Urban Legends of the Delaware Valley

by Erich Martin

Dec 1, 2018

© Julie Feinstein | Dreamstime
Spanning more than 1 million acres and seven counties in New Jersey, the heavily forested Pine Barrens once thrived during the Colonial period but has since been desolate. Ghost towns of abandoned sawmills and paper mills were left behind, along with abandoned residences and the rumored Jersey Devil.

Trends / History

Everywhere on the planet is home to its own urban legends and myths.


The Pacific Northwest is home to Bigfoot; Mexico and Central America host the dreaded Chupacabra; and the fearsome Yeti terrorizes Nepal. The Delaware Valley runs between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey, and all throughout the surrounding area. The valley is home to some cryptids of its own.


The Jersey Devil is probably the most famous of the Delaware Valley legends. According to history, the devil was born in 1735 when a resident of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Mother Leeds, found herself pregnant for the 13th time. Flummoxed by the news, Leeds apparently proclaimed the coming child to be a devil.


On the night of its birth, the devil was apparently born as a healthy male child. When the Leeds’ midwife took the newly born baby out of the room to wash it; however, it underwent a grisly transformation. The creature grew fur, horns and hooved feet before using newly sprouted wings to fly away through the roof. The Leeds house still exists deep in the pines. The Devil has played a huge role in local culture, including being the namesake for New Jersey’s professional ice hockey team.


Moving into Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard is home to one of the creepier urban legends in the region.


The Philadelphia Experiment is the name of an alleged military experiment that took place in October 1943 in Philadelphia. The end goal was to use electromagnetic energy to turn warships invisible. When the engines turned on, the ships didn’t turn invisible, or, didn’t only turn invisible. According to reports of the experiments, the USS Eldridge disappeared from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. At the same time, the Eldridge appeared in Norfolk, Virginia. It returned about 10 minutes later, but the crewmembers were not the same.


Only some retained their minds, but many suffered fates worse than death. Crewmembers were cut in half, some were fused to the hull of the ship and more. In the future, crewmembers were reported as simply disappearing without a trace.


This Philadelphia Experiment is largely considered a hoax, but it brings a hint of the unexplained to the Delaware Valley.


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