Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Jersey Devil strikes again

Either that or it's Chupacabras - 'experts' say that coyotes are probably to blame for a recent string of attacks on dogs and even a 20-month infant in the Garden State, but we Jersey folk know better:
(Middletown, N.J. - WABC, April 9, 2007) - Authorities say mystery animals, possibly coyotes, attacked an infant boy and apparently killed several dogs in Middletown, New Jersey, over the past few weeks.

In the most recent incident, officials say a 20-month-old boy visiting from Florida was attacked in the vicinity of 626 Kings Highway East on Friday night.

The child was reportedly running around with his cousins and uncle in a yard when a mystery animal attempted to grab and drag him.

The frightened infant was able to break free from the attacking animal, authorities said. The young boy was treated for scratches and minor bite marks at the hospital and released.

(Via BoingBoing.)

For those of you True Believers™ out there, here's one of the best write-ups on the Jersey Devil I've seen floating around on the web, courtesy of Weird NJ. Being born and raised within a stone's throw of the Pine Barrens, I lived in mortal fear of this elusive creature, especially having read one too many books on the topic at my local library. I can still remember a supposed eyewitness account involving a kid in the suburbs looking out his window and seeing a bloody face - it took me years afterwards before I voluntarily looked out any of our windows at night.

Although I've allowed myself to develop a certain healthy sense of skepticism regarding the supernatural, I think a certain amount of fascination and fear about what lies just beneath the surface of our quotidian existence is still an important part of who I am. At the beginning of this year I wrote a brief essay for my local paper, who was looking for reader/columnists to help fill out a regular feature on the neighborhood in the opinion section. Alas, the newspaper never got back to me - I suspect they were looking for someone who'd lived in town for slightly longer than myself - but since it seems oddly appropriate I thought I'd share it here:

Several months ago, my wife was out walking near our home when she noticed something strange out of the corner of her eye. Not more than twenty yards away was a large black cat, sitting quietly in the underbrush behind the Little League field, staring right at her! Frightened, my wife nevertheless had enough presence of mind to cross the street as calmly as possible, but as soon as she was safe indoors she started to wonder about this place we had only recently moved to. We'd heard of Dogtown [an abandoned section of Cape Ann that was infamous in the 19th century for its packs of wild dogs] of course, but nobody told us about wild cats! When she told me, I was fascinated, as was my three-year-old daughter, who now refers to the mystery feline as "the puma."

"Watch out for the puma, Daddy!" my little girl will call out through the window whenever I leave the house, laughing hysterically when I pretend to disappear behind the bushes and make hungry animal noises. She's still young enough to face the world without fear. Is it a puma, or perhaps a black bobcat (which are rare in these climes but have been sighted as far north as Nova Scotia, according to cryptozoological circles)? Or might the Jersey Devil have a cousin up here on the New England coast? Whatever it is, my daughter is endlessly interested in what lies just beyond our doorstep, and so am I. Nevertheless I still can't help but look over my shoulder when I come home late at night, for fear of being stalked by the unknown beast that lives right across the road.

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