Sunday, October 22, 2017

1969 Jersey Devil postcard
illustrated by Ed Sheetz

Having spent most of my youth in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, I am quite familiar with the legend of the Jersey Devil. He was woven into the fabric of late 1970s and early 1980s paranormal discussions, alongside poltergeists, the boogeyman, The Hook and Bigfoot. On youth campouts, even hundreds of miles from New Jersey in the forests of central Pennsylvania, every noise or bump in the woods might be the Jersey Devil, looking for a snack. Everyone knew someone whose uncle's friend had seen it once.

This 1969 postcard presents a comic caricature of the Jersey Devil, rather than trying to hew to the traditional "eyewitness descriptions" from long ago that portray it as some sort of kangaroo/goat/bat hybrid. The illustration is by Ed Sheetz. According to the 1998 book Phantom of the Pines: More Tales of the Jersey Devil, by James F. McCloy and Ray Miller, Sheetz was one of the most well-known folk artists to turn the Jersey Devil into a revenue-producing venture:
"Sheetz's sketches of the Jersey Devil, on posters, postcards, and other objects, may have added to the frequent conception of the Jersey Devil as a more friendly and playful creature through their popularity. One of his widely circulated renditions shows the Jersey Devil standing in the Pines. He is a small creature with cat-like hindquarters, a pointed head, small horns, a puckish smile on his face, and wearing a small vest."
As of this writing, a hand-carved wood block by Sheetz of the Jersey Devil is available on Etsy for $189.

To be clear, I never viewed the Jersey Devil and playful or puckish when I was a kid. In the stories that circulated around campfires and on dark nights, you would be extremely lucky to escape with your life if you met up with old J.D.

There are plenty of other places to read more about the history, folklore and alleged sightings of the Jersey Devil. And there's a great episode of Aaron Mahnke's podcast, Lore, that sums up the legend in 23 creepy minutes. Here, for posterity, is a rundown of the text block on this Sheetz postcard, typos and all:

(Famous New Jersey Folklore Character)
Since the early 1700's, there have been many accounts of the "Jersey" or "Leeds Devil". Descriptions vary from "horsefaced" to "collie faced" - from a large furry creature of a reddish brown "colour", with bat-like wings, cloven hoofs, horns and a forked tail, to an impish, nattily dressed character who delights in scaring people half out of their wits. In days gone by, he has been sighted in the Pine Barrens, Port Republic, New Gretna and many other "nearby" towns. Some say his birthplace was in the Leeds Point area, near Smithville, and that he roamed the swamps along the Mullica River. Most agree that a woman named Leeds (thoughts to be a witch) having twelve children already, and finding herself with child again, cursed it and wished that the offspring be born a devil. She got her wish apparently, and from that day on the Legend of "The Jersey Devil" became a part of New Jersey folklore.


  1. Hello Chris, just came upon your site today and wanted to say thank you! Really enjoy your posts. Teresa

  2. The Pine Barrens have lots of cool roads and historical places to explore. Load up the Scooby Mystery Machine.
    Of little,or no,consequence, "puckish" is one of my favorite adjectives.

    1. The Pine Barrens seem like one of the few places where you can literally still get "lost" in our hyperconnected world ... and I like that.