With Halloween on a Wednesday this year, it is likely there may not be many gatherings around West Long Branch. Therefore, with nothing to do on Halloween night, or even just to get in the Halloween spirit, a great alternative would be following a spooky trail left for you by the very popular series of books, Weird NJ.
Weird NJ is composed of myths and legends around the entire state of New Jersey. First published in 2003, Weird NJ has expanded drastically by creating a website and several magazine editions of their books, as well as forming a broad audience nationwide. Intially made solely for the purpose of handing out to friends, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman began Weird NJ as a pamphlet which eventually turned into a magazine.
The website, weirdus.com, boasts “Something about Weird NJ seemed to strike a nerve with folk of the Garden State. Our little ‘zine’ was getting passed around and finding its way into the hands of people we had never even met.” The two men have now expanded their ‘Weird’ series to include every state.
Since the two Mark’s began their journey in New Jersey, the two have come across many myths and legends in the state. The two main legends in New Jersey are the tale of the Jersey Devil and the myth of Clinton Road, while the lesser known stories include Gravity Road and Thirteen Witches’ Road.
According to Weird NJ, the Jersey Devil’s story began in 1735 when a woman was pregnant with her thirteenth child. The legend supposedly involves a woman who was left alone to care for all her children as well as her house because her husband was little assistance since he was a drunk. Weird NJ claims she was so frustrated with all the stress in her life, she pointed to the sky and said “Let this one be a devil!”
When the baby was born, it was a healthy boy but soon changed into a winged creature. The creature then attacked and killed its mother, father, midwives, and many of its’ siblings. Ever since that date, many have claimed to have seen the Jersey Devil running freely in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey.
Former Pine Barrens resident and current sophomore, Allie Phillips, recalls the speculation of the Jersey Devil. “No one that I knew took the jersey devil completely serious, but it was always in the back of our minds,” Allie continued. “I do not believe in it but it is creepy to think about, and when driving through the Pine Barrens at night it’s a little scary.”
Weird NJ goes on to state that between January 16 and 23 in the year of 1909, there were numerous accounts in Philadelphia, Camden, and Bristol of the creature attacking their cities. Whether the claims were true or tales created to pass the time, we will never know.
Along with the Jersey Devil, there is a myth called the Devil’s Tree. Located in Bernards Township, the tree has become quite the tale. Weird NJ states, “The tree stands all alone in the middle of a large field off Mountain Road. Its trunk has been severely scared by axes and chain saws, some wounds appearing to be quite old. Why no one has yet been successful in toppling the timber we cannot say for sure.”
One of the myths says there was a farmer who killed his family and after doing so, he went to the tree to hang himself. Another is that the devil took a liking to the tree. Supposedly, everytime there is a snowfall, the snow forms a ring around the tree and no snow ever touches the tree.
While the Pine Barrens may be the host the most talked about legend South Jersey has to offer, Clinton Road is the most haunted site North Jersey has to offer. Located in West Milford, about a two hour drive from MU, the rumors date back to 1905. The most common myth of Clinton Road is the legend of a dead boy who lives under a bridge and returns coins after people throw them into the water. There is more than one bridge on Clinton Road but it is not known exactly which one this tale is inspired from. While traveling down this road, many have felt eerie vibes. “As soon as I began seeing ‘Clinton Road’ signs, I got sick to my stomach,” sophomore Lindsey Pieschl said. “I felt so sick that my friends and I had to turn around.”
Freshman, Megan Gow, is from West Milford and yearns people to realize not everything is what it seems. “A lot of local kids go up there and spook the tourists. There are a lot of myths and the local kids reenact them when there are others there.”
This is not the only fable to haunt Clinton Road. West Milford resident and junior Mariola Cieloch, notes that there was once a murderer who placed all his victims bodies along Clinton Road. Once the police found out, they went to Clinton Road and did indeed find all the bodies. Some tend to believe that the road is haunted by these poor souls.
“My one friend was driving down Clinton Road at night and saw an old man walking along the side of the road alone,” Mariola continued. “No one walks on Clinton Road by themselves, let alone at night.” Mariola also states how there are no lights on the long road which makes it even more of an eerie drive.
There is another road which is not associated with a haunting, but does involve a test of gravity. While there is more than one of these roads, perhaps the most famous one is Hopewell Gravity Road located in Mercer County.
On their website, Weird NJ states, “Once off Route 29 you’ll find Pleasant Valley Road, where the strange uplifting phenomena occurs. If you travel a mile or so on the thoroughfare, you will notice a small sign on