When we started corresponding in the early 2010s you were conducting research on the Jersey Devil legend. How much research have you done on it since?
Much! I was working on the third book in the Jersey Devil series which is available now; The Jersey Devil: Legend, Lore And Science; and needed a lot of new material. We investigated, in more detail, some of the reported encounters from years past. We dove deeper into actual historical figures associated with the Jersey Devil. Speculation concerning what it could possibly be is explored. The children of the Leeds family, birthed by Deborah Leeds are listed with their (available) ascribed information. We visited several locations claimed to the original house where the Jersey Devil was born. I am not sure if we will be working on a fourth book concerning the Jersey Devil. We just about covered the bulk of the material. But I know I have a few more short videos I hope to do in the near future. Check out the book and the videos we have on the Internet concerning the Jersey Devil!
How long has The Jersey Devil: Legend, Lore And Science been in publication? How much deeper into the legend and its history does it go next to your previous books?
We released the book in October 2017. The first edition was simply material to hold people off until the documentary came out. It was basic in design and informational content. The second edition went into more depth and expanded on the first. The third version of the book includes more scientific and historic information concerning the Jersey Devil. The Leeds family members are isolated and his twelve siblings are listed with their ascribed information.
Revisit the books that covered the legend. Did the same people who worked on those with you work with you for the latest book?
Some of the information was overflow from the first two books. Some of the information was based on leads that had to be followed up on and researched more. But the core work pretty much involved the same people that did research for the previous books and documentary. The project originally started in the early 2000's and there were probably close to 100 people involved.
How long did it take to involve a hundred people in the project? Were those hired mostly from the tri state area? What aspects of the legend were most of them interested in?
We started the project and research in approximately 2002-03. The DVD documentary came out in 2015 and the last book came out in October 2017. So it took quite a while to gather the people, ask the questions, sort the data and research all the avenues needed to put the project together. The people involved in the documentary and on staff for the books were all from the New Jersey area. As for the people interviewed, they were all primarily from the tri-state area, but others were researchers located around the United States that had an interest in the Jersey Devil. Others were people that used to live in New Jersey and moved away. As with most "ghost" stories, the mystery goes with the fact that some of the story is shrouded in historical fact. The Jersey Devil belongs is an old story and highly regionalized. The tales are told by the early European settlers and Native Americans who lived in what is now New Jersey.
How far back does the DVD documentary go covering the legend? Did it take more time to gather the information and compile it into movie length?
1735 would be a concrete date of the earliest reports, besides reports from the Native Americans that could possibly relate to the Jersey Devil. As far as the time it took to research and compile, the project spanned such a great length of time so we took several breaks and came back to it. But I would think it took a longer time to research and acquire the information for the documentary over the time spent on actually compiling it and editing the footage, though editing is a time consuming process.
How many edits were needed for your footage until everyone was satisfied?
Sometimes the most difficult part is shortening the footage to an appropriate length. You have to keep the relevant footage and cut anything that does not add to the story. I do not have a number of cuts that were made, but would have to say it was quite high. In the future we may use some of the cuts to make smaller mini films to tell additional stories. It is possible in a few years or so we will re-edit and re-release the DVD, but for now we are just going to offer them up on Youtube for public consumption. For the most part, if you search "Jersey Devil", "Axis Video" or "Pine Barren Films" they will come up.
Historically, how far back did researching the new book go? How did science come into play?
There is historical data concerning the Leeds family and in the location the Jersey Devil is rumored to live. There are tales the Natives told concerning a beast that may have been the Jersey Devil that predated 1735, but data is spotty and unreliable at best. A healthy dose of skepticism along with reason was applied to the reports. The Pine Barrens are a tough, rugged area. It is difficult to survive there and speculation was put forth concerning the animals known to live there, up against the traits attributed to the Jersey Devil. Different theories as to what the Jersey Devil could be are analyzed and several known animals are explored. Potential diets are applied to a possible unknown animal living in the Pine Barrens are looked into. The reports are researched with a more scientific lens as opposed to the lore angle and a logical answer was explored.
Who was the Leeds family and how many encounters did they have with the Jersey Devil? Were their historical accounts easier to find online or in local libraries?
