When the Jersey Devil Went Viral
It was also a kangaroo with fake bat wings. P.T. Barnum would have been proud.
When a rash of Jersey Devil sightings occurred in 1909, an enterprising showman named Norman Jeffries announced that he’d captured the infamous beast and put it on display at his dime museum on the corner of Ninth and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. He went one step further than that, though, in that he announced, before putting the creature on display, that it had escaped—and was thus the explanation for all the encounters. The Jersey Devil, he stated, was actually a “Kangowing,” an “Australian Wonder, Cross Between a Kangaroo and Bat.” And it had escaped. Then it was recaptured and put on display. Conveniently.
What the Kangowing actually was, was that aforementioned kangaroo with fake wings.
This linked article makes it sound like the entire thing was a hoax. *All* the sightings and all the reports, just a hoax perpetrated by Jeffries. But he didn’t invent the Jersey Devil. He just capitalized on the hype (if not panic) that the Devil sightings had engendered. The article makes it seem that the Jersey Devil was first identified in 1909, but that isn’t true. The legend of the Jersey Devil goes back as far as the days before the Revolutionary War, although it was called the Leeds Devil back then.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!