Birth of the Jersey Devil
A New Jersey Legend
retold by S.E. Schlosser
A storm was raging that night in 1735, when Mother Leeds was brought to bed in childbirth. The room was full of woman folk gathered to help her, more out of curiosity than good will. They had all heard the rumors that Mother Leeds was involved in witchcraft, and had sworn she would give birth to a devil.
Tension mounted when at last the baby arrived. It was a relief (and to some a disappointment), when the baby was born completely normal. But a few moments later, before their terrified eyes, the child began to change. The room erupted with screams as the child grew at an enormous rate, becoming taller than a man and changing into a beast which resembled a dragon, with a head like a horse, a snake-like body and bat's wings.
As soon as it was full-grown, the monster began beating all the woman (including his mother) with its thick, forked tail. With a harsh cry, it flew through the chimney and vanished into the storm.
The Monster of Leeds, or the Jersey Devil as he was later called, still haunts the pines of New Jersey, wrecking havoc upon farmer's crops and livestock, poisoning pools and creeks, and appearing on the New Jersey shore just before a ship wreck.
Read more New Jersey folktales in Spooky New Jersey by S.E. Schlosser.