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URECAT - UFO Related Entities Catalog

URECAT is a formal catalog of UFO related entities sightings reports with the goal of providing quality information for accurate studies of the topic. Additional information, corrections and reviews are welcome at patrick.gross@inbox.com, please state if you wish to be credited for your contribution or not. The main page of the URECAT catalog is here.

January 17, 1909, Bristol, Pennsylvania, USA, James Sackville:

Brief summary of the event and follow-up:

On the 16th or more likely 17th, January 1909, at two o'clock in the morning, Patrolman James Sackville, who patrolled along Buckley Street in Bristol, Pennsylvania, USA, was reportedly alerted by the barking of his dogs.

Worried, he reached the race bridge and saw a sudden movement in the shadows of the path below, he looked there and was so amazed that he could not move. He took his revolver, plunged to the winged "thing"; which let out a strange cry, sprang quickly away, pursued by the policeman.

The "thing" suddenly lifted its wings, flew over the road and over Sackville, who fired, missed, and when the officer fired again, the thing had flown away in the dark night.

Basic information table:

Case number: URECAT-001460
Date of event: January 17, 1909
Earliest report of event: 1909?
Delay of report: Day, week, decades?
Witness reported via: Not known.
First alleged record by: Not known. Newspaper?
First certain record by: Fortean book Jerome Clark.
First alleged record type: Not known. Newspaper?
First certain record type: Fortean book.
This file created on: April 4, 2013
This file last updated on: April 4, 2013
Country of event: USA
State/Department: Pennsylvania
Type of location: Path below a bridge near street.
Lighting conditions: Night.
UFO observed: No
UFO arrival observed: N/A
UFO departure observed: N/A
UFO/Entity Relation: None
Witnesses numbers: 1
Witnesses ages: Not reported. Adult.
Witnesses types: Not reported. Man, police officer.
Photograph(s): No.
Witnesses drawing: No.
Witnesses-approved drawing: No.
Number of entities: 1
Type of entities: Winged
Entities height: Not reported
Entities outfit type: Not reported or none.
Entities outfit color: Not reported or N/A.
Entities skin color: Not reported.
Entities body: Not reported. Wined.
Entities head: Not reported.
Entities eyes: Not reported.
Entities mouth: Not reported.
Entities nose: Not reported.
Entities feet: Not reported.
Entities arms: Not reported.
Entities fingers: Not reported.
Entities fingers number: Not reported.
Entities hair: Not reported.
Entities voice: Let out an eerie cry.
Entities actions: Is there, flies away when witness opens fire.
Entities/witness interactions: Flies away when witness opens fire.
Witness(es) reactions: Observed, shot.
Witness(es) feelings: Amazed.
Witness(es) interpretation: Not reported.
Explanation category: Probable sandhill crane. Not UFO-related.
Explanation certainty: High.


[Ref. jc1:] JEROME CLARK:

The author indicates that on January 17, 1909, in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a police officer observed and fired at the "Jersey Devil".

[Ref. lc1:] LOREN COLEMAN:

The author indicates that at 2 a.m. on January 17, 1909, police officer Sackville was patrolling along Buckley Street in Bristol when he was alerted by the barking of his dogs.

Uneasy, he reached the race bridge a caught a sudden movement from the path below, he looked and was so stunned he could not move. He took up his revolver, plunged toward the thing; which let out an eerie cry, hopped rapidly away chased by the policeman.

It suddenly rose its wings, flew above the path and above Sackville, who fired, missed, and when the policeman fired again the thing was gone.


Sat. 1/16 - Sun. 1/17

Bristol, PA

A Police Officer named James Sackville suddenly heard the neighborhood dogs begin to bark and growl uncontrollably. Officer Sackville developed a strange feeling, and instinctively turned around - and there, standing in the shadows, was the Jersey Devil. He said the creature had wings and hopped around, and had the features of some peculiar animal he had never seen before... the voice of the creature was a horrible scream. Sackville began to run towards the creature, who turned and ran in retreat, screaming. Sackville began firing his pistol, and the creature hovered above the ground and then flew off into the dark night sky.