The Leeds family, a prominent family in historic South Jersey, is commonly attributed as the source for and of the Jersey Devil legend. I cannot place a number on the encounters the family had since they are poorly recorded and the size of the family is vast. In the modern day, there are MANY families in the area that hold the Leeds name. Locating and researching information online was much easier as opposed to local libraries. Most popular accounts have been transcribed into an online format. Though I have queried many historians and elders for the information they hold. I perused many older, out of print local books such as the ones that the local New Jersey explorer Henry Beck wrote. His books are incredibly rare and I have fortunately acquired a few of them.
When were Henry Beck’s works on the Jersey Devil published? How long did they go out of print after their publication?
Henry Chalton Beck was a popular writer in the New Jersey area. He published a slew of books ranging from the 1930's until the 1960's. Initially his writings were published in the regional paper, The Courier Post, then Rutgers College published the books into several editions. Mr. Beck's books did not focus on the Jersey Devil but long forgotten ghost towns in the area, briefly alluding to and barely mentioning the Jersey Devil (which was usually referred to by other names).
Which of Beck’s publications did you track down despite their rarity? How much information did they provide you? Name sothe forgotten ghost towns Beck's extensive work covered.
I found most of the books archived online, but was lucky enough to acquire physical copies of Forgotten Towns Of Southern New Jersey, More Forgotten Towns Of South Jersey, The Jersey Midlands, Tales And Town Of Northern New Jersey, A New Jersey Reader, etc. The info provided a wealth of guidance due to their age and due to that many modern writers overlooked Mr. Beck's work. Though some writings concerning the locations were vague and much has changed over the years since Beck originally wrote them, they were of great help. He covered many locations within New Jersey, but most notable were: Batsto, Ong's Hat, Waterloo, Ramapos, Hoboken, Prospertown, La-Ha-Way, Calico, Smithville, plus many more from both south and north Jersey. He also told tales about some of the people that lived in various towns during his day.
How many theories is presented about what the Jersey Devil is and where it came from? From your collected research, which theory are you most inclined to accept at this point?
They range from the theories that it is a hammerhead bat, sandhill crane, red kangaroo, dinosaur and deformed feral child. Also people's imagination and straight hoaxes. I believe the truth behind the Jersey Devil has a little of each story. For the most part, the political angle to slander the family was a culprit, and many lores have been mixed in. For example, exotic pets were kept by residents, and circuses and freak shows were at their height during this time. So when you mix all these elements through inaccurate memories... the Jersey Devil was born.
How many installments of your Cursed series has been released altogether? Were the legends it covered from New Jersey or were legends from elsewhere also covered?
Currently there are three installments for the Cursed series. They cover many locations, legends and subjects we have investigated over the years. All are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The bulk of the legends originated in New Jersey, since it was much easier for us to research in person. But scattered throughout the series are legends from around the rest of the United States, such as the enigma of the Baby Monster Grave in Washington and the mysterious disappearance of Elisa Lam in California.
How long did it take to gather information for the Baby Monster and Elisa Lam articles?
That is a very broad subject, but you can check out the following articles concerning Baby Monster and Elisa Lam. The research for Baby Monster took only a few hours, not all that much to research. For the Elisa Lam article it took several weeks, there was a mountain of information to sort through to arrive at the final draft.
Long Island, New York has several urban legends including Harbor Mist (Cold Spring Harbor) and Carll House (Huntington). Would a documentary on those be a possibility? You've heard of the house in Amityville where Ronald DeFeo murdered his family in 1974; The Amityville Horror is based on it. How many documentaries about it have you seen? Would you ever consider filming one?
I would definitely be open to participating in documentation of those locations and events. I may have a bit of a logistical challenge but I would be interested. I have watched at least a dozen or so documentaries concerning the house and the events that unfolded there. I have seen most of the Hollywood movies that went along with the story. I threw together a quick mini doc concerning the house a few months back when I was up in New York for a different shoot. I do not have any plans to produce a full length or longer documentary on the subject. As the events occurred so many years ago, it may be hard to come up with any additional info that was not covered prior.
I've heard of urban legends from Key West, Florida including Robert the Haunted Doll. If finances allowed, would you travel there to investigate some local legends?
I would, although I do have a few preconceived opinions concerning that doll in particular, it still would be an interesting trip. I feel that most likely it is just a gimmick based on exaggerations. I never did any extensive investigation into Robbie, so that is just a hunch. Usually things in that vein are picked up by producers or publishing houses and a mythology is built upon them.
What is the Enchanted Forest and the Blue Hole you posted about on Facebook?
