What is the legend of the Jersey Devil?

Chris Morocco: Sometimes, feeding yourself and your loved ones can seem impossible. The good news is, you’re not alone.
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And now, it’s time for Who Smarted?
Narrator: Hey there, Trusty here with a quick warning. While this episode is a fun look at a mythical creature, it may be a little scary for younger Smarty Pants. So please, if you get scared easily, I recommend that you skip this episode or don’t listen before bedtime.
Psst. Hey, Smarty Pants. As you can probably tell by the crickets, I’m outside. And from that owl hoot, you know it’s nighttime when owls are active. And that campfire lets you know I’m camping. And from the sound of the trees and rustling leaves, you may have guessed I am camping in the woods. But I’m not camping in just any woods, I’m in a particularly large marshy forest in the southern part of the state of New Jersey.
“Jersey? Yo, what exit?”
Narrator: It’s actually exit 7 off the Turnpike to Route 206 South, if you really want to know. Anyhoo, I’m pretty bushed after a long hike. I think I’ll put out my campfire, climb into the old tent, and get some much-needed shut eye. There’s nothing like a nice warm sleeping bag. I’ll be asleep in no time.
Whoa, what was that? Smarty Pants, you heard that too, right? I’ve met, studied, and even spoken to a lot of animals in my time, narrating Who Smarted, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything that sounds like… Yep, there’s definitely something strange out there.
Smarty Pants, any ideas what it is? Go ahead, shout out some guesses. I heard, “A bat.” Interesting. “A bear. A wolverine. A honey badger. An angry bird.” Hmm, maybe.
Oh boy, sounds like something’s coming closer. Where did I put my super bright flashlight? Ah, found it. Oh yes, something is definitely out there.
Gully: I’m telling you, Mox, based on wind direction, that sound came from 100 yards due west. Hey, is that a tent?
Mox: Brilliant observation, Gully. That is indeed a tent.
Gully: Maybe they know something.
Mox: I just hope they have some coffee. I’m starting to fade.
Narrator: Uh, excuse me? Who’s there?
Mox: Easy, Luke Skywalker. Put down the lightsaber. You’re blinding me here.
Narrator: Sorry. Hey, wait a sec. Aren’t you…
Mox: Agent Mox Fulder.
Gully: And Special Agent Gully.
Mox: Why do you get to be a special agent?
Gully: Because I said it and it sounds better.
Narrator: Yes. Of course, you’re two government agents from the Unexplained Phenomena Department. We met in Wyoming during our “Jackalopes” episode and again in the Himalayas, “Searching for Yeti.” I’m the trusty narrator from Who…
Gully: We know who you are.
Narrator: Oh! Anyway, I usually see you when I’m looking for cryptids. Smarty Pants, do you remember what a cryptid is? Is it,
A- Something that lives in a crypt?
B- A kind of cryptocurrency?
Or C- An animal-like creature that allegedly exists, but that we lack actual proof or scientific evidence of?
The answer, of course, is C.
Mox: But they are out there.
Narrator: But wait. If I only run into you when I’m searching for cryptids, and I just ran into you here in the woods, using the transitive property whereby A equals B and B equals C, therefore A equals C, I can safely assume, there’s a cryptid nearby. Yikes. Is that it?
Gully: Yes. This guy doesn’t have a clue.
Mox: Or any coffee. Come on, we got work to do.
Gully: Sorry to bother you. Enjoy your camping trip.
