By Aaron Justice
Webster's Dictionary states that an anaconda is a tropical snake that reaches about 30 feet in length and crushes it's victims. This is the accepted scientist view, except for the crushing part; anacondas suffocate their prey. However, natives tell tales of a creature called the Sucuriju, a giant monster resembling a snake but much larger. These are the tales that form the enigma of Sucuriju Gigante, the giant anaconda of South America.
When the Pope gave part of South America to Spain and the other to Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesilla, the Spaniards explored this great continent of tropical forests. They came back with stories of enormous snakes which they called matora, or "bull eater". Some reports detailed them reaching over 80 feet in length. Colonel Percy Fawcett, who was sent to map out parts of the Amazon, claimed to have bagged a 62 foot long anaconda. As an officer of the Royal Engineers he was to write down his information meticulously. As he stated in his diary:
"I sprang for my rifle as the creature began to make it's way up the bank and smashed a .44 bullet into its spine. At once there was a flurry of foam and several heavy thumps against the boats keel, shaking us as though we had run on a snag. We stepped ashore and approached the creature with caution. As far as it was possible to measure, a length of 45 feet lay out of the water and 17 feet lay in the water, making it a total length of 62 feet. It's body was not thick, not more than 12 inches in diameter, but it had probably been long without food."
In 1925, Father Victor Heinz saw one of these snakes, most likely the anaconda, while on the Rio Negro of the Amazon River. He said that the visible portion was at least 80 feet long and the body was as thick as an oil drum. It was throwing up a wake as large as a river.
Bernard Huevelmans, the father of Cryptozoology, records an encounter of an anaconda with a group of Frenchmen and Brazilians.
"We saw the snake asleep in a large patch of grass. We immediately opened fire upon it. It tried to make off all in convulsions but we caught up with it and finished it off. Only then did we realize how enormous it was, when we walked around the whole length of its body it seemed like it would never end. What struck me was its enormous head, a triangle about 24 inches by 20. We had no instruments to measure the beast, but we took an arms length of string and measured it about one meter by placing it on a man's shoulder and extending it to his fingertips. We measured the snake several times and each time we got a length of 25 strings. The creature was well over 23 meters (75 feet) long."
Scientists never regard eyewitness accounts as evidence, it would take a good documentary or a body to investigate, but a body may be impossible to get out of the jungle. First it is hard to travel through the Amazon rain forest, not to mention with an 80 foot long, several ton body. Photographic evidence may be the only one possible. Up until the late 40's there was no photographic evidence for the Sucuriju, but that came to a halt in 1948.
The Diario, the newspaper of Pernambuco in Brazil, of January 24, 1948 published a picture with a headline 'Anaconda Weighing 5 Tons.' The picture shows a part of a giant anaconda that was caught by band of Indian half breeds. It was engaged in a siesta near a river with a bull half swallowed. The Indians tied a rope to its neck and tied the other end to a tree. The anaconda measured 131 feet long. Four months later the newspaper of Rio called A Noite Illustrada held a photograph of an anaconda slaughtered by Militia. It's length totaled 115 feet. Herpetologists accept neither photographs as good evidence for the larger than normal anaconda, which they accept a length of 35 feet. Unfortunately the first photograph offers almost nothing for scale except a hut in the background so it is easily dismissed as 'a normal sized anaconda ingesting nothing more than a capybara which is native to the area'. Then much more limpid evidence was produced in 1959.
Colonel Rene van Lierde was piloting his helicopter over the Katanga province of the Belgian Congo. Suddenly a gigantic snake reared up as if to attack his helicopter. He lifted up and took several photos of the snake and continued his journey. His estimate of the size of the snake was about 40-50 feet, and that is the same estimation made by zoologists who later examined the photo. Even still, the largest scientifically measured snake was a 32 foot long reticulated python killed in Indonesia as the world's longest snake. Until one of these magnificent creatures is brought in, dead or alive, the Sucuriju will always be known as a cryptid.
Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, Simon Welfare & John Fairley
Claws, Jaws, and Dinosaurs, William J. Gibbons and Dr. Kent Hovind
For over two centuries, the
state of New Jersey has been haunted by the creature known as the Jersey
Devil, or sometimes as the Leeds Devil. Although strictly speaking
it is a legendary creature, many Jerseyites have claimed encounters with
it. Their descriptions vary widely, however. But perhaps
before we discuss the Devil as a "real" animal, we should
summarize the legends of its origin.
1) One version says that a Mrs. Shrouds of Leeds Point wished that if she
ever had another child, it would be a devil. She got her wish, and
the child was born deformed and disfigured. She kept it in the house, but
one night its arms changed into wings and it flew out through the chimney.
2) Another variation says that the Devil's mother was a young woman from
Leeds Point who fell in love with a British soldier during the
Revolutionary War. The other people of Leeds Point cursed her, since
the child was born of an act of treason.
3) In another legend placing the birth of the Devil in Leeds Point, the
creature was said to be punishment by God upon the people of the town for
their mistreatment of a minister.
4) The Devil's birthplace was Estellville. A Mrs. Leeds became
pregnant for a 13th time and wished the child to be a devil. It was
born not only deformed, but with horns, a tail, wings, and a demon's head.
After flying off, the Devil came by to visit its mother every day, and
every day she told it to leave. Eventually it did.
5) Mother Leeds of Burlington was a supposed witch. One night in
1735, she gave birth to the Devil's child, who changed into a horrible
winged creature and flew out the chimney after beating everyone present at
6) There are many other variants, as well.
A common fact binds the first four variants together--the use of the name
Leeds, whether as the birthplace or the mother's name. Atlantic
County historian Alfred Heston says that a Daniel Leeds came to Leeds
Point in 1699, and the Shrouds, the family mentioned in Variant 1, also
lived in the town. Prof. Fred MacFadden of Coppin College in
Baltimore says that a "devil" was mentioned in Burlington
records from approximately 1735. All these facts seem to suggest
that there is some basis in fact for the Devil legend.
Sometime early in the nineteenth century, the famous naval hero Stephen
Decatur was firing several cannons when he saw a flying creature.
Sometime between 1816 and 1839, Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon,
saw the Devil in Bordentown. In the winter of 1840-1841, many sheep
and chickens were slaughtered by an unknown beast of prey. In
1859-1894, there were several sightings of the Jersey Devil in the Leeds
Point area. Finally, in 1899, George Saarosy of Pearl River, New
York saw a "flying serpent" he identified as the Devil.
In 1903, the American folklorist Charles Skinner related his belief that
the Jersey Devil legends would cease with the turning of the century.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
For six years, it seemed that
Charles Skinner's prophecy was coming true--there had been very few
reported sightings of the Jersey Devil. But all that changed in one
week, January 16-23, 1909. In that single week, literally thousands
of people all over New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania saw the Devil.
The first sighting of this "flap" came early on the morning of
the 16th. That's when Zack Cozzens saw it by the side of the
road as he was driving through Woodbury. "I first heard a
hissing sound," said Cozzens, "Then, something white flew across
the street. I saw two spots of phosphorous--the eyes of the
beast...It was as fast as an auto."
On the other side of the Delaware River, in Bristol, Pennsylvania, liquor
store owner John McOwen heard a scratching sound, and looked out the
window to see something like a gigantic bird. Later on that night,
James Sackville, a patrolman, saw the creature flying and screaming. About
the same time, the postmaster, E.W. Minster, was awakened by a sharp
scream, and saw a flying monster with a long neck and a horse-like head.
The next morning, the Devil's hoofprints were found in the snow.
Back in New Jersey, in the city of Burlington, the Lowdens woke up to find
their trash half-eaten and mysterious hoofprints all around. Many of
Burlington's yards contained these strange marks. Similar
tracks--going up trees, over walls and rooftops, and disappearing in the
middle of a field, were also found in Columbus, Hedding, Kinhora and
Rancocas. Dogs used to follow the trail seemed oddly reluctant to do
The next day, two hunters near Gloucester managed to find the Devil and
track it for 20 miles, following its trail of hoofprints. The prints
were found throughout southern New Jersey. That same day, a group of
people in Camden saw it. It barked and flew into the air.
Very early Wednesday morning (at approximately 2:30 AM), Mr. & Mrs.
Nelson Evans, residents of Gloucester, were awakened by an odd noise.
Looking out their window, they observed a creature that could only have
been the Jersey Devil.
It was about three feet and a half high, with a
head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck,
wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane,
and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two
short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all
while we were watching...I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo',
and it turned around and barked at me, and flew away.
