New Jersey can be proud that it not only hosts the oldest and most famous legend of all time, The Jersey Devil, but its residents are also privileged to have TWO state cryptids, the second one being The Big Red Eye! So here are two real-life encounters with things that really go bump (or stomp or chomp or slash) in the night. One happened 50 years ago, and one just happened this past April.
A Real Encounter With The Jersey Devil, 1959
David H. Marshall Jr. and his father came face-to-face (as in, up close and personal) with something unexplainable in November of 1959 when the two of them were hunting ducks near an abandoned cranberry bog in Evesham Township in Marlton. And he swears to god he witnessed The Jersey Devil. And he has to: He was trained as a pediatric hospital Chaplin and a graduate of two schools of religious Christian education. Today he runs a construction company that has set up recreation therapy centers in hospitals, has taught over 7,000 kids and was a scout leader. In other words, he’s more than credible when it comes to telling a truthful story.
WNJ spoke with Mr. Marshall and this is the true story he told us:
When I was 12 years old I had taken a course in hunter’s safety in Gibbsboro, NJ, where my father was a member. It was the first day of hunting season in November of 1959. My father and I were looking for a place to go hunting, so we got our guns and we chose to go out on Kennilworth Road in Marlton. The road eventually tapered off to some old cranberry bogs. We knew there were small ponds around the area and we thought we’d find some rabbits or geese or ducks.
When we got there we walked through two dry bogs that had long been abandoned. At the end of the second bog there was a pond that had an embankment of about three feet around it and was about 75 feet wide and maybe 50 feet long. There were tall pines about 30 feet beyond the pond; tall trees even by Pine Barrens standards.
The sun had just come up, but we had to wait for a certain time before we were allowed to hunt, sometime around 6:30 a.m. I believe. We walked up the embankment to look at the pond, but it was covered in ground fog, so neither my father nor I could see the water. Our guns were taken off the safety. I said to my dad, “If there’s ducks in there, we can’t even see them.” I wasn’t sure how high the water was, but the fog came right up to the embankment.
Suddenly, the fog sort of lifted up, like a big hump. Instantaneously, two gray wings appeared out of the fog. They looked to be about 12 feet across. The wings had claws on the corners. They were like two little black fingernails, one on each corner. This creature’s wings came up and it looked like it was raising them over its shoulders. The fog sort of slid down the claws to this thing’s body. Its body was low but the wings were now getting higher out of the water. They looked like a bat’s wings. The wings started beating slowly… up… down… up… down.
I couldn’t see the center part of his body initially. All of a sudden it rose out of the water and the fog kind of slid off his back. At this point we were both only 10 feet away from it. It felt like I was captured in time—one of those moments where you can remember everything. As it moved upward out of the water I could see many details. Its body was a silver-grey color. I didn’t see the face because it had its back to us, but I did see the sharp impression of its shoulder blades. They were projecting up out of his skin. I was so close to this thing that I could see the wings were thin—like the membranes of the skin, and they were serrated. You could actually see through them. The sun was now bouncing the light through them. It didn’t have feathers. It had a kind of moleskin that was fuzzy. I was so close I could see the fuzz on its body.
This thing is lumbering in the ground fog, then takes off. It gets about eight feet off the ground and approaching the tree line. By the time it gets to the trees, he’s about 10 to 12 feet off the ground. Simultaneously as it gets to the trees he turns sideways. The tip of his lower wing is about three feet off the ground. He goes into the pine woods sideways and weaves between the trees and disappears. It never rises above the trees. But I remember the “woosh… woosh” sound of the wings. When it was gone I remember the water from the pond lapping up onto the embankment. It was definitely standing in the water, crouching down when we approached it before it took off.
Now, my father and I were standing there with loaded guns, but we were kind of frozen. I looked at my father and the only thing I could say was “Did you see that?”
He said “Yeah.”
“Can I tell you what I saw?”
Right there we decided to use common things to remember what it looked like. Its body was the thickness of a telephone pole, about five feet long. The body shape was what I described as a Philly Blunt cigar—tapered at the back end.
It was flying away from us so we only saw its back, I couldn’t see its head. It had its head tucked up underneath its shoulders, and its legs up under it. I remember saying, “Where’s its head and feet?”
Now herons and egrets fly with their head in, and their legs tucked in. I remember saying to my father “He looks like a Philly’s Blunt cigar!” The body was cylindrical, but you could see where its hips were. It was real.
After we both confirmed what we saw, I told my father “Let’s go tell someone.”
And my father said, “We’re not going to tell anyone because I am in a very high security position.”
My father at that time worked for security and audit for the undersecretary of the Army and Department of Defense. He was involved with DEFCON and he may have been getting ready to take over as chief account at an airbase, so he said we’re never going to tell anybody.
I was heartbroken, but what could I do. He said, “This wouldn’t fly well. They would think I was nuts.”
When I was older I became a scoutmaster, and would start to tell the story to the scouts. I would stand there with a Bible and say, “Hi, I’m David Marshall and I am a graduate of Christian education, etc., and I’m going to put my hand on this Bible and I am going to swear to tell you about my father and I, and an encounter we had with The Jersey Devil.” My father would never admit to it. My children knew the story, but we would never put it in print.
