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The Devil Went Down to Florida

The Jersey Devil is obviously most well-known in New Jersey. The Pine Barrens of South Jersey more specifically, is known to be its home. The Devil’s radius seems to end in Monmouth County to the north, and borders of Philadelphia and Delaware to the west and south respectively.

There is speculation as to whether the Jersey Devil has ever left this specific area in the north-east. Research has led to some stories of individuals, being afflicted by the Jersey Devil and re-locating to other states to get away from it. It is difficult to get a trace on those people’s situations after they left New Jersey. Most of the time, the trail goes cold.

The only state with any record of the Jersey Devil’s antics following a person trying to re-locate is Florida. (I guess it’s an east coast thing.) Florida is home to many New Jersey transplants. Some people are looking for a fresh start, some are looking for a tax break.

Lenard Conway from Forked River, New Jersey moved to Florida in 1945 after having his assets seized for defaulting on his taxes from his contracting business. Once a prominent pillar of the community, Lenard had even spent some time in local office as a county representative. After the lucrative take-overs of three large real-estate contracts, Lenard’s behavior became increasingly erratic. His friends and family expressed disbelief because Lenard’s personality didn’t seem to reflect his new found wealth and stature.

Lenard tried to hide his issues and never spoke of them. He became a recluse and would spend a majority of his time locked in his home. After the asset seizure, Lenard left his wife and family and traveled down to Florida on a railcar.

When he arrived in southern Florida, he changed his name to Chris Marley. He lived for two years in Port St. Lucie, Florida. According to neighbors, he lived a decent and normal life, working for a contractor building houses along the ocean. He was pleasant but extremely private, he would not socialize and would spend most of his free-time in his home.

On April 18, 1947, neighbors were woken up by a man walking down the middle of the road at 2:15 am. Lenard was walking down the street by himself screaming, “I won’t! I won’t! I won’t do it!” Neighbors stood in their doorways and watched in awe as this otherwise calm and peaceful man, paced down the street screaming at the top of his lungs.

According to police reports, Lenard suddenly stopped screaming then stopped walking. He said “you won't win,” then pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot himself in the head.

On-lookers screamed. Police arrived on the scene minutes later, having received a disturbance call from a neighbor. Lenard was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lenard was never heard mentioning the Jersey Devil. The theory only took hold after searching through Lenard’s home in Florida and finding books and periodicals about the Jersey Devil. Lenard also kept a journal that was immediately submitted into evidence after being discovered. The detective on the case did say that the Jersey Devil had been mentioned in the writings, but refused to divulge any more information about the case.

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