Narrator: Wait. There is something out there, isn’t there? Come on, you can tell me and the thousands of Smarty Pants listening. After all, I want to believe.
Mox: Have you ever heard of the Jersey Devil?
Narrator: Of course. They’re a hockey team.
Gully: Not the hockey team. The mysterious cryptid that’s been known to scare the daylights out of locals and unsuspecting visitors to the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Narrator: Oh. Hey, is that what the hockey team is named after?
Mox: Do you always catch on this quick?
Gully: Come on, Mox, it sounds like it’s moving further away.
Narrator: Agents Mox, Gully, please let me go with you, so the Smarty Pants and I can learn more about the Jersey Devil. Like, “How and when did the legend begin? How many sightings have there been? What does it look like? And could it possibly be a leftover creature from the prehistoric era?”
Gully: What do you say, Mox?
Narrator: I have coffee pods and a battery-operated coffee maker.
Mox: Fine. Let’s go. The truth is out there.
Narrator: Get ready for a cryptic whiff of science and some questionable history on… Who Smarted? Who Smarted? Who Smarted? Who Smarted? Is it you, is it me, is it science, or history? Listen up, everyone, we make smarting lots of fun, on Who Smarted?
Mox: Mmm, good coffee, Trusty.
Gully: It’s on the move again. Let’s pick up the pace.
Narrator: So, first question. “When was the Jersey Devil first sighted? How far back does the Jersey Devil legend go?”
Mox: According to the most popular account, the sighting that started it all traces way back to colonial times.
Narrator: Smarty Pants, “True or false, colonial times in the United States took place in the 16 and 1700s?” If you said “True,” you’re right.
Mox: In this instance, the year was 1735.
Gully: It’s what is referred to as the “Mother Leeds Version.”
Narrator: Mother Leeds? Who’s that?
Gully: According to the local townspeople, she was believed to be a sorceress.
Narrator: You mean, a witch?
Gully: Yes, if you believe in such things. I don’t.
Mox: I do.
Gully: I know. Back to the story. It was a stormy night when Mother Leeds gave birth to her 13th child.
Narrator: Oh, wait. She had 13 kids? That’s a lot of diapers.
Gully: As you know, many believe the Number 13 to be bad luck. Well, a few months later, that 13th child began taking on some pretty creepy characteristics.
Narrator: How creepy?
Mox: Well, his head took on the shape of a horse or a goat.
Narrator: Seriously?
Mox: That’s not all. His skinny, elongated body began to take on the form of a kangaroo, while bat-like wings sprung out from under its arms. He also grew hoof-like feet and a long devilish tail.
Narrator: Oh, come on now. There is no way that happened.
Mox: I thought you said you believe.
Narrator: I said, “I want to believe, but I need evidence for that.”
Gully: Thank you.
Mox: You want to hear the rest of this or not?
Narrator: Yes. Sorry.
Mox: According to the legend, Mother Leeds was so distraught over having given birth to such a monstrous creature, she kept it hidden away so the townsfolk wouldn’t see it.
Narrator: Poor kid. Or whatever it was.
Mox: Eventually, the Leeds child got tired of being cooped up. And one night, while everyone was asleep, it escaped from the basement, crawled up the chimney and flew off into the night.
Gully: Allegedly.
Narrator: Then what?
Mox: That’s just the start.
Narrator: Oh, wow. Smarty Pants, we’ll hear more about the sightings.
Gully: Alleged sightings.
Narrator: Right. Alleged sightings of this crazy-sounding cryptid, right after this quick break. And a word from our sponsors.