A Burlington police officer and Rev. John
Pursell of Pemberton both saw the Devil. Rev. Pursell said
that the creature was like nothing he had ever seen. The
inexplicable hoofprints were found near Haddonfield and Riverside; the
Devil was seen flying about near Collingswood. At the Mount Carmel
Cemetery in Moorestown, John Smith saw the flying monster, as did George
Snyder of the same town.
The next day, the Devil was seen flying above a trolley car near
Clementon. In Trenton, E.P. Weeden heard wings flapping and found
more inexplicable hoofprints, which were also found at the arsenal in
Trenton. Trolley cars in Trenton and New Brunswick were supplied
with armed conductors in case of a Devil attack, and churches in Pitman
and many other New Jersey communities were filled with people.
Farmers on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware
found their chickens mysteriously killed, and the firemen of West
Collingswood fired at the creature with their hoses.
In Camden, a Mrs. Sorbinski heard a strange noise, and looked outside to
see the Devil standing there, its paws gripping her dog's back.
She hit the creature with a broom and it dropped her dog and flew off.
The police, hearing her screams, managed to fire upon the creature near
The next morning, one of Camden's policemen, Louis Strehr, said that he
saw the Jersey Devil drinking from a horse trough. In Mt. Ephraim,
the school was closed due to lack of attendance, for fear of the Devil,
as were factories in Gloucester and Hainesport. Later on
that day, both Blackwood policeman Merchant and Jacob Henderson of Salem
saw the Devil.
The last sighting of 1909 took place in February.
The next sighting after Leslie
Garrison's sighting in February of 1909 was a vague report from West
Orange of a "flying lion," seen in 1926. The next year, a
cab driver outside of Salem got a flat tire. As he was changing the
tire, a hairy creature, a beast that today would be called
"Bigfoot," leaped onto the roof of his car and shook it.
The driver threw down his jack and tire and fled.
This incident probably served as the inspiration for an early episode of The
X-Files, which presented their interpretation of the Devil.
However, these Bigfoot-types, as well as the feral person in the episode,
bear no resemblance to the Jersey Devil of tradition.
The hairy humanoid version of the Devil put in an appearance at Uwchland,
Pennsylvania (near Downington) in 1932, shambling out of some undergrowth
and scaring John McCandless. It also put in an appearance in
Woodstown, New Jersey, in 1936.
1951 saw the beginnings of a second flap not nearly as large as that of
1909. The Philadelphia Record recounted
the story of a ten-year-old boy who saw a bloody-faced monster outside his
bedroom window. This was in Gibbstown. The Gibbstown sighting
gave way to new sightings of the Devil. There were at least three
reports of screams in the forest, although even witnesses to the Devil's
appearance could not agree on it. Reports varied from the
traditional 1909 demon, a seven-foot Bigfoot, and a relatively short
The police investigated sightings of mysterious pawprints in the snow, and
found only a bear's paw on the end of a stick. Soon, they posted
signs proclaiming "The Jersey Devil is a hoax." The police
arrested several freelance Devil hunters who took to the forest with
shotguns and rifles.
Phillip Smith of Salem saw the Jersey Devil walking down a street in 1953.
On October 31, 1957, Department of Conservation workers found something
odd in the Barrens -- the skeleton of a bird-like creature. Locals
quickly proclaimed the Devil was dead, and would be seen no more. Of
course, the skeleton proved to be a Halloween hoax.
Mysterious bird-type tracks were found on the shores of Lake Atsion in
1960. Berle Schwed, one of the witnesses, said they were similar to a
bird's. And the next year, 2 couples in a car heard a screeching
noise outside, followed by something heavy jumping on their car's roof and
In 1966, Steven Silkotch of Burlington County blamed the deaths of 31
ducks, 3 geese, 4 cats, and 2 dogs -- German Shepherds, no less -- on the
depredations of the Devil. That same year, Ray Todd and some
friends saw a strange, faceless, scaly creature with black hair moving
across a field near Morristown, New Jersey. Todd was later driven to
the Municipal Hall by a young lady who claimed to have seen a similar
creature in 1965.
Jerseyite Joe Springer recalled years later how a man heard the Devil's
screams in the Barrens in 1974. In 1981, the Devil returned to Lake
Atsion, and was seen this time. And in 1987, a German Shepherd
was found lying 25 feet away from its chain. It was torn apart
and partially consumed. All around its body were strange tracks.
So what is the Devil, if indeed it exists? This is not an easy
question, as the descriptions of the Devil's appearance are not easily
reconciled. Some reports clearly describe a hairy humanoid or
Bigfoot-type creature, while others refer to what may be simply erratic
animals. Then there are the "traditional" sightings of a winged
Most researchers concentrate on the Devil as it is traditionally described
in New Jersey folklore. In this case, there are several theories.
One, proposed in the heyday of the devil sightings, held that the Devil
was a pterodactyl, which survived to the present day in caverns under New
Jersey. Another theory, advanced as a joke, identified the Devil as
a "jabberwock." Another "joke" theory said that the
Devil was something called an "astormundiakins."
Semi-serious theories held that the Devil was some type of bird. One
had it that there had been an invasion of scrowfoot ducks, but the
traditional Jersey Devil was distinctly un-ducklike. Another popular
theory holds that it, like the "Mothman" of West Virginia, was a
sandhill crane. This theory seems most likely of the two.
Another, proposed by folklorist Jack E. Boucher, states that perhaps Mrs.
Leeds merely had a deformed child, keeping it in the house and feeding it.
After she died, the creature escaped the house, raiding farms to get food.
Even after its death, the legend of the "devil child" lived on.
This is probably the most likely of all.
The Jersey Devil is one of many creatures for which we have no shortage of
sightings, but which seems a biological impossibility. Whether it
proves to be a biological entity, some paranormal phenomenon, or merely an
interesting footnote in folklore, the Devil is certainly a unique
Lo! (pp. 539-841, The Complete Books of Charles Fort).
New York: Dover.
MCCLOY, James F. and Ray Miller
The Jersey Devil. Wallingford, PA: Middle Atlantic.
The Jersey Devil of the Pine Barrens. Strange
American Myths and Legends. Philadelphia: J.B. Lipincott.
The Dover Demon
On April 21, 1977, three 17-year-old boys were driving through the Boston suburb of Dover, Massachusetts, at about 10:30 p.m. The driver, Bill Bartlett, saw in his headlights an animal creeping along a low stone wall by the roadside. At first he thought it was a cat or dog, but as he came closer he saw that it was like no earthly creature he'd ever seen.
Bartlett said it had a large head the size and shape of a watermelon, with no visible features except for two round, orange eyes. The rest of its body was thin and spindly, with long, extended fingers and toes that wrapped around the rocks of the stone wall as it walked. It was between three and four feet tall, with peach-colored, hairless skin.
After his quick glimpse, Bartlett asked his two friends if they saw what they'd just driven past. As it turned out, they had been talking to each other at the moment, and didn't see the creature. They persuaded Bartlett go back for another look, even though he was so frightened he didn't want to turn around. They found nothing when they went back. Bartlett then headed home and made drawings of what he had seen (one of which is shown here).
That report alone would make for a pretty good monster story, but then something else happened. About two hours after Bartlett's sighting and a little over a mile away, 15-year-old John Baxter was walking home from his girlfriend's house when he saw a small figure walking towards him on the same side of the road. Baxter thought it was a neighborhood boy he knew, and called out the boy's name. He got no answer. The two walked closer together until Baxter saw the other figure suddenly stop. It then ran off down a gully and climbed up to the opposite bank. Baxter followed and got his first good look at the creature, which he said had a large, round head, a thin body and long, grasping fingers and toes. Baxter watched the creature for a moment, then became scared and ran away from it.
Baxter also drew pictures of what he had seen. Soon word spread of his and Bartlett's sightings, and when their stories and drawings were compared, it seemed that the two had seen exactly the same creature. By all accounts, Bartlett and Baxter had never met before, and there was no reason to suspect that they had conspired together on a monster hoax.
The day after the sightings, Bartlett told his 18-year-old friend Will Taintor about what he had seen. That night, Taintor was driving 15-year-old Abby Brabham home around midnight. Brabham claimed to see a creature matching the same description crouching by the side of the road as they drove past -- even though she had reportedly not heard about what Taintor's friend had seen. Taintor also caught a fleeting glimpse of the creature.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman happened to be living in the Dover area at the time of these sightings, and was among the first investigators to tackle the case. It was he who named the creature the Dover Demon, a name that was picked up by the press and has stuck with the creature ever since. Interviews with the witnesses convinced Coleman that their encounters were genuine, despite their youth and the weirdness of what they had seen. It has been suggested that the animal they saw may have actually been a newborn horse, but that seems an unlikely solution. The Dover Demon remains one of the most baffling and compelling of all unexplained creature sightings.
