The New Jersey Devil
The Legend of the Jersey Devil is the most prominent legend that is told to citizens of New Jersey; it is mainly told to elementary school aged children. There are a variety of settings that the story has; however, the most common location that is used when retelling the tale is Leeds Point, NJ, which is in the Pine Barrens region of the state. This tale of the Jersey Devil recounts the existence of a supernatural creature that is said to have terrorized the New Jersey Pine Barrens and surrounding areas for the last 260 years. The teller of this version of the legend is a Caucasian female who is eighteen years of age and attends the University of Maryland. She comes from a middle class family and believes in the Christian faith. As a New Jersey native, this young woman was originally told this story when she was a child in school. She admits that as a child, she believed the tale as true; however, at this age, she no longer believes in the existence of the New Jersey Devil. While on the way to class, we discussed New Jersey’s most famous legend, and she was able to recount the tale:
Well about three hundred years ago, there was a woman by the name of Mrs. Shrouds. She lived in the New Jersey Pine Barrens with her family. Times were hard for her, and she couldn’t deal with having such a big family. Since she was so angry about her children and having to grow and cook food for them, she said, ‘If I have another child, I want it to be the devil.’ Well, then she got pregnant… again, and she had her thirteenth child. The child was born deformed and actually looked like a devil. It had horns and wings and everything. Because of its deformity, Mrs. Shrouds kept her child locked in the basement so that it wouldn’t be bothered by the neighbors. People say that the devil child only communicated through a screaming noise that it made all the time. After a few months of being confined to the basement, the devil flapped its wings and flew out the chimney, and the Shrouds family never saw it again. People’s animals started to disappear, and they blamed the devil for it. They said that it started to kill and eat the flocks. Some people even said that the Jersey Devil would terrorize little children because it was jealous it could never be a normal child. Ever since then, the devil has been spotted in different places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, making that same screaming noise.
There exist many different types of storylines about the New Jersey Devil. Despite these discrepancies, most of the versions have the name “Leeds” involved. For example, in the version that I collected, Mrs. Shrouds lived in Leeds Point; however, in other forms of this story, the woman’s name was Mrs. Leeds. Most tales of the New Jersey Devil involve this woman who had one too many children and placed a cursed on her unborn child. This tale also ties into the study of magic since the mother of the Jersey Devil cursed her unborn...