[Ref. dj1:] DAVE JULIANO:

Dave Juliano indicates that early Sunday morning, January 16, 1909, in Bristol, Pennsylvania, Patrol James Sackville fired at the "Jersey Devil" as it flew away screaming. When daylight came, the residents of Bristol found hoof prints in the snow. Two local trappers said they had never seen tracks like those before.

The author mentions many other encounters and discusses various theories on the "Jersey Devil". Please refer to his article for a complete read and references cited.

He says Mrs. Cassidy of Clayton thought it was an invasion of scrowfoot ducks, but this bird is much too small to fit [I certainly agree.] He says others believe the devil "is really a sand hill crane, a bird that used to live in South Jersey until it was pushed out by man. The sand hill crane weighs about 12 lbs., is 4 foot high, and has a wingspan of 80 inches. It avoids man but if confronted it will fight. It has a loud scream whooping voice that can be heard at a distance. This could account for the screams heard by witnesses. The crane also eats potatoes and corn. This could account for the raids on crops." [This is in my opinion the correct explanation for many of the Jersey devil sightings]. The author notes that this theory doesn't explain the killing of livestock or why people described the devil as having a horse's head, bat wings and tail, all of which the crane doesn't have.

One Professor Bralhopf said that "the tracks were made by some prehistoric animal form the Jurassic period" that survived underground in a cavern. An expert from the Smithsonian Institute had a theory about ancient creatures surviving underground and said the Jersey Devil was a Pterodactyl. The Academy of Natural Sciences could find no record of any creature, living or extinct, that resembles the Jersey Devil.

Jack E. Boucher, author of Absagami Yesteryear, has a theory in which he believes the devil was a deformed child. He thinks a Mrs. Leeds had a disfigured child and kept it locked away in the house. She grew sick and couldn't feed the child anymore, so it escaped out of hunger and raided local farms for food, but this doesn't take into account the incredible life span of the devil; the child would have been 174 years old in 1909. It also doesn't account for the sightings of the devil flying.

Only a small amount of the sightings and footprints could be hoaxes [Said because cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson showed some of the footprints were part of some real estate scan]. The Jersey Devil has been seen by reliable people such as police, government officials, postmasters, businessman, and other people whose "integrity is beyond question." Some of the hoof prints may have been hoaxes but most of the tracks are unexplained, especially the ones on roof tops and tracks that ended abruptly as if the creature took wing [Not hoaxes but evidence of a bird like the sandhill crane.].

Another theory is that the Jersey Devil was "the very essence of evil, embodied", that appears before any great conflict. The Jersey devil was sighted before the start of the Civil War. It was also seen right before the Spanish American War and WW I. In 1939, before the start of WW II, Mount Holly citizens were awakened by the noise of hooves on their roof tops. The Devil was seen on December 7, 1941, right before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was also seen right before the Vietnam War.

Another theory said that Mother Leeds was a witch and the devil was a result of a witches curse. When Commodore Decatur fired a cannon ball at the devil, it went through him and he was unaffected.

The author concludes that whether the Jersey devil is a bird or a demon, is still left to speculation.

[Ref. uf1:] "UFO FYI" WEBSITE:

[...] It all started early Sunday morning, January 16, 1909. [...] Over in Bristol, P.A. [...] Patrol James Sackville fired at the creature as it flew away screaming. [...]


The writer tells of the Jersey Devil sightings from January 16 to 22, 1909, 100 years ago, refering to the 1976 book "The Jersey Devil" by James F. McCloy and Ray Miller Jr.

He says the Devil screeched at the chief of police in Bristol, Pennsylvania.


Bristol, PA January 16, 1909

James Sackville, a Police Officer responded to a general fracas of neighborhood dogs barking and growling uncontrollably. As he stood investigating, an uncanny feeling overcame him and he spun around to face the Jersey Devil. It was hopping in the shadows, a winged creature of peculiar features. It screamed a howl and dispersed when he ran towards it. Officer Sackville fired at the Devil who ‘hovered’ and flew off into the night.

[Ref. pn1:] "PARANORMAL-FR.NET":

The testimony of Policeman James Sackville was the same: a winged creature that hopped like a bird, a worrying head and frightening screams. The policeman fired but the creature fled without apparent injury.

Points to consider:

Before discussing this particular case, I must make some general remarks about what was called the "Jersey Devil".

In Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, for nearly two centuries at least, some people give reports of encounters with a "creature" whose descriptions suggested that it was some sort of "devil", though in my opinion it was often merely a large bird in migration there, the sandhill crane.

Ufologically, these stories are mostly not considered as related in any way with UFOs or UFO occupants, in my opinion too they should not be part of a catalog of "close encounters of the third kind".

However, some ufologists included such stories in such catalogs, thinking for some reason it does have something to do with the UFO question. Most of the time, they do not include all the Jersey Devil reports, but only a few of them, maybe due to lack of documentation or maybe for some other reason I do not understand.

So I have to include all these stories, because if some source considers, rightly or wrongly, that this a UFO-related, then it is within my scope, not to immediately and arbitrarily disregard their idea, but to evaluate it, and thus to collect the documentation and the comments about it. And therefore, I have to check and document all reported, not just those selected arbitrarily by these ufologists who believed this is UFO material. This is why you cans see I have a file for each Jersey Devil reports, even those that were never included in the ufology literature.

I should note that most stories are fragmentary, often because the sources write about several observations, and what is said about one report is supposed to be implicitly true for the others. I do not do it that way; I publish case files individually and discuss each on its own merits or issues, and offer a specific assessment for each case. But of course, generalities can be said on these reports. As I do not want to disconnect individual reports from these generalities, I make the following notes.

I want to first list the various explanations offered for the "Jersey Devil" - they could apply its late equivalent the West Virginia "Mothman" which was introduced in UFO books the 1960s:

Now let's see this report.

Let's note French "paranormal" source [pn1] suggests wrongly that the "thing" was apparently uninjured by the shooting; this could make people believe the creature had some supernatural power against bullet. But of course it was uninjured, [lc1] specified that the policeman missed it.

Let's note that this happened at 2 in the morning, thus in the night, in conditions of visibility that were certainly: the night, maybe a great distance, maybe even fog.

The witness said it was winged, it hopped, it flew away, it had a strange or frightening sound. He had not seen an animal like this one before.

This does not mean it was anything really uncanny or supernatural.

The sound of the sandhill crane is indeed very strange, maybe even scary.

A bird, big, hopping, grey, with a strange cry, then. No UFO, no aliens, nothing evil, nothing "paranormal" whatsoever. Nothing that could kill the idea that this man may have seen from a distance, in poor conditions, a sandhill crane, whose sound and weird head intrigued or even scared him a bit.

There is not enough information to make this explanation a certainty, but there is not a single piece of information that would support he saw a real devil, or an alien, or a pterodactyl, "Bigfoot" or anything extraordinary.

"Sandhill Crane" (Grus canadensis) - pictures above - is a species of big crane living in North America, Canada, and in the extreme northeast of Siberia. Some are resident, some are migratory, passing sometimes indeed by the states where the "Jersey Devil" was reported.

Its sound is described as having to do with a French "r" sound, a frog's squawk and a trumpet tone. Male and female sometimes engage in duets of complex cries.

Its wingspan can reach more than 2 meters.

List of issues:

Id: Topic: Severity: Date noted: Raised by: Noted by: Description: Proposal: Status:
1 Data Severe April 4, 1909 Patrick Gross Patrick Gross Primary source not available and not known. Help needed. Opened.
2 Ufology Severe April 4, 1909 Patrick Gross Patrick Gross Case with no strangeness. Help needed. Opened.
3 Ufology Severe April 4, 1909 Patrick Gross Patrick Gross Lack of description: size, color, shape... Help needed. Opened.
4 Ufology Severe April 4, 1909 Patrick Gross Patrick Gross Single witness case - but 2 similar sighting same date there. Help needed. Opened.
5 Ufology Severe April 4, 1909 Patrick Gross Patrick Gross No sign of investigation or checking. Help needed. Opened.


Probable sandhill crane. Not UFO-related.

Sources references:

* = Source I checked.
? = Source I am told about but could not check yet. Help appreciated.

Document history:


Main Author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history

Version: Created/Changed By: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross April 4, 2013 Creation, [jc1], [lc1], [dh1], [dj1], [uf1], [sl1], [gm1], [pn1].
1.0 Patrick Gross April 4, 2013 First published.

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This page was last updated on April 4, 2013.