Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Significance of the Crescent holed Outhouse and the Jersey Devil

by Chris Chaos

The outhouse, a common staple in movies depicting the deep south and the stereotypical hillbilly. So what does an outhouse have to do with the Jersey Devil and New Jersey?

There are many explanation as to why an outhouse has a moon cut out in the door. First let's go with logic, you know what takes place inside an outhouse and the modern indoor bathroom will either have a vent fan or a window for ventilation. Since the waste will sit in a dug out hole underneath the outhouse and will not get flushed away into a sewer system like modern houses with current plumbing, this little technique will allow some of the gases and smells escape.



The second logical explanation would be back in the days when outhouses were the norm, there was no or limited electricity, so it was a lighting issue. The moon cut out provided privacy (and just above the line of sight) but just enough of a slit to allow in the light from the moon so you could see as you conducted your business. Bringing a lamp along with you into the cramped space of the outhouse might not have proved such a wise decision.

The custom of the half moon appearing on outhouses started back in Europe back in the 1500 and 1600's and the use of pictures over words was due to the illiteracy rates during the time frame. Today we use the words "MEN" or "WOMEN" or a drawing of a man or a woman to identify the sex of the restroom. Back then, it was customary to use a quarter moon to identify the ladies room and a circular symbol for the men's room. The crescent moon symbol (or Luna) is ancient and stood as a sign for womanhood. Sol, the male sign was a round sun symbol found on the doors but fell into quick disrepair and seldom maintained.


Another explanation as to why there is a half moon on the door is that it had nothing to do with ventilation since if a vent was installed it was usually in the roof, the moon shape was simply a way to reach in and open the door from either the inside or the outside of the outhouse.

Some say the moon cut in the outhouse is a product of entertainment, as in the Looney Tunes cartoons that popularize all companies being called "Acme". So was the outhouse image just immortalized in pop culture?



Some outhouses were fitted with two holes and were not expected to accommodate double duty, but in fact once hole was bigger than the other, one for adults and the other for children. I can only imagine the horror of a small child falling into the hole and plummeting down below into the mess.

There are even explanations that for some reason the Jersey Devil would not pass through the moon cut in an outhouse door, so this location proved to be the only safe spot from him. During "Phenomenal Week" a January 21, 1909 news report out of Riverside Township published in The Trenton Times, "It visited the outhouses of Joseph Manz and the next morning he found his pup dog dead. ... Manz declared that the culprit wore small horse shoes on his shoes, the tracks of which he found all about his place, even on the top of the building."


So next time you find yourself being chased by the Jersey Devil, be sure to run into your local outhouse and report back to me and let me know if he flew off leaving you alone.

(Chris Chaos is a long time resident of South Jersey who once again resides in and writes from Gloucester City, New Jersey.  He is a filmmaker, a business owner, writer, urban explorer and investigator of the odd and weird, has a black cat named Jynx, four rats: Phantom the Dumbo Rat, Abbey the Albino, Hopping Heather and Climbing Carol, a proud parent, happily taken and a connoisseur of hot wings. Chris can be reached at AxisVideo@aol.com)