The Devil Went Down To Jersey: Paranormal Books & Curiosities, Asbury Park
There is one fascinating legend that turns our heads time and time again in the Garden State and that’s the Jersey Devil. The shadiness (I think it clipped my cell phone in a bar recently) and the origins of the two-hoofed wonder never fail to captivate our imagination. Hailing mostly from the South, the Jersey Devil has reportedly been spotted as far north as Paramus and easterly as in Asbury Park (no doubt in town to see Joe Harvard) as well as the politically monstrous capitol of our state, Trenton.
Everyone has heard about how we inherited this loveable beast, starting with Mother Leeds, a charming woman that apparently had a lot of free time on her hands and birthed a bunch of children. After giving birth to her 12th child she exclaimed that if she had another, it would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor (there’s a shocker) on a stormy night. Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child’s father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to a creature with hooves, a horse’s head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and scuttling towards the pines. Yep, just like my ex. And with that tale, things have been fun and games ever since.
I’ve followed the dark Leeds legend from deep pine barren websites to great books by the likes of horror and Devil writer Robert Dunbar (The Pines, Martyrs And Monsters, The Shore) and I just cant seem to get enough info on this rapscallion character. So when Kathy, proprietor of Paranormal Books & Curiosities, told me that a traveling display on the subject was coming to their crypt, I immediately jumped to it.
The display was called “The Jersey Devil Expedition Of 1812,” an interesting testament based partially on fact, at least the fact that President James Monroe sent a real expedition out in search of the JD in or around 1819 (it’s great to see that taxpayers were forking money over to political whims even back then). Further authenticity was in the fact that a period correct and costumed Dr. James Killian, famed paranormalist and cryptid hunter from the 19th century, actually greeted us at the Paranormal door, telling the story about his expedition and prepping us for what we would see before allowing us to enter the dark, thickly curtained hallway.
The display came courtesy of Jason McKitrick, head curator of the Killian Foundation formed and located originally in Boston and now also in Philadelphia. Once inside we saw official correspondence between President Monroe, Commodore Stephen Decatur and Dr. Killian as well as artifacts and purported body parts harvested from the Jersey Devil herself (so is he really a she?) by the good doctor after reportedly killing a female devil that crashed through the roof of a house he was staying in with expedition kingpin Decatur.
Highlights of the tour were the “Leeds Devil Claw,” a gnarly Velociraptor-looking talon that was collected way back during the battle of Trenton in 1776, as well as Dr. James Killian’s medical instruments and documents of the period expedition findings and crew. There was even a fragment of brick allegedly taken from the original Leeds home. Odd diaries, glass bottled potions and specimens rounded things out quite nicely. I especially liked the Jersey Devil’s actual tongue in a jar. While the exhibit itself is small, the thought that went into the collection is quite extensive and the addition of signed documents by our fifth president praising the expedition shows that even back into that time period, the legend was already monstrous.
Of course once I worked my way through the maze of displays and drawings, I ended up in the coolest little store in town, Paranormal Books & Curiosities. If there’s anything you’re looking for on the subject of ghosts, goblins, legends and curse, this is the place to be. Hey, they even carry Weird NJ, our state’s number one authority on anything, well, weird.
Ghost tours of the area are also their specialty and they’re more than happy to share their vast wealth of spooky information with the curious. Plus they gave me some excellent wine, which is always a good thing. Go visit one of the shore’s true gems and embrace our legend and lore, and if you happen to see the Jersey Devil, tell him I want my cell phone back. paranormalbooksnj.com.
Judas Priestess @ The Stone Pony, Nov. 14
I don’t usually mention cover bands but this femme fatale Priest tribute band was so good that I just had to mention them. Not your ordinary bunch of counterfeiters, Judas Priestess features some heavy duty girls that play serious metal and have made their bones in the industry.
Latest member and lead singer “Militia” boasts quite a resume performing as a lead singer with Dee Snider’s heavy metal orchestra Van Helsing’s Curse, as leading lady in gothic horror musical Sins Of A Scarecrow; and in the European tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. She has played with Cyndi Lauper, Sandra Bernhard, Taylor Dane, Nancy Sinatra and more.
If that wasn’t enough, other group hotshots include lead guitarist “D” who is Darryl Jenifer’s (Bad Brains) numero uno guitar hero, Gyda Gash, bassist from seminal doom metal band Angel Rot (with former White Zombie axe man). Guitarist Grace “Maiden of Metal” Wendroff who hosts and produces “Motorbreath” (Time Warner), and last but definitely not least you have JoJo, the skin pounding goddess that is the only drummer around that can hold a drumstick to Jersey’s gun slingin’ siren Sarah Tomek. JoJo is best known for having been in the legendary all-girl heavy metal band Missdemeanor as well as in The Creeps (with members of the Cycle Sluts From Hell).
This five-piece took the packed Pony crowd on a glorious tour of the Stained Class kids’ best hits, misses and anthems, pausing long enough to get you used to the ringing in your ears before continuing their aural blitzkrieg. Well-executed songs, top shelf musicianship (these girls are better than most dudes in the biz) and killer presence caught my attention quick. There’s more to these girls than grabbing easy cover money and if they’re anywhere near as good with their own stuff as they are with the Priest catalog then we’ll be in for a treat. Not bad stuff at all. myspace.com/judaspriestessband.
The Aquarian Weekly takes a double victory at the 17th Annual Asbury Music Awards
On behalf of the Aquarian I just wanted to thank all of our friends, clients and readers for awarding us “Top Publication In Support Of Original Music” and for giving me the “Top Journalist” award in that same category. This makes three years in a row that you’ve voted for me and it is a huge honor. I just wanted to say thank you to the musicians, fans and industry movers and shakers that give the scene meaning and momentum year after year in the NJ/Ny area.