December 19, 2015 10:14 am

Is the New Jersey Devil fake or real? This question has been debated longer than Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, and the latest Jersey Devil sighting only adds more fuel to the fire. Interestingly enough, the legend surrounding the history of the Jersey Devil is probably less interesting than the truth – and that involves a well known American historical figure like Benjamin Franklin.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, the latest Jersey Devil sightings involved both a photo and a video. A security guard named Dave Black was the first to report his Jersey Devil photo, which he claims was taken while he was driving home.

“I was just driving past the golf course in Galloway on Route 9 and had to shake my head a few times when I thought I saw a llama. If that wasn’t enough, then it spread out leathery wings and flew off over the golf course. Either my mind is playing tricks on me or I just saw the Jersey Devil. Thought I’d send it in for you to share. I’m not looking for anything in return, just thought someone else could maybe explain this in a more rational way.”

Black claims he is simply seeking a rational explanation for the Jersey Devil sighting. He swears the photo was not Photoshopped or staged, and he even offers up his own explanation for the apparent monster. Although Black says he initially mistook the creature for a llama, he believes it is possible a winged predator such as a horned howl snatched up a smaller furry creature into the air. Thus, what we’re seeing is the combination of two separate animals.

Jersey Devil Sighting Photo, Video Not A Halloween Hoax, Says NJ Witnesses
Jersey Devil Photo [Image via Dave Black]

Regardless of this apparent skepticism, Dave Black’s Jersey Devil photo definitely seems unrealistic. The creature seems all too stiff, and the biggest issue is that the shutter speed of the camera should have resulted in a blur if the animal was flapping its wings. Since it’s not, it’s easy to call it fake.

Jersey Devil Video

The second Jersey Devil sighting seems far less credible. A woman calling herself Emily swears she saw a real Jersey Devil, although the creature she described had red fur.

“I realize this sounds crazy but I saw a red animal with a long neck and horns. I swear on my mother’s grave, this is not a joke. I pulled over to take a video and as I started filming it got on its hind legs and flew away. I am an middle school teacher but moonlight tutoring algebra for high school students. Was driving home from an appointment on Old Port Republic Rd in Leeds Point when I took this video. So excited, had to share with someone. I searched online and a few others have similar stories.”

Needless to say, this Jersey Devil sighting is not exactly convincing based upon the quality of the video, but it does portray a four legged flying animal.

The Physics Of the Jersey Devil

The main reason so many call the Jersey Devil fake is because of the stated biology of the legendary creature. The Jersey Devil’s body is said to have leathery wings, horse-like hooves, and a forked tail. Yet, at the same time, most artistic renderings, never mind this newest Jersey Devil sighting, show a flying monster with a bulky body.

The reason this four legged flying creature seems biologically implausible is because the wings would need to be much larger in addition to being attached to a musculoskeletal structure capable of lifting the animal’s body weight off the ground. If there is a real creature behind the urban myth of the Jersey Devil, then its body frame would have to be lightweight. The bones would also have to be hollow like birds, or very light and delicate like a bat’s. Needless to say, the goat-like horns typically portrayed with the Jersey Devil are neither.

Modern movies usually contain similar science errors. For example, the flying dinosaurs of Jurassic World were capable of picking up humans even though we know this should be impossible. In fact, the pterosaurs’ bones are like paper, and fighting back against such dinosaur would not have been an issue.

The Legend Of The Jersey Devil

There are different versions of how the story first began, but the most common myth centers around the wife of an almanac publisher named Daniel Leeds. On a dark and stormy night, Mother Leeds supposedly gave birth to her 13th child as part of a Satanic witchcraft ritual. Although baby looked normal at first, it supposedly grew the wings, hooves, and the goat-like head.

Emitting a horrible shriek, this horrible monster then launched into the air and killed the midwife. The Jersey Devil legend states that the creature escaped into the woods, where it still lurks to this day.

This legend has inspired many to hunt for the creature. Galloway Township Mayor Don Purdy has lived near the location of the latest Jersey Devil sighting his entire life, and he recalls hunting for the monster in his youth.
“We did some hunting out at Leeds Point; we would go out in the woods, about 10 to 15 kids, and we’d be out there in the dark, getting freaked out. It was dark out there, and you’d hear all different things and it scared us to death,” Purdy said, according to the Atlantic City Press.

If there is a real creature behind the myth, then Purdy also says there have never been any stories of it actually hurting anyone. At most, the myth says the Jersey Devil will go after farmers’ chickens.

The Truth Behind Jersey Devil Sightings

Professor Brian Regal of New Jersey’s Kean University has researched the origins of the Jersey Devil myth, and it turns out the creature did not appear until the early 20th century.

“References to the Jersey Devil do not appear in newspapers or other printed material until the twentieth century,” Regal explained, according to the Skeptical Inquirer. “The first major flap came in 1909. It is from these sightings that the popular image of the creature — batlike wings, horse head, claws, and general air of a dragon—became standardized.”

The first Jersey Devil sighting was definitely a hoax. A Philadelphia businessman created a fake monster by painting a kangaroo green and attaching wings made of rabbit fur. The man charged admission as part of a sideshow, which was similar to how P.T. Barnum create the fake Feejee mermaid by sewing a juvenile to the back half of a fish. The 1909 hoax apparently inspired further Jersey Devil sightings as the legend grew.
Benjamin Franklin And The Jersey Devil
This is where the story behind the legend becomes even more interesting. Daniel Leeds was a real man who printed an almanac in 1687 with one of colonial America’s first printers. For his sources, Leeds relied on the work of German mystic Jacob Boehme, and the almanac included sections on angels, devils, and astrology. As you might imagine, the local Christian groups were not too fond of his work, which led to an almost lifelong quarrel with the Quakers.
Eventually, Daniel’s son, Titan Leeds, inherited the almanac business from his father. Titan redesigned the front page of the Leeds Almanac using the family crest, incorporating a dragon-like creature with bat-like wings and claws. Although this creature was based upon Wyverns, it highly resembles the physical features attributed to the modern Jersey Devil myth.

In 1732, Benjamin Franklin went directly into competition with Leeds’ almanac by publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac. Franklin even went so far as to release an edition where he predicted the death of Titan Leeds using astrology. While Franklin apparently did this as a joke, Leeds retaliated by printing that Franklin was both a fool and a liar.

In response, the Founding Father took the joke further by saying Leeds was “too well bred to use any man so indecently and so scurrilously.” The almanac feud became almost silly at this point, since Benjamin Franklin suggested that the ghost of Titan Leeds was printing these attacks against his character since the actual man would never had said such a thing.

The actual death of Titan Leeds in 1738 just so happens to coincide with the supposed birth of the Jersey Devil. Franklin may have “publicly cast his rival almanac publisher as a ghost, brought back from the great beyond to haunt his enemies,” but it seems the monster of the Leeds family crest survived for all these years in the imaginations and legends whispered around fire camps in the woods of New Jersey.