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The Pine Barrens

New Jersey USA

“Home of the Jersey Devil”

The Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands or simply the Pines, is a heavily forested area of coastal plain stretching across more than seven counties of southern New Jersey. It's most popularly known as the dwelling of a mysterious creature referred to as The Jersey Devil. The name "pine barrens" refers to the area's sandy, acidic, nutrient-poor soil. European settlers' attempts to cultivate their familiar crops there failed although the unique ecology of the Pine Barrens supports a diverse spectrum of plant life, including orchids and carnivorous plants. The area is also notable for its populations of rare pygmy Pitch Pines and other plant species that depend on the frequent fires of the Pine Barrens to reproduce. The sand that composes much of the area's soil is referred to by the locals as sugar sand. The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature or cryptid said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, United States. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many different variations. The common description is that of a kangaroo-like creature with the head of a goat, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail. It has been reported to move quickly and often is described as emitting a "blood-curdling scream." The Jersey Devil has worked its way into the pop culture of the area, even lending its name to New Jersey's team in the National Hockey League, and appeared on an early episode of The X-Files. The common accepted origin of the story, as far as New Jerseyans are concerned, started with Mother Leeds and is as follows: "It was said that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, stated that this one would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends. Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to a creature with hooves, a goat's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines. In 1740 a clergy exorcised the demon for 100 years and it wasn't seen again until 1890." There have been many sightings and occurrences allegedly involving the Jersey Devil. According to legend, while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect his cannonballs being forged, Commodore Stephen Decatur sighted a flying creature flapping its wings and fired a cannonball directly upon it to no effect. Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Emperor Napoleon, is also said to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Borden town estate around 1820. In 1840, the devil was blamed for several livestock killings. Similar attacks were reported in 1841, accompanied by tracks and screams. Claims of a corpse matching the Leeds Devil's description arose in Greenwich in December 1925. A local farmer shot an unidentified animal as it attempted to steal his chickens. Afterward, he claimed that none of 100 people he showed it to could identify it. On July 27, 1937 an unknown animal "with red eyes" seen by residents of Downingtown, Pennsylvania was compared to the Jersey Devil by a reporter for the Pennsylvania Bulletin. In 1951, a group of Gibbstown, New Jersey boys claimed to have seen a 'monster' matching the Devil's description. and claims of a corpse matching the Jersey Devil's description arose in 1957. In 1960, tracks and noises heard near Mays Landing were claimed to be from the Jersey Devil. During the same year the merchants around Camden offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured. The Jersey Devil is still seen today, with sightings dating as recently as this year.  Despite its proximity to Philadelphia and New York City, and the fact that the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway run through it, the Pine Barrens remains largely rural and undisturbed. The Pine Barrens territory helps recharge the 17 trillion gallon Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer containing some of the purest water in the United States. As a result of all these factors, in 1978 Congress passed legislation to designate 1.1 million acres  of the Pine Barrens as the Pinelands National Reserve (the nation's first National Reserve) to preserve its ecology. A decade later, it was designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve. Development in the Pinelands National Reserve is strictly controlled by an independent state/federal agency, the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.

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The Pine Barrens

New Jersey
USA

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