The Paris Catacombs-A Bizarre Tale!
Before I begin my story...I'll tell you about the Catacombs in Paris, France. Underneath the city lies a vast network of tunnels. Today no one knows the direction of all of the tunnels; the plans to them were lost long ago. Some of the tunnels are so small you have to crawl through them on your hands and knees, and are some so big you could walk ten men abreast and still not touch the sides. You may think that this doesn't sound that scary. However, the tunnels are full of human bones...the bones of 7 Million Parisians, to be precise. In the 1700's, Paris began to run out of grave space and people began suffering from contamination caused by inadequate burials and mass graves in the churchyard cemeteries; there was much sickness and disease in the area, and in some cases the ground level in the church yards had risen 10 to 20 feet just from the volume of the human remains in them. So in a sort of mass-desecration, the oldest graves were dug up, and the bodies dumped in the newly created tunnels under Paris. There are parts of the 'combs where the bones are piled so high on the ground that when you walk down on them, you are actually crushing hundreds to dust. You walk through the tunnels, and come to a sort of alter, with a Latin engraving. It reads:
Man, like a flower of the field,
flourishes while the breath is in
him, and does not remain nor
know longer his own place.
In peaceful sleep rest great people.
On a recent trip to France with some friends, we overheard an old man talking in a pub in Paris about the Catacombs. I have always been rather repulsed by the idea of them, though my friends find it fascinating. When we asked the old man about the underground tunnels, he told us a story of how long ago, he and his friends found a hidden entrance to the Catacombs and went very deep underground.
Apparently, this was a rather daring pastime when he was younger. He and his fellow Catophiles went under every weekend, seeing how deep they dared to venture before chickening out. One weekend in 1961, they all went further under than they ever had before. There were 7 of them, the same number of people as in my group. They stayed under for 17 hours, with lamps and torches burning all the time, when suddenly everything failed; all the lights went dark. He told me "the worst thing that can happen is to get lost down there with no lights---even if you think you remember the way---because when there is no light, the tunnels change and move." I asked him what happened after the lights went out. "We grouped together and started praying, and one lamp came on, mine, so we held hands and I led the way." I suddenly got an uneasy feeling and I really didn't want to hear the end of the story. He continued. "So I reached the surface, and looked back at my friends...to find they weren't there. I could feel Louis holding my hand all the time, but when I looked back, I saw my hand clasping a dark shadow." He then told us that he never saw any of his friends again, and doesn't know what happened to them. I don't know if I believe that story or not, but it definitely intrigued my friends. Now, they had to go into the Catacombs.
We did some research and found that you can actually go into the 'combs without finding a hidden entrance--there is one that is open to the public.
So in we went.
I didn't want to go but my friends dragged me along. It was horrid, but on this visit, the bones were stacked along the walls, although that was hardly a blessing. It was very sad. I could almost feel the sorrow down there. We walked around the room; we were the only ones there at this time. All of a sudden we heard a little girl crying. We could hear it echoing around us, everywhere. I had enough and ran back upstairs into the cool fresh air. About 15 minutes later my friends came out. The told me they heard a loud crashing, like bones all falling onto the floor at once. They came out pale-faced and breathing hard. I knew they were telling the truth about what they heard.
However, far from being scared off by what we heard, all of my friends were dying to go back! This time they wanted to find a hidden entrance. I was vehemently against this; I had all I wanted from the Catacombs. I sat on my own in a little cafe the next day while my six friends--Mark, Thomas, Helen, Keith, Chris and Alyson--all went in search of someone who would help them see the "real tunnels".
They came back a few hours later, to find me very jittery from nerves and caffeine. They had with them a man in his 40's who said his name was "Henri, just Henri." He said he had spent many years of his youth in the 'combs and that for a price - 300 Euros - he would show us where to go and give us a tour.
