Monsters: the Jersey Devil
Sicklerville, NJ (WKQ News): Farmers in this Camden County town are growing more concerned by the day. They say their livestock – cows, pigs, and horses mostly – are being attacked in the evening. Few animals have survived the attacks, and the deaths have been especially grisly. New Jersey Game and Wildlife officials are on the lookout for what they say is a very large bear, possibly infected with rabies. Some farmers, however, are whispering that something else is slaughtering their animals. Many are claiming the famed Jersey Devil is the culprit. Game and Wildlife officials we talked to scoff at that notion.
In 1735, Mrs. Shrouds, of Leeds Point, NJ, nervously awaited the birth of her thirteenth child. This pregnancy was the most difficult of them all, and her frustration was barely contained. As her contractions grew stronger, she sent her husband to fetch the midwife; several other women from the village, knowing of her troubles throughout the pregnancy, also came to assist. A terrible storm brewed – torrential rain accompanied by sharp lightning and booming thunder that seemed to almost be in time with Mrs. Shrouds’ contractions.
The gathered women did what they could to soothe Mrs. Shrouds through the difficult birth, patting her brow with a cool cloth and squeezing her hand through the pain. Despite their best efforts, however, the woman continued to struggle with the birth and cried out, “Oh, the devil himself take this babe!” The attending women gasped.
Soon after, the baby entered the world. At first, it seemed a normal baby boy, but it quickly changed, its head becoming a monstrous horse’s head, its back sprouting bat-like wings, and cloven hooves replacing baby feet. It shrieked an ear-piercing scream at Mrs. Shrouds and her midwives, then crashed through the ceiling and flew off.
The later details of the legend vary. In some tellings, the mother’s name is Leeds and the place of birth is Burlington or Estelville, New Jersey. Sometimes the baby is born normal and mutates, to the horror of everyone present; other times the creature is born disfigured. Occasionally, Mother Leeds is a witch, and the baby’s father to be the devil himself.
Yet despite these differences at birth, the creature’s appearance during sightings is remarkably consistent from one teller to the next. The Jersey Devil is a bipedal, humanoid creature. It has short arms like those of a kangaroo, bat-like wings covered with small feathers or scales, and a head like a horse. Its legs are powerful and its feet are cloven. The creature is most often described as between 8 and 10 feet tall.
Sightings date back 270 years, and continue right up until recent times. The most active period for sightings was between January 16th and 23rd, 1909. During this eight-day period, thousands of people claim to have seen the creature. These sightings range from Philadelphia, PA to Atlantic City, NJ. Accounts ranged from direct encounters with the creature to the discovery of weird footprints in Bristol, PA and Burlington, NJ (towns on opposite sides of the Delaware River). In Haddon Heights, NJ, the creature is reported to have attacked a trolley car.
Most remarkably, a telegraph worker in Atlantic City claims to have shot the creature, only to watch it get up and limp off into the woods. Perhaps the most famous person to claim a run-in with the Jersey Devil is Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain and brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who lived in Bordentown, New Jersey, from 1816 to 1839.
Blue Hole, Home of the Devil?
Blue Hole is a body of water located in Monroe Township, right in the heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The water is clear blue – unusual for South New Jersey where most bodies of water are a ruddy brown – and has a steady temperature between 58 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The pit is 70 feet across.
Tales claim that Blue Hole is bottomless, offering a direct connection to Hell. The Jersey Devil is said to swim the water’s depths, pulling under anyone foolish enough to swim in his water.
In Your Modern Game
In a game without the supernatural, the Jersey Devil could present an interesting paranormal conundrum for players to investigate. Give your players evidence of the supernatural, with a more grounded explanation in the finale. The X-Files series ended their episode on the topic by revealing the Jersey Devil as a feral human living in the Pine Barrens.
Or you could opt to go the cryptid creature route. A cryptid is an animal that has been reported to exist, but no evidence exists. In such a game, adjust the stats provided below to make the Jersey Devil less supernatural, and make the creature an animal rather than a supernatural being.
In Your Fantasy Game
Of course, if you do allow supernatural beings in your game, the Jersey Devil makes a fascinating creature for you to pit the heroes against. Is the creature malevolent, or just misunderstood? Is it a unique being or a race? Has the same creature lived all this time, or have there been multiple creatures? How true is the creation myth? It’s up to you.
Jersey Devil CR 9
Init +1; Senses Darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +7, Spot +7
Defense 24, touch 12, flat-footed 23 (–1 size, +1 Dex, +12 natural, +2 deflection)
hp 114 (12d8+60); Fast healing 5
Massive Damage 21
Fort +11, Ref +7, Will +11
Spd 20 ft., fly 40 ft (average)
Melee 2 claw +19 (1d8+10/19-20) and
bite +16 (1d6+6)
Space 10 ft. by 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks piercing howl (DC 18), rend (2d6+12)
Before Combat The Jersey Devil delights in causing fright, and may allow targets to catch a glimpse before moving in for the attack. Before the initial attack, the Jersey Devil uses its piercing howl ability.
During Combat The Jersey Devil swoops in and uses its claws. Once in combat, the Jersey Devil attacks ferociously with Power Attack for its claws and teeth.
Morale The Jersey Devil flees if reduced to one-quarter or fewer of its normal hit points.
Str 27, Dex 13, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 15
Base Atk +9; Grp +24
AP 2; Rep 0
Feats Alertness, Improved Critical (claw), Multiattack, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (claw)
Skills Climb +13, Jump +12, Listen +7, Spot +7
SQ Supernatural defense
Piercing Howl (Ex): Once every minute, the Jersey Devil can let out a high pitched screeching noise that unnerves all living creatures and can be heard up to a half-mile away. Living creatures within 120 feet of the Jersey Devil when it howls must succeed on a DC 18 Will save or be stunned for one round, then shaken for 1d4 rounds. On a successful save, the target is immune to this ability for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Rend (Ex): Whenever the Jersey Devil hits one creature with both claw attacks in the same round, it automatically rends the creature, inflicting an additional 2d6+12 damage.
Spell Resistance (Su): The Jersey Devil has spell resistance equal to 10 + hit dice.
Supernatural Defense (Su): The Jersey Devil adds its Charisma bonus as a deflection bonus to its Defense score, as an enhancement bonus on all attacks, and as a resistance bonus on all saves.
Skill Bonuses: The Jersey Devil receives a +4 species bonus on Listen and Spot checks.
Environment New Jersey Pine Barrens
Organization Solitary (unique)
Advancement 13–18 HD (Large); 19-26 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment —