Back in 2014 we had the chance to pass through a small portion of the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, the setting for horror writer Hunter Shea’s latest cryptid masterpiece, The Jersey Devil. Having had an interest in these sorts of creatures my whole life, I’ve known the legend of this particular being for many a moon. We passed through in the middle of the day so our chances of seeing this sinister fellow were slim to none. If Hunter’s portrayal of the Devil is even half-fiction, I’m deliriously happy that it and our paths never crossed, not even for a second.
In short, the Legend of the Jersey Devil dates back to a dark and stormy night in 1735 when Mother Leeds gave birth to her 13th child. The midwives that had come to her aid swore she’d given birth to a demon. The Jersey Devil stands upright on two goat-like legs with cloven hooves. Its upper body resembles a dragon or snake with short arms ending in razor sharp claws while a pair of massive bat-like wings give it flight. The head of the Jersey Devil is said to look like a horse or large goat and its eyes glow a fiery red in the dark. The native Lenape People called the area Popuessing which means, “place of the dragon”. Later the Dutch would dub it Drake Kill or Dragon Channel.
According to Hunter Shea, one too many thrill seekers decide to explore the Pine Barrens at a crucial time in the Devil’s life and the Willet Family, who have a long-kept family secret in regards to the Devil, want to be at ground zero, locked, and loaded when this bad boy shows up again. They watch the news reports, they read the articles in the papers, and take them all very, very seriously. One person, one couple, one group of foolish campers after another start to go missing and the body count is rising fast as they and cryptid hunter, Norm Cranston, enter the Barrens ready for the battle of a lifetime.
What is going on? After years of nothing more than a few random sighting, the Devil’s MO is getting a little sloppy. He’s being spotted a lot and he’s not doing much to hide the evidence of his kills.
The Jersey Devil is a thrill ride of head-ripping fun. Dismembered limbs are flying and heads are rolling, literally. Blood and gore abound and nowhere is safe.
And all this is even before the hunters meet one of the decedents of Mother Leeds who is reluctant to help them despite, or maybe because of, the recent uprising of violent activity.
Planning a trip to New Jersey? Tempted to take a stroll through the legendary Pine Barrens? Read Hunter’s rendering of The Jersey Devil before you go and you may just change your mind real quick like. If not, well, don’t say you haven’t been warned.
I give it 5 Ravens out of 5.