About

For the better part of two centuries, at least, the story of the Jersey Devil has been part of the culture of Southern New Jersey. A fire-breathing monster with the head of a horse, bat wings and the body of a kangaroo, the creature is said to be the thirteenth child of Mother Leeds, born in 1735, when the unfortunate woman put a curse on her future offspring.

Informed at a tender age by his BeBop (his grandmother) that he is distantly related to the beast, Bill Sprouse goes looking for the story behind the story of his family’s connection to the famous monster. The result is part memoir, part travelogue and part a raucous tour of three-hundred years of New Jersey history.

The Domestic Life of the Jersey Devil traces the origins of the Jersey Devil legend to an obscure pamphlet war that sent the Leeds family to Leeds Point at the end of the seventeenth century, with the family patriarch, Daniel Leeds, branded “Satan’s Harbinger” in the process. It follows the story through its connection with the residents of the Pine Barrens (the famous Pineys), who were said to live in fear of the beast, and, finally, it examines the legend in its modern iterations: X-Files episodes are made about the monster, a pro hockey team is named after it, and residents of Galloway Township attempt to adopt the creature as the Official Town Mascot.

The Domestic Life of the Jersey Devil is a book about suburban identity, and about one suburbanite’s attempt to come to terms with his family history in the most unlikely of places.

A Guide to the Sections

 
DISCLAIMER
On being related (distantly) to the Jersey Devil,
and why this whole thing was probably a mistake
1
 
 
ONE
BeBop and I go to Galloway Township
5
 
 
TWO
‘Everyone liked being related’
5
 
 
THREE
BeBop’s beef with Harry Leeds
8
 
 
FOUR
Harry does something peculiar
11
 
 
FIVE
I take the casino bus to find the Jersey Devil
14
 
 
SIX
BeBop’s family arrives in Leeds Point
17
 
 
SEVEN
BeBop and I go to Bombay
22
 
 
EIGHT
BeBop prevents civil war
24
  
 
NINE
West Jersey as Quaker utopia
26
 
 
TEN
Keith’s beef with the Public Friends
28
 
 
ELEVEN
The libel trial of the Keithians
33
 
 
TWELVE
Daniel’s relationship with the Quakers at this time
39
 
 
THIRTEEN
The Kingdom of Lucerne, and a sharpshooter
42
 
 
FOURTEEN
I go to Wawa
53
 
 
FIFTEEN
Other conversations in chain retail shops
60
 
 
SIXTEEN
W.F. Mayers goes into the Pines
63
 
 
SEVENTEEN
Daniel Leeds is ‘Satan’s harbinger’
69
 
 
EIGHTEEN
The spiritual and carnal whoredoms of Quakers
72
 
 
NINETEEN
Daniel and the Cornbury clique
79
 
 
TWENTY
Weather events, and I fail to ask an important question
87
 
 
TWENTY-ONE
Uncle James shoots the sheriff of Henderson in the ass
92
 
 
TWENTY-TWO
A visit to the Booseum
95
 
 
TWENTY-THREE
Boo’s jump shot, and other Atlantic City icons
101
 
 
TWENTY-FOUR
Today’s morons, yesterday’s disowned Friends
103
 
 
TWENTY-FIVE
‘Lenin tried something different’
112
 
 
TWENTY-SIX
I am offered Combos
114
 
 
TWENTY-SEVEN
The 1909 Jabberwocky invasion
116
 
  
TWENTY-EIGHT
Folkroulette, and Mabel yells ‘Crackers’
129
 
 
TWENTY-NINE
A cabinet of curiosities, and ‘We had older heads’
132
 
 
THIRTY
Lord Whimsy proposes an investigation
134
 
 
THIRTY-ONE
Beck’s romantic Jersey Devil
138
 
 
THIRTY-TWO
Halpert’s Piney testimonies
145
 
 
THIRTY-THREE
‘Attitudes and ambitions’
149
 
 
THIRTY-FOUR
The feedback loop, and a ‘No-last-name-local’
152
 
 
THIRTY-FIVE
A C-list cryptid, and the loss of a certain elemental power
155
 
 
THIRTY-SIX
Instant nonstick folklore
158
 
 
THIRTY-SEVEN
Leut and the Devil Hunters
163
 
 
THIRTY-EIGHT
BeBop and I go into the Pines, and a memory of shad roe
167
 
 
THIRTY-NINE
A failed reconciliation, and why I feel rather like a shit
172
 
 
FORTY
An important caveat, and more Quaker refugees
178
 
 
FORTY-ONE
Harry Leeds revisited
181
 
 
FORTY-TWO
Harry doesn’t eat crabs
186
 
 
FORTY-THREE
‘Somebody worked overnight’
186
 
 
FORTY-FOUR
Return to the Galloway Muni Complex
190
 
 
FOURTY-FIVE
Daniel Leeds’ astrological toolkit
194
 
 
FORTY-SIX
Revisiting Daniel
202
  
 
FORTY-SEVEN
Ben Franklin, and Titan Leeds’ Ghost
207
 
 
FORTY-EIGHT
A walk in the woods with the Devil Hunters
211
 
 
FORTY-NINE
Bad productions
216
 
 
FIFTY
I meet a Piney
218
 
 
FIFTY-ONE
New Jersey Devil
221
 
 
FIFTY-TWO
Sante’s list of acceptable Jerseyana
227
 
 
FIFTY-THREE
A message from Harry Leeds’ ghost
230
 
 
FIFTY-FOUR
BeBop’s Jersey Devil
235
 
 
EPILOGUE
237
 

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