Ahh, Autumn. Take in those scents of apple cider, hayrides, fall desserts. It truly is the ultimate season, and I’m willing to tango with anyone who says otherwise. This also means that Halloween is right around the corner. Only, there’s one problem. Many of the usual festivities are canceled, leaving most of us feeling a little stir crazy. Now I’m no New Jersey native, but I know the Garden State is filled with eerie landmarks. If that means staking out some beautiful nature scenes or driving down dusty, phantom-littered highways, so be it. Let’s check out five of the creepiest places in NJ—ghosts and legends included.
1. Swing By The Rio Vista Clocktower
Popularly known as “The Devil’s Tower,” in Bergen County (originally the Rio Vista Clocktower) was built in 1910 by millionaire Manuel Riondam for his wife, Harriet. Just so that she could stare longingly at the New York City skyline (oh those bored, wealthy Victorians). One day while at the top of her tower, Harriet saw Manuel with his mistress. Heartbroken, Harriet leaped from the tower to her death. It’s said you can still hear the screams of Harriet Rionda as she falls to the ground, and that her shadowy form can be seen in the windows.
2. Visit Laurel Hill Park (AKA Snake Hill)
Located in the marshy meadowlands of South Secaucus New Jersey, lies the scenic gem of Laurel Hill Park along the Hackensack River. The location is gorgeous, complete with hiking trails, public boating ramps, sports fields, and playgrounds. But this park is known for its strange reputation as ‘Snake Hill,’ a moniker that stuck decades ago for its rampant snake population. So infested was it, that snake hunters flocked from Manhattan to score a skin or two. Now, the snakes have largely died out, but that’s not all.
Snake Hill has also been the setting of some dark institutions. From several hospitals to almshouses (houses for the poor, sick, and elderly), and a penitentiary. While these have all long been demolished, a construction crew accidentally stumbled upon several graves (a la Poltergeist style) in the 1960s. Halting the building project. While many of the deceased were claimed and/or identified by family members, there’s a strong belief that people are unknowingly strolling over several thousand interred mental patients. Consider that the next time you’re out for a stroll in the park (any park).
3. Drive Down a Spooky Road
New Jersey’s got a lot to offer in the eerie road department. With the legendary Clinton Road (no relation to the former president) and Indian Curse Road, there’s no reason not to shake the dust off this pandemic and drive along a phantom-infested parkway. Clinton Road in Passaic County (West Milford, to be exact) is so terrifying that some have called it the most haunted road in America. We call it one of the creepiest places in NJ.
The dense, dark forests of this strip are enough to keep you held in suspense. Tales abound of a ghostly boy on “Dead Man’s Curve” who has no problem hurling pennies at you, dark rituals held at the abandoned Clinton Furnace aka the “Druidic Temple.” Anyone who stumbled upon these rituals taking place was said to meet a terrible fate. And let’s not forget the supposed Hellhounds, monkeys, and “unidentified hybrids.” From weird rituals to creature sightings, Clinton Road’s got it all.
There’s no real haunting unless it’s complete with a legendary Indian Burial ground. Drive along Gloucester County’s Indian Curse Road, the infamous Route 55 that, despite warnings from Shaman Wayadanga, was constructed in 1985 over sacred ground. Almost immediately, Route 55’s infamous curse was in full effect with horrific accidents on the construction site and ghostly visages, the latest of which includes the ghost of a woman in white (why is it always a woman in white?)
4. Go See The Devil’s Tree
Somewhere in Bernard Township, sprawled against the remnants of a forgotten farm is the sinister visage of the Devil’s Tree. Every local has a story about this natural embodiment of evil. Ever since I first arrived on the East Coast, the tales of this wicked tree have fascinated me. Particularly that snow and rain never seem to fall around it, and I long to witness this strange occurrence. This eerie location is said to be everything from cursed, to the portal of hell encasing the souls of children whose screams you can hear if you place your ear upon the bark. Rumors abound of the tree being the meetup of the KKK and the only witness to an old farmers crime of murder-suicide
Despite several attempts to rid the landscape of such an evil blemish, the tree is apparently impervious to all blades. The Devil’s Tree is lined with such attempts. Finally, the township chose to protect their unlikely mascot with chain link fencing.
5. Explore the Mystique of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens
You can’t talk about the creepiest places in NJ without at least mentioning the Pine Barrens’ all-around weirdness. If Clinton Road is the most haunted roadway, then the Pine Barrens is the most haunted location in the U.S. The area was once home to vast iron and lumber industries, but these dried up by the mid-1800s, leaving abandoned towns dotting the landscape. Spooky, yes?
Apparations in the Pines
This largely uninhabited area is home to a host of apparitions and rumored-to-be haunted locations. The Pine Barrens are teeming with activity. One such spirit is Doctor James Still who was the tragic victim of a hate crime in the 19th Century. Now, his friendly ghost reportedly appears to aid wayward or injured travelers. Another legend tells of the Golden-Haired Girl, wearing white who is mourning her lost lover. Locals report this spirit was in love with the Jersey Devil’s only human son and travels alongside the mythical creature.
The Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil is the cursed child of a local woman referred to as “Mother Leeds,” often cited as being a witch. Mother Leeds discovered that she was pregnant for the 13th time, she shouted, “Let it be the devil!”(naturally). According to the story, her prays were answered and the Jersey Devil was born. The red-eyed offspring has made news for centuries, leaving mysterious tracks, mutilating livestock, and even attacking citizens. Make no mistake, locals take this unlikely mascot seriously, and many will tell you that it’s real.
What are some of the creepiest places in NJ you’ve visited? Let us know below.