The Jersey Devil was supposedly born the 13th child to Mrs Leeds, born in Leeds Point, NJ in the 1700’s. After having so many children, she didn’t want any more and if she had another it would be the devil. There are other women in other places who supposedly gave birth to the jersey devil, but her name, that town, and that reason are the most commonly known origins. Over the past 200 years over 2000 people claim to have seen the creature, mills were shut down, trolleys were supposedly attacked, and fire departments supposedly tried to knock it off a roof with their fire hoses.
The JD Hunts are conducted by Russell Juleg, of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, whose goal is to help preserve the Pinelands, and to educate people about the area. They conduct many nature walks, canoe trips, as well as provide lessons in wilderness survival. JD Hunts are held numerous times thru out the summer and fall. The event costs $10 pp, and you must register in advance. You can register by calling Russell Juleg at the PPA at 609 787-3740. The hunts begin at the Batona campsite, located directly opposite the Caranza Memorial on Caranza Rd.
We arrived for the hunt around 7PM, and although it was getting dark, we still had an hour of light left so we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and enjoyed the evening air and talked amongst ourselves. There was at least 15 of us, ranging in age from 10 to at least 55. Around 8PM it was getting dark and we got down to business. Russell Juleg, our host, stoked the fire good and began telling the story of Mrs Leeds 13th child. He took care to present the story as folk lore. “it’s not too terribly helpful to get hung up on whether not the JD exists. From a folklorists standpoint, a more important question is what role did the telling of the story play in South Piney culture?” Juleg explains the history of development in the Pinelands, and tells how the story may have originated, and how strange noises in the woods might translate into a “sighting”. He also explains why the story has continued to be told nearly two centuries after it first began being told….
The Jersey Devils hockey team are named after the creature.
By the time Juleg had given us a history of the JD and the basic history of the Pine Barrens, it was now 9PM and it was pitch black. Russell told us to put our food and chairs away and to meet by a big tree. “And leave your flashlights in your cars!” he yells. Surprisingly we were able to see quite well in the pitch black night, and we proceeded on a 90 minutes 1.5 mile hike over old railroad beds, past the Caranza Memorial, and along narrow trails. All along the way Russell told us tales about Piney characters from long long ago, and we kept a lookout for a set of eyes up in the trees. I won’t reveal what happened on our excursion, but I will say that at times it was a tad scary and unnerving, being in the woods in the dark. Course some of us were more scared then others, and that of course made it even more fun for the rest of us. The whole thing lasts about 3 hours or so, and is well worth the $10 cost. If you go, remember to bring bug spray, marshmallows and hot dogs, but leave the flashlights at home!