Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Mythology of Supernatural, Update #4: The Jersey Devil

Okay … so last week’s episode wasn’t exactly about the Jersey Devil. And the week before that, they threw a wrench in my plans to write about bewitched unions when it turned out that Becky was simply the victim of a crossroads demon.

While I am sure they are not intentionally trying to make my blogging life difficult, I sometimes feel as if the writers of Supernatural are just doing this stuff to drive me crazy.

Anyway … where was I?

Oh, yeah… Jersey Devil.

While last week’s episode turned out not to be the Jersey Devil, I figured I would go ahead and lay down a little of the lore about the creature anyway. They were a little sparse on the Jersey Devil lore in the episode, and it is a pretty crazy little chunk of American folklore that I think is totally worth sharing.

While there are a few versions of the tale, as there often are with legends such as these, here is a summary of the most commonly told version:

Most versions agree that the Jersey Devil was born sometime in 1735 in Smithville, New Jersey. The story goes that a women names Mrs. Leeds was at the full term of being pregnant with her THIRTEENTH child! (Wow ... just, wow). And, apparently, she wasn’t too happy about the way all this baby making was aging her. One dark and stormy night (yeah, I know, it’s an old cliché ... but stay with me) she went into labor. The contractions were especially painful this time around, it would seem. As Mrs. Leeds writhed in agony from a round of painful contractions, she screamed out and cursed the unborn child, saying something along the lines of “This child is the devil!” or, in other versions of the story, “Let this child be a devil!”

Soon thereafter, she gave birth to a beautiful, blue-eyed baby boy.

However, as soon as the midwife handed the newborn to its mother, the child began to wail and transform. Its face stretched forward, deforming into a shape similar to a horse’s head (some say a bat’s, which I have always found odd). Shaggy hair formed on its skin and leathery black wings sprouted from its back. The baby’s legs grew thin and its feet turn to cloven hooves (the presence of hooves is a common element of “demon-spawn” legends like this, as it was commonly believe that the devil had this feature). The infant’s tiny hands turned massive and from its fingers grew long, razor-sharp claws.

Everyone in the room froze in terror as the newborn baby’s cries turn to an ear-shattering wail. Before anyone could act, the newborn creature spread its wings, and with a mighty flap burst out through the roof of the home. It flew off into the night, and to this day roams the forests of New Jersey.

Like I said, there are other versions … not to mention a ton of recorded sightings (though many of the eyewitness accounts are inconsistent in describing the creature). Similar to sightings of the chupacabra, I believe that most Jersey Devil reports are likely the panicked recollections of people driven to hysteria by an unexpected encounter with some type of wild animal.

I have discussed this in a number of my books, how the line between “monster” and “animal” has more to do with human perception than it does with the creatures themselves. When a human encounters an animal that is not native to a habitat, or one that he/she is not expecting to see, then often the brain accounts for this by seeing a “monster.”

For example, many reported of chupacabra sightings have turned out to be encounters with inbred, mange-ridden coyotes. Some people theorize that a group of apes may have been released in North America, and that encounters with these apes are the reason for sightings of Bigfoot/Sasquatch. Some people think that the Jersey Devil sightings may be of a species of large bat native to Africa (which has a long snout and wide wingspan), a number of which (according to this theory) may have been released in North America at some point.

Then again, who am I to say that the Jersey Devil doesn’t exist?

I will say one thing … out of the multitude of recorded sightings … at least some of these people had to have seen something they could not explain.

Well folks, that's the update for now.

FYI: I am selling 2 more sets of signed copies of The Mythology of Supernatural with mojo bags. The link is below.

LINK: http://www.ebay.com/itm/160686669332?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

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