Jersey Devil + 40

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 10th, 2006

Jersey Devil

Over at TV Squad on July 9th, Anna Johns writes of her interest in The X-Files season one’s episode "The Jersey Devil." She reminded me that an incident that happened 40 years ago, a significant close encounter of the Jersey Devil-Bigfoot kind, is still remembered, in a roundabout way, via the popular television series and its fans.

Johns notes:

…that season one of The X-Files is phenomenal. I had forgotten how many terrific episodes were packed into the first season. Chris Carter really seemed to have this show down solid right out of the gate. He set up the series with aliens, government cover-ups and monsters; and episode five of season one introduced us to the agents.

We learn that [FBI Agent Fox] Mulder lives and breathes his work. He and [FBI Agent Dana] Scully travel up to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Mulder butts heads with the local PD, who have jurisdiction over the case of a Bigfoot-looking creature that is killing homeless people. Mulder thinks it’s the famous Jersey Devil, which chewed a man’s arm off in the 1960s.

Johns mentions the side trips taken by agents Mulder and Scully, but then comes back to the Jersey Devil. Anna Johns concludes her overview:

Mulder ends up coming face-to-face with The Jersey Devil, a woman who was evidently raised in the forest just outside of Atlantic City. Scully just misses seeing the missing link when Mulder is attacked. But, for once, Mulder is vindicated when he and Scully catch up to the naked, hairy woman. Unfortunately, they don’t get any answers from the woman because the trigger-happy sheriff’s department kills her (and tastefully covers up her private parts with leaves).

I devoted an entire chapter to the Jersey Devil in Mysterious America, a 1983 first edition of which The X-Files creator Chris Carter did own. "Jersey Devil" is one of those localized names that residents and written histories have applied to any supposed strange beast, entity, or phantom seen in the state of New Jersey. The legendary creature, in fact, is the state’s “official demon,” an unofficial regional mascot, and now the name of the state’s National Hockey League team. Therefore, I was not surprised to see the Jersey Devil, as a feral human initially identified as a Bigfoot, featured in The X-Files as that series’ first ever “monster of the week.”

Bigfoot-like creatures have been seen and called the Jersey Devil in New Jersey for a long time.

Toward dusk on May 21, 1966, a creature “at least seven feet tall” ambled through the Morristown, New Jersey, National Historical Park and left in its wake four hysterical witnesses who had viewed it from a parked car. They said the creature was “faceless,” covered with long black hair, and had scaly skin. It had broad shoulders and walked on two legs with a stiff, rocking movement.


Morristown’s Monster of 40 years ago may have looked a lot like the creature drawn above, Momo, the Missouri Monster.

The four drove to the park entrance and stopped approaching cars to warn people that a “monster” lurked inside. Raymond Todd, one of the witnesses, caught a ride with a young lady who took him to the Municipal Hall in Morristown, where he blurted out his story to the police. Oddly enough, the girl had seen a similar entity a year before. She told police that she and several friends were in the park one night when a huge, broad-shouldered something had loomed up in their rear window and thumped on the back of the car. Her mother had asked her not to report the incident, she said.

The Morristown creature might be more closely related (whatever that means) to Bigfoot than to the Jersey Devil, but its scaly skin is not characteristic of Bigfoot creatures sighted in other parts of the country. However, the "scaly skin" sounds vaguely similar to the Native Americans’ description of the coverings of the "Stone Giants" seen in New York State over 350 years ago, and related to the Windigo folklore from the East. Bigfoot-type Windigo were said to first roll in sticky evergreen pitch (resin derived from the sap of various coniferous trees, such as pine). Then the creatures were said to wallow in pebbles and rocks, until they naturally looked like something that has come down to us as Stone Giants.

Therefore, not surprisingly, in the modern era, as I noted in talking to Ivan Sanderson in the 1960s, Bigfoot were being called Jersey Devils forty years ago. When Sasquatch researcher John Green came to New Jersey in the 1970s, he was struck by how Bigfoot-type reports were being called "Jersey Devil" sightings, something he mentions in his newly 2006 reprinted Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us.

