Some of you seem to think that anyone who says he’s seen the New Jersey “Mantis Man,” let alone the Jersey Devil, must be a kook. But I’m not so sure.
My late brother-in-law, Ray, co-authored two books on the Jersey Devil, for which he conducted many face-to-face interviews and spent a lot of time getting nibbled by strawberry flies all around the Pine Barrens. At the end of it all, he used to say he was halfway convinced there was something there; but he didn’t know what.
Seeing weird stuff in places like the Pine Barrens is nowhere near as badly tainted as the whole UFO scene. There are no alleged hypnotists running around finding repressed Mantis Man encounters in everyone they put under–even if that is a good way to find “Brett Kavanagh tried to rape me!” stories. I dare say the Mantis Man stories are less incredible than those. And as for the Jersey Devil, they’ve been telling stories about him since early in the 1700s.
In evaluating stories told, currently, by persons who swear they’ve seen either of these famous cryptids, I look for several things to help me decide whether the witness is telling the truth.
*The story has to be pried out of him, and he’s clearly uncomfortable, telling it. He may even break down into tears. B.S. artists, unless they are especially gifted and happen to be named “Bill Clinton,” don’t behave like that.
*The witness is not cashing in on the story–no monetized Youtube channel, no guest spots on Lifetime TV, no Go Fund Me account, etc.
*Other than the “monster” itself, the details of the story contain nothing improbable. Like, “I was driving down this country lane at night when my car conked out” is really a lot better than “The KGB chased me into the Pine Barrens when they discovered I was a plant for the CIA.”
Some of these witnesses do seem credible to me. At least, I can’t see any reason why they would make up such a story.
Maybe they’re mistaken in what they thought they saw, although at least in some cases, you have to say nobody could be that badly mistaken. The fine details of the story may be helpful here, especially if you can get a clear description of the monster–which hardly ever is forthcoming. A lot of these encounters badly startle the witness and last for only a matter of seconds.
Is it possible that there are things out there, living things, no farther away than the Jersey Pine Barrens, that no one has ever captured, classified, or understood? Creatures that haven’t even been photographed successfully, but nevertheless exist?
So you’re minding your own business, peacefully fishing in New Jersey’s Musconetcong River; and you’re all alone, of course, because these things never, ever happen when there’s a crowd of 20 people present…
And there he is, just on the opposite bank, staring at you, eight feet tall. Mantis Man–trying to give the Jersey Devil a run for it as the Official Haint of our state. My money’s on the Jersey Devil, who’s been at it since the 1700s. But don’t count Mantis Man out. He’s coming on strong.
This is, why do people tell these stories? Why do so many people tell them?
Before I get into any of the depressing news of the day–if I get into it at all–I’d like to devote a little more thought to this weekend’s topic of conversation: creatures that shouldn’t be there, but maybe they are.
Linda told us of her husband’s experience as a member of a recon unit in Vietnam: they found a gigantic spider web occupied by a gigantic spider. How gigantic? Big enough so that he worried that if a man blundered into that web, he’d never get out alive. But he couldn’t get his commanding officer to authorize a return to that location. It was a war zone, and no one had time for giant spiders.
And Marge told us of someone, whom she has no reason to disbelieve, who claims to have seen living Dimetrodons somewhere in Vietnam’s jungles.
Those are just two of hundreds, maybe thousands, of cryptozoological reports that crop up every year. People are always seeing animals that shouldn’t be there. From the Lake Murray, New Guinea, tyrannosaur to the Jersey Devil in the New Jersey pine barrens, there are still a lot of odd corners in the world, possibly with very odd things living in them.
Which, at least to my way of thinking, makes it all the more interesting.
What makes people tell stories like this, about having seen Mantis Man? You’d think they’d be afraid of being thought insane, or laughed at as really silly liars. Like, you’re fishing the river and all of a sudden you see this creature, eight feet tall if it’s an inch, looking like a cross between a human being and a giant praying mantis: and then it disappears.
As reported in the magazine, Weird NJ (issue No. 45), the few eyewitness accounts of Mantis Man, tendered by persons who probably don’t know each other, seem to agree as to details and a general sense of terror.
Mantis Man is a new arrival on the scene. By contrast, the Jersey Devil, the resident monster of the southern half of the state, has been scaring people since the 1700s and is still occasionally reported to this day. ( See “The Mystery of the Jersey Devil,” http://leeduigon.com/2015/09/20/the-mystery-of-the-jersey-devil/ ).
Are all these people lying? Or crazy? Are their eyes just playing tricks on them?
Beats me. I just don’t know what to make of it. Do you?
We are at liberty to say the stories aren’t true. There are an awful lot of stories, though. Thousands of ’em. And why should anyone but a kook want to go around saying he’s seen the Jersey Devil, when he hasn’t? Is everyone a liar? Is everyone a kook?
We don’t have the fire, but we sure do have a lot of smoke.
What is the Jersey Devil? Some say it’s just that–a devil, a demonic entity. Others insist it’s a flesh-and-blood cryptozoological critter, like the Loch Ness Monster. Or a raptor, like in Jurassic Park. The point is, no one knows. No one has ever known.