Joseph Bonaparte and the Jersey Devil
A New Jersey Legend
Retold by S.E. Schlosser
Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon, was the King of Spain. Unsuccessful in defending Spain against England during the Peninsular Wars, he was forced to abdicate his throne in 1813. Following Napoleon's defeat, he went into exile in America. Joseph purchased eight-hundred acres at Bordentown, New Jersey because it was between the two great sea ports of New York and Philadelphia. From this place, he could obtain the very latest news from France and Spain.
As befitting royalty - even the dethroned sort - Joseph built himself a lovely mansion with beautiful, landscaped grounds and plenty of parkland. Joseph Bonaparte entertained many of the great men of his day, including John Adams, the Marquis of Lafayette, and Daniel Webster. He led a very glamorous social life, throwing marvelous parties with mountains of food and many guests. The Americans were very impressed with him.
One snowy afternoon, the ex-King of Spain was hunting alone in the woods near his house when he spotted some strange tracks on the ground. They looked like the tracks of a two-footed donkey. Bonaparte noticed that one foot was slightly larger than the other. The tracks ended abruptly as if the creature had flown away. He stared at the tracks for a long moment, trying to figure out what the strange animal might be.
At that moment, Bonaparte heard a strange hissing noise. Turning, he found himself face to face with a large winged creature with a horse-like head and bird-like legs. Astonished and frightened, he froze and stared at the beast, forgetting that he was carrying a rifle. For a moment, neither of them moved. Then the creature hissed at him, beat its wings, and flew away.
When he reported the incident to a friend later that day, Bonaparte was told that he had just seen the famous Jersey Devil, who had haunted the Pine Barrens ever since he was born to Mother Leeds one dark and stormy night in 1735. Bonaparte was impressed by the story of the Jersey Devil, and thereafter kept a lookout for the fabulous creature whenever he went hunting. Once things settled down in Europe, Joseph Bonaparte returned to Europe and was reunited with his wife in Italy. He never saw the Jersey Devil again.
Enjoy more spooky folklore in Spooky New Jersey by S.E. Schlosser.