Fall, a welcome deferral from summer’s blazing heat. A season that offers with it many familiar and comforting associations – the vibrancy of changing trees abound, the crunching of leaves under one’s feet, even, the soft wisp of wind on one’s cheek. New Jersey, however, has its own unique set of connections to the season… the paranormal.
While many of us may be familiar with the state’s most notorious urban legends like the Jersey Devil, there are a variety of sights contained to discrete local neighborhoods and areas in the region. Enjoy this compilation below that will be sure to spook you to your soul!
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The Devil's Tree
Accounts on Weird NJ state that The Devil's Tree, located in Bernards Township (now Basking Ridge), is warm if you touch it, and is immune to snow - the ground has remained completely dry surrounding the tree and snow will not pile atop the branches. We know where you'll be headed this winter to scope it out.
Legend has it that a farmer killed his family and then hung himself from the tree. Another theory suggests the tree was a meeting and lynching spot for the KKK. Regardless, it has been said that those who attempt to cut the tree down (and yes, the trunk has evidence of said attempts, though the tree is still standing) will be cursed to death.
Some readers even think both a rock and the field nearby are the "gateways to hell", or if you put your ear up to the tree, you can hear children screaming. Advice: proceed with caution.
181 Mountain Rd, Basking Ridge
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The Gates of Hell
A sewer system originally built for the run-off from Weasel Brook Stream has become the home for what many believe to be Satan! The spray painted “Gates of Hell” entranceway leads to a web of interconnecting storm sewers and tunnels.
Allegedly the system goes on for hundreds and hundreds of feet below ground and is rumored to be layered seven times—not unlike the circles of hell. Visitors also say that various rooms are filled with the leftovers from what are believed to be satanic sacrifices. What’s even more frightening is that there is a room that can only be entered by those who "possess special powers" that allow them to lift the thousand-pound axes, which block the door. This said room is reported to have a glowing skull in it.
Others have alleged that the bones found in the drainpipes are from those who have attempted to explore the underground system but have drowned in the process. It has also been alleged that many of the rooms in the tunnels were used for devil worshipping ceremonies and gatherings for members of the KKK.
Pro Tip: Walk down Clifton Avenue toward the railroad tracks and then make a left on Fornelius Avenue. Continue past the second building and you will see a path that leads up to the tracks. From there you will find a ladder that goes directly down into the tunnels on your right.
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Shades of Death Road
Warren County's Shades of Death Road, aka Shades, is said to have received its name not only from its quite literal shady appearance, with its rustic 7-mile road canopied in trees, but also from its varied folklore. According to one theory on Weird NJ, the winding road that runs along Jenny Jump State Forest and ironically, Ghost Lake, is famous for historically attracting bandits who were known to wait in the shadows of the trees to slit the throats of walkers-on before robbing them. Later on, townspeople were said to have rebelled against said bandits by lynching them and leaving them hanging from the low branches of trees as a symbol to ward off future crime.
In 1850, malaria-carrying insects were found in the nearby Bear Swamp or Cat Swamp. Responsible for so many deaths, the state eventually drained the swamps along Shades, eradicating the threat. Cat Swamp was also said to be the site of packs of vicious feral cats who killed travelers along the road.
In the 1920s and '30s, a string of violent murders occurred on Shades, followed by a series of fatal car accidents. If all of this is not enough to thoroughly spook you and yours, there are additional tales that suggest a Native American spirit who takes the shape of a deer appears on the road at night. If you don’t slow your car down enough, you will surely hit the apparition.
Another legend suggested that if a driver stopped after midnight with their high beams on and honked three times on the Old Mine Road bridge over the Flatbrook, they would see the ghosts of two children who were run over while playing on the street. While this bridge is now no longer accessible by car—it can still be reached by foot, and it runs adjacent to the newer, car accessible-bridge.
Shades of Death Rd, Great Meadows, NJ 07838
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Local historian Tim Adriance has gone on record as stating, “During the American Revolution, a contingent of about four Continentals were guarding the small bridge over the stream that comes out of today’s Van Saun Park under Howland Avenue.” He went on to tell of a resident Tory farmer giving apple cider (which he spiked with poison) to the Continentals, who were later found dead along the bridge. It is believed that their bodies were buried east of the bridge. For many years following the incident, horses refused to cross the bridge. Therefore, it became known as Spook Bridge.
While this cannot be factually affirmed through historical records, we can verify that Washington’s army was camped in the same proximal area in the summer in 1780, during which time some soldiers passed away due to disease and were buried near the bridge. Sound familiar? You decide.
Van Saun County Park; 216 Forest Avenue, Paramus and Continental Avenue, River EdgeContinue to 5 of 5 below.
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Often dubbed "The Most Haunted Road in America", Clinton Rd. in West Milford is a ghost hunter's dream. If you dare to make the trip, look out for multiple main attractions along the 10-mile stretch.
Clinton Ironworks, an ironmaking community present in the 19th century, completely accounts for the stone structure found along the road. Plain and simply, it's a furnace. However, as legend has it, it was an old Druidic temple, and whoever was in the right place at the wrong time checking it out would be subject to "horrible things". So, don't spend too much time trying to get your Instagram filter working.
Another thing to be aware of: don't look over the side of the road into the brook, or you could potentially be pushed in by a ghost. The Ghost Boy Bridge at Dead Man's Curve is possibly the most renowned part of the road, with its folklore centered around visitors throwing coins into the water and having them thrown back by the ghost - a boy who drowned in the water below.
Be careful around DMC, which is not only haunted with the above but actually dangerous as the sharpest curve along the road. Driver's have seen other apparitions here, and it was also said to be the site of KKK rituals.
Perhaps the scariest of all Clinton Rd. sites is Cross Castle. Though the remains are almost completely gone after being declared structurally unsound, there are many accounts of KKK gatherings, satan worshippers (graffiti on the walls when it was still standing matched writings of The Church of Satan), and chanting, complete with a sighting of a girl having a seizure being chained to a rock. Creepy much?
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