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The Secret History of the Jersey Devil

How Quakers, Hucksters, and Benjamin Franklin Created a Monster

Brian Regal and Frank J. Esposito

Publication Date
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A provocative look at the mystery surrounding the Jersey Devil, a beast born of colonial times that haunts the corners of the Pine Barrens—and the American imagination—to this day.

Legend has it that in 1735, a witch named Mother Leeds gave birth to a horrifying monster—a deformed flying horse with glowing red eyes—that flew up the chimney of her New Jersey home and disappeared into the Pine Barrens. Ever since, this nightmarish beast has haunted those woods, presaging catastrophe and frightening innocent passersby—or so the story goes. In The Secret History of the Jersey Devil, Brian Regal and...

A provocative look at the mystery surrounding the Jersey Devil, a beast born of colonial times that haunts the corners of the Pine Barrens—and the American imagination—to this day.

Legend has it that in 1735, a witch named Mother Leeds gave birth to a horrifying monster—a deformed flying horse with glowing red eyes—that flew up the chimney of her New Jersey home and disappeared into the Pine Barrens. Ever since, this nightmarish beast has haunted those woods, presaging catastrophe and frightening innocent passersby—or so the story goes. In The Secret History of the Jersey Devil, Brian Regal and Frank J. Esposito examine the genesis of this popular myth, which is one of the oldest monster legends in the United States.

According to Regal and Esposito, everything you think you know about the Jersey Devil is wrong. The real story of the Jersey Devil's birth is far more interesting, complex, and important than most people—believers and skeptics alike—realize. Leaving the Pine Barrens, Regal and Esposito turn instead to the varied political and cultural roots of the Devil's creation. Fascinating and lively, this book finds the origins of New Jersey's favorite monster not in witchcraft or an unnatural liaison between woman and devil but in the bare-knuckled political fights and religious upheavals of colonial America. A product of innuendo and rumor, as well as scandal and media hype, the Jersey Devil enjoys a rich history involving land grabs, astrological predictions, mermaids and dinosaur bones, sideshows, Napoleon Bonaparte's brother, a cross-dressing royal governor, and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Reviews

Reviews

Essential for the cryptid-keeper's library. This secret history is a welcome and necessary text on the historicity of the Leeds/Jersey Devil.

Fascinating. An enchanting exploration whence monsters might come.

The Secret History of the Jersey Devil can provide folklorists with historical context for understanding a legend and the behavior surrounding it.

A thorough dissection of the American monster, [The Secret History of the Jersey Devil] is a fascinating look at almost every aspect of the Devil... Here [Regal and Esposito] not only untangle the various major threads that were braided into the Devil's biography, but also uncover the many murkier, more nebulous components that go into the gradual generation of a monster legend.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
160
ISBN
9781421436357
Illustration Description
17 halftones, 1 map
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. "Let this one be a Devil!"
2. The Devil and Daniel Leeds
3. The Devil and the Founding Father
4. The Birth of the Jersey Devil
5. The Devil's Biographers
6. The Devil Becomes

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. "Let this one be a Devil!"
2. The Devil and Daniel Leeds
3. The Devil and the Founding Father
4. The Birth of the Jersey Devil
5. The Devil's Biographers
6. The Devil Becomes a Star
Epilogue
Notes
Index

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Brian Regal

Brian Regal is an associate professor of the history of science, technology, and medicine at Kean University. He is the author of Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology.
Featured Contributor

Frank J. Esposito

Frank J. Esposito is a distinguished professor of history and education at Kean University. He is a coauthor of Victorian New Jersey: Photographs by Guillermo Thorn from the Kean University Collection.