(2018 ed. note: Russ no longer works with PPA, but is still heavily
involved with Pinelands conservation via NJ
Conservation Foundation.)Members and guests of the "Friends
of the Library" in Barnegat NJ recently had the pleasure of
hearing a lively and colorful discourse about the Jersey Devil and
the Pine Barrens. Russell Juelg, a member of The Pinelands Preservation
Alliance, entertained the group , including some tall tales of his
own, and time flew by. At
first glance, Russ Juelg looks like a shy man, but once he started
to speak about a subject he obviously loves, he became animated
and his eyes sparkled a bit more with each humorous tale he told.
From personal experience, I know that this gentleman is a veritable
wealth of knowledge, but this was the first time I heard him speak;
it was an honor to be part of the audience. This
gifted gentleman first explained the "logical" explanation
of JD: long before the white man arrived here, the Lenni Lenape
Indian worshipped "Mising", the caretaker of animals.
Often, the tribe would dress in costume, with headdresses, feather
capes and other ornamentation; and perform tribal dances to pay
homage to Mising.
the settlers arrived in the Pines, they abused the land, taking
down trees for firewood, building materials, and for charcoal to
heat the iron furnaces. The Lenni Lenape obviously did not take
kindly to this, as it was destroying
not just their home but the homes of animals. Curiously, sightings
of strange beings with "wings" and "horns" began.
Reports came from several areas of stranged winged creatures cavorting
on the rooftops . In January
1909, so many sightings were reported that many people actually
would not go to work or let their children go to school. Posses
were formed to try to find the Jersey Devil, to no avail. Then one
day, the sightings stopped. Since
then, according to Russ, there have been numerous sightings from
time to time, in what seems like clusters. Russ told a story of
three young men he met out near the Batona Camp. Their car had gotten
stuck in sand and they began to walk down the sand road. Soon darkness
fell, and they began to hear footsteps and sounds, soft whistle-like
noises at first, then the sounds became louder, and turned into
howling; and the sound of the footsteps were getting closer and
closer... so they lit a bonfire in the middle of the road to keep
whatever it was at bay. That's where Russell found them!
Russ' finale was a song entitled,
"I'm the Devil from Leeds", sung by Russ on
banjo, and accompanied by Milt Kennedy on guitar. Russell
told the group that he wants to find the Jersey Devil. He actually
takes groups out deep into the Pine Barrens to search for him.
Are you a believer?