Something is out there.
Deep in the woods, a legend has swirled for centuries. Witnesses claim to have seen the horrific beast
with cloven feet and wings like a bat.
Skeptics may sneer, but one group is convinced. Along with the witches and vampires haunting the streets
this Halloween, another nightmarish entity will also be out there: the Jersey Devil.
"I do think there is something out there," said Laura Leuter, president of the Devil Hunters, a group that searches for the infamous Jersey Devil. "For 200 years, we have had continuous sightings. There is too much evidence."
Leuter, 26, said she has always been interested in the Jersey Devil. The Burlington Township resident grew
up hearing about the legend and a childhood fear gradually became an adult passion. Five years ago, she helped
form the Devil Hunters and she has been hunting ever since.
The group usually heads into the woods once a month. Equipped with video cameras, tape recorders, digital
cameras and night-vision goggles, they investigate reported sightings or wander deep in the Pine Barrens to look
"We call them hunts, but they are really more like research missions," Leuter said. "We're
not trying to kill anything. We just go out to see if we see anything or experience anything."
Legend describes the devil as the 13th child of Mrs. Leeds, a Pine Barrens matron who lived in what is now
known as Leeds Point, Atlantic County.
When she was in labor, she cried out, "Let this child be a devil." The infant was born and instantly
morphed into a monster, its face transforming into a horse's head, its feet hardening to hoofs and wings sprouting
from its back.
The Devil Hunters, however, believe the legend was created to explain a beast that witnesses couldn't identify.
They think the devil is actually an undiscovered, carnivorous, nocturnal animal.
Whether they have collected any legitimate evidence is in the eye of the beholder. Hoof prints and odd
sounds may not seem like much, but Devil Hunters said what they have witnessed can't be easily explained.
"We once heard a kind of screech, like a woman screaming, a woman in pain and mechanical grinding at
the same time," Leuter said.
"There's too much weird stuff happening that can't be explained by squirrels and deer and normal stuff,"
added Belinda Connolly, a Burlington Township resident and vice president of the group. "Some hunts are
just too creepy."
The Devil Hunters also point to an investigation they did in March following a sighting in Egg Harbor
Township. A woman and her son saw something leap from a tree to their roof.
"... We were all shocked to see the prints, cloven hoof prints, clearly two-legged, perfectly
preserved in the snow on our roof," wrote the eyewitness on the Devil Hunters' Web site. "The creature
looked to be about 4 to 6 feet tall. The head is awful; it has two large eyes, an animal head or snout, a large
bulbous forehead with what appears to be horns in the front."
Whatever the so-called creature is, group members swear that if you went out to the Pine Barrens in the
middle of the night, you just might feel a mysterious presence, too.
"It is scary out there," said Connolly, who admitted she has been voted the club's biggest
scaredy-cat. "Some-times you feel nothing. Other times, every hair on the back of your neck stands up."
Yet even on the spookiest nights, they try to stay level-headed, Leuter said. After all, she's been out in
the woods for five years now, and nothing has happened ... yet.
"I don't think it's out to get people," she said. "If so, it would have gotten us by now. We're
taking way too many chances."