The Native American Thunderbird
Information submitted by: email@example.com
In the legends of native North Americans, the thunderbird is a powerful
spirit in the form of a bird. Lightning flashes from its beak, and the
beating of its wings is creates the thunder. It is often portrayed with an
extra head on its abdomen. The majestic thunderbird is often accompanied
by lesser bird spirits, frequently in the form of eagles or falcons. The
thunderbird petroglyph symbol has been found across Canada and the United
States. Evidence of similar figures has been found throughout Africa,
Asia, and Europe.
More on the Thunderbird
by Steve Mizrach
Thunderbird and Trickster
Introduction The Thunderbird is one of the few cross-cultural elements of
Native North American mythology. He is found not just among Plains
Indians, but also among Pacific Northwest and Northeastern tribes. He has
also become quite a bit of an icon for non-Indians, since he has also had
the honor of having
automobiles, liquors, and even a United States Air Force squadron named
after him. Totems bearing his representation can be found all over the
continent. There have been a number of curious theories
about the origins of the Thunderbird myth - ones which I will show are
probably wrongheaded. In this paper, moreover, I want to examine how the
myths and legends of the Thunderbird tie into the
sacred clowning/trickster ritual complex of Plains tribes such as the
Lakota. I will show how the Thunderbird is intimately connected to this
complex, and attempt to explain why. It is the intimate
association between these two traditions that may help explain some
features of Plains culture and folklore. Aspects of the Thunderbird myth
only make sense in light of these associations.
Plains Indians myth and folklore In order to understand Plains Indians
folklore, we have to realize that their myths were not just
"just-so" stories to entertain, divert, or make inadequate
naturalistic explanation. Rather, Indian myth functioned in religious,
pedagogical, and initiatory ways, to help socialize young people
and illuminate the various religious and other roles in society. Indian
myth was always fluid, and grounded in the present, which is what might be
expected of societies which largely lacked static,
written traditions. Storytelling was an art which was maintained by the
medicine people with great fidelity, because it was used to explain the
development of certain rituals and elements of society.
Some have looked at the Thunderbird myths
through the same lens of understanding applied to European mythology. The
Thunderbird is like the Indo-European dragon or ogre or Leviathan, a
huge monster who kidnaps virginal maidens, and who must be slain by the
brave hero. Or the Thunderbird is simply treated as some kind of fantastic
oddity, like the mythical unicorn or mermaid -
an impossible construction borne from the extremes of the imagination.
Both these attempts at explaining myth lose the important point of seeing
Thunderbird as a personification of energies in nature - those found in
violent thunderstorms and such - and his crucial dual nature. Still, the
Indians were not merely "mythmaking" in the pejorative sense.
They no more literally
believed in a giant bird generating storms through the beating of its
wings, then Christians today literally believe in their divine being as an
old man with a beard sitting on a marble throne. Thunderbird is an
allegory; his conflicts with other forces in nature are then an attempt to
allegorize relationships observed in the natural order, such as the
changing of the weather. Like other Thunder
Beings, he is essentially an attempt to represent the patterns of
activity of a powerful, mysterious force in a way that can be understood
simply and easily - sort of the way in which a weather map functions
today. (Edmonds and Clark 1989) The Plains Indians believed that
everything that was found in nature had a human representative in
microcosm. Everything in nature often contained its own opposite polarity,
hence the expected existence of beings such as contraries, women warriors,
and berdaches. Because the Thunderbird in particular represented this
mysterious dual aspect of nature, manifest through the primordial power of
thunderstorms, it is not surprising that his representatives were the
heyoka or sacred clowns, who displayed wisdom through seemingly foolhardy
action. Western thinking has prevented us from seeing the reasons why
Indians perceived this connection. Few anthropologists have sought to
locate how Thunderbird may have been mythologically linked to Trickster.
The Nature of Thunderbird
In Plains tribes, the Thunderbird is sometimes known as Wakinyan, from the
Dakota word kinyan meaning "winged." Others suggest the word
links the Thunderbird to wakan, or sacred power. In many stories, the
Thunderbird is thought of as a great Eagle, who
produces thunder from the beating of his wings and flashes lightning from
his eyes. (Descriptions are vague because it is thought
Thunderbird is always surrounded by thick, rolling clouds which prevent
him from being seen.) Further, there were a variety of beliefs about
Thunderbird, which suggest a somewhat complicated
picture. Usually, his role is to challenge some other great power and
protect the Indians - such as White Owl Woman, the bringer of winter
storms; the malevolent Unktehi,water oxen who plague mankind; the horned
serpents; Wochowsen, the enemy bird; or Waziya, the killing North Wind.
But in some other legends
(not so much in the Plains), Thunderbird is himself malevolent, carrying
off people (or reindeer or whales) to their doom, or slaying people who
seek to cross his sacred mountain. (Erdoes and Ortiz 1984) Many Plains
Indians claim there are in fact four colors (varieties) of Thunderbirds
(the blue ones are said, strangely, to have no ears or eyes), sometimes
associated with the four cardinal directions, but also sometimes only with
the west and the western wind. (According to the medicine man Lame Deer,
there were four, one at each compass point, but the western one was the
Greatest and most senior.) (Fire and Erdoes 1972) The fact that they are
sometimes known as "grandfathers" suggest they are held in
considerable reverence and awe. It is supposed to be very dangerous to
approach a Thunderbird nest, and many are supposed to have died in the
attempt, swept away by ferocious storms. The symbol of Thunderbird is the
red zig-zag, lightning-bolt design, which some people mistakenly think
represents a stairway. Most tribes feel he and the other Thunder beings
first to appear in the Creation, and that they have an especially close
connection to wakan tanka, the Great Mysterious. (Gill and Sullivan 1992)
The fact that Thunderbird sometimes appears as
something that terrorizes and plagues Indians, and sometimes as their
protector and liberator (in some myths, he was once an Indian himself) is
said to reflect the way thunderstorms and violent weather are seen by
Plains people. On the one hand, they bring life-giving rain (Thunderbird
is said to be the creator of 'wild rice' and other Plains Indians crops);
on the other hand, they bring hail, flood, and lightning and fire. It is
not clear where with them worship and awe end, and fear and terror begin.
Some Indians claim that
there are good and bad Thunderbirds, and that these beings are at war with
each other. Others claim that the large predatory birds which are said to
kidnap hunters and livestock are not Thunderbirds at all. Largely, I
suspect that this dual nature of the Thunderbird ties it to the Trickster
figure in Indian belief: like the Trickster, the harm the Thunderbird
causes is mostly because it is so large and powerful and primeval. Origins
of the Thunderbird Myth
Cryptozoologists like Mark A. Hall, having studied the Thunderbird myths
of numerous tribes, and compared them to (mostly folkloric) accounts of
unusually large birds in modern times, as well as
large birds (like the Roc) in other mythic traditions, suggest that there
may well be a surviving species of large avians in America - big enough,
apparently, to fly off carrying small animals or children, as has been
claimed in some accounts. (Hall suggests the wingspan of such a species
would be several feet longer than any known birds - certainly bigger than
that of the turkey vulture or other identifiable North American species.)
(Hall 1988) Such researchers feel the Thunderbird myth may have originated
from sightings of a real-life flesh-and-blood avian which might be an
atavism from earlier
epochs (a quasi-pterodactyl or teratorn, perhaps.) However, the big
problem with this theory is that most ornithologists consider it to be
quite farfetched. If such a species existed (a situation akin to the
folkloric Sasquatch), it would be amazing that to this point it has
remained unidentified and uncatalogued. A species of birds that big,
unless it consisted of an extremely small number of members, would find it
hard to avoid detection for long. Hall does suggest the possibility that
maybe, like the mastodon, these large birds were hunted to extinction
prior to the arrival of Europeans on the North American continent. Still,
the other problem with his theory is that it ignores what Indians
themselves have to say about the Thunderbird. They describe the
Thunderbird as a spiritual, not just physical, being. It is not seen as
just a large, fearsome predatory bird that people tell stories about.
