Saturday, February 28, 2009


History Channel - Original Air Date: 2/25/09

In the Pine Barrens of New Jersey lurks a grotesque creature known as the Jersey Devil.  Descriptions vary, but the creature seems to be an odd mix of mammal, bird, and reptile.  Dr. Angus Gillespie has been collecting eyewitness reports for over 30 years; many people believe the creature to be real.  Over the last 20 years, there have been more than 200 sightings, mostly within the Pine Barrens.  In January 2004, a mother and her teenage son saw a huge black creature perched in a tree near their house; as they ran, they heard the creature swoop past and land on the roof.  The woman's husband took a picture of the tracks left in the snow on their roof -- but no one could identify the tracks.  A police investigator suggested that the creature leaving the tracks would weigh 200-400 pounds, the size of a small bear.  MonsterQuest and a group of local devil-hunters go looking for the beast.  (The 60 people and 7 cameramen is probably the largest expedition ever on the show.)  As they hunt, the show recaps the legend of the monster -- which was the thirteenth child in a 1700s family.  Born normal, it soon transformed into a demonic beast and flew up the chimney.  People have been seeing it ever since.  An investigator of the roof story suggests that the thing might have been a great horned owl -- which sometimes has a five-foot wingspan.  The witness says it wasn't an owl she saw.  In 1909, a rash of sighting swept the area, with the monster seen by hundreds over the span of 8 days; again descriptions varied wildly.

Th show suggests that the devil might be related to the recent "Montauk monster" which washed up on the Long Island coast.  (The show talks to the woman who photographed the "monster.")  Some suggested that the creature escaped from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.  The show goes to the center and talks to one of the scientists working there; Dr. Barrett says there are no secret experiments, though they do work on controling livestock disease.  He convincingly identifies the "monster" as a decaying boxer dog.  A zoologist suggests that the devil may be an African hammer-headed bat.  Could such a bat have come over with the slaves?  It seems unlikely, as such bats need warmth and year-round fruit.  In 1997, a local inkeeper had an encounter while taking out her trash, spotting the shadow of a huge wing.  A polygraph expert interviews the family with the roof encounter; they pass.  The expert believes the family saw some creature which scared the wits out of them.  The show uses their description to create a 3D sculpture of the beast, which the witnesses declare authentic.  The 60-person sweep turns up nothing unusual.  And a local expert suggests that people unfamiliar with the wild may misidentify common animals -- like the owl.  Witness have seen something, but are they all seeing the same thing, and, if so, what?

The Jersey Devil was the subject of a recent Uncanny Radio show, too.

No comments: