earliest creatures in American Colonial Folklore. The legend of the Jersey Devil spans over 250 years and has even popped up in popular culture, with the New Jersey NHL franchise being named the Devils and a cameo in an episode of the X-Files.
In this blog I’m going to break down what exactly the Jersey Devil is, a few different iterations of the legend and two of the thousands of Jersey Devil sightings. If you enjoyed this blog you can listen to our Jersey Devil episode, featuring Campbell McLaren, founder of the UFC and Combate Americas on all podcast platforms.
The Jersey Devil is described as a six foot tall creature with a horses head, two long hooved legs, two short front legs, bat wings, horns growing out of its head, claws, and glowing red eyes. The Jersey Devil, also known as the Leeds Devil. The devil is said to live in the Wetlands of the Pine Barren by day and comes out to scare or attack anyone it comes across at night.
The Jersey Devil has been blamed for a litany of bad things that have occurred in the Pine Barrens, including crop failures, cows no longer producing milk, droughts, blowing the tops off of trees, boiling streams, and the loss of livestock. Much like Mothman, some people believe that the Jersey Devil appears once every seven years or foreshadows disasters and war.
The Legend of the Jersey Devil
The 13th Child
The most popular iteration of the Jersey Devil legend (and to the best of my knowledge the earliest account) is the story of the “13th Child.” According to this iteration of the legend, in 1735, a Quaker woman, living in Leeds, a small town in the Pine Barrens, was pregnant with her 13th child. The woman nicknamed Mother Leeds, was living in poverty with her alcoholic bum of a husband and was reported to have said “Let this one be a devil,” in reference to the unborn child. Months later, on a dark and stormy night, Mother Leeds was giving birth to her 13th child. Her twelve children, husband, and some local midwives were gathered around her ready to help deliver the baby.
The baby came out a normal baby boy and seemed completely healthy. Unfortunately for the Leeds Family, that was short lived. The baby boy started crying and screaming as it spontaneously started to grow and sprout horns out of his head, talons out of his fingers, leathery bat wings out of his back and glowing red eyes. The Jersey Devil then turned on his mother and savagely murdered her and then proceeded to dismember the midwives limb from limb all while letting out an ungodly shriek. After he finished with his mother and the midwives, the devil proceeded to break down the door and murder his father and as many of his siblings as he could. He then turned and his few surviving siblings watched in horror as he flew up the chimney destroying it and flying off into the pine barrens.
This is the most popular version of the story and the most widely accepted as the “real” story. However, I will be breaking down two other iterations of the legend.
Traitor of Leeds Point
A different iteration of the legend, takes place 43 years later in 1778. In this version of the story, a young woman from Leeds Point fell in love with a Redcoat soldier who was occupying the town. In 1778, the British and Americans fought at the Battle of Chestnut Neck, and the townspeople viewed her romance as treason and are said to have cursed the girl. She later gave birth to the Leeds Devil.
I can see why this version of the story didn’t have the sticking power of the 13th Child. Besides the fact that it happened later than the first story, which makes it seem less legitimate, the details are just not very flushed out and it's a far less compelling story. Regardless, it’s interesting to see how legends and folklore evolve over time.
According to this version of the legend, a young woman encountered a gypsy beggar and refused to help her out. As a result, a gypsies curse was placed on her. In 1850, when the young lady gave birth to her first born son, he turned into the Jersey Devil and fled into the woods.
This is the least compelling iteration of the story, especially considering that the first reported sighting of the Jersey devil took place in 1812, a full 38 years before this version of the story alleges the Leeds Devil was born
There are actually quite a few documentaries on Amazon Prime that are very un-informative but are great entertainment value. If you want to learn more about the Jersey Devil check out the 13th Child and the Jersey Devil episode of Monster Chronicles.
There have been literally thousands of Jersey Devil Sightings since 1812, and I couldn’t possibly cover all of them in just one blog. That would take a whole database, especially considering around a dozen or so new sightings are reported each year. This is by no means even a representative sample of sightings I just chose two that interested me. I highly recommend checking out the documentaries linked above to hear more about Jersey Devil encounters.
Joseph Bonaparte (1812)
The first person to report encountering the Jersey Devil was none other than Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Spain and older brother to the great French General Napoleon Bonaparte. This is the first ever reported sighting of the Jersey Devil. Joseph claimed that he encountered the Jersey Devil while on a hunting trip near his Bordertown Estate.
This first sighting set off a chain reaction of thousands of Jersey Devil sightings, attacks, and encounters.
Micheal Orfe’s Close Encounter
This story is 60 years old, but was recently in the news this past January. According to an interview, Micheal Orfe was traveling down an unpaved road in South Jersey with Violet, his high school girlfriend. Everything was going well until Violet noticed something unusual moving towards them from the pines. “I felt cocky and comfortable about being in the Pine Barrens but I shouldn’t have” - Micheal Orfe. The couple heard a rustling in the woods and suddenly Violet opened her eyes and mouth wide and started pointing to the window. A scaly clawed hand was coming through the window and reaching for Violet's head. Micheal quickly rolled up the window which severed the creature's hand, spraying blood all over Violet's face. In a panic, Micheal tried to reverse his car but accidentally put the car into drive and the creature crashed through the windshield and grabbed its severed hand. Micheal quickly put the car in reverse and the teens narrowly escaped the creature.
I’m not too sure this story actually happened but my god it's an excellent one. If you want to hear some hysterical commentary about Orfe’s account, check out our Jersey Devil episode, on Apple Podcast, Spotify and all other podcast platforms. Also if you enjoyed this blog please check out our other blogs, subscribe to our newsletter, and share. Stay Spooky Misfits!