Rather, it's an integral part of Plains Indians religion and ritual. Only
by ignoring this fact could we put our Western ethnocentric biases into
effect, and reduce it to a zoological curiosity. The Thunderbird is much
more than that; the Indian attitude toward it comes from more than just
the mere fact that it is supposed to be really big. To understand
the origins of Thunderbird myths, it's necessary to see how they connect
with other elements of Indian belief and ceremony - especially the
Trickster complex - and see how they fit into the
structure of Plains Indian myth as a whole. Clowning around in Plains
Indian culture Clowning, like the icon of the Thunderbird, could be found
in almost every North American Indian
society. In every case, it involved ridiculous behavior, but on the
Plains it especially exhibited inversion and reversal as elements of
satire. There were four types of clown societies on the Plains -
age-graded societies, military societies, the northern plains type, and
the heyoka shamanistic societies. The behaviors of all sorts of clowns
revolved around a few basic themes or attributes:
burlesque, mocking the sacred, playing pranks or practical jokes, making
obscene jokes or gestures, caricature of others, exhibiting gross gluttony
or extreme appetite, strange acts of self-mortification or
self-deprecation, and taunting of enemies or strangers.
(Steward 1991) The age-graded clown societies
primarily consisted of older people who had been inducted into their ranks
- groups such as the Gros Ventre Crazy Lodge or the Hidatsa Dog
Society. These clowns were assumed to simply be playing a role appropriate
to their sodality, rather than receiving some
sort of supernatural inspiration. They carried out certain expected
ritual performances on proscribed days, such as the Crazy Dance or the
imitation of animals. In contrast, the military clown societies
such as the Cheyenne Inverted Bow String Warriors, often carried comical
or ridiculous weapons, but were also expected to show absurd bravery in
battle, provoking the enemy into giving up its
discipline and cohesion with taunts and insults. Not surprisingly, they
sometimes rode their horses backwards into battle. The northern plains
clowns, found among tribes such as the Ojibway, wore masks which made them
appear to be two-faced, and costumes of rags which made them appear
comical. All of these three types of clown societies practiced a sort of
conventionalized or patterned sort of anti-natural behavior. That is, they
might do something which seemed strange or contrary, but under somewhat
regular conditions. You knew when they might do something weird - and
there were times when they were forbidden to perform their antics.
Further, they might often "give up" the clowning way of life,
and return to a non-contrary state by marrying and engaging in a more
normal mode of existence. The heyoka were different in three primary ways
from the other sorts of clowns. They were truly
unpredictable, and could do the unexpected or tasteless even during the
most solemn of occasions. Moreso than other clowns, they really seemed to
be insane. Also, they were thought to be more inspired by trans-human
supernatural forces (as individuals driven by spirits rather than group
conventions), and to have a closer link to wakan or power than other
clowns. And lastly, they kept their role for life - it was a sacred
calling which could not be given up without performing an agonizing ritual
of expiation. Not surprisingly, these unique differences were seen as the
result of their having visions of Thunderbird, a unique and transforming
Testimony of Black
the heyoka and lightning
The Oglala Indian Black Elk had some interesting things to say about the
heyoka ceremony, which he himself participated in. Black Elk describes the
"dog in boiling water" ceremony in some detail. Healso describes
the bizarre items he had to carry as a heyoka, and the crazy antics he had
to perform with his companions. He also attempts to explain the link
between the contrary trickster nature of heyokas with that of Thunderbird.
"When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes
with terror like a
thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is
greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the
world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror
of the storm... you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two
faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same
face, laughing or weeping. When people
are already in despair, maybe the laughing is better for them; and when
they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face
is better. And so I think this is what the heyoka
ceremony is for ... the dog had to be killed quickly and without making
any scar, as lightning kills, for it is the power of lightning that
heyokas have." (quoted in Neihardt 1959: 160)
Today, of course, Western physicists describe the dual nature of
electricity. An object can carry a positive or negative electric charge.
The electron is simultaneously a wave and a particle. Electricity and
magnetism are thought to be aspects of the same force, and as is well know
with magnetism, it comes in polarities, with opposite poles (north and
south) attracting. Though the Indians did not have access to our modern
scientific instruments, they are likely to have observed some of the same
properties in lightning. Thus it would have been intuitive to link the
dual spiritual nature of the heyoka (tragicomedy - solemn joking - joy
united with pain) with the dual nature of electricity. Thunderbird and
Heyoka, the Sacred Clown It was believed among the Lakota and other tribes
that if you had a dream or vision of birds, you were destined to be a
medicine man; but if you had a vision of Thunderbird, it was your destiny
become something else; heyoka, or sacred clown. Like Thunderbird, the
heyoka were at once feared and held in reverence. They were supposed to
startle easily at the first sound of thunder or
first sight of lightning. Thunderbird supposedly inspired the
"contrariness" of the heyoka through his own contrary nature. He
alternates strong winds with calm ones. While all things in nature move
clockwise, Thunderbird is said to move counterclockwise. Thunderbird is
said to have sharp teeth, but no mouth; sharp claws, but no limbs; huge
wings, but no body. All of these things suggest
Thunderbird (and the heyoka) have a curious, paradoxical, contrary
nature. You could become heyoka through a vision of the Thunderbird, or
just of lightning or a formidable winged being of power. (Steiger 1974)
While clown societies were found throughout the Plains, the heyoka, or
sacred clowns, were usually few in number, but were found in almost every
clan. Heyoka were contraries, often speaking and walking backwards. They
acted in ridiculous, obscene, and comical ways, especially during sacred
ceremonies. They were thought to be fearless and painless, able to seize a
piece of meat out of a pot of boiling water. They often dressed in a
bizarre and ludicrous manner, wearing conical hats, red paint, a bladder
over the head (to simulate baldness), and bark earrings. The heyoka was
thought to usually carry various sacred items - a deer hoof rattle, a
colored bow, a flute, or drum. His "anti-natural" nature was
thought to be shamanistic in origin -- and as a contrary, he was expected
to act silly and foolhardy during battle (although this was found more
among warrior clown societies such as the Cheyenne Inverted Warriors.)
However insulting or sacrilegious heyoka actions might be, they were
tolerated, since it was assumed they were acting on the higher and more
inscrutable imperatives of the
Great Mystery. Heyoka were freed from all the ordinary constraints of
life, and thus were usually not expected to marry, have
children, or participate in the work of the tribe. Despite their bizarre
acts (such as dressing in warm clothes during summer or wearing things
inside out), they were trusted as healers, interpreters of
dreams, and people of great medicine. Whenever they interrupted the
solemnity of a ceremony, people took it as an admonition to see beyond the
literalness of the ritual and into the deeper
mysteries of the sacred. Like the flash of lightning, the heyoka's sudden
outbursts and disturbances were thought to be the keys to enlightenment -
much like the absurd acts of Zen masters in Japan.
Thunderbird and Trickster
Part of the link between heyoka and Thunderbird comes from Iktomi, the
Trickster figure. Iktomi is said to be heyoka because he has seen and
talked with Thunderbird. Iktomi is the first-born son of
Inyan (rock), and is said to speak with rocks and stones. Like Coyote and
other Trickster figures, Iktomi likes to pull pranks on people, but is
just as often the victim of tricks and misfortunes. This
makes him at once a culture hero, and a figure to be feared and avoided.
Iktomi was thought to be a hypersexual predator, one who frequently
pursued winchinchalas (young virgins) who bathed in
streams, through various methods of deceit. Yet his pursuits and antics
often wound up with him inadvertently getting hurt or winding up in
trouble. Paul Radin suggests that Iktomi and other Trickster figures are
akin to the Great Fool or Wild Man of European folklore, who often shows
up in the Feast of Fools and other ceremonies where the social order is
turned topsy-turvy. (Radin 1956) Jung, following his lead, claims the
Trickster as an archetypal part of the collective unconscious; and his
"crazy wisdom" as emblematic of humankind's earlier, undivided,
unindividuated consciousness. Iktomi and other tricksters seem to be at
the constant mercy of their desires; yet their blind luck always seems to
protect them from the consequences of their missteps. He is dangerous
primarily because he is so powerful, yet so rarely has the forethought or
good judgment to use his power wisely. Radin and others proclaim him the
representative of untamed, unpredictably wild nature, within the confines
of culture. In other cultural traditions, thunder and lightning are
connected with the unexpected. We talk about a
"bolt out of the blue." In American folk culture, there are a
legendary stories of mysterious cures or transformations wrought by
someone being struck by lightning. It's at once dangerous, and a
symbol of sudden, shocking revelation and inspiration. It's also the
primary weapon in most pantheons of the chief sky god (such as Zeus in
Greek mythology.) For the Plains Indians, thunder
and lightning symbolized the vast, uncontrollable energy of nature. It's
not surprising, then, that the Thunderbird is connected with the strange,
uncontrollable force of the Trickster figure, and his avatar, the heyoka.
