Category Archives: myth

The rise of the Jersey Devil-PR stunt or a Mad Hatters tale?

We all know the first rule of PR is to get the public’s attention. Few things are quite as intoxicating (especially this time of year) as a good old fashioned urban legend to spawn a thriving industry of websites, books,videos, films, reality shows and TV specials.

Like Big Foot, The Yeti and the Lochness Monster, The Jersey Devil has amassed a culture of obsessive monster hunting groups, regular “sightings”, and story telling. The amount of buzz and staying power ol’ JD can boast from over the past 250 years or so goes far beyond what any marketing team could ever hope to pull off. But while some monster tales have intentionally been started to attract business, The Jersey Devil may have been born of unfortunate circumstances more than anything.
The story, according to legend, goes something like this. The Jersey Devil, aka the Leeds Devil, is a legendary creature said to inhabit the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey. The creature is often drawn or described in folklore as a cloven hoofed flying dragon with blood red eyes.
According to the most popular legend, the Jersey Devil was spawned in the 18th century when Deborah Smith an English immigrant wound up in the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey married to a peculiar Mr. Leeds, a rather vain man who wanted many heirs to continue the family name. Consequently, the new wife was continually pregnant. After bearing twelve healthy children, she was dismayed to be pregnant with her thirteenth. She cursed the unborn child, declaring a preference to bear the Devil’s child rather than another Leeds. (source: wikipedia).
Apparently, her wish was granted as the new child had cloven hooves, claws, and a tail. The horrific newborn proceeded to eat the other Leeds children and the parents, before escaping through the chimney to begin its reign of terror.
To this day, Jersey Devil sightings have been rampant. In 1909, the Philadelphia Zoo posted a $10,000 reward for the creature’s capture. Not surprisingly the offer resulted in a myriad of hoaxes, including a winged kangaroo. The reward remains available to this day.
However the rise of the Jersey Devil may have more to do with a bad mixture of indigenous animals and mercury poisoning than real monsters in the mist.

During the Revolutionary war era – the time in which we see the first written accounts of the Jersey Devil, the Pine Barrens was an industrial area in which its inhabitants were subjected to many dangerous chemicals and elements,”. “For example, the use of lead was very commonplace in their water pipes, utensils and even makeup. We now know that lead damages the brain, lowering IQ and causing learning disabilities and behavioral problems”.
“In addition to a proliferation of lead, the Pine Barrens was home to a thriving hat making business during the 1700’s,” Wiese continues. “Unfortunately, the furriers who made beaver skin hats made use of the chemical Mercury in the process to turn fur into felt. Mercury can cause pronounced mind altering effects. You may have heard the term as crazy as a Mad Hatter – and this is where it evolved from.”

“It can also be said that early settlers to the Pine Barrens may well have not been accustomed to wolves, bears, bobcats, badgers, flying squirrels, mountain lions, and bison that inhabited the area at the time. Due to the close proximity to the ocean, the large marshy areas of the barrens is also known to be a somewhat foggy location (which would have been exacerbated due to coal burning and other particulate in the air from the industrial plants). All these details could easily lead to hallucinations that spawned an industry of urban legend.

In conclusion as the tale is related to Mrs. Leeds, a poverty-stricken woman living in isolation with her 12 starving children – when she had a horribly deformed child, which was most likely due to the chemicals mentioned above, superstitious tales were probably started by local townspeople. Couple these with a few mercury infused hallucinations and a star is born.
The post originally appeared on October 2008 on Leber PR’s website
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Filed under Born to Explore, Jersey Devil, myth, Mythology, New Jersey, Richard Wiese

In Search of the Rainbow Serpent

The Northern tip of Australia called Arnhem Land is where man first came to this continent from Asia perhaps 50,000 years ago.
It was also the most remote place that I had ever been outside of Antarctica.

The land is very old , the weather quite tropical and it even has a primordial smell to it.
Very few people travel here and even the native aboriginal people who once called this home can no longer be found.

Our mission was to try to find a creature with the jaws of a crocodile, the tongue of a snake and the body of a fish called the Barramundi known to change its sex.

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We knew that in order to find this exotic creature we had to leave our western beliefs and ways of thinking behind and try to adopt the complex beliefs in creation, spirits and culture, that gives Australian Aborigines a religion that is distinctly different from any other religion in the world.
When talking about this way of looking at life one cannot begin to understand it without a knowlodge of “dream time”.

The term dream time refers to how these ancient people viewed creation and the idea that every object has in their lives.
We theorized that our lair the mythical Rainbow Serpent was an amalgam of many creatures—and one of the oldest told stories in the world.
The mission was to find clues to its origin. Our guide Max Davidson, an inspiration for the movie
“Crocodile Dundee,” led us on an epic journey to one of the most remote places on Earth—Arnhem Land contains hundreds of miles of rock art, it is the largest collection of this type of art in the world, dating back almost 50,000 years ago. Rock art, or petroglyphs, provide insight into the lives of the original inhabitants of Arnhem Land . What we found was remarkable.

From hand prints to animal and human figures, petroglyphs appeared in almost every nook.
It was quite plausible in many cases we were the first westerners to set eyes on some of these drawings since there creation thousand of years ago
Our expedition came to a pinnacle when we found the 15,000 year-old drawing of the Rainbow Serpent. It was huge—far eclipsing any of our previous findings. One can only theorize what people were thinking 15,000 years ago—but the Rainbow Serpent was important enough for society to record it. We believe the legend is an origin story—told from generation to generation in an effort to preserve an understanding of their own creation.

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Filed under aborigines, Arnhem land, australia, Born to Explore, myth, Mythology, rainbow serpent, Richard Wiese