Well, did he? It's been said that the Jersey Devil himself has cut a wide swath, visiting such spots as Vineland and Millville; Camden, West Collingswood, Haddonfield; and, to the north, Paterson, Somerville, and New Brunswick. Our official State Demon, appropriately, even paused in the capital of Trenton. Long Beach Island received a visit - from someone or something. If it wasn't the Jersey Devil, then who? Or what?
It wasn't the requisite "dark and stormy night" one evening in Beach Haven recently... A couple living in a beachfront house owned a dog - a large one - who also loved his time at the shore. The human residents would tie their pet out on the beach, where the dog would contentedly play. Most of the time.
But one night the dog began barking. Its barking became angry and nonstop. When investigating, the people noted the dog gazing toward the sea, straining at its leash, howling at something only he could see. The man broke the spell, temporarily, by shouting out at the pup. The barking DID stop; but, even so, the dog had a strange look in its eyes. And the barking started up again, almost as soon as the family got settled again. Thinking something only the dog could see was deviling their animal, the family decided to wait a bit before another scolding.
It took only that small amount of time before - silence. To check on their pet's safety, the man of the house went out to check before going to bed. The dog was gone!
Additionally, the leash, a plastic-coated steel cord, remained, torn apart by something possessed by super-human strength. A hideous path of blood and torn flesh trailed from the dog's usual haunt down to the water. Most frightening, however, was what paralleled this gruesome trail - a series of webbed footprints leading from the ocean, up to the beach, and back into the water.
But was it the Jersey Devil? Maybe. Maybe not. The earliest birth date of the demon was 1735, when a Mrs. Leeds of Estellville, a sorceress (despite her Quaker profession of faith), was giving birth to her 13th child. Tired and unhappy, she moaned that she hoped Satan would take this unlucky child. He did. For this latest "child" changed from a chubby human baby into a monster, one with a horse's head, bat wings growing from a kangaroo-like body, and a forked leathery tail. Other tales of the Jersey Devil's origins have it that "he" was the 1778 spawn of a traitorous love between a Leeds Point girl and a British soldier; a punishment for the town's mistreatment of a minister; and the result of an 1850 gypsy curse on a girl who refused the woman food. But the Jersey Devil had footprints that differ from the Beach Haven creature's. While the thing from Beach Haven had webbed feet, as befits something from the ocean, the Jersey Devil had cloven hooves.
So, DID the Jersey Devil visit Beach Haven? Was the difference in appearance part of the demon's power or versatility? Or is there another manifestation of fear moving about our state?