Peddlers and Journeymen,
There have been many books written about The Jersey Devil, but I don’t want to regurgitate printed material for you guys. Here is an HorrorNews interview exclusive with Laura K. Leuter , director of The Devil Hunters, straight from her research in the Pine Barrens to give you first hand accounts of the beast.
MJ : For our readers who are not familiar with the legend, what is the Jersey Devil?
LL : The Jersey Devil is a creature that supposedly lives in the NJ Pine Barrens, often times viewed in brief glimpses by travelers and locals.
It is an odd combination of features, usually described as having a deer-like body, horse-like face, bat wings, skinny legs, claws, hooved feet, and a long skinny tail. The creature stands on two legs and has the ability to fly. It is usually described as being about 6 feet tall, black, and with piercing eyes. It has a very unique high pitched screeching sound that it makes.
MJ : What made you start researching The Jersey Devil?
LL : I first heard about the Jersey Devil in a Reader’s Digest article in the 1980’s. I was pretty young then, and I stumbled across an article on a man who went in search of the Jersey Devil. I was actually living in San Jose, California at the time, but I knew my family was all in New Jersey, and that we would travel back there. I asked my mother if we would have to drive through the Pine Barrens when we went back to New Jersey, and she said of course. It was then that I thought I should probably know as much as I can about this creature that completely terrified me. When we returned to New Jersey, I soaked up everything I could find on the creature – read all the books, stories, and poems I could find. Soon enough, my fear turned to obsession, and I was hooked on the story ever since. I’ve now been reading about and researching the Jersey Devil legend for over 20 years!
MJ : How many people usually go on one of your Jersey Devil hunts?
LL : Anywhere from 3 – 6 people on average, though we’ve had bigger crowds before. It really depends on the type of hunt we’re doing. When we want to
split up into teams, we’ll have more people. I prefer the more the merrier approach, since we can cover more ground and it’s just safer out there. But
we’ve gone with as little as 3 people.
MJ : How long does a hunt usually take?
LL : It depends. Some hunts only last a few hours, others become an all day excursion. We typically hunt mostly in the winter time, since that is the most likely time that the Jersey Devil is active. That being the case, there’s only so long out there that the body can tolerate before you’re freezing to your core, so we have to take breaks and warm ourselves back up for a while. We usually do our hunts in sections – check out the terrain during the daylight, return at night to see if there are any strange
activities, footprints, or sounds.
LL : We bring video & audio recorders, night vision, audio amplification devices, flashlights, plaster casting, digital cameras, binoculars, survival equipment, trailblazing equipment, things like that. It’s tough to actually use the technology at times though, since we’ll be moving and suddenly hear a noise, and it’s gone long before you have time to get the camera ready.
MJ : What is the scariest thing that has happened on one of your hunts?
LL : One night, we were out in south Jersey during one of the anniversaries of Phenomenal Week. It had been a very active night, and we had been hearing strange noises everywhere. It was January, with some snow on the ground, and it was dead cold that night. We had been out for a while, found some odd footprints, and had some weird feelings, but it was mostly quiet. We started wrapping up and a few of us were walking up to the water’s edge to try and take a picture of a really cool tree that had fallen over. There was no research purpose for the picture, we just wanted to get a shot of it because it was a cool looking tree. Anyway, we were standing at the edge of the water, where the bank dropped about 8-10 feet at a fairly sharp angle.
The creek was about 20-25 feet wide, and we were hearing noises on the other side. Something large was moving around on the other side but we couldn’t see anything. We felt pretty safe though, since it was quite a distance away and had icy cold water separating us. I knelt down to try and take a picture, and suddenly the loud noises that were on the opposite end of the creek were now coming from the tree right next to us. Something very large had made its way across the creek and was now virtually directly above us. We smoothly but quickly backed out of the area to get some distance between us and the noise. We had no idea what it was that made that noise, and couldn’t see anything to identify what it was. It was pretty terrifying to have that noise right on top of us, though.
Another scary incident took place back in 1999. We were conducting research in a park where the ranger had informed us that someone reported seeing a”panther” or some other sort of large, dark shape moving through the woods. We had had some really weird incidents there, too. We went deep into the woods where we had discovered a set of footprints before, and out of nowhere we heard this ungodly screech. It was terrifying. The screech lasted somewhere around 5-15 seconds, and sounded like a woman screaming, an animal in pain, and some sort of mechanical grinding all at once. It started high pitched and then tapered off lower. It gave us head to toe goosebumps. We turned and ran towards the noise but couldn’t determine the origin. We’ve all listened to recordings of all sorts of possible animals that might have made that noise, but none of the recordings have accurately reproduced the noise we heard that night.
LL : We’ve done quite a few shows at this point, which was a complete side effect of our work – we had never intended on being on television, and had no idea there would be such a public interest in it. We started the group in 1999
and have been getting requests for television appearances since 2000, so I guess there definitely is a public interest! We’ve been on some big name shows like Fox Family Channel’s “Scariest Places on Earth”, and a mini-series for TLC called “Monster Hunters”. We’ve done some cable access& local programs, like an interview for CN8, some work with the Travel Channel, and “Hometown Tales” & “History Hunters”. We recently filmed “Mystery Hunters” for Discovery Kids, and are also wrapping up shooting for The History Channel’s show “MonsterQuest”, both of which should be airing in 2009.
MJ : When is your next Jersey Devil hunt?
LL : We’re definitely planning some activities for the winter season. Once we get past the holidays, we’ll be back out there in full force! And this is a big year for the Jersey Devil – this January marks the 100th anniversary of “Phenomenal Week”, a period in time where the Jersey Devil was seen by more than 100 witnesses throughout the Delaware Valley (for details about Phenomenal Week, go to www.njdevilhunters.com/1909.html
I seem to be in the epicenter of supernatural activity. A few weeks ago, I discovered that UFO sightings were just minutes away from me in Bucks County and not just a few sightings, the most in Pennsylvania in 35 years. We’ll revisit that topic in the weeks to come. Now, It seems that I don’t have to look past my own backyard for sightings of The Jersey Devil. There are many reported sightings listed on Laura’s website but I’d like to focus on just one :
Gloucester City, NJ – ” Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Evans were visited by the Jersey Devil at approximately 2:30 am. This is one of the most vivid and well described sightings ever. Mr. Evans was awakened by strange noises. The couple stared out their bedroom window to watch the Jersey Devil standing on the roof of their shed for a full ten minutes. Mr. Evans gave the following description: “It was about three feet and a half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse’s hooves. it walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn’t use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, ‘Shoo!’ and it turned around, barked at me, and flew away.”
The reason I picked this particular sighting out of the bunch is simple, I was born and raised in Gloucester City, New Jersey! Yes, I walk the same streets as the horse face, bat wing devil. Come and get me !!!! Remember, The Night Stalker? Darren McGavin R.I.P. but I’m going to take over where Carl Kolchak left off. There is some strange unexplained sh*t outside and if I need to knock over a couple trash cans and crawl into a couple dirty basements to get the scoop for HorrorNews, then so be it. The Jersey Devils’ of the world, you better heed my warnings… Joyhorror has let the Moondogs loose to sniff out the paranormal and just plain f*ckin’ abnormal. I’m on the hunt. If you’ve recently found a gnome, a gremlin, a dwarf, a troll, or a moondog, “don’t touch it” and contact me immediately at email@example.com
Unexplained Confidential: Jersey Devil