Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 1st, 2010
New Brunswick Times
New Brunswick, New Jersey
January 22, 1909
$500 FOR THE LEEDS DEVIL
Showman Says It’s a Vampire and He Wants It Back – South Jersey Sensation.
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 22. – It seems probable that the “Leeds devil,” which has had all South Jersey terrorized for four days and which transferred its activity to Philadelphia last night and today[,] will be captured within a day or two and the real reason for its appearance made known to a world in which two suckers for the press agent are born every minute.
In the meantime from every town in South Jersey come reports of dogs torn to pieces, bloodcurdling encounters and descriptions that fit any prehistoric monster one might pick out. Lots of these come from reputable people who are firmly convinced that they saw what they saw.
J. F. Hope, an animal trainer and dealer at 35 North Ninth street, issued a statement yesterday afternoon saying that the strange bird beast is “an Australian vampire devil” which escaped from him ten days ago. He offers $500 reward for its capture.
He gives warning to all who wish to try for the reward that the creature is dangerous. Hope says that no one should attempt the feat unless armed and that a net should be utilized to secure the beastie before it is approached.
“I am very anxious to recover the vampire,” he said. “There is only one like it in captivity, and that is in the Zoological Garden in Berlin. I purchased the animal in Europe and it arrived here ten days ago. I had it in a menagerie at Beach street and Fairmount avenue and it escaped from there.
“It can swim as well as fly, and after it had broken out of its cage it swam across the Delaware. I have no doubt that the animal which has been seen in Jersey is the one I lost. The description given by Nelson Evans and his wife at Gloucester City fits it exactly.
“Scientists are puzzled to give a name to the beast, which is a combination of bat, kangaroo and pony. It is white and belongs to the kangaroo family, for it travels by leaps and has the marsupial pouch under the breast with which the kangaroo is provided.
“You should have seen the havoc caused by the beast’s efforts to break from its cage. A more ferocious animal I have never seen.
“The beast has the head of a horse, stands nearly three feet high and is covered with short, thick fur. On its back are two wings which measure 4 feet, so that when it is flying the stretch of the wings from tip to tip is almost 10 feet.”
Mr. Hope backed up his offer of a reward of $500 by inserting an advertisement to that effect in the newspapers.
On the heels of this announcement came a very pronounced attack of vampiphobia in the downtown section about Fifth and Porter streets. There the Taggart school was nearly put out of business, and last night mothers did not allow their children on the streets.
About 3 o’clock, according to the stories of the children, they saw a big bat hovering over the school. It was five feet long, they said. The children were just leaving. Mary Ellen Carson of 2514 South Marshall street, a six-year-old pupil, told her parents she was chased by it. There are forty men and women who affirm that the things swooped down among the children scattering them, then flapped along the street, stole a chicken out of the yard of 2522 South Fifth street and soared away. It flew over League Island, where a lot of marines fired at it. Then, it disappeared into Jersey again.
All these people solemnly swear they saw the “Vampire” in fact. If something rather weird is not flying around, the condition of mind of South Jersey and South Philadelphia would provide a feast for students of mob hallucination. Here are a few scattered reports from various sections:
Riverside, N.J., Jan. 21. – John Manz saw his building torn to pieces by the “devil” last night. Manz says he saw a great bird with a horse’s face swoop down and kill the dog.
Riverton, N.J., Jan. 21. – A posse of our bravest young men set out tonight to hunt down the “devil.” It appeared at the home of William Tackfling this morning, barked through the window and flew away. It’s [sic] tracks are everywhere.
Pemberton, N.J., Jan. 21. – The “Whatever-is-It” was seen by two persons in this town. Edward Archer, a conductor on the Pemberton Branch of the Pennsylvania railroad, says that the creature sprang at him early this morning as he was going out in his barn. It was hiding behind a shed, he says, and he has a confused recollection of a hairy body coming at him. He also declares that the Rev. John Purcel, a clergyman living at Pemberton, saw the “Thing” last night. It was crossing the snow in quick, short leaps and its progress was very rapid. Mr. Purcel describes the creature as about three feet long and having long, black hair.
Mount Holly, N.J., Jan. 21. – William Cronk, a venerable citizen, says he saw a large bird flying low across the lawn as he was eating dinner yesterday. The bird flew about two feet from the ground and soared over the fence, turning in the direction of [illegible] Creek. It had long legs and wings with a spread of four feet.
These are only a few of hundreds of similar reports.