On a dark and stormy night in the year 1735, a woman lay in bed in labor. Mrs. Leeds was surrounded by midwives and servants, all nervously muttering prayers. There were twelve leeds children already, and Mrs. Leeds wanted no more. In the midst of her pains she cried out that the child could go to the devil, thus cursing the child forever.
When the baby was born, it began to transform before the eyes of the horrified women. It grew a long scaly tail, leathery bat wings sprouted from it's back and a pair of sharp, twisted horns formed on it's head. The child's face grew long like a horse's and the body was covered with brown fur. On the fingers there were long claws and where there were feet there were now cloven hooves.
The midwives and servants scattered, shrieking as the creature stood, now taller than a man, and then flew to the window. It turned to look back at it's mother, then with blood-curdling cry it flew off into the stormy night.
This is the most accepted story of the Jersey devil's birth. Most others are merely variations. In some versions, Mrs. Leeds was said to be a witch and that the child was the Devil's. Other versions add that the beast attacked and killed his mother and the other women before taking off into the night. An odd variation has it that the child's "deformity" was due to a gypsy curse. Mrs. Leeds, according to the story, refused to give food (or in some versions, shelter) to a gypsy woman, who in retaliation cursed her unborn child. The funny ting about all these "Leeds" versions is the absence of Mr. Leeds. He never has anything to do with these events.
Some stories state the same happenings, but claim that the woman is not Mrs. Leeds at all. One tale that stands apart from these variations is that of a young woman who lived during the revolution. It seems she fell in love with a handsome British soldier. She slept with him and became pregnant with hs child. He then marched off with his battalion (as soldiers always do in these love stories) and left her behind with her burden. The child's state was said to because it's mother fell in love with an "enemy".
The Jersey devil is also known as the Leeds devil, some say because it ws born in Leeds' point (a town named after the famous family), but most agree that it's a family name and that Mrs. Leeds (or Mother Leeds as she is called in the tales) is the devil's mother.
The Leeds family actualy existed (and still do), I don't really know how many kids mother Leeds produced, but across the country the family numbers now in the thousands. Many still live in south Jersey, even in Leeds point. The name Leeds is inextricably woven into the fabric of Jersey devil lore, and the creature will always be thought of as mother Leeds' 13th child.
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