With October just around the bend, we’ve all felt a cool breeze sifting through our hair. Or is it the ghosts and ghouls of a time long gone? The names of these towns, roads, and parks tell us it could be… If you find yourself sitting around a bonfire in search of the coolest or creepiest NJ stories, look no further.
Towns and Neighborhoods
Ship Bottom, NJ
In an 1817 shipwreck, a ship capsized and trapped a woman in its hull. Rescuers had to saw the bottom of the ship to save her, giving rise to the nearby town’s name.
This town was named for Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village.” The title is a bit eerie, but the poem itself is a social commentary on the historical migration from rural to urban areas. Given its location in Salem County, Auburn just might be the “loveliest village of the plain,” in Goldsmith’s own words.
Timbuctoo | Westampton, NJ
Previously featured in NJ Digest, Timbuctoo has a rich history as a former Underground Railroad stop. The town was founded by formerly enslaved people and free Black folks. Timbuctoo was even the site of a famous battle where the townsfolk protected a once-enslaved man named Simmons from an infamous “slave catcher” who intended to return Simmons to slavery in Maryland.
Named for the ancient Malian city, Timbuctoo held a different kind of treasure—heritage. Today, many residents are descendants of the first settlers. Guy Weston, just one of these descendants, revived the neighborhood’s history in 1992 and operates a website for Timbuctoo, including links to the Timbuctoo Historical Society.
Baltusrol | Springfield, NJ
This one isn’t a town or road but the region is home to the Baltusrol Golf Course in Springfield. The area was named for Baltus Roll, who farmed the land in the 1800s. At the age of 62, Roll was killed by two thieves who believed he had hidden treasure in his farmhouse on a nearby hill. His wife was spared, but by the time she tried to get help, it was too late. One of the perpetrators took his own life, but the other was acquitted.
Roads and Ways
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Gallows Hill Road | Westfield, NJ
Reverend James Caldwell, for whom the Caldwells are named, met his end one tragic night in Elizabeth, then known as Elizabethtown. James Morgan is then tried, convicted, and hanged on what would later be known as Gallows Hill in Westfield. “The gallows” refers to hanging as an execution method. Chilling.
Shades of Death Road | Warren County, NJ
This one has a few stories behind it. One claims that the area was home to a murderous clan whose territory was referred to as “Shades of Death,” but once governments seized it, all that was left was the street name. Another story claims that the dense trees along the route made the road conducive to a series of murders. Yet, another blames an annual malaria outbreak that used to put a dent in village populations in the warmer months. The road runs along Jenny Jump, another spot with morose rumors around it.
Parks and Forests
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Jenny Jump State Forest | Hope, NJ
Legend has it that Jenny Jump was named for a young woman who jumped off a cliff. At an amusement park next door, there is even a patch of scarecrows that appear to tell her story. Supposedly, Jenny was being chased by a member of the Lenni Lenape tribe when she attempted to save her own life but ended it instead. There’s even a house on the premises in which Jenny supposedly lived. Or, it could be an Anglicized version of a Lenape name, but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?
About the Author/s
Alex Kenney is a third-year Journalism and Media Studies student at Rutgers University - New Brunswick. Having lived in Bergen, Essex, and briefly Hudson County, she calls anything north of Newark home. She is a big fan of NJ Transit and knows most major highways in her area like the back of her hand, even though she doesn’t drive.