In the mind of hockey fans and others, the Jersey Devil will always be a winged demonic entity, but thanks to Chris Carter’s grounded genius, shown via The X-Files, the newer image of a Bigfoot as eyewitnessed by New Jersey residents has been captured, at least, as part of the popular cultural memory through the famed television series.

Jersey Devil

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

13 Responses to “Jersey Devil + 40”

  1. gwood responds:

    Bigfoot should always be played by gorgeous 6″1 English actresses.

  2. Cameron responds:

    Wasn’t Tooms in Episode 3 the first “monster of the week”?

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    Eugene Tooms was a genetic mutant human killer, and, of course, in the broader meaning was a “monster.” But the “monster of the week” being used here is in the sense of a cryptozoologically monster of the week.

    For that honor, it has to be the Jersey Devil, a/k/a Bigfoot in New Jersey, as cryptid of the week, even though it turned out to be an allegedly feral human.

    Since this argument is all academic anyway, I would categorize these two differently, as Tooms is a human that turns out to be a “monster” to some, whereas the Jersey Devil/Bigfoot is a “monster” that turns out to be human to a few.

    Just my thinking in this case, and clearly that is Ms. Johns’ idea too.

    But, I don’t care. You may have a point.

  4. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    I have a soft spot for the Jersey Devil, in that it was the first brush with the media and their handling of cryptid stories. When I was in college I was contacted by a guy doing a JD story for a Philadelphia paper who had spotted a post I made on the Ghostweb site about a photo of an alleged “spirit” resembling your sketch of the Jersey Devil.
    We talked for a bit via e-mail, I gave him a lot of info about the Jersey Devil’s various origin stories, and different “sighting flaps”. I emphasized that I was just an “armchair investigator” and a student of folklore and history, but I found a lot of my info used in the story when he sent me a copy of the paper. (no acknowledgement however)

  5. aaha responds:

    Don’t forget to rent “The Last Broadcast”. In a Blair-Witch-type-genre, this is a great film about some young people looking in the Pine Barrens.

  6. Batgirl responds:

    Was, has been and always will be my number 1 favorite show, for a zillion and 1 reasons!!!


  7. TemplarKnight21c responds:

    Having lived in New Jersey my entire life, I know the Jersey Devil story, and have even been to the park in Morristown. Lived just around the block for 8 years, in fact. But, I have never heard that story before, about the creature with scaly skin. Black bears are very common in the area, New Jersey being the most densely populated spot in America for bears, aside from Kodiak Island, I think.

    People go riding on their quads and dirtbikes up in those trails all the time. I expect I’ll be asking around with some people I know, see what I can find out. I, personally, have also never heard sasquatch-sounding stories called the Jersey Devil. I do recall a story from…2003, I believe, maybe ’04 or ’05, that I read in Weird New Jersey magazine, about a family that heard something upon their roof, and upon investigation, discovered hoof prints in the snow.

    The particular story I am familiar with is of Mother Leeds. For those of you that do not know this particular tale….Mr. and Mrs. Leeds lived in the Pine Barrens, a little ways away from most of the houses. They had 12 children already, and when Mrs. Leeds discovered she was pregnant with a 13th, she declared, “Let this one be the child of the devil!” In time, everyone forgot this curse upon her unborn child, until he was born. Naturally, it was storming that night. The midwives had ushered Mr. Leeds and the other children out of the room. The child was born human, no complications, but then he started to change. His body transformed into that of the creature on the poster you see above, and he proceeded to murder all the midwives, his mother, and several of his siblings before flying up the chimney and out into the storm. There are still descendants of the Leeds family living in the area, but to my knowledge, they cannot confirm or deny the stories.

