Monsters of New Jersey, a new book by Loren Coleman and Bruce G. Hallenbeck and published by Stackpole Books, will be released on September 1, 2010.
Any reader of The Paranomalist blog will, of course, know of famed cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Mr. Coleman has over four decades of both field and scholarly research in the areas of cryptozoology and folklore, and writes regularly on Cryptomundo.com. He is also the author of numerous books on the subject of cryptids, mystery animals, and sightings of unexplained creatures and phenomena.
Bruce G. Hallenbeck is an author and film director, having co-authored Monsters of the Northwoods, and written and directed such films as The Edge of Reality, Vampyre, and Blood of the Werewolf, among many others.
Are there monsters in NJ?
The subject of cryptids and mysterious animals has long been a passionate interest of mine, and I’m especially captivated by any reports of sightings and encounters here in my beloved home state of New Jersey.
The Garden State is undeniably one of many contrasts and mysteries. At the time when the first European settlers arrived, New Jersey had long been the home of the Lenni Lenape Native American people. According to Lenape legend, the dense wilderness which covers over a million acres in southern NJ that we now know as the Pinelands was home of the Mahtantu, a destructive, evil being that the Lenape associated with the Devil. This belief far predates the legend of “Mother Leeds” giving birth to her thirteenth child, which transformed into the Jersey Devil, the horned and winged beast of the Pinelands.
The Wematekan’is, the Little People of NJ
Every culture throughout the world has for millennia told of various types of small humanoids, and Native American folklore is no exception. Lenni Lenape folklore tells also of a race of diminutive beings who dwelt in the forests, which they called the Wematekan’is. Typical of the legends of these little people that are found throughout cultures worldwide, the Wematekan’is were said to be shy and wary of humans. When the Wematekan’is would occasionally interact with the Lenape people, they often played mischievous pranks on the unsuspecting Big Folk.
I find it interesting how these legends echo those told to me by my grandmother of the tomtegubbe or tomtar, the little people of her native Sweden — a land 4,000 miles removed from the Lenape’s.
Since writing my article A Gnome by Any Other Name, I’ve received several emails each week from people (a number of them New Jersey residents) who claim to have encountered small human-like creatures. Could there be a connection between these reports and the old Native American and European tales of gnomes and other tiny humanoids? Could such a race have existed at one time, and still remain in the more remote regions of the world — and in the state of New Jersey?
A state too populated for unknown creatures?
I realize that it’s difficult for most people, especially those unfamiliar with New Jersey, to think that there are any “remote” regions left in such a highly populated area of the USA. To these people, I would counter that they’ve likely never hiked and camped the vast, sparsely inhabited NJ Pinelands that cover over 1.1 million acres of the state. Nor have they spent time in the deep woods and mountains of the northwestern Highlands region. The fact is, most of New Jersey’s population density is concentrated in it’s few major cities and the suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia. Trust a native of the state when I say that there are a great many remote and wild areas of New Jersey.
Big Red Eye, New Jersey’s own Bigfoot
What? A Garden State Sasquatch? Ridiculous! This was my initial reaction when my very shaken wife told me of the unearthly screams and yowls that she heard while camping with her seventh-grade students in Stokes State Forest.
She went on to tell me that a NJ State Trooper, in response to her inquiry as to the nature of the horrifying sounds that were emanating from the surrounding forest, replied in a very grave but level tone of voice, “there have been a lot of reports of Bigfoot sightings in the area recently.” If anyone would like to read it, I’ve recounted the full story in my article Bigfoot in New Jersey.
Naturally, this piqued my interest. The fact that my wife, who is very calm, levelheaded and has not the slightest interest in the strange and unexplained mysteries of life, was so visibly shaken held a lot of weight in my estimation, as did the police officer’s reaction. Upon further investigation, I found that reports of huge, hairy, hominoids were fairly commonplace in the northwestern part of the state, in Sussex and Warren Counties. This area of New Jersey is known as the Highlands region, and it is largely rural and mountainous, with large tracts of deep forest.
Having been raised in Bergen County in the northeast and just a few miles from New York City, I’d never heard of these tales at all, and always associated Bigfoot sightings with the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Naturally, I was shocked to learn that reports of sightings of these creatures are well known in the Highlands region that borders Pennsylvania and New York State. Bigfoot sightings are also frequently reported in Burlington County to the south, a county that holds much of the Pinelands National Reserve.
In the course of my research, I found that reports of these creatures are often accompanied by a fascinating physical characteristic: they are usually said to have glowing red eyes. Thus, New Jersey’s own Sasquatch became known to the local inhabitants as “Big Red Eye”.
I recently corresponded with a reporter formerly with a Sussex County-based newspaper and she confirmed what I’d learned earlier, that reports of Big Red Eye sightings and encounters are well-known to the people native to northwest Jersey. Like me, she explained, being raised in the northeastern part of NJ, she had never heard of this until she moved to Sussex County to work for the newspaper.
She went on to say that the newspaper had a “large file of these reports” dating back to the early 1970s, but they rarely published them. Also, she told me that the state troopers at the local barracks (she asked me not to reveal which) were fully aware of the beast’s existence — although the police understandably refuse to go on record about their knowledge of Big Red Eye’s existence. This lends support to my wife’s claim that the trooper said in such a serious and matter-of-fact tone that “there have been a lot of Bigfoot reports in the area recently”. Yet, could a creature as large as Big Red Eye live in such a populated state as New Jersey? That’s something I’ve pondered in other articles, but we may never have a clear answer to this question.
The *REAL* reason to buy ‘Monsters of New Jersey’!
I had the great pleasure and honor to have been contacted by Monsters of New Jersey co-author Bruce G. Hallenbeck regarding some of the articles that I wrote here on The Paranomalist blog. Bruce and I corresponded by email and spoke on the telephone about what I know of local New Jersey legends and creatures. I promised to give him some assistance in researching the Hoboken Monkey-Man and the Lake Hopatcong Monster, but I unfortunately proved to be of little help. Other than the odd Internet article, I simply could not find much information about these creatures.
Nonetheless, Bruce asked if he could cite my blog and a couple of its articles, and I was only too flattered to agree. I’m not entirely sure what articles from my blog are to be included and what is not, although my wife’s account of the unearthly screams that she heard in Stokes State Forest may be among them. Whatever blog posts that Mr. Coleman and Mr. Hallenbeck have decided to reference, I’m happy to have been able to contribute. I’m told also that The Paranomalist blog will be cited, which is also a genuine thrill — and I don’t mind the free publicity, let me tell you! Regardless of the publicity however, I was excited to have been asked my opinion and glad to help in any small way that I could.
Also cited is the work of Drew Vics of the New Jersey Bigfoot Reporting Center, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing on the old Paranomalists podcast show.
In addition to Big Red Eye and the Jersey Devil, Monsters of New Jersey will also cover other Garden State cryptids, such as:
- Wooo-wooo (I don’t know what that is)
- Hoboken Monkey-Man
- Big Cats
- Cape May Sea Serpent
- Lake Hopatcong Monster
- Lizardman of Great Meadows
I’ll admit, I’ve heard of most of these (except the Wooo-wooo), but I don’t know much about them — which is all the more reason to read the book! I’m looking forward to reading Monsters of New Jersey and reviewing it on The Paranomalist in the near future.
Thanks again to Bruce and to Loren for contacting me, and if they do a book signing at the Paramus NJ Barnes & Noble or at Bookends in Ridgewood NJ, I’ll be there! Heck, I’ll drive even further than that!