Investigating the Jersey Devil: The red kangaroo theory

Investigating the Jersey Devil: The red kangaroo theory

red_jdThere are many theories as to what the Jersey Devil might be. Deep within the Pine Barrens of the 1800’s and early 1900’s there was not much to do when the farming and chores were complete, except brew and drink moonshine. So between the native cranes , the deer in the woods and the circuses that passed through town might’ve been what convinced the locals there was a flesh and blood devil in New Jersey.

To a Jersey Devil scholar and researcher, we are all very well aware of the many fabrications and gaffes hucksters tried to pass off as our most famous resident. No different than Bigfoot, nor the Feejee Mermaid, JD has his fair share of (proven) faked stories and sightings.

hoaxAs we all know, 1909 was dubbed the “Phenomenonal Week” thanks to the spike in Jersey Devil sightings. During the flap, tracks were found in the snow and every unknown noise was attributed to good ole’ JD himself. Since TV was not around, people needed something to occupy their time,  so they turned their imagination and local legends to make a buck.

In January 1909 the Jersey Devil was revived as a hoax displayed in a private Philadelphia museum. The creature was actually a kangaroo outfitted with fake wings affixed by a harness, and the critter was painted with green stripes. A boy was hidden behind the cage with a pointed stick, poking the poor beast to make it leap menacingly at spectators. The genius behind this scam was Jacob Hope (or Norman Jefferies, RIP May 25, 1933) who claimed JD was an Australian vampire, offering a reward for its capture.


headlineMany residents of New Jersey kept exotic animals as pets at the turn of the century, and traveling circuses were the norm. The possibility of a kangaroo being kept as a pet, then escaping into the Pine Barrens, only to be mistaken for the Jersey Devil isn’t a completely crazy theory. But in my opinion, I think you could look at a kangaroo in the dark woods and confuse it for a deer considering the similar facial structure and body type.  Nowadays it’s illegal to keep a pet kangaroo, unless you acquire an exotic pet license and permit for your companion.

phantomMore recently, there have been reports of kangaroo roadkill up in Raritan,1 along Route 31. When authorities went to investigate, the carcass was nowhere to be found. Less ambiguous is this 2013 video from Oklahoma featuring a wayward marsupial hopping through a corral.

Locals believe this might be Lucy Sparkles, a kangaroo who escaped that Thanksgiving.2

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