Over the course of history, humanity has developed a form of storytelling to explain those aspects of reality which can not be readily explained. In the modern scientific age, we call these stories myths. An aspect of the Primitive Human's psychology which we have outgrown, the myth is commonly seen now as a form of entertainment.
However, modern societies continue to produce a mythology to deal with our deep concern and even fear of the unknown. Modern America has created stories ranging from the infamous New Jersey Devil, to Hook-hand, to a convoluted alteration to the traditional belief of Angels. What are these myths of the modern equivalent to Rome? Why do the develop into a commonly expressed, often told story system? Why do Americans, so renowned for it's scientific community, continue to create and pass on legends and myths?
To understand this phenomenon we must first consider some of the American myths.
Over the next 200+ years, the Devil was sighted in various areas of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania. Often times the sightings are limited to sounds, red eyes, or shadows. Over the years, it has become common to ascribe all manner of "weird" occurrences on the Devil.
Some of the most important recent New Jersey Devil sightings:
Other versions of this type of story includes the Mothman legend, and possibly, the Bigfoot legend of the Northwest.
This sort of story is created by a society to explain a variety of unusual occurrences. Most likely the New Jersey Devil was born in the 1700s, but not as a supernatural creature. During the period in question, birth defects were commonly ascribed to infernal influences.
Additionally, most of the unfortunate children with these defects were hidden away and cared for by close family members. It is quite conceivable Mrs. Leeds had an afflicted child, cared for it all her life in seclusion, and the young man disappeared into the woods after her death to avoid ridicule and fear from the local townsfolk. However, it is almost impossible to believe the Devil survives today. Most likely the "strange" tracks, flapping wings, and red eyes can be explained by the natural ecology of the Pine Barrens area of New Jersey. In this area there are wild pigs, turkeys, deer, and even the occasional wolf and bear. This story appears to be a combination explanation of an unfortunate child and a standard fear of nature by people who understand neither.