As part of our Halloween festivities for the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library, we had a really special event on November 13th, 2013 for a new event we planned called “The Family Night Lecture” that we had just created. Our special guest that evening was Professor Angus Gillespie from the American Studies Department of Rutgers University. He is an expert and lecturer on folklore and myths including the ‘Jersey Devil’.
Professor Angus Gillespie with Professor and Chairman of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library Justin Watrel
Professor Gillespie was a noted author and he had explained to me that when he originally wrote the book “The Twin Towers: The Life of New York City’s World Trade Center” that it had a press of 2000 copies in 1999 bought mostly by his mother as gifts to her friends. When the Towers fell two year later, the book took off and became a Best Seller and he was flown all over the world as an expert on the history of the Towers. His book “Folklore in the Pine Barrens: A Study of the Pinelands Cultural Society of Waretown” was when the interest of the Jersey Devil began.
‘The Jersey Devil’
It has been a very interesting lecture that had everyone spellbound on the story of the Leeds family. The legend began with the story of Jane Leeds ( or in some historical cases Deborah Leeds) on a stormy night in 1735. Tired and frazzled from her 12 other children who over-worked her, she found that she was pregnant for the 13th time. She exclaimed ” I hope it’s not a child; I hope its the Devil”.
The Leeds former home in the Pine Barrens
On a dark and stormy night she gave birth to the child with friends gathered in the home to witness the birth. The child was born normal and then transformed into a monster of hoofs, a goat’s head, bat’s wings and a forked tail. It then attacked people in the room before it escaped up the chimney. It disappeared into the Pine Barrens and over the years people have claimed to have had encounters with it the latest being in 1909.
Chairman Justin Watrel with Professor Gillespie and members of the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library at the Junior Friends “Family Night Lecture”
It spellbound most of the crowd who were eager to ask questions. Professor Gillespie lead a discussion on the occurrences and accounts of the sightings over the years that got people thinking, was this thing still alive? The crowd had a wonderful time asking questions and getting a feel for the legend.
It was the last event of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library that year and a wonderful way to celebrate Halloween. We had a small reception afterwards in Professor Gillespie’s honor.
Chairman & Professor Justin Watrel with Professor Angus Gillespie and Library Director Mimi Hui