  8. shumway10973 responds:

    there are a few who did deal with the “actual” jersey devil, 1 is The Thirteenth Child. though the devil looks different than traditionally thought. Oh, and the story behind its existance is different too. The was an episode of the Jonny Quest cartoons that claimed the jersey devil is nothing more than a continual fight between to families that started during the revolutionary war. the british had stolen the original declaration of independence and demanded ransom. The american that was told of this sent a soldier into the area it was being held to get it back at all cost. They played cat and mouse the rest of their lives, realized that this would take more than one generation. so one of them made up a jersey devil costume in order to kidnap a young girl for his bride and the brides of every boy born to that family. The thing I loved about that episode is that they solved the mystery of the jersey devil, reclaimed the original declaration of independence and then as they are leaving something flies by that looks like the real thing.

  9. Mnynames responds:

    As I’ve posted more than a few times before, anything unusual has been labeled the Jersey Devil at one time or another around these parts. For several instances of Bigfoot-cum-Jersey Devil reports, see McCloy and Miller’s “Phantom Of The Pines”, a sequel of sorts to their original “Jersey Devil”, the seminal work on the subject. I grew up reading that book practically every other month, as did most of my friends. The original book has at least one Bigfoot encounter too.

    Another thought about the “scaly” appearance. Having done my own share of wandering through the pines, it’s pretty easy to get needles and leaves caught in your hair. The Sasquatch need not intentionally roll around in order to have lots of things entangled in their hair (Although that rock and pitch idea sounds pretty cool to me. To my mind it also implies a certain level of intelligence that some would discount for such a creature).

  10. Mnynames responds:

    For those of you without access to the books, here are a few of the more hairy biped type encounters, with a couple of vague grunt/growl/howl reports thrown in by way of example.

    November, 1917- William Kunze sees a brown creature with horns and glowing yellow eyes he believes to be the Jersey Devil standing in front of his outhouse when he went to use it one night. He flees.

    July, 1924- 2 men and their nephew hear a shriek in the woods behind them in New Gretna as they return home from a fishing trip. One of them takes off running with the boy as the shrieks continue, while the other throws fish into the woods away from them along the way. When they run out of fish, and it’s still coming, they all bolt, emerging from the woods to find the rest of their family on the porch waiting for them. They had heard the cries too, and knew the men would be returning. Early the next morning none of their cows were in the barn, all of them being in the upper pasture, and when one of them went into the barn, he was knocked down by “A big brown thing with a large head, bigger than a police dog.” The cows refused to enter the barn until daylight.

    1927- A taxi cab driver changing a flat tire along the side of the road in Salem encounters a Sasquatch-like beast who emerges from the pines to shake his car. he drives off on the still flat tire until he reaches a diner in Salem. After telling them what had happened, 2 men drive back to the site and recover the spare tire, but nothing else is found.

    1940- A dark, hairy thing darts out of the woods near Medford Farms, stealing a woman’s fur coat as she walked home at twilight.

    July, 1944- A number of people encounter a foul-smelling hairy creature in Rancocas Woods, and a posse is quickly formed to hunt it down, despite orders from the police to avoid Rancocas Creek. 2 young brothers stake out a path in the woods and witness the creature passing below them. Eventually the posse kills a huge hog, satisfying the curious, and although one of the brothers is convinced that that is what they must have seen, the other steadfastly maintains that it was not.

    1950- An 11-year old girl sees the Jersey Devil looking in at her through her window. She describes it as human-like, but not human, and somehow knew it had been looking at her for some time. As it appeared unswayed by her observation, she screamed for her mother, causing it to flee into the night.

    November, 1950- 3 people working on building a house hear a noise, seeing something with orange eyes hopping about in the woods, which then screeches and runs off. They then and there vow not to work on the house at night again.

    1953- A woman enters her car to cool down after storming out on her husband during an argument. As she sits a strange 4 1/2 feet tall creature with dark seal-like fur, webbed hands, and large glowing eyes tries to open the door. She quickly locks the doors and begins screaming, alerting her husband who runs outside to see the creature lope off into the woods in Whitesville.