Significance of the Trickster Figure and "Contrariness" in
Plains Society Psychological anthropologists, especially those oriented
toward psychoanalytic theory and depth psychology, point to the Trickster
figure as a sort of important cultural "release valve." He
represents the "return of the repressed," the Dionysian aspects
of life only temporarily held in abeyance by the Apollonian forces of
civilization. The carnivals and feasts held in honor of fools in Europe,
suggest some anthropologists, are "outlets," allowing people to
invert the social order temporarily as a way of promoting its continuity
in the long run (avoiding its ultimate collapse.) The ruler is dressed in
peasants' clothes, and some ignorant serf is crowned king. Symbols of
authority normally held in
extreme reverence are mocked and desecrated. Clowns and contraries in
Plains societies do not just come out once a year, however. They are
permanent parts of the society, and are seen as continual reminders of the
contingency and arbitrariness of the social order. Long before French
theorists came on the scene, the heyoka was reminding his own people about
the social construction of reality. By doing everything backwards, the
heyoka in a way is carrying out a constant experiment in ethnomethodology,
showing people how their own expectations limit their behavior. Like a
good performance artist, the shocking behavior of the heyoka is supposed
to confront people and make them reconsider what they may have arbitrarily
accepted as normal. It's to "jolt" them out of their ordinary
frames of mind.
More importantly, as a representative of
Thunderbird and Trickster, the heyoka reminds his people that the
primordial energy of nature is beyond good and evil. It doesn't
correspond to human categories of right and wrong. It doesn't always
follow our preconceptions of what is expected and
proper. It doesn't really care about our human woes and concerns. Like
electricity, it can be deadly dangerous, or harnessed for great uses. If
we're too narrow or parochial in trying to understand it, it
will zap us in the middle of the night. Like any good trickster, the
heyoka plays pranks on others in his culture not to make them feel
embarrassed and stupid, but to show them ways they could start
being more smart. The Account of John (Fire) Lame Deer: Heyoka and ASC
Lame Deer calls the heyoka the "upside-down, forward-backward,
icy-hot contrary." He describes in detail one particular heyoka trick
which may give some clues to the nature of their antics. Apparently, they
would grab pieces of dog meat out of a pot of boiling water, and fling
them at a crowd of people, without being burned or harmed in any way. (Why
dog meat? Lame Deer gives a clue when he says, "For the heyoka, he
says god when he means dog, and dog when he means god.") Lame Deer
suggests before doing this they chewed a grayish moss called tapejuta. I
suspect that heyoka were able to perform this feat through going into
trance, an altered state of consciousness, by utilizing this and other
psychotropic plants on occasion. More importantly, I think they induced
trance in others through their contrary behavior. Psychologists have noted
that trance does not always occur through rhythmic repetition. Another way
in which it occurs (the "paradoxical state") is through a sudden
shock to the nervous system. Ethnomethodologists have often noted the
blank, glassy stares and strange states produced by violating peoples'
expectations - by, for example, getting into an elevator and facing the
other people in it. It's in such "paradoxical states" that
people often may assimilate new information quickly, without filtering.
They also may be able to "abreact" psychological trauma. For
these reasons, the heyoka may have been seen as a source of wisdom and
healing. Lame Deer seems to suggest the power of trance is connected to
the power of Thunderbird. As a paradoxical state of consciousness, it ties
into the paradoxical energy of thunder and lightning. The crash of thunder
can startle us and wake us up out of dreaming sleep. The trance of the
heyoka comes from sacred power. He ties it all together in a way that's
fairly succinct: " These Thunderbirds are part of the Great Spirit.
Theirs is about the greatest power in the whole universe. It is the power
of the hot and the cold clashing above the clouds. It is blue lightning
from the sun. It is like atomic power. The thunder power protects and
destroys. It is good and bad; the great winged power. We draw the
lightning as a forked zigzag, because lightning branches out into a good
and bad part... In our Indian belief, the clown has a power which comes
from the thunder beings, not from the animals or the Earth. He has more
power than the atom bomb, he could blow off the
dome of the Capitol. Being a clown gives you honor, but also shame. It
brings you power, but you have to pay for it." (quoted in Erdoes
The Thunderbird's association with heyoka clowns is not simply
serendipitous. The fact that the Thunderbird displays many paradoxical and
contradictory attributes links it to Trickster figures and to the
contraries of Plains Indians culture. This culture complex
probably resulted from Indian beliefs about nature and the ways in which
thunder and lightning exemplified the manners in which it could be at once
capricious, beneficent, and destructive. The Thunderbird's own link to the
original Great Mystery suggests that the role of the sacred clown was seen
as one of the highest in Plains society - like wandering fools in Europe,
they were thought to be touched by the Divine power itself. Like
Thunderbird himself, the heyoka was thought to be a conduit to forces that
defied comprehension, and by his absurd, backwards behavior he was merely
showing the ironic, mysterious dualities that existed within the universe
The Exmoor Cat
Edmonds, Margot, and Clark, Ella E., Voices of the Winds:
Native American Legends,
Facts on File, New York, 1989.
Erdoes, Richard, and Ortiz, Alfonso, eds., American Indian
Myths and Legends, Pantheon
Books, New York, 1984.
Fire, John, and Erdoes, Richard, Lame Deer: Seeker of
Visions, Washington Square Press,
New York, 1972.
Gill, Sam D., and Sullivan, Irene F., Dictionary of Native
ABC-CLIO Inc., Santa Barbara, 1992.
Hall, Mark A., Thunderbirds: The Living Legend of Giant
Birds, Fortean Publications,
POSTED: March 98
An "alien feline" was blamed for the deaths of
hundreds of sheep throughout the thickly wooded, rolling hills of Exmoor,
England since the 1980's. Killings and sightings reached a high in 1983,
and was responsible for the destruction of 200 farm animals in 1987. Among
the more recent attacks was a sheep found in August 1995, who had its
throat ripped out, and skin torn from ear to shoulder.
Descriptions of the Exmoor Beast
indicate that it is a large, cat-like animal, either black or dark gray.
It has a long tail and stands low to the ground. John Milton reported dark
green eyes as the cat ran across the road in front of his car. The
"cat" has also been known to jump 6 foot high fences.
Investigations of the Exmoor creature
have ruled out all possible theories including foxes or wild dogs. The way
in which sheep and other domestic animals have been killed suggest that a
large cat was responsible. Cats attack at the neck of their prey, often
breaking it, or tearing out the throat. Dogs, on the other hand, attack
from all angles including the back and legs. Foxes are unlikely predators
of sheep because they are too small and lack the strength to bring down a
comparatively large animal. The problem with the cat theory is that there
are no native big cats in the Exmoor region of England.
Those who have researched the Exmoor
Beast suggest that it is a prime example of micro-evolution. The cats
(there appears to be more than one) are believed to be descended from an
escaped black puma, which mated with a leopard, and created a new species
of cat. Due to the confinement of the gene pool, the rare black
colouration of the puma became a "common" trait for the Exmoor
cats. Because of the adaptability of pumas, the new species was able to
fit in to the non-native environment.
I am not aware of any human
attacks or killings which have been associated with the Exmoor cat. The
behavior of these cats are similar to the panther in that they are
nocturnal, live in forests, and are highly secretive. If you have any more
information on the Exmoor Cat or any other "Alien Feline",
please E-Mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
More On The Legend of the Jersey Devil
Within the past centuries, the image of New Jersey has changed drastically. Being one of the original 13 colonies, New Jersey has been through the development of the United States from the very beginning. New Jersey's role has changed as well- it went from farmland to industry, from small towns to cities. Its location is ideal, since it is not only on the coast of the Atlantic but it is centered between cities such as New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey is now the most densely populated state in the nation.There is only one thing overlooked by an outsider- despite its over seven million residents, New Jersey still has a large amount of land that is not developed. North Jersey's cities are contradicted by South Jersey's wilderness- in particular, a large stretch of forest known as the Pine Barrens.
If you know anything about the Pine Barrens, you might know about its most infamous resident. And even if you had no idea about the Pine Barrens, did you ever wonder why New Jersey's hockey team is called the Jersey Devils? Deep in the heart of South Jersey lies a huge span of dark, desolate woods. These trees give off an eerie feeling- as if you are constantly being watched. The plants are so dense it is often times hard to follow a path, and you never know what kind of wildlife is concealed in the brush. You have no idea where they are, but they know exactly where you are... Herein lurks the Jersey Devil.