As scoutmaster, one time we brought the scouts to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. There was a new exhibition of dinosaurs. We walked in, and hanging from the ceiling were two Pterodactyls, one about eight feet across and another about 12 feet across. I looked up, froze and said, “That’s it! That’s what I saw!” The other scoutleader with me said “What are you talking about?” And I said “That’s what I saw when I was 12 years old.”
I spoke with the curator and told him my story. He started to shred everything about my story and challenged everything I told him. The conversation started to get ugly and I was starting to look like the village idiot. He was destroying everything I was telling him about what I saw. He kept saying, “It had feathers, right?” And I kept saying no. So that was sort of the tone of the conversation.
At the end his tone changed and said, “Mr. Marshall, I want to tell you something. I have been pretty rough on you, and I did it for a good reason. You have given me the clearest, descriptive analysis of what the Jersey Devil really is. No one has ever come forth with a better explanation.”
He said it was consistent with what other people reported, but the details I gave him was the clearest substantive detail he’s ever heard. Then he said, “The only other question I have for is why didn’t you call the Institute the next day? You could have called and not said your father’s name. We would have had 300 people on the ground and in helicopters combing through that area of Burlington County, and I would have been one of them.”
I said, “I was just a kid and doing what my father told me.”
My father waited until he was 92 years old to tell his story. All those years he refused to say anything. I guess he figured it was safe now. One of my customer’s sons told me he had to do a senior research project and thought maybe my father would talk to him about it. He approached my father and said, “Mr. Marshall, your son has been telling his Jersey Devil story for years, and he said you were standing right there with him, and at some point you were going to talk about it. Would you mind if I interview you?”
My father said, “Yeah, I think it’s about time. I don’t think I’ll get in trouble!”
The only difference between my story and my father’s was the wingspan. He claimed it was the width of a street, maybe 16-18 feet wide.
During the research project, I went back to the place with the student to show him where we saw it. In 1959 it was called Tomlinson Mill Road, but now it’s divided between Kennilworth Road and Tomlinson Mill Road. There are still a few remnants of cranberry bogs out there, but where I encountered the Jersey Devil was now a landfill, and fenced off, so we couldn’t go any further. The research paper is now part of the permanent collection in Haddonfield High School, along with the interview tapes of my father.
The Big Red Eye Is Back In Town!
On April 15, 2011 my wife, sons and I were camping at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation near Jefferson Township, NJ. The temperature was approximately 52 degrees and the day was overcast. At around 3:00 p.m. three of us struck out from our campsite directly into the timber. There was no overgrowth and the trees were still bare. We were not on a marked trail. The terrain is very rocky and over the next hour we hiked and climbed. Circling back into the camp area, we emerged at the far end and headed toward the road that runs the length of the campsite.
From our position on the road, immediately to our right would be the beginning of a two-way trail. The lower trail heads off and skirts the bottom of the mountain while the upper trail heads up it. As we got to the road I looked over my right shoulder.
There, at the beginning of the upper trail was a tall, bulky black figure. When I say black, I mean as black as night. As it moved from right to left its very long arms swung in large motions. The head was dome-shaped and very close to the shoulders. In fact, it seemed that it would have had to turn its entire body to look in any direction other than straight ahead. It walked out of sight rather quickly.
I was completely caught off guard when I saw it. My very first thought was why is this guy walking up the trail wearing black from head to toe? That’s when it hit me that no one would. Sure there are hikers and mountain bikers on the trails but not at this time of year during a work day. In fact, we had spent the previous night here and were the only campers on the grounds. There had been no visitors to the grounds the entire day save one woman who came to walk her small dog. The next thought that ran through my mind was how big it was. It did appear to be tall, about seven feet, and the sheer girth of the thing was impressive. It seemed to me that it could have wrestled a bear and easily won.
I have to admit that it took me a few seconds to gather my wits once it had moved out of sight. Once I did I told the boys to stay behind me and we moved up to where I had seen it. Once we reached the area I looked to the right where I first saw it come into view and got another small surprise. I had thought it was walking along the upper trail when I first spotted it. However, that trail began where I first saw the creature. The direction it came from was an off trail, wooded area. We did follow the trail for about 10 minutes but I decided to abandon it and head back to camp when the kids got spooked. On the way back I had my 12-year-old, 155 lbs, 5’6” son stand at the top of the trail where I first saw the thing while I went back to the original spot where I saw it. Whatever we saw that day was an easy 12 to18-inches taller and three times bigger around than my son.
Now, I have to add that I had been having a feeling, not an overwhelming feeling but a feeling nonetheless, that as we hiked off trail that day we were being watched. I never felt threatened or perceived any danger or I certainly would have moved my kids right out of there. It seems to me that it had been watching us and once we had left its area and gotten back to ours it was more than happy to move on its way.
My wife pointed out to me that before we headed out on our hike that day my son had been trying to break a thick branch by smacking it against the trees. He carried on that way for a good 30 to 40 minutes. The only reason I mention it here is because it came to our attention that this type of action may attract the Sasquatch or Bigfoot in some way. – by Stephen Vaporis