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Something strange is going on with the wildlife at Middling Park, and two nature-loving kids are the only ones nosy enough to get to the bottom of it.
Join Asha and Ollie as they team up on a journey to unearth the deep secrets of the animal kingdom, full of secret subterranean headquarters, dangerous missions, a surly squirrel, a pedantic polar bear, and a yodeling leopard gecko named, Phoebe.
Earth Rangers Underground, a mysterious new comedy adventure from Nine Story Media, coming this spring wherever you get your podcasts.

Now back to Who Smarted?
Chet: This is Chet Nickerson in hot pursuit of the wily creature known as the Jersey Devil. No, not a hockey player, a cryptid that’s been said to live in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I don’t know about you, but I’d sure hate to be tracking this supposed creature through the swampy marshes on foot.
And now sports. The New Jersey Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in overtime.
Narrator: Besides this kooky story about a supposed sorceress, Mother Leads and her bizarre horse-headed baby, has anyone actually seen this thing?
Mox: For nearly 300 years, there’s been thousands of sightings, mostly farmers claiming a creature tried to make off with their livestock or chickens.
Gully: One of the more interesting sightings even had a royal twist to it.
Narrator: Royal? As in kings and queens?
Gully: Yes. By none other than Joseph Bonaparte, the former king of Spain and older brother of Napoleon.
Narrator: The Napoleon?
Gully: Yes, that Napoleon. Unable to defend Spain against England during the Peninsular Wars, King Joseph was forced to leave the throne in 1813. Not long after, his brother the French Emperor lost the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. So, Joseph fled Europe and went into exile in, of all places, New Jersey.
Narrator: Oh, yes? What exit? Exit 7 for Bordentown. Please continue, Mox.
Mox: One snowy afternoon, while game hunting alone on his newly purchased property, he encountered a cryptid.
Gully: Allegedly.
Narrator: And this cryptid, of course, was…?
Mox: A Jackalope.
Narrator: What? Really?
Mox: No, of course not. It was the Jersey Devil.
Narrator: Oh, duh.
Gully: It wasn’t called the Jersey Devil yet. In the beginning, it was known as the Leeds Devil. Then with more alleged sightings, it became known as the Jersey Devil.
Mox: Because it has wings, the Jersey Devil is able to cover a lot of ground. The Pinelands occupy over a million acres of land, swamps, and marshes, so sightings and stories range. Everything from crops being cursed by the creature’s presence to dozens of individual reports over a one-week time period in 1909 that were registered with local police departments and featured in articles in multiple journals.
Gully: Descriptions vary, too. In some reports, the Jersey Devil is 6 feet or 1.8 meters tall or taller. In others, he’s only 4 feet, 1.2 meters tall, with red glowing eyes.
Narrator: I see. That makes me wonder if people really saw it.
Gully: That’s just it. People have mistook animals and even hunters for the Jersey Devil. And there have been hoaxes, too.
In 1909, two men bought a kangaroo from a circus, glued claws and wings to it and said they caught the Jersey Devil.
Narrator: Oh, wow.
Mox: Hey, that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Science professors from nearby universities and even experts from the Smithsonian Institution were brought in to determine if maybe this cryptid was actually a carryover from the Jurassic period because it somewhat resembled a prehistoric creature.
Narrator: Smarty Pants, what prehistoric creature does the Jersey Devil most resemble? Is it,
A- A brontosaurus.
B- A T-Rex.
C- A pterodactyl?
If you said, “A pterodactyl,” you’re right.
Gully: But none of those studies ever turned up anything useful. Today, people still claim they see it, and some even say they photographed it. None of it is very convincing.
Mox: Oh, yes? Explain that. Come on, we’re close.
Narrator: I can’t believe we’re in pursuit of a real-life cryptid.
Gully: I’ll believe it when I see it.
Mox: The truth is out there.
Narrator: Hey, what’s that straight ahead? Here, I’ll shine my flashlight on it. Look, there’s something perched on that short pine tree.
Mox: We’re definitely not alone.
Narrator: Why, it’s…
Chet: This is Chet Nickerson. Reporting live from the Pine Barrens, where I’m in pursuit of the famed Jersey Devil. I’m now being joined by the Trusty narrator and two unhappy-looking secret government agents.
Narrator: Chet, what are you doing here?
Chet: Well, I saw you from the air, and I figured I’d better land if I wanted to get the scoop.
Mox: What about the screeching sound? You heard that too, right?
Chet: Oh, you mean this? I’ve been watching cat videos while I’ve been waiting. I probably shouldn’t have held my phone so close to my microphone. But this one’s very funny.
Mox: I don’t believe it.
Gully: I do.

A big shout-out to my friend Keshav in Toronto, Canada. I hear your favorite part of Who Smarted is listening with your dad. Well, that makes us all very happy. Thanks so much to you both for being part of our Smarty family.

This episode, “The Jersey Devil,” was written by devilish Dave Davis and voiced by Jenna Highway 2 Hoban, Sheffield, Swamp Creature Chastain, Adam Wet Exit Davis, and Jerry Kolber.
Technical direction and sound design by Josh Highway 2 Hahn.
Who Smarted is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios. Our associate producer is Max, Cryptid Kamaski. The theme song is by Brian Leeds Baby Suarez, with lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex-Davis.
Who Smarted was created and produced by Adam Tex-Davis and Jerry Kolber.
This has been an Atomic Entertainment Production.