The legend of the Jersey Devil has existed for over 250 years, since before the birth of our country. It has terrorized, puzzled, and intrigued New Jersey's population since the 1700's. It is a mystery that has been passed down from generation to generation and still remains unsolved. Two centuries after the legend's origin, we still only have myths, theories, and horrifying recounts of sightings.
So what is the legend? The story begins in 1735 when a Mrs. Leeds of Smithville was pregnant. This was to be her thirteenth child, and Mrs. Leeds was feeling old before her time. As her labor began one stormy night, she cursed the unborn baby during a fit of painful contractions, saying, "Let this child be a devil!" Mrs. Leeds soon forgot her curse when a beautiful baby boy was placed in her arms by the midwife. Suddenly the baby's body started to mutate, and Mrs. Leeds watched in horror as the baby's face elongated to resemble a bat or horse, and long, dark wings sprouted from his shoulderblades. His legs grew long and thin and his pudgy feet hardened and formed into hoof-like extremities. Fear gripped all in the room as long claws grew from the baby's fingertips and his blue eyes yellowed. The creature before them now showed no resemblance to the baby it had been just moments before its transformation. The beast let out an ear piercing scream and then turned, burst through the roof of the cabin and flew off into the night.
That is the most common and widely accepted version of the legend, however there are several variations to the story. Let's start with the name Leeds. There are two names of the Jersey Devil's mother- Mrs. Leeds and Mrs. Shourds.Carrie Bowen, a local of Leeds Point, once asserted that the name was Shourds, and the actual house that the creature was born in was the Shourds house. According to Atlantic County historian Alfred Heston, both names are possible.
Heston's research showed that both a Daniel Leeds and a Samuel Shourds lived in Leeds Point around the time of the legend. Heston also discovered that Shourds had lived directly across the river from the Leeds house. This fact adds to another variation- perhaps the Jersey Devil had been an illegitimate child who was cursed by the townspeople before birth.
The father of the Jersey Devil has always been a disputable topic. Some do not believe that either Mr. Leeds or Mr Shourds were the actual father. In fact, they do not believe the Jersey Devil has a human father; they believe the creature to be a product of Satan himself, mixed with human flesh to give it a body.
Another variation of the story of the Jersey Devil's creator is that it was the direct result of a curse from a gypsy. This variation states that Mrs. Leeds/Shourds had denied food to a starving gypsy, who then placed a curse on the pregnant woman. Still another variation says that Mrs. Leeds/Shourds could have been involved in witchcraft (there are even reports of a witch trial held around this time period in Mt. Holly, NJ). It is also believed that the Jersey Devil's mother could have been cursed by locals because she fell in love with a British soldier, and because of the time period (before revolutionary war) was shunned.
There are also several variations on the events of the Jersey Devil's birth. Some say that the creature was born as a devil and never resembled a human. Other variations also say that before the Jersey Devil flew off into the Pine Barrens, it killed and ate all people present in the cabin. It has also been said that (assuming it did not kill all in the room) the Jersey Devil would return to its home for years and sit perched on a fence. After a while, Mrs. Leeds/Shourds, not knowing what to do with her deformed child, "shooed" it away, and it never returned.
The other variations of the legend involve the date and location of the birth. Instead of 1735, it has been dated as 1778, 1850, 1855, 1857, 1859, 1873, and 1880 (setting it later in time would disqualify several sightings so 1735 is most widely accepted). The birthplace also differs. Besides the commonly accepted Leeds Point, it has been placed in Estellville, Pleasantville, and Burlington. Leeds Point has remained the most popular birthplace due to the fact that it has a physical supposed birth house out in the middle of the woods. (We've seen it, it's incredible!)
It is believed that the Jersey Devil may have had a name. Smith J. Leeds is the supposed name of the baby that became the beast. While on an excursion to Leeds Point, I found a gravesite with the name of Smith J. Leeds, belonging to someone who had died within two years of birth. The rumor of the name has never been proven.
Regardless of which legend is believed, all versions have a common result- a winged creature set free to roam the Pine Barrens for the rest of its lifetime. Immediately, the creature decided to do what every baby does, regardless of its species- it decided to explore its surroundings and make itself known
The Jersey Devil began to roam New Jersey boldly as soon as it was born. Immediately, the Pine Barrens were explored and the residents were terrified. They could not believe their eyes as an unknown winged serpent appeared all around the Pine Barrens, seemingly unaffected by human presence.
The first five years after its birth were so horrific that in 1740 a bold clergyman decided to exorcise the Jersey Devil, banning it from the humans. The people of the Pine Barrens received instant relief as the sightings suddenly
ceased. The legend lived on, and was passed down from each generation with a warning that the exorcism would only last for 100 years, and that those who live in the Pine Barrens in the 1840’s should be prepared for the creature’s return.
During the exorcism period, only two sightings were recorded. These two sightings do not contradict the exorcism - it was humans who encountered the beast in the woods, not the beast who found them. In both cases, no harm befell any humans or their possessions.
Both sightings came from highly reputed figures during that time period. The first, which occurred sometime between 1800 and 1820, involved naval hero Commodore Stephan Decatur. Decatur was visiting Hanover Iron Works, where he was testing cannonballs to ensure high quality. One day, while out in the Pine Barrens, Decatur noticed a strange creature flying overhead. He immediately fired a cannonball through the beast, and was shocked when the creature continued flying, completely unaffected by the gigantic hole the cannonball had created through its
wing. The second sighting was made by the former King of Spain and brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte. Joseph Bonaparte resided in Bordentown and believed to have seen the Jersey Devil while hunting between 1816 and 1839.
In both cases, the Jersey Devil did not seek out any human contact. It was merely observed while existing peacefully in the Pine Barrens. The people of New Jersey experienced no strange losses of livestock, and all seemed peaceful and calm during the Jersey Devil’s exorcism. This would all change.In 1840, the Jersey Devil reappeared with a vengeance, right on schedule. The Jersey Devil’s first act was a raid on livestock, and as a result many people lost a large amount of sheep and chickens. 1841 was a continuation of this raid, but this time the Jersey Devil left more evidence - during its livestock theft it screamed chillingly and left unidentifiable tracks. All attempts to locate this creature were unsuccessful.
The return of the Jersey Devil brought panic along, and the residents of the Pine Barrens were once again gripped with fear, just as their ancestors had been 100 years before. In 1858, W.F. Mayer of New York was visiting Hanover Iron Works (the sight where Decatur had seen the creature) and noticed how odd the Pine Barrens residents acted. They seemed constantly nervous and uneasy. When Mayer commented on a storm, one resident mentioned something about seeing a Devil, and was hushed by other residents, fearing that the Devil could be listening. Mayer also noticed that no resident of the Pine Barrens would ever dare to venture outside after dark.
In 1859 the Jersey Devil was seen in Haddonfield, and then remained unseen until the winter of 1873 - 1874, where it was seen periodically in Bridgeton and Long Branch. The creature continued to raid livestock and was believed to "carry off anything that moved". In 1894 the Jersey Devil made appearances throughout New Jersey, visiting Smithville, Long Beach Island, Brigantine Beach, Leeds Point, and Haddonfield.
In 1899 the Jersey Devil raided Vincentown and Burrsville, and then decided to expand its horizons and head for New York. The creature made its first out-of-state appearance in Spring Valley, New York, where a resident was repeatedly losing sheep and hearing "ungodly" screams. At one point, the resident spotted the thief, and described it as a "flying serpent". This resident’s report would be the first Jersey Devil sighting ever to be published in the newspapers.
The creature remained in New York for a brief period, where it was sighted at Hyenga Lake (rumors had it that a strange creature that could fly, swim, and run became a frequent visitor). Eventually, the Jersey Devil decided to return to its home state, but not without leaving strange tracks in New York’s marshes.
By the turn of the century, the Jersey Devil’s existence became a common belief in New Jersey and its bordering states. The people believed that an eerie, supernatural creature lived in the Pine Barrens. The people also believed that the sightings and tales would soon die out, and that the legend of the Jersey Devil had run its course. Soon they would realize that they were sadly mistaken.
The 1900's started off with a major bang for the Jersey Devil legend. In 1909, the largest batch of Jersey Devil sightings ever recorded occurred, in which the Jersey Devil was seen by over 100 people in the time span of a single week. This week, January 16th through January 23rd, has been justly named Phenomenal Week. During this time, a wide range of people throughout the Delaware Valley spotted the winged beast. Some sightings were seen by large groups of people at once; other sightings were made by residents who were awakened in the middle of the night to strange noises in the darkness.
