Friday, January 25, 2013

The creature of the Pine Barrens

On the Library of Congress Database, I found a pamphlet for a lecture on folklore with the following description of the Jersey Devil, from the October 1790 diary entry of a woodsman named Vance Larner:

It was neither beast nor man nor spirit, but a hellish brew of all three. It was beside a pond when I came upon it. I stopped and did not move. Nay, I could not move. It was dashing its tail to and fro in the pond and rubbing its horns against a tree trunk. It was as large as a moose with leather wings. It had cloven hooves as big around as an oak’s trunk. After it was through with the tree, it yielded an awful scream as if it were a pained man, and then flew across the pond until I could see it no more.

The lecture was delivered by Stephen Winick, who curated a museum exhibit called "Tales of the Jersey Devil." Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a transcript of his lecture. Winick was the former curator of the Camden Folklore Archives in New Jersey, and has had access to unpublished oral accounts of the Jersey Devil taken down by student researchers and professional folklorists. The pamphlet included another oral account of the Jersey Devil, from 2004, though it's language was much less colorful.  

In the Library of Congress's newspaper archive, there are accounts of the Jersey Devil dating back to 1899. Most of these consist of reports of sightings of the monster.

I also got a book from the Western Washington library by the author John McPhee. The book is about the geography and culture of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and there are a few pages on the legend of the Jersey Devil. However, there is not much new to be found in this book, as it is a simple recounting of the supposed origins of the Devil, the thirteenth child of Mother Leeds, and a physical description that matches the most commonly accepted one.

I ordered a book from Abebooks that was unavailable in our library or through Summit. It is titled The Jersey Devil, and I am hoping it will contain first-hand accounts of encounters with the creature, but it has not yet arrived. More on this to come.

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