Posted: 04/28/2008

 

13th Child—Legend of the Jersey Devil

(2002)

by Del Harvey



Cliff Robertson wrote and stars in this fictional take on America’s oldest monster myth…


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People are being killed, mysteriously, either by someone with superhuman strength, or by something with grisly powers. A clever Assistant D.A. is sent to investigate the puzzling case. The D.A.—along with his fellow investigators—attempts to figure out whether he is uncovering a series of perfect murders, or whether he is following the tracks of the legendary monster, named the Jersey Devil, in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.

The Jersey Devil, the supposed mythical creature of the New Jersey Pinelands, has haunted New Jersey and the surrounding areas for the past 260 years. This entity has been seen by over 2,000 witnesses over this period. It has terrorized towns and caused factories and schools to close down, yet many people believe that the Jersey Devil is a legend, a mythical beast, that originated from the folklore of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Others disagree with this point of view. The following text will show there is evidence to support the existence of an animal or supernatural bring known as the Jersey Devil. The evidence consists of the stories of the Jersey Devil’s origin, the sightings of it, and finally, the theories on it.

There are many different versions of the birth of the Jersey Devil. One of the most popular legends says a Mrs. Shrouds of Leeds Point, NJ made a wish that if she ever had another child, she want it to be a devil. Her next child was born misshapen and deformed. She sheltered it in the house, so the curious couldn’t see him. On stormy night, the child flapped it’s arms, which turned into wings, and escaped out the chimney and was never seen by the family again. A Mrs. Bowen of Leeds point said, “The Jersey Devil was born in the Shrouds house at Leeds Point.” 1 Another story that also placed the birth at Leeds Point said that a young girl fell in love with a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. The people of Leeds Point cursed her. When she gave birth, she had a devil. Some people believe the birth of the devil was punishment for the mistreatment of a minister by the Leeds folk.

Directed by Steven Stockage and written by: Michael Maryk & Cliff Robertson, 13th Child stars Michelle Maryk as Kathryn (Happy Hour), Cliff Robertson as Mr. Shroud (Spiderman, Charly), Robert Guillaume as Riley (TV’s Benson), Lesley-Anne Down as District Attorney Murphy (The Great Train Robbery, Nomads), Christopher Atkins as Ron (Blue Lagoon, It’s My Party), Gano Grills as Mitch (HBO’s Oz), and classic character actor Peter Jason as Coroner (Ghosts of Mars, Escape from L.A.).

To be honest, this film served best to whet my appetite about an American myth I had never heard of before. It left me hoping someone will see this film and be inspired to do a documentary about the creature. Very compelling.

To learn more about the myth of the Jersey Devil, visit these sites:
http://theshadowlands.net/jd.htm
http://www.geocities.com/scdeli1/devil.html

This DVD is available from MTI Home Video.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and lives in Chicago. He is a devout Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.



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