New Jersey: A Guide to Its Present and Past

By Federal Writers' Project (N.J.) | Go to book overview

Folklore and Folkways

BY DEFAULT, the title of official State demon has rested for nearly a century with the Leeds Devil, a friendly native of Atlantic County who has traveled extensively throughout southern New Jersey. Although the exact date of his birth is not known, there is no doubt as to his maternal parentage. A Mrs. Leeds of Estelville, a small community near the Great Egg Harbor River, found that she was an expectant mother. The expectations of Mrs. Leeds were neither great nor enthusiastic, and in a petulant moment she cried out that she hoped the stork would bring a devil.

In due time the long-billed bird made a perfect three-point landing in either the Leeds cabbage patch or rose garden, depending on which school of obstetrical thought the reader accepts. The sequence of events from this point is somewhat confused. One version is that Mrs. Leeds told the stork to take the baby back where it came from, and a few minutes later the accommodating bird returned with a red-faced little devil tied up in a napkin. The other story is that the human baby promptly assumed the form of a demon and flew out of the window. At any rate, Mrs. Leeds was surprised and perhaps regretted her hasty wish.

The young devil is believed to have spent his adolescence in the swamp- land, beyond the reach of truant officers and child guidance clinics. Soon after attaining his majority he started going out nights and made himself widely known to the population of southern New Jersey.

Cloven-hoofed, long-tailed, and white; with the head of a collie dog, the face of a horse, the body of a kangaroo, the wings of a bat, and the disposition of a lamb -- that is the Leeds Devil. He has never harmed a soul, nor violated even a local ordinance. There is every reason to believe that his nocturnal ramblings have been actuated by a sympathetic curiosity about the affairs of man. One report is that he is writing a thesis, A Plutonian Critique of Some Awful Aspects of the Terrestrial Life, in preparation for a doctor's degree from the University of Hell. The more scientifically minded people of the State therefore consider it unfortunate that the devil's field work has been hampered by door-slammings and cur-

-126-

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New Jersey: A Guide to Its Present and Past
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Sponsors' Forewords v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xv
  • Maps xxi
  • General Information xxiii
  • Calendar of Events xxix
  • Part I - New Jersey: the General View 1
  • A New Jersey Silhouette 3
  • Natural Setting 7
  • Archeology and Indians 28
  • History 35
  • Government 55
  • Industry and Commerce 69
  • Labor 79
  • Agriculture 89
  • The Press 110
  • Racial and National Groups 118
  • Folklore and Folkways 126
  • Education 134
  • Religion 142
  • The Arts 151
  • Part II - Cities and Towns 187
  • Atlantic City 189
  • Bayonne 201
  • Bordentown 207
  • Burlington 216
  • Camden 225
  • Elizabeth 238
  • Freehold 250
  • Hackensack 256
  • Hoboken 262
  • Jersey City 270
  • Morristown 283
  • Mount Holly 292
  • New Brunswick 298
  • Newark 312
  • The Oranges and Maplewood 339
  • Passaic 345
  • Paterson 349
  • Perth Amboy 361
  • Princeton 370
  • Salem 390
  • Trenton 398
  • Part III - Tours 415
  • Part IV - Appendices 687
  • Bibliography 697
  • Index 705
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