The huge amount of sightings caused New Jersey to enter State of Emergency precautions, with all residents instructed to be in their homes before dark and to secure all animals at night. Newspapers were filled with detailed sighting accounts, although many articles seemed mocking in tone. The people of the area were terrified - especially those living deep in the heart of the Pine Barrens
The Jersey Devil became New Jersey's Official Demon in the 1930's, recognizing the history of the legend and its importance in New Jersey history. This creature is also the namesake of the state's hockey team, the New Jersey Devils.
During the 1900's, however, the legend was scarred by the marks of scam artists attempting to make money off of the people's fear. One man in particular went to extremes to create a very elaborate hoax. This man obtained a wild kangaroo, painted stripes on its fur, attached "wings" to its shoulderblades, and kept the creature in a dimly lit cage, charging all curious visitors a fee to take a peek at what he claimed to be the Jersey Devil. When the visitors approached the cage, a man sitting behind the kangaroo (armed with a long stick with a nail in one end) would smack at the creature, causing it to lunge forward and shriek in pain - frightening all who saw. Eventually, the man came clean on his hoax, and since then the Jersey Devil has not been taken as seriously as it had been before.
At one point, the charred remains of a strange creature were found somewhere in the Pine Barrens. These remains were unidentifiable by the Department of Wildlife and Conservation - they had no record of any such creature on file. Some believed these remains were those of the Jersey Devil, and thought the legend was finally put to an end. But once again, the Jersey Devil returned.
In 1951 - 1952, the Jersey Devil came back to New Jersey for the Gibbstown - Paulsboro invasion. This invasion, though on a smaller scale than Phenomenal Week, caused quite a stir in the area and sent many people into a panicked state. Posses were formed, who attempted to track the creature. Yet still no dog would follow its trail; instead they wimpered and turned away. Because the legend was no longer taken seriously, mass hysteria was blamed for the cause of the uprise.
Around this same time, newspapers started refusing any sightings accounts, believing that they were just attempts at gaining recognition and attention. The Jersey Devil legend was beginning to die. Sightings still continued to trickle in, and have remained steady throughout many years. Sightings as recent as this year have been reported...
Check out the bibliography!
The Jersey Devil James F. McCloy and Ray Miller, Jr.
Phantom of the Pines James F. McCloy and Ray Miller, Jr.
American Myths and Legends Charles Skinner
The Tracker Tom Brown, Jr. and William Jon Watkins
Mother Leeds' Thirteenth Child NJN Video
Brigid's Charge Cynthia Lamb
Copyright © Laura K. Leuter 1999, 2000, 2001
The Hunt for Lake Monsters
Deep, dark lakes all over the world are homes to what may eyewitnesses report as plesiosaur-like creatures. Are we finally closing in on them?
On several expeditions, international teams of explorers have set out from the shore of a dark, deep lake in search of a monster. It's been spotted by hundreds of people since the 17th century, but has eluded capture and conclusive identification. Some believe it is a large animal from the era of the dinosaurs that has somehow survived the extinction that wiped out all of its contemporary behemoths. Others think it is nothing more than an illusion - misidentified schools of fish or logs bobbing is the waves. Using state-of-the art sonar equipment, a fleet of sixteen boats will ply the cold waters of the lake hoping, at last, to prove the reality of the mysterious creature.
No, the lake is not Loch Ness in Scotland, and the monster is not "Nessie." The body of water is Great Lake at Ostersund in central Sweden, and the creature is known as Storsjöodjuret. There are many parallels in the stories of the two monsters, of course: they live in deep, largely unexplored lakes; eyewitnesses describe them as having horse-like heads atop serpentine necks. But these are certainly not the only lake monsters of legend in the world. There are literally hundreds of lakes around the globe that, according to eyewitnesses, are homes to elusive sea serpents. They are routinely sighted, if fleetingly, by boaters, fisherman, and vacationers, and occasionally somebody comes up with a fuzzy, inconclusive photo. But, like Bigfoot, no clear, indisputable photos, film, or video exist of the monsters - and no one has come even close to capturing one. There have been attempts to find the Loch Ness Monster using sonar, without success.
Where They Are
Here is just a partial list of lake monsters seen in many parts of the world:
- The Loch Ness
Monster. Affectionately known as "Nessie," this is the
most famous of all lake monsters. There are many Web sites devoted to
Nessie, but the best place I've found to learn all about it is The
Legend of Nessie. Its listing of sightings is exhaustive, and many
of the best photo evidence can be found here.
- The Altamaha-Ha.
This creature lives in the Altamaha River near Darien, Georgia. It has
been sighted numerous times, at least since the '60s, by fisherman and
- Champ. Lake
Champlain in northeast New York State is the home of Champ. Most
sightings describe a 15- to 25-foot creature with a "long sinuous
neck" and a dark-colored body with one or more humps. Go to Champ
Quest for more information.
- Lake Van
Monster. In June of 1997, video was taken of some kind of creature
in Lake Van in eastern Turkey. A brief story and QuickTime movies of
the video footage can be seen at this CNN
- Memphré. Lake
Memphrémagog, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border about 70 miles
east of Montreal, is the home of Memphré. The earliest sightings of
this creature, which resemble those of Nessie, date back to 1847.
Jacques Boisvert has created a Web
site devoted to the creature.
Descriptions of this creature in Argentina's Nahuel Huapi Lake in
Argentina vary from that of a giant water snake with humps and
fish-like fins to a swan with a snake's head. Witnesses estimate its
length at anywhere between 15 to 150 feet.
- Selma. Lake
Seljordsvatnet in Norway is the site of eyewitness accounts of this
whale-like creature since 1750. This Official
Website details many of those accounts.
Native Americans called it N'haaitk, and it makes its home in Okanagan
Lake in British Columbia. Many accounts are related at Unpublished
Stories of Ogopogo.
What They Are
No one knows for sure what these creatures are - or even that they really exist. Like UFOs, there are many sightings, but no definitive proof. And, like UFOs, many of those sightings are probably misidentified natural phenomena. Large logs, unusual wave patterns, and even other animals like otters have been mistaken for the monsters. And when it comes to photographic evidence, the parallels to the UFO phenomenon continue: there have been many hoaxes as well as many tantalizing examples that are not easily dismissed.
For cryptozoologists - researchers who study and hunt for such unknown, legendary, or supposedly extinct creatures - and others who believe the animals are real, the consensus seems to be that the Loch Ness Monster, and perhaps many of her cousins that fit the same description, is a plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs roamed the oceans of the world during the late Triassic period (about 213 million years ago) to the Cretaceous period, dying out when all other dinosaurs did about 65 million years ago. As far as science knows, none have survived. Yet it's certainly possible that some have.
Why Are They So Elusive?
For a creature like the Loch Ness Monster to have survived in the lake for so long, there obviously must be more than one. The animal cannot be a 65 million-year-old plesiosaur. There must be enough of them to breed in order to continue their lineage for all these millions of years. Scientists theorize that there would have to be between 20 and 100 or more animals to be able to survive. And although most of the lakes in which the creatures are sighted are deep, with this many creatures, it's surprising that they are not seen more often.
Why aren't they? In an article for Strange Magazine called Rogue Nessie, Kurt Burchfiel speculates that the loch may actually only contain one or so animals - that they occasionally may enter the loch from the ocean as juveniles, feed, get too large to leave, and live out their lives there. Another reason they elude detection is that they may simply be hiding. New Loch Ness Mystery describes how George Edwards of the Auxiliary Coast Guard discovered a huge underwater cavern in Loch Ness. Edwards suspects that the cavern could be part of a large network of caves where dozens of Nessies could live.
We may be closing in on these sea serpents. The proliferation of home video cameras increases the chances that conclusive photographic proof for one or more of these animals will appear. And with more explorations taking place using high-tech equipment, like this month's in Sweden, we may finally get the evidence for the reality of these great creatures.
by Davy Russell,
POSTED: 29 February 00
There are those who claim to have encountered the sasquatch, but
have never seen it. They hear it breathing behind them, and turn to
find nothing. They hear it following or walking beside them, but
nothing is there. For centuries, Native Americans attributed
supernatural abilities to the sasquatch including telepathy and the
power to become invisible. It appears that Native Americans were not
the only ones to find themselves in the presence of an invisible
sasquatch. Reports of the unseen hominid continue today.
