pine barren

Legends and Tales of the Pine Barrens

The Jersey Devil has garnered a deep following in the Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia areas. Due to the sightings, many believe the Devil to be an actual animal or phenomenon similar to Bigfoot and the Yeti. Believers sometimes site the widespread sightings by crowds of people in "phenomenal week of 1909" as substantial evidence to some kind of occurrence. It is also held by some that the vastness and remote nature of the Pine Barrens could allow a species to remain hidden for a time. Though there are indeed firm believers in the Jersey Devil (or believers that hold that the Jersey Devil sightings are the result of another animal, such as a crane or kangaroo), there are some legendary creatures in the Pine Barrens that most residents unquestionably considered legends.

Other Legends

Legendary Pine Barren creatures that are widely considered to be merely folklore and campfire stories include the ghost of Captain Kidd, The Black Dog, the Golden Haired Girl, the Black Doctor, and the White Stag.

Many Pineys will mix the legend of the ghost of Captain Kidd with that of the Jersey Devil. According to locals, New Jersey's Barnegat Bay is one of the resting places of the notorious Kidd's many treasures. During the seventeenth and sixteenth century, some locals told stories of the ghost of Kidd walking along the beach with the Jersey Devil. In these reports, Kidd is often headless.

Another old Pine Barren story tells of the Black Dog, a ghostly creature that roamed the beaches and forests from Absecon Island to Barnegat Bay. In most folklore (such as English and Germanic folklore), Black Dogs are considered forces of evil. However, the Black Dog of the Pine Barren is often considered a harmless spirit. According to folklore, pirates on Absecon Island attacked a ship and killed its crew. Among those killed were the cabin boy and his black dog.

The Golden Haired Girl was yet another ghost that was said to stare out into the sea, dressed in white, mourning the loss of her lover at sea. Pineys would often tell stories of the Devil sitting alongside her, accompanying her on her vigil.

Another interesting tale is The Black Doctor, or the ghost of an African American man known as James Still. According to legend, in the 19th Century, James was not permitted to practice medicine because of the color of his skin. Undiscouraged, however, James went into reclusion in the Pine Barrens to study medicine from his textbooks (in some variations, James also learns herbal remedies from the local Indians.) There are different versions of his death. Some say that he was unjustly lynched when local Pineys found he was studying medicine. Others stories state that he was a hero to the Piney community and died of natural causes. James Still's ghost, known as the Black Doctor, is said to come to the aid of injured or stranded travellers in the Pine Barrens.

AND NOW FOR A FACTUAL INTERLUDE: Dr. James Still was the brother of William Still, noted abolitionist who wrote the book, The Underground Railroad. Dr. Still wrote a book (currently out of print) title Early Recollections, The Life of Dr. James Still. He had an office in Medford and was the third large largest landowner in Medford, NJ. He was self taught in the manners of medicial botany and used many herbal remedies for cures.

Similarly, the White Stag is a ghostly white horse (um, a stag is actually a male deer) said to aid travellers lost in the Pine Barrens. The Stag also prevents impending disasters, and it is said to have stopped a stagecoach from crashing into a river (uh, that would be the Batsto River).

The near "disaster" in question occurred at Quaker Bridge when the horses of a stage refused to go any further. When the driver climbed off the stage, he noticed a white stag in the road which then disappeared. Walking up the road, he then noticed the bridge was out. So, if you see a white stag, it's supposed to be good luck. :)


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