Jersey Devil Origins: Marie Clapper Followers
Finally a Jersey Devil story from the last 100 years. This one is a bit murky, but I see the connection.
South Jersey is the home of the Jersey Devil. The exact make-up of the creature or deity is split off into factions. They seem to change along with the different religious philosophies inhabiting New Jersey. Each use different names and representations. Most boil down to good vs. evil.
The Jersey Devil is a “bringer of evil.” The creature’s motivation ranges from working passionately at the right hand of the devil Lucifer to an omnipotent being who exists simply to further its purpose.
The Vietnam War is known as the “Forgotten War.” The United States had become “war-weary.” Unlike troops before them in WW2, where there was still a sense of patriotism and appreciation for their service, the Vietnam soldiers were greeted with contempt, or simply ignored.
The Jersey Devil was never directly mentioned in this story, but his first victim Marie Clapper was. Marie Clapper, who was a highly-sexualized young woman with a deviant reputation, was idolized after her abduction by a young group of women enthralled with the woman’s liberation movement. This group started in Vineland, New Jersey by women who were upset with the unfavorable reputation and immediate disregard of the Jersey Devil’s first victim.
Marie Clapper became a role-model for these young women. Marie Clapper was beautiful and promiscuous, a perfect representation for the “free love” movement. The group seemed to disregard the sociopathic antics and fire-starting that made Clapper a target for the Devil. However in their defense, those stories were kept quiet to avoid implications of the men and women in Marie’s home town.
In 1975 the Vietnam War was nearing its unfulfilling end. Marie Clappers’ followers had been keeping a pretty low profile to avoid negative attention from the local and federal government. The group was known as a “coven” (group of witches) to the local residents. They never advertised and nobody ever saw where or when they would have their meetings. Housewives and young mothers would be living a seemingly happy life with their families, then one day pick up and leave to join the group. Because times were different and this was not considered a “good” thing for American society by a large part of the community, this group was to be avoided.
One day a married couple moved to town named Timothy and Maria Roosevelt (no relation to any US president). They moved into the biggest estate in town, which had been built by a real estate developer but never occupied. The compound was vast, and very over-grown.
On the weekend the couple moved in, Timothy was seen working with a small landscaping crew renovating the front of the house. By Sunday, the front of the house looked magnificent. Timothy was found hanging from a support beam in his parlor on Sunday afternoon. Maria was seen in town running errands for the entire day and was quickly ruled-out as a suspect.
Maria Roosevelt was much younger than her husband. There was even speculation at first that Timothy was her father, since he was more than 20 years her senior. Maria spent a few weeks locked away in that large house after his suicide. Most people wrote it off as a grieving widow, but when she finally emerged, she looked very different.
Maria had gone from housewife to flower-child. She let her hair down and wore revealing clothing that was popular in that time period. She was stunning, and walked around like she knew it. Maria immediately took on a leadership role with the Marie Clapper followers. It was said that the compound became the meeting center for the group and women were spotted coming and going.
Maria bore a striking resemblance to Marie Clapper. Since there weren’t many pictures taken in the 1840’s, it is impossible to know exactly what Marie Clapper looked like. Based on the drawings, she looked exactly like Maria Roosevelt.
Under Maria’s leadership, the group stepped into the spotlight. They started doing rallies and preaching independence from societal shackles for women and crusading for the feminist movement.
Six months later, a US Naval officer named John Simon was reported missing by his family. His brother, Joseph Simon, a police detective of a neighboring town to Vineland, took over the search for John. Through innovative techniques he traced his brother's movements on the night of his disappearance.
Joseph found out that John had been traveling south to Washington D.C. to attend an award ceremony for himself and a few other soldiers in his unit. He stopped by a bar in Vineland. According to a waitress who was working that night, John had been approached by none other than Maria Roosevelt. The two had some cocktails and left together.
Joseph obtained a warrant for the compound. The back of the compound was still severely overgrown. The search team eventually found John Simon buried in the backyard, along with 12 other soldiers and law enforcement from around the country and various military organizations.
Marie Clapper's group was aware of the incoming search and fled into the woods. The police found every group member dead, having taken poison in a group suicide. There is speculation that they tried to lay down and spell "LOVE" with their bodies on the ground, but convulsed from the poison and messed the letters up.
The only woman unaccounted for was Maria Roosevelt, who wasn’t seen again.
Much of the estate was unfinished except for Timothy Roosevelt's office. The medical examiner stated that his death was indeed a suicide because of the lack of struggle and the fact that he was 6'2" 230 lbs, and would be a very difficult victim if he was forced into the position where he was found.