(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
In these trying times we decided to talk about a lighter note about the area: The Jersey Devil.
He or she was the area's greatest folklore monster and both Estellville and Leeds Point claim ownership.
People who claim to know about such things say the devil was born in Estellville and then flew out the window and across the county to the swamps surrounding Leeds Point.
Mrs. Leeds, according to legend, was expecting her 13th child and in anger shouted, "I hope it's a devil." She got her wish. Her child was born with horns, a tail, bat-like wings and a head resembling a horse.
According to superstition, the creature's appearances preceded an outbreak of World War I and II. Before these two events, sightings were made by residents who claimed to have been sober at the time.
In 1939, a state guide book made the devil the official state demon.
In 1966, it was proposed that the Jersey Devil be placed on a U.S. Postage stamp as part of a folklore series. While the devil has not been seen lately, people in the Leeds Point area say that is no indication that he or she has left the area. Their advice — keep looking!
So, if you are in the area where a sighting took place, be on the lookout and be sure to have your camera handy. Several books have been written about this phenomenon, recently by Lynn Gallagher Stilton, a 1958 graduate of Atlantic City High School. More books can be found at Lucille's Restaurant on Route 539.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.
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