I said no right away. I was not going back in there. My comrades, however, were up for it. They chipped in 50 Euros each and set off on the tour. I told them I would be waiting. They left at 9am and I didn't see any of them until 9pm that night. But when they came back, Alyson was missing. They said one minute she was there, then they took a turn and she was gone. They backtracked for about 2 hours but couldn't find her. We went to the police but they said it was unsafe to go down there and they couldn't help us. To be honest, they sounded terrified at the mere thought of going down into the catacombs. We asked Henri to come back down with us and search, but he said if she was lost then she was already dead. We were frantic with worry when all of a sudden Alyson walked through the door of the Cafe (we had gone back there after talking to the police.) She was in a terrible state; her clothes were torn, she was filthy, scratched, and smeared with blood and dust. Her eyes were staring and vacant. God only knows how she found her way back to the cafe to us. We brought her back to the hotel and gave her some stiff drinks to revive her.
We asked her what had happened down there. When she replied, it was in an awful flat tone, like she wasn't even aware she was talking. She told us she had seen a light glimmering down a tunnel that forked off of the one they were in. She followed it, thinking someone might be lost, but the light moved ahead of her, so no matter how fast she went it was always just around the next corner. Before she knew it, she herself was lost. She called out for the rest of the group but heard only her own cries echoed back at her. She carried on, following the light, hearing only her harsh breath, and her own footsteps. Then she realized she should hear the footsteps of whoever was holding the light.
She ran faster and before she knew it, she had run headlong into a dead end. Against the wall was a skeleton sitting down, it's clothes ragged on its bones. She then saw something that made her blood run cold. Nike trainers. This skeleton wasn't from the 1700's, it was from the present. Someone else had been lost--and died. She ran from the dead end as fast as she could, making random turns at she fled. Her torch started to dim, and she started panicking. She ran into another dead end, but this one had a ladder on the wall, so she climbed up and onto the surface, then scrambled away from the exit and sat on the ground and cried. She then started looking for us to find the cafe. She kept hearing footsteps behind her. When she looked behind her, she saw a dark shadow on the ground. She was lost in the city but finally found us.
We decided to fly home the next day. Back in London we all told only our closest family members what had happened. None of them believed us. Sadly, Alyson never quite recovered from her attack. She is now in a psychiatric hospital. We visit her every week but she seems to respond less and less. Her doctor told us that whatever happened just affected her mind too much, and she becomes more introverted and lethargic everyday. We all have sleeping problems now. I barely get 3 hours a night, and get by only by consuming mass amounts of caffeine. I have no idea what happened to us in Paris, only that I will never go back. And every night I pray to God that whatever did that to Alyson stays in Paris and doesn't come to finish her off...or us.
The Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil tale has been around for a long time. It's even shown up on The X-Files. But no one has ever managed to capture the Jersey Devil...
The Jersey Devil, the supposed mythical creature of the New Jersey Pinelands, has haunted New Jersey and the surrounding area for the past 260 years. This entity has been seen by over 2,000 documented witnesses. 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.
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, found out she was pregnant with her 13th child and shouted, "I hope it's a devil!". The child was born misshapen and deformed. She sheltered it in the house, so curious people couldn't see him. One stormy night, the child flapped its arms, which turned into wings, and escaped out the chimney and was never seen by the family again.
There are several other versions of the legend. Although there are many discrepancies in all of these stories, the sightings are the most substantial pieces of evidence.
In the early 19th century, Colonel Stephen Decatur, a naval hero, was testing cannon balls on the firing range when he saw a strange creature flying across the sky. He fired and hit the creature but it kept right on flying across the field. In 1840, many sheep and chickens were killed by a creature with a piercing scream and strange tracks. In 1859-94, the Jersey Devil was seen and numerous times and reportedly carried off anything that moved in Haddonfield, Bridgeton, Smithville, Long Branch, and Leeds Point. W.F.Mayer of New York noticed while visiting the Pine Barrens, most of the locals would not venture out after dark.
