Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael

Fake News and The Secret History of the Jersey Devil

October 30, 2020


For the Devil's Night edition of the Parallax Views countdown to Halloween we delve into the real history of the New Jersey Devil myth and how it connects to today's problem fake news. Joining us to unravel the story is Prof. Brian Regal, co-author with Frank J. Esposito of The Secret History of the Jersey Devil: How Quakers, Hucksters, and Benjamin Franklin Created a Monster. In this fascinating book Regal and Esposito argue the the tale of the Jersey Devil, the hideous, pegasus-like, cursed "13th Child" monster spawn of Mother Leeds, is actually originates in the real-life figure of Daniel Leeds and his struggles against superstitious Quakers centuries ago. Leeds, a promoter of Scientific Enlightenment ideals, thought to spread knowledge in early America by way of an almanac. But due to his belief in astrology he ran afoul of New Jersey's Quakers, who saw him as an occultist and, later, "Satan's Harbinger". The tale of Daniel Leeds Vs. the Jersey Quakers, Regal says, shows that political mudslinging, despite how bad many consider it today, has been a bare-knuckled tradition in America since its earliest days. But the story doesn't end there as Daniel Leeds son, Titan Leeds, get smeared as a sorcerer by none other than one of America's Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, in what may well be one of the earliest instances in America of the fake news phenomena... or at the very least show Franklin as a innovator of Fake News! And then, later on, the slanders against the Leeds morph into the myth of the Jersey Devil by way of P.T. Barnum carny hucksters looking to sucker a few rubes with wild stories of a monster in the Pine Barrens. It's a complicated and fascinating story that can't possibly be fully explained in this summary, but trust me when I say Regal lays it all out in riveting detail. He even manages to explain where the origins of the witch-like "Mother Leeds" in Jersey Devil lore. All that and more on this edition of Parallax Views.

This Episode Brought to You By:
The War State:
The Cold War Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945-1963
Michael Swanson
The Wall Street Window

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