    1956- An egg truck driver’s headlights illuminate a stream from which a hairy 6-foot creature is rising. It ran on 2 feet, briefly placing it’s front paws on the truck before ascending a nearby ridge in New Gretna.

    1960- Strange screams are heard out in the pines. Game wardens set out many traps, but nothing unusual is caught.

    1961- Charles Romano spots a 5-foot-tall bipedal creature with reddish hair making odd noises walking through the woods while he was bowhunting for deer near Indian Mills. His partner saw nothing, but did hear the sounds.

    1965- Police shoot at a violent crashing in the woods near the Glassboro Fish and Wildlife Management Area in Clayton after being called to the scene about a Jersey Devil sighting.

    July, 1968- A pickup-truckful of campers hears a high-pitched, cracking scream as they pass a blueberry field near Bell Haven Lake. They then observe a dark form thrashing through the bushes of the field.

    October, 1970- Billy Dunnkosky, a folk singer, had been hearing strange sounds from the woods behind his house outside Freehold since 1968. In 1970, something had been trampling his yard for several nights running. He tried to track it with several German Shepherds, but they turned their tails and ran. Finally he used a spotlight and caught sight of the interloper, what he described as “funny-looking, like a gorilla with big teeth. It was at least 6-feet-tall and covered with hair.” He shot it several times with a .22, but nothing happened. Later his brother strung barbed wire across the path they thought it was using, only to find it broken up like straw, with human-like 3-toed footprints nearby.

    1973- An elderly South Jersey woman hears a scratching sound and looks out the window to see the face of a Sasquatch in her yard. After recovering from the shock of the event, she feels sorry for the beast, and begins leaving food out for it every night. One night she awakes to a loud crashing and looks out the window to see her trashcan flying through the air. It is then she realizes that she had forgotten to leave him his dinner.

    Spring, 1975- A former Green Beret flees in terror after he sees a Sasquatch growling and thrashing about near his campsite in High Point State Park.

    1975- 2 NJ Division of Fish and Game officers see a Sasquatch emerging from the fog in a swamp in Sussex County.

    1975- A 6-foot-tall Sasquatch-like creature jumps out in front of a young man’s car in Tom’s River. Having just passed a police car, he turns around and flags it down. The policeman returns with him to the area, telling him to remain in the car while he checks it out. Minutes later the now-panicked policeman comes running back from the woods and jumps into his car, telling him to drive off. The young man suffers from nightmares for a long time afterwards.

    1976- A married couple observes a Sasquatch amble across a road in Bernardsville.

    April, 1976- Jay Adams sees a family of 5 Sasquatch in the Limecrest area of Sussex County.

    Summer, 1977- A woman in Penn’s Grove says a large hairy creature grabbed the door handle of her car, and was apparently able to run alongside at speeds up to 60 mph.

    January 16, 1978- Dale English and a friend detect an odour like rotting fish while iceskating and spot a 7-foot-tall creature with red eyes staring at them in Chatsworth.

    June, 1978- 2 women camping illegally along the abandoned railroad tracks in Atsion awake to unearthly screams and violent thrashing in the bushes outside their tent. They sent their large dog out to investigate, but the dog very quickly retreated back into the tent. They later fled the woods to an all-night diner in Hammonton.

    June, 1981- As a group of people were canoeing the Mullica, a strange creature kept pace with them through the underbrush near the water.

    July, 1981- A group of women in their 20s, holding a reunion camping trip, are terrorized by something thrashing in the woods outside their tents, peering at them with red eyes near Waretown.

    1986-87- Police, animal trappers, and others scour the area after numerous incidents of howling and growling are reported in the Vineland area.

  11. twblack responds:

    X-Files only can say 1 thing. Oh How I Miss Thou!!!!!!

  12. harleyb responds:

    I agree with batgirl, I love X-Files, totally, I was in high school when it first came out and I would sit in my room and bounce off the walls waiting to see what freshness awaited. David Duchovny rules!! He made that show tight, and brought such realness. The truth is out there 4 real.

  13. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Thanks for the list.

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