The most common characteristic reported in sightings is the blood curdling scream that it emits as it either attacks or flies away. The legend started with the Native Americans that inhabited that area and they feared a dragon that lived in the woods. Swedish explorers later called the creature “Drake Kill” meaning dragon. Here is a story from back in the 1700’s about the origin.
"It was said that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, stated that this one would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends. Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to a creature with hooves, a goat's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines. In 1740 a clergy exorcised the demon for 100 years and it wasn't seen again until 1890."
In the last century over 2,000 people have reportedly witnessed the devil. There are groups in New Jersey dedicated specifically to finding the beast and a movie has even been made.
My opinion is that the Jersey Devil is urban legend. It’s a fun urban legend, but nevertheless a legend. I think that the area is too populated and small to hold some unidentified creature. Also the sightings have reported so many different versions of the monster from a Kangaroo with a goat head, to a ghost like glowing red demon.
Horror Question of the Day: Why do you think people are so obsessed with serial killers? Why do they become celebrities in their own right?
I forgot to add that my short story "The Manuscript" is FREE all day today (Friday). http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6GUH52