Jersey Devil Expeditions: Roadside Attractions

The Jersey Devil Expeditions is the movie diary of Fighting Owl Film's new independent monster movie of the same name. Over the course of the next several weeks and months, you'll get an insider's peek at what it's like for filmmakers to craft a new entry of paranormal pop culture from Erin Lilley, a producer and actress on the film.

Photo Credit: Cryptomundo
Flying is nice - and definitely the most time-effective way to travel - but in my family, it wasn't a vacation unless you woke up around two in the morning and spent the better part of the next 24 hours trapped in the backseat, surrounded by snacks, batted to death by hanging clothes, and praying Dad wouldn't hit the brakes too hard, or that cooler in the back was going to slam into your head.

About the only difference between our vacations and the Griswold's was a dead aunt tied to the roof of the truckster. As it turns out, nurture won out over my comfort-creature nature, and Thomas and I have found ourselves following in my parents' tire treads. We have officially become "road-trippers."

I can't lay all the blame on my parents, though. A good portion can also go to the time I spent on the road as a touring musical theatre performer. We didn't have much to do off-stage, so the actors and crew stayed on the look-out for silly roadside attractions to kill the boredom. I've worn a Cheesehead in the Wisconsin Dells (and burned the photographic evidence), visited two competing Judy Garland museums in Minnesota, and blindly screamed my way through a corny haunted house at Niagara Falls. Heck, I've even "Seen Rock City," and if Thomas has his way, our next trip to Florida will include the famous Skunk Ape Research Headquarters. My bucket list truly includes seeing the world's largest ball of twine. I just need to figure out where it is.

Roadside attractions are a staple of the All-American Roadtrip experience, and it's this affection for these Mom-n-Pop organizations that helped inspire Jersey Devil Expeditions

Of course, our fictional little company wasn't the first to try to capitalize on the creature. Hucksters and Showmen have long used people's fascination with the myth to rake in the dough. Circus tycoon P.T. Barnum, no less, had his own "Jersey Devil" on display, purchased from the Arch Street Museum in Philadelphia.

In 1906, the museum, which was experiencing a bit of an economic downturn, was in need of a boost. Publicity Manager, Norman Jefferies, had recently learned of the Jersey Devil myth, and decided that was just the thing to bring in the crowds. Jefferies planted a story in a small-town New Jersey paper, detailing how "Mrs. J.H. Hopkins, wife of a worthy farmer of our county, distinctly saw the creature near the barn on Saturday last and afterwards examined its tracks in the snow."  Panic ensued, and the creature was ultimately caught by a group of farmers and sent with Jefferies to the Philly museum. Of course, all the local papers were alerted of "the find" beforehand. Jefferies confessed in 1929, that he'd left the animal in the woods for the farmers to find.

Crowds lined the streets to peek at Jefferies' "Jersey Devil": a kangaroo he'd purchased in Buffalo, NY, then striped with green paint, and fitted with bronze wings. The poor creature was continually prodded with a pin so it would appear angry. It was a cruel hoax, but effective, nonetheless.

Thankfully, times have changed, and displays such as Jefferies' and Barnum's are no longer the norm. They're also nothing like what our JDE guides have cooked up for their patrons. Sure, there's a guaranteed encounter with your friendly neighborhood cryptid, but absolutely no animals will be harmed in the filming of this motion picture. That's one promise that's no hoax.