The Hunt for The Jersey Devil

An Interview with Laura Leuter of The Devil Hunters

Laura Leuter is co-founder and president of The Devil Hunters, an organization dedicated to uncovering the truth behind New Jersey’s infamous cryptid.

 

Q. What is the Jersey Devil?

Leuter: The Jersey Devil is a creature that has been thought to terrorize the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for over 250 years.

The Jersey Devil is often described as having the face of a horse or deer, standing upright on two legs. It has large, bat-like wings, and makes a high-pitched inhuman screeching sound.

The creature was witnessed by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, as well as original settlers of the state. It gained a large amount of notoriety in January of 1909 when it was sighted over 100 times in a week later dubbed "Phenomenal Week." Hundreds of people throughout the Delaware Valley encountered the creature in some form.

The most popular legend surrounding the Jersey Devil is that it was the 13th child of a woman known as Mother Leeds, who cursed her child during labor by screaming "Let this child be a devil!" The baby was born but quickly morphed into the deformed hideous creature originally known as the Leeds Devil, later to be renamed the Jersey Devil.

 

Q. Do You Believe that the Jersey Devil Exists?

Leuter: I do believe that there is something out there. While I love the legend, I don't actually believe that a woman cursed her baby. If that were true, many more of us would be devils out there. I think the history of the Jersey Devil was crossed from strange sightings into folklore, as it often happens.

I have heard so many stories from so many witnesses, and I've experienced some strange events over my time while investigating. I truly think that some of these people have definitely run into something they could not explain. What they ran into is still left to be determined.

If the Jersey Devil does not exist in physical form, you can still argue that it exists in the history of New Jersey's folklore. Regardless of an actual creature, the Jersey Devil has certainly made its impact on the residents of New Jersey.

 

Q. What is the Purpose of The Devil Hunters? How Active is the Group when it Comes to Researching/Investigating?

Leuter: Our organization is a group of truth seekers, essentially. We are all hungry to find out what it is that is out there. We're hoping to get some answers behind the Jersey Devil legend, however we are realistic in the sense that we know we might end up proving the opposite. Whatever the truth may be, that's what we're all about.

We have in past years been much more active, and the group has taken a recent hiatus from active investigation. However, we're trying to get back out there more this season and get back to our research. We still continue to get a large amount of e-mail from people telling of their possible sightings, so these things are still happening, and there are questions that still need answering.

 

Q. How Many Sightings were there in Recent Years of The Jersey Devil Compared to Past Years? How Many Sightings of the Jersey Devil are You Able to Disprove?

Leuter: I can't put an actual number to the sightings at the moment, but I can say that by means of the internet, it is much easier to report sightings. Of course we get many sightings that must be filtered. There are certain "flags" we look for in order to help determine whether or not the report is legitimate.

The more real the story seems, the more we start questioning the witness. It's really hard to prove or disprove a sighting, and I guess the only person who really knows what they saw would be the witness. We have run into some people who seemed to be completely fake with us.

On the flip side, we've also met some people who were so secure in their sighting that we couldn't break their story at all. We had a family of witnesses, and we tried every which way to find a hole in their story - we separated witnesses, asked the same questions in different ways, kept trying to break the sighting down and find out the truth. The family never faltered. The same story came through each time. I am a 100% believer that those people definitely had an encounter with something at their house that night.

 

Q. How Receptive to the Jersey Devil Legend are People Today?

Leuter: I think the people of New Jersey are proud of their resident cryptid, to be honest. Real or not, it almost doesn't seem to matter. People love the legend and they love the fact that our unique little state has its own beast.

People in South Jersey tend to be incredibly receptive to talking about the Jersey Devil. People from the northern part of the state tend to be less likely to know about the legend, but there are still some true believers and enthusiasts up there too. Sometimes I run into people who want to talk about the legend for hours, and other times I get the "you're crazy" look. More often than not though, I would say people are intrigued - even if they still think we're crazy.

 

Q. Have Team Members of The Devil Hunters ever Seen the Jersey Devil?

Leuter: We only have a limited amount of people on the team who have had a full fledged visual sighting of the creature. All of us have had some sort of weird experience, but only a few would say for certain that they have seen it.

We have all experienced some unexplained things, but until we can explain them, we'd prefer to remain open ended about what happened. We don't jump to conclusions in an effort to preserve our integrity and reputation as a research team.

Emily Eppig, Contributing Author

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