The Enchanted Forest is a section of the woods very close to the Blue Hole. Upon entering this area it is very odd and the sounds are intensely strange. When the wind blows, it makes the trees move and run on each other, creating a haunting sound. The Blue Hole is a mysterious water hole in the middle of the NJ Pine Barrens that has many legends attached to it. The most famous is that it is a location that the Jersey Devil likes to frequent. Others center on people drowning there, which may come from cautionary tales told by parents to keep their kids out of the water. I have a few videos up on Youtube concerning these locations.
How many videos about Blue Hole and Enchanted Forest are posted on Youtube? Do you intend to continue researching those areas?
I have actually lost track of the amount of videos posted! Concerning most of our videos, every few months/years we tend to go back and update them. Whether it be for acquiring new info, or just to update the video as technology improves, we like to revisit some locations several times. The Blue Hole is one of our favorite spots, so we do plan on having many more updates concerning it.
In November you posted about the Narberth House in Pennsylvania; the legend says a child was murdered in 2008. Was the a one-time posting or are you doing more research?
The house is actually a property owned by one of our clients. I did a little research and found the info presented in the video. As time allows I would like to conduct more research and possibly interview neighbors and the police in the area to get more information concerning the history of the house.
How did you go about getting permission to film the Narberth House? Do you think the project will grow from a video to a major production like Cursed?
We were doing work for a client and the story was related to us, the history of the house that is. I do not think that we will do anything larger than we have already done as far as producing a video for it. It is an interesting story that maybe one day I will dig deep and try to get some solid information concerning the fate of its prior residents.
Discuss the Purgatory House in Vincentown, New Jersey. Your short documentary discussed the orgies and animal sacrifices that happened there.
There was much legend pertaining to that house. But the facts are that a teen that lived in the house died in a car wreck. The rest is pretty much legend and lore. The house was a little gem in Vincentown along Route 70. There are many legends and stories that go along with this location.
There are tales of orgies, animal sacrifice and ghosts haunting this location. One of the legends that attempts to explain the ghost girl (that lived in the house) was that a 17 year old girl named Maria Alacon died in a car crash in 1978 on Church Road and 541 as she was heading back to Lenape High School from lunch. They say the accident decapitated her. In this crash Brian Pittman (from Main Street in Vincentown) was also killed. The driver of the car lived but people claim it wasn’t his fault for at the time there was no traffic light at this intersection and they were hit by a large truck carrying logs. Maria's mother was very religious and knew of the evil sources that the house possessed and finally left the property.
Some say a girl still lives on the property. Could this be Maria? Some say the kitchen floor shakes from the captured anguish and anger in the house. The current owners decided not to tear the house down due to the historic value and the legends that surround the location.
Many people wonder why the road and this location had the name Purgatory in it. The Oxford Dictionary also states that the word Purgatory refers to streams that flow in a ravine. Purgatory Road takes its name from Purgatory Run because the road crosses the headwaters of that stream. The toponym “Purgatory Run” dates to at least 1838 and is generally associated with Bear Swamp. Purgatory Run may have received its name because it may have contained enough water to make its presence known, but not enough water to power a mill, thereby making it a source of suffering. Bear Swamp could have brought temporary suffering to the landowner, likely a member of the Prickett family. I am sure the swamp was quite a dismal place, although, once the owner had harvested the Cedar trees, I suspect he no longer felt the place was a purgatory.
We were out with a client (2015) and afterwards found ourselves right next to Purgatory Road and the Purgatory House so we decided to stop and obtain an update. As we have known there was a fire a few years back and the place burned down, all that was left is a pile of rubble and the chimney along with a temporary lake that formed due to the melting snow and the torrential downpour that occurred today.
Based on the "Coming Soon" signs along Route 70 in the same area we can only assume that shortly this property will also be sold to developers to make mini malls or more housing developments.
The Purgatory House was an interesting location with a haunting past and we are glad that we were able to document it prior to its untimely demise. The Purgatory House caught fire and burned down in Sept of 2011. The cause is under investigation. Here is a link to the video.
What other excursions have you recently taken? How many do you currently have planned?
We have been all over the last few months, we ventured back to the Blue Hole and the Enchanted Forest, The Devil's Pool, historic Batsto Village, the ghost town of Atsion, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Harleigh Cemetery, a few random abandoned locations and a few other places. I plan to either re-edit and/or revisit a few locations that we already did videos for in the past. There are a few videos that were thrown together a few years ago that need to be properly edited.