In his book, Unexplained!, Jerome Clark relates a strange
incident that occured on the evening of November 3, 1977, a rare
encounter with what some claim to be a possible invisible bigfoot
was reported on a reservation in North Dakota. A bigfoot-type
creature was spotted throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
Locals, along with the police, staked out the area to search for the
mysterious creature. A rancher named Lyle Maxon reported a strange
encounter, claiming he was walking in the dark when he plainly heard
something nearby breathing heavily, as if from running. He shined
his flashlight on the source of the sound only to see nothing there.
Startled by the incident, he pondered the idea that sasquatch might
be able to become invisible when frightened or pursued.
It is a startling scenario to image walking in the woods and being
surrounded by curious 6-8 foot tall, 500 pound bigfoot creatures and
not being able to see them or even know they are there. Perhaps it
is the sasquatch’s gift of invisibility that has prevented its
confirmed discovery for so long.
Obviously, the invisible sasquatch theory lends no further
scientific credibility to the existence of the hidden man-ape. When
attributing supernatural abilities to bigfoot, it becomes a
paranormal entity and not a biological one. As a paranormal
creature, bigfoot is easily caught up in trans-dimensional portal
theories and ties with UFOs and extraterrestrial visitation.
Skeptics suspect that it is only superstition and fear of being in
the woods alone that causes the idea that an invisible sasquatch is
nearby, making the strange noises one hears and breaking twigs
In May 1955, a man reported an unbelievably strange
sight while driving home at 3:30 a.m. in Loveland, Ohio, northeast of
Cincinnati. He claimed to have spotted three bipedal reptilian creatures
standing by the side of the road, and pulled over to watch them from his
car for about three minutes. One of the froglike beings carried some type
of bar or wand above its head, and sparks were shooting out of the device.
The driver notified Loveland police of what he had seen, although no
evidence of the creatures was later found.
Almost twenty years later, in March 1972, an unnamed Loveland police
officer was driving on Riverside Road at about 1:00 a.m., traveling slowly
because of ice on the road. Up ahead he saw an animal standing at the side
of the road, which he first thought was a dog. As the cruiser's headlights
fell on the animal, it rose upright from a crouching position, showing
itself to be three or four feet tall with leathery skin and a head like
that of a lizard or frog. The beast looked at the officer momentarily
before jumping over the guard rail and heading for the Little Miami River
down below. The officer returned to the scene with another policeman a few
hours later, and they found scrape marks on the embankment where something
had apparently slid down to the river.
Two weeks later, another unnamed Loveland
policeman reported a very similar encounter. Driving on the same road, he
saw an animal lying in the middle of the pavement, which he thought was
either dead or dying after being hit by a car. He got out of his car to
clear the animal to the roadside, when suddenly the animal jumped up and
the officer saw that it was a strange froglike creature. It began to flee,
limping as if it were injured, and headed over the guard rail towards the
river. The officer shot at the monster as it went down the embankment, but
apparently did not hit it.
Neither of the officers filed an official report of the weird creature,
but word of their sightings leaked to the press, and the modern legend of
the Loveland Frog was soon spread far and wide. A farmer in Loveland also
claimed to see a froglike creature in March 1972. Investigators began to
speculate on a connection with the 1955 sighting of reptilian creatures,
and the possibility of a secret race of lizard men inhabiting Ohio's
rivers. Some have suggested that the officers may have actually seen a
Nile monitor lizard or a large iguana, which can be over six feet in
length. But if so, these reptiles would have to be escaped from a zoo or
otherwise transplanted to the area, since they are not native to the
Abnormally large reptiles and reptile men have also been reported in other
parts of the country, including the "Lizardman" of Wayne, New
Jersey, and the "Giant Lizard" of Milton, Kentucky. The most
celebrated successor to the Loveland Frog in recent years was the Lizard
Man craze that swept Bishopville, South Carolina, in 1988. A man reported
that a 7-foot reptilian beast with red eyes and three-fingered appendages
chased his car along a country road at over 40 miles per hour. A large
number of other sightings followed, and police officers discovered
three-toed tracks. But ultimately, the only hard evidence the Lizard Man
left behind was the fattened bank accounts of local bumper sticker and
1996, disturbing reports of livestock mutilations (Phantom
Surgeons series by Amber Hearn May 97) began to
surface from the island of Puerto Rico. Many of the dozens of
goats, cows, and small pets that were victims in these mutilations
were reported to be completely exsanguinated. The animals were
also reportedly mutilated with surgical prescision, as if a laser
were used to cut the flesh.
The citizens of the
small Caribbean island were frantic. Within days, pleas for help
were sent to local Puerto Rican and US authorities. Later, when
questioned by investigators, the islanders would explain that the
animals died because of El Chupacabra. In English, the words
translated into a bizarre title that would soon join the ranks of Bigfoot,
Spring-heeled Jack and The
Mothmen. El Chupacabra, "The Goatsucker."
A solid description
of The Goatsucker is somewhat difficult to come by. Depending on
where you go or who you speak with, El Chupacabra may be described
as insect-like in appearance with large red eyes or mammalian with
dense brown fur and the face of a baboon. The Chupa may have wings
and fly around like a bat or hop like a kangaroo and reek of
sulfur. The variety of images for the infamous vampire creature
are many and tend to cheapen the existance of such an animal.
most frequent descriptions are those of a lizard-like creature
standing four or five feet tall that walks upright on powerful
hind legs, has large-red glowing eyes, sports four large fangs,
and spinal quills that can also serve as wings. It is said to use
its fangs to suck, in vampire fashion, blood from its victims.
Some of the Puerto Rican animals supposedly victimized by The
Goatsucker had one to four puncture marks on their necks. Any
trace blood left on the bodies refused to coagulate even days
incredible theories state that the large red glowing eyes possibly
emit laser beams which the creature uses to stun its intended
victim and then later as a scalpel-type beam to cut away the soft
fleshy parts of the corpse for consumption.
Sound hard to
Then pay a visit to
Lighting and read Dr. John Mantle Green's scientific look
at the Goatsucker mystery. Dr. Green, a Biologist with a Ph.D. in
plant sciences, M.S. in Botany and a B.S. in biological sciences,
presents highly interesting hypotheses on the evolution and origin
of a Chupa-type creature with "real" animal examples to
help explain his position. Very fascinating read!
The debate of
whether or not El Chupacabra actually exists has done nothing but
bolster the Goatsucker's fandom in Latino communities. With the
steady decline of tropical rain forests, the believed natural
habitat of The Goatsucker, on Puerto Rico and Central America, El
Chupacabra may be in search of better hunting grounds. Over the
last two years there have been an increase in sightings of Chupas
in Central, South, and North America. It would appear that The
Goatsucker is on the move to a neighborhood near you. Yikes!
Don't panic yet,
though. Oddly enough, these sightings have been localized to heavy
Latino populated areas such as Miami and Tuscon, with the notable
exception of a sighting in Moscow! Find out more by visiting LatinoLink,
featuring a Boston Globe article about chupacabramania. Or stop by
Online, a very colorful site of Chupacabra references,
pictures, and sounds. Plus, you can also order your very own
Chupacabra T-shirt there and be - as they coined - "the envy
of all your friends"! Even CNN couldn't resist El
Bloodsucker: Myth or Reality?
We now know that El
Chupacabras are very popular lizard-like creatures with glowing
red eyes, may possibly be furry, have strong legs to hop around
with and, then again, maybe have spikes on their backs with which
to fly around. Or maybe, all of the above. We also know that they
enjoy a steady diet of blood and are somewhat shy but have an
affinity to Latinos (this is fairly consistent).
What we don't know
is where they come from. Theories of the origins of Chupas range
from the first steps in alien colonization to US genetic
manipulation of existing species to just simply freaks of nature
or living fossils. You can find more details about the origins of
The Goatsucker at Chupacabra
Phenomenon, where we will find a March/April 1996 UFO
Magazine article by Jorge Martin, Editor OVNI Evidencia. OVNI
Evidencia is Puerto Rico's own prestigious UFO research magazine.
Martin believes that the US is conspiring to keep the truth secret
about Chupacabra events in Puerto Rico. The Chupacabra
Homepage by Tito
Armstrong will further your understanding of Chupas
greatly. It is a neat page containing editorials, sightings info,
historical timeline, theories and research information about El
Chupacabra. Well worth the visit.
On the disbeliever
side of the river, "Irregular" Jonathan Speaks' Found
Irregularity is a somewhat skeptical view of chupacabras,
featuring Bob Buck's "scientific" presentation
on Chupacabra existence.
If you would like
the Chupacabra Wav. file (it's hilarious), you can find it in it
at the Art Bell
Homepage. While there, take a look at some Chupacabra
look-alikes and read a timeline of Chupa events.
Until next time, THE
TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Wayman .