Believe it or not, New Jersey is home to some of the country’s most storied abandoned locations. Viral urban explorers are often seen flocking to these decrepit areas in hopes of capturing a glimpse of what once was.
For curious onlookers, the vibrant urban exploration scene has provided a reliable account of these deserted locations. A copious number of blogs and YouTube channels have become notorious for documenting these sites and their history. The adventurous and artsy sides of the individuals documenting the past are prevalent in this genre.
Particularly, exploratory people have been rampant in New Jersey’s abandoned attraction scene. A contributor to WestMilfordJungleHabitat.com, a website dedicated to preserving the history of the once-thriving, Jungle Habitat theme park, wished to remain anonymous and had some input on this matter. When the park first shut down, she said, “locals would break in to wander the property, take trinkets or signs and of course to party. The security guards were there around the clock as any signs of a break-in were quickly patched and replaced within hours.”
Of course, there are bike trails, paved roads and a monstrous parking lot. The area that used to house the baboons is still party central as evidenced by the bottles and burned out campfires,” she added.
With an undisputed interest still present in the topic, here are five abandoned attractions in New Jersey that have garnered the attention of urban explorers.
1. Nike Launch Site
In the midst of a decade strewn with Cold War fears over the actions of those on the other side of the world, the greater New York City area need not fret. This was because an enforced, concrete facility in Monmouth County was at the ready to protect the people of the tri-state area. Being an integral part of Project Nike–an initiative to construct missiles to defend against potential attacks–the Nike Launch Site in Sandy Hook was constructed in the 1950s to ease the fears of those who lived in the shadow of New York City, a potential target during the Cold War.
With the terror long gone, the base has been rusting for decades. The launch site was rendered obsolete in 1974 as the government began to develop more efficient ways to protect the tri-state area. While Sandy Hook sees flocks of tourists year-round, the decaying base is not a hot spot for visitors. Aside from the occasional tour given on weekends during the warmer months of the year, the launch site doesn’t seem to garner much attention.
Taking a peek into the future, it’s tough to imagine that after almost five decades of rotting away, the area will be touched anytime soon. However, curious history buffs will not be devoid of updates on the site. Urban explorers and historians alike have consistently provided the Internet with interesting accounts of what remains.
There is something ominous about a site that was once a bustling, last line of defense for New Jersey against a potential nuclear attack now sitting sequestered from society. Since being relieved of its duties, the base let nature slowly take its course while gazing out on a safe New Jersey shore town.
2. Watcher House
Any list of abandoned attractions in New Jersey would be remiss not to mention the chill-inducing story of the Watcher House. No one would argue with Broaddus family’s decision to flee the 100-year-old house after an unnerving series of letters were received. The letters were penned by someone who went by “The Watcher” and detailed the family’s whereabouts at any given time.
The notes the Broaddus family received when moving into 657 Boulevard, the street address of the Watcher House, went beyond your normal local kids pulling a prank scenario. These frightening letters made observations such as, “You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted.” The family heeded the advice of what all horror film viewers bark at the screen when in this scenario in vamoosing out of there.
By 2015, the house became a must-see for local thrill-seekers. Technically being classified as abandoned, potential buyers steered clear of the house in this once idyllic neighborhood. The house was finally rented out several years after the incident only to see another threatening letter from the mysterious presence materialize. Despite all the drama, 657 Boulevard was recently sold, thus ending the several year-long Blumhouse movie the Broaddus’ lived in.
Those brave souls who purchased the property may be in for more publicity in the coming years. Netflix recently purchased the rights to turn the tale into a horror film. With the story essentially writing itself for the big screen, a ferocious bidding war allegedly ensued for the rights to the story.
Some may be surprised to hear that New Jersey has an extremely profitable ghost tour scene. Particularly, the Pine Barrens are home to a plethora of 1700s nostalgia. One would be hard-pressed to find an abandoned town in this area with an eerier history than Harrisville.
The town was a hub of paper production for South Jersey from 1795 to 1914. After the mysterious abandonment of Harrisville, a spectral fire broke out, leaving the community in ruins.
The most unique aspect of this abandoned location is that it is arguably the most accessible in the state. Guided historic hiking tours are offered frequently. For a more controlled experience, a majority of Harrisville is open for the public to explore freely.
For those who relish in all things paranormal, a stop at Harrisville could certainly be a portion of a larger ghost tour of the Pine Barrens. Pinelands Adventures offers a myriad of activities to encapsulate the area. In addition to a several hour-long ghost tour, tourists can take up canoeing or kayaking while learning about the extensive history of the area.
4. Fish Factory
Little Egg Harbor
On the outskirts of some of New Jersey’s most luxurious beach towns sits a relic of what the area was once known for. Undoubtedly, it is a chilling sight for those who are traveling for an escape from reality to see a Chernobyl-esque complex across the water.
The Crab Island Fish Factory, as it was known in its heyday, represented the pinnacle of the fishery scene in this part of New Jersey for a good portion of the 20th century. However, when the area became a tourist destination, the demise of the factory ensued, culminating in it ceasing operations in 1972. Ocean County executives seem to have given up on reviving the island it sits on after a series of failed proposals.
For those adventurous souls who may aspire to explore the abandoned complex, it’s not an easy trip. A tad east of Tuckerton, the fish factory sits on an island that does not present convenient bridge access. Yet, there is perhaps no abandoned location in New Jersey that has been better documented online. The advent of camera drones has eliminated the usually difficult trek to photograph the decaying structure. Numerous locals have provided the public with a quality delineation of its state.
With Little Egg Harbor not finding developers lining up to take advantage of this property, the land the factory resides on does not seem to be of pertinence to fill. Despite this, perhaps it is due to be torn down soon as locals apparently have come to refer to it as “The Stink House,” according to a Weird NJ exposé on the subject.
5. Jungle Habitat
When the notorious entertainment conglomerate, Warner Bros decided to delve into the theme park industry in 1972, what better place was there than Passaic County to begin this endeavor? The West Milford drive-through safari, Jungle Habitat operated for only four years and has been left to rot ever since, earning it a spot on our list of top abandoned attractions in New Jersey.
The park’s short lifespan may surprise some after hearing it attracted several hundred thousand visitors in the summer of 1972 alone. However, West Milford, residing in one of the denser parts of the state, presented little opportunity for expansion. Visitors saw the entertainment options as tedious. While locals, on the other hand, vehemently opposed expansion due to the growing traffic issues, and Warner Bros simply bailed.
Nature has taken its course over the years. Management seemed to have left the site on a Friday in 1976 with every intention of opening the following Monday, but they never did. Erroneous rumors from Passaic County residents have stated over the years that animals can still be seen roaming the property, although these have been debunked. Animals were appropriately moved, sold and transported following the abrupt closure.
Another anonymous contributor to the aforementioned archive, had this to say on what remains, “several animal cages and exhibits are still in place from 1976. When the state acquired the property, all of the buildings were razed. The dolphin pool was leveled in place. The walk through area (Jungle Junction) still has some original pieces including two long tunnels that connected visitors from the parking lot to the park…There is plenty of space to explore, and likely there are pieces of the park buried under decades of soil and debris.” For those inquiring minds, the idea that structures that were enjoyed by millions are sitting, waiting to be discovered is a thrilling one.
This destination has been a must-see for urban explorers making their way through northern New Jersey. With a myriad of hiking trails having been added to the property recently, adventure-seekers can lawfully observe what was once the state’s most popular summer destinations.
Main image by West Milford Jungle Habitat.