After the 1909 appearances, the scientific community was asked for possible explanations. Reportedly, science professors from Philadelphia and experts from the Smithsonian Institution thought the Devil to be a prehistoric creature from the Jurassic period. Had the creature survived in nearby limestone caves? Was it a pterodactyl or a peleosaurus? New York scientists thought it to be a marsupial carnivore. Was it an extinct fissiped? However, the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia could not locate any record of a living of dead species resembling the Jersey Devil.
The search was on. Superintendent Robert D. Carson, of the Philadelphia Zoo, offered a $10,000 reward for the Devil's capture. The reward remains uncollected.
Animal trainers at the Arch Street Museum in Philadelphia had their own idea. For publicity purposes, they created a Devil -- from a kangaroo painted with green stripes adding a set of false wings.
A later theory: Was the creature a sandy hill crane? The crane stands four feet high and is about fifteen pounds. It has up to an eighty-inch wingspan. Its ferocity when cornered is well documented and it gyrates when flying.
The Devil's form has been suggested to be the blending of human and devil, as are gothic gargoyles. Devil lore began in the region about 1735 shortly after Ben Franklin's fictitious story in the Pennsylvania Gazette about a Burlington County witchcraft trial. Early folk belief was often at odds with religious or scientific doctrine of the period.
The farther north you go in New Jersey, the more benevolent the stories of the Devil become. In fact, the Devil had not been known to harm anyone or break any local ordinances. Servicemen from the Vietnam War era have said the Devil is an anti-war symbol. Comparisons have been made between the Devil, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman. In 1973, he gained nationwide attention after a feature film was made entitled "The Legend of Boggy Hollow". In 1996, it was reported that Berlin-based Cosmic Comics had created a character "JD" based on the Jersey Devil who protects the environment and searches for truth.