In 1903, Charles Skinner, author of American Myths and Legends, claimed that the legend of the devil had run its course and that in the new century, NJ would hear no more of the devil. New Jersey rested easy for 6 years, until the week of January 16, 1909. During this week, the devil would leave his tracks all over South Jersey and Philadelphia. He was seen by over 1,000 people...his largest appearance ever.
Patrolman James Sackville fired at the creature as it flew away screaming. Postmaster E.W. Minister also saw a bird-like creature with a horse's head that had a piercing scream. When daylight came, the residents of Bristol found hoof prints in the snow. Two local trappers said they had never seen tracks like those before.
Almost every yard in Burlington had strange hoof prints all over them. The prints went up trees, went from roof to roof, disappeared in the middle of the road, and stopped in the middle of open fields. A hunt was organized to follow the tracks but the dogs wouldn't follow the trail.
On January 19th the Jersey Devil made his longest appearance of the week. At 2:30 am, Mr. & Mrs. Nelson Evans were awakened by a strange noise. They watched the devil from their window for 10 minutes. Mr. Evans described the creature they saw:
"It was about three feet and half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and its back legs were like those of a crane, and it had horse's hooves. It walked on its back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn't use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, 'Shoo', and it turned around barked at me, and flew away."
The next day, the Trolleys in Trenton and New Brunswick had armed drivers to ward off attacks. The people in Pitman filled churches. Chickens had been missing all week throughout the Delaware Valley, but when the farmers checked their yards that day, they found their chickens dead, with no marks on them.
Throughout the next several decades, the Jersey Devil continued its reign of terror.
In 1966, a farm was raided, and 31 ducks, 3 geese, 4 cats, and 2 dogs were killed. Strange tracks covered the entire area.
One theory is that the Jersey Devil is really a sand hill crane. The crane used to live in South Jersey until it was pushed out by man. The sand hill crane weighs about 12 lbs., is 4 foot high, and a wingspan of 80 inches. It avoids man but if confronted it will fight. It has a loud scream whooping voice that can be heard at a distance. This could account for the screams heard by witnesses. The crane also eats potatoes and corn. This could account for the raids on crops. This theory doesn't explain, however, the killing of live stock. It also doesn't explain why people described the devil as having a horses head, bat wings and tail, all of which the crane doesn't have.
The Academy of Natural Sciences could find no record of any creature, living or extinct, that resembles the Jersey Devil.
Only a small amount of the sightings and footprints could be hoaxes. The Jersey Devil has been seen by reliable people such as police, government officials, postmasters, businessman, and others who have nothing to gain, and much credibility to lose, by
claiming to have seen the Jersey devil. As for the hoof prints, even if some were hoaxes, there is still no way to explain most of the tracks, especially the ones on roof tops and tracks that ended abruptly as if the creature took wing.
In 1909, a track walker on the electric railroad saw the devil fly into the wires above the tracks. There was a violent explosion which melted the track 20 feet in both directions. No body was ever found. In 1957, the Department of Conservation found a strange corpse in a burned out area of the pines. It was a partial skeleton, feathers, and hind legs of an unidentifiable creature. Each time the Jersey Devil is reported dead, he returns.
The last theory is the most controversial one. Many people believe that the Jersey Devil could be the very essence of evil, embodied. It is said that the devil is an "uncanny omen of war" and appears before any great conflict. The jersey devil was sighted before the start of the Civil War. It was also seen right before the Spanish American War and WW I. In 1939, before the start of WW II, Mount Holly citizens were awakened by the noise of hooves on their roof tops. The Devil was seen on December 7, 1941, right before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was also seen right before the Vietnam War.
None of these theories can give a definitive answer to what kind of creature the Jersey Devil could be. Whether it is a bird, a demon, or a forgotten prehistoric life form remains a mystery. The people of New Jersey have definitely seen something out there lurking in the Pine Barrens...and while they may not know what it might be...its name is the Jersey devil.