Ghost Lights: The Legend of the Hookerman
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The Pottersville Bridge in the late 1800s
Almost everyone in the Garden State has heard of the “Jersey Devil,” the legendary winged monster that has been terrorizing the Pine Barrens since 1735. New Jersey’s professional hockey team, the “Devils” is named for the Jersey Devil and the state legislature made the Jersey Devil our official state demon in 1939, and as far as I know we are the only state with such a designation. Thousands of sightings of the Devil have been reported in the last two hundred and seventy plus years and witnesses include such notables as Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain, as well as naval hero Admiral Stephen Decatur, who even claimed to have fired a cannon ball at the swooping fiend. The creature has been seen throughout New Jersey and as far away as New York and Philadelphia but could this high profile “cryptid” have visited the humble village of Pottersville in the late 1800s? Read on and decide for yourself.
Wells Abel and his family were crossing the bridge that spans the Black River one night in 1870, on their way home from a long prayer meeting at the Dutch Reformed Church in Pottersville, a village where the borders of four townships and three counties meet. When they reached the far side something came crashing through the trees and leapt into the middle of the road. The “creature” that stood before them was described as the height of “a healthy calf” and its glowering red eyes were as big as “saucers.” Mrs. Abel grabbed the children and ran while Wells picked up a fallen branch to defend his family, but the monster vanished back into the woods as quickly as it had appeared. The family was shaken from the encounter but got home safely.
Later that night, Wells had a dream that the monster returned to bury him alive. He struggled to break loose but was helpless in its grasp. When he was half-buried, the beast suddenly stopped, fixed Wells in a fiery gaze and warned him to leave Pottersville and never return or he would come back one night and finish the job. Horrified by the nightmare, he decided to heed the monsters warning. Though he had lived in Pottersville for more than 30 years, Wells Abel packed up his family, including his younger brother and his widowed mother, and moved to nearby Pluckemin, where he lived out his days as a stonemason. He died in 1918, and is buried in a rural cemetery (now surrounded by townhouses) east of Pluckemin, on Washington Valley Road.
According to Joe Able, great grandson of Wells Abel, Wells, who was born in Pottersville in 1844, did move the family to Pluckemin in the late 1800s but as for the Pottersville Bridge Monster he joked that “possibly someone spiked the punch at the church meeting.”
Did the Jersey Devil Visit Pottersville?
By C.G. Wolfe/ © The Black River Journal