On Mischief night, over in Washington Township, NJ, three brothers that I know, Mark, Bob, and Luke Nigel were enjoying themselves soaping cars, while their parents thought they were at their friend, Hari’s house watching a movie.
Amid muffled giggles, the kids marveled at their creativity. Bob, who was a good artist, had soaped a picture of Darth Vader on a windshield, and Spiderman was on someone’s back window. Luke fired off some acrylic paint balls at mailboxes. The only car left unscathed was their dad’s new Chrysler 300.
Afterwards, Luke went home. Mark and Bob ditched the left over soap in a nearby drain and started walking through the woods adjacent to their back yard.
The quiet and eerie woods echoed the sounds of an owl and a patchy breeze rustling through the trees. Some tall trees with faces and bare zigzag branches cast their spirit shadows in the boy's path. An owl swooped down to grab a rodent that was scurrying around, its wings just missed the top of Mark's head, and the boys began to walk faster. Then, someone in a Halloween costume appeared. It was half bat with wings, a long tail, and a horse face with horns. It was the strangest costume the boys had ever seen.
"Hey, that's a good costume, what kind of a ghoul are you?
"I'm not a ghoul at all," the creature responded.
"What's your name?"
"Do you live around here?"
"You might say that."
"Secretive aren't you? You shouldn't be out here by yourself, wanna go trick or treating with us tomorrow night?"
"Not unless they're giving out ham and eggs." Then, Leeds let out a horrible screech and disappeared into the woods behind Nigel's property.
"What the heck was THAT?" Bob said as they went running home.
"I dunno, maybe it was a burglar. Hurry up!" Mark said frantically.
The boys got home and into bed before their parents arrived home.
"Do you think we'll get caught?" Bob asked.
"No," Mark answered, "We'll deny everything and blame it on Luke."
Halloween morning was a total nightmare, Mr. Nigel was furious about the cars and the neighbors were furious with Nigel for letting the kids out of the house. He put the boys on the carpet and badgered them with questions about the night before.
"Dad, there was this strange kid in the neighborhood last night; he said his name was Leeds and he was dressed up in a bat and horse costume. Mark and I saw him when we came back from Hari's house. We only watched a movie"
Leeds?" Mr. Nigel said, "What exactly did he look like?"
The boys described the costume and Leeds' exact comments about ham and eggs. Mr. Nigel was skeptical, but gave them the benefit of a doubt.
The morning paper was sitting on the front porch "JERSEY DEVIL SPOTTED IN WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP" the headlines read. Mr. Nigel read the article and with a look of shock, told the boys what had happened. The creature in the article was spotted about a quarter-mile away from the Nigel's home and described almost exactly as the boys had told their father. It was seen raiding a chicken coop.
"Gee dad, do you think he did it?" Mark asked.
Mr. Nigel's eyebrows narrowed.
"He missed my Chrysler," he clenched his teeth. "However, I will look into this further. Go to your room for a while."
The boys went upstairs feeling a little apprehensive about what lay ahead for the rest of their day.
"Hey, that was close," Bob breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yeah, for a minute there, I thought we would get punished on Halloween."
"I don't believe that we actually saw that Jersey Devil!" Mark said, "Awesome!"
Mr. Nigel finished reading the paper and called his friend over at the police station to find out what happened.
"We've had news reporters outside since early this morning, Howard," his friend said. "In addition to the sightings, someone started a fire over at the Craig's. Mrs. Craig could not positively identify the perpetrator, so she blamed all the kids within a 3-mile radius, including your boys. I told her that your boys wouldn't set fire to bags of dog feces and that if she didn't see who did it, we couldn't do anything, except file an incident report."
The hairs on the back of Mr. Nigel's neck stood up when the fire was mentioned, as he was aware of the fireworks fiasco the night before that at Hari's, when they were "allegedly" celebrating Diwali.
"In case you were not aware of the history of the Jersey Devil," his friend continued, "It allegedly originated in Leeds Point and has been spotted throughout three counties for over 200 years. Sounds like a local myth to me, though."
"Leeds?" Mr. Nigel responded.
"Yes, legend has it that a Mrs. Leeds over in the Pine Barrens gave birth to the devil 200 years ago. It was her 13th child. It was cursed from conception, as the lady didn't want another child. When it was born, it looked just as it does in reported sightings, half bat and half horse with a long tail. It flew out the window scaring its midwife, and has been on the loose ever since."
Mr. Nigel thanked his friend, and hung up.
"Poppy cock!" he commented, as he sat in the kitchen pensively munching on his cold pizza like a dog on a bone. The family dog, an overweight Golden Retriever named Buckwheat, was sitting patiently for a crumb to fall off the table. His eyes were blinking quickly, as if he was anticipating a shower of crumbs and he began to drool.
"Ruff!" Buckwheat pleaded, but still no crumb of pizza was forthcoming. He muffled a sound of disappointment, belched, and laid back down. His jowls were spread out across the comic section of the newspaper on the floor like lava that had just petered out after running down the side of a mountain. They stopped just short of a Mike Peters' cartoon of a demented Superhero, who even looked like Howard Nigel.
"Do you think we should let the children go out trick or treating tonight with that thing on the loose?" Mom asked.
"Don't worry, I'll go with them" he assured her.
On Halloween, the boys wore pirate costumes. They told all their friends about the Jersey Devil incident and their mom got a phone call from two newspaper reporters, who interviewed them for the Courier-Post about the sighting.
They went out trick or treating hoping they didn’t run into Leeds!