Devil in the Pickle Jar
Orlando Florida - In a small, dirty apartment there lives a man who claims to have a Jersey Devil baby pickled in a jar.
What is a Jersey Devil? Most accounts seem to be more laughable than serious. Folklore states that in 1735 a woman in Leeds Point New Jersey already blessed (or cursed) with 12 children said that her next child might just as well be from the devil. And indeed when it was born it had the appearance of coming from hell. It's head was a horse, with 2 cloven hoofs for feet and a pair of bat wings and a long spiked tail. It ran off into the woods and lives there to this day where it's presence has been blamed for cattle deaths, strange hoof prints and demonic cries in the night.
The largest claim to fame came to the Jersey Devil came in January 17th - 21st, 1909 when a rash of sightings of the creature occurred throughout south New Jersey and east Pennsylvania. The first reported incident occurred when a postman and two police officers in Bristol Pennsylvania saw a beast flying across the Delaware River. They described it as having a ram like head, with short wings and two small arms. It's legs were long and thin and it cried out with a horrible squawk and whistle. Subsequent reports on the following days placed it in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania towns of Burlington, Philadelphia, Moorestown, Gloucester, Leiperville, and Camden. Newspaper reports described each incident and the resulting hysteria caused some towns to close schools and businesses. The last newspaper article about the Devil had it perched on top a roof in West Collingswood New Jersey where local firemen sprayed it with water. The Devil swooped down toward the firemen, scattering them and then flew away.
It is interesting to note that in most cases the witnesses reported wildly different descriptions of what the beast looked like. For some it was "monkey-like" and only 2 to 3 foot tall. Others had it well over 6 feet in size and capable of breathing fire. The few historians who have researched the sightings have attributed the reports as "mass hysteria." That may well be true because since the notable 1909 encounter sightings of the beast have been few and far between. The last one of any note happened in 1968 when two young boys described seeing a 6 foot long bird flying in a field as they rode their bikes in Trenton, New Jersey.
So what then is sitting inside a pickle jar here in Orlando and how did it make it's way to Florida? Mr. Jersey (as I shall call the owner) is known to have worked in the summer and fall of 1999 for a small, touring carnival. Orange county records indicate that the carnival was operated by a small company called "McDougal Brothers Inc." Calls to a "Buster McDougal" at the number listed on the permit were not returned.
Several people do remember a "Menagerie of the Strange" collection that could be viewed by the public for an admission fee when it came to Orlando in September of 1999. Sadly no one I've interviewed actually went into the trailer this collection was housed in so it's not certain if that's where the baby came into contact with Mr. Jersey. (I was out of town when it was here so don't blame me)
So did the carnival sell this thing to Mr. Jersey? It seems doubtful that a working carnival would give up such a piece but one person who knows Mr. Jersey has described him as a "weird kleptomaniac." This theory seems to be correct when you notice the paranoid behavior seen in the video. The fact that Mr. Jersey wishes for no pictures to be taken of the creature meant that I had to shoot the videotape without his knowledge.
Is it real? Well from outward appearances it does look pretty gross but you only have to go to any party store during Halloween to see "alien in a bottle" products.. I checked with some special effects suppliers and they don't know of any product on the market that resembles this one. My old biology teacher took a look and failed to identify it as well but said it definitely was not a cow or pig fetus. If anyone remembers seeing this item at a touring carnival please let me know.
February 18th update:
Oh me, oh my, Our nameless Jersey Devil baby owner has found out about this little quicktime film and is up in arms. Seems what I did was bad, very bad, and I'm going to pay for my nefarious activities. I'm not sure if he wants to sue me or kick my ass but neither sounds like something I want to be involved in. I'll keep you updated, sherlocks and keep looking over my shoulder.
"Legends of the Northeast States" B. John Handelmyer editor, 1975, Coopers Printer Company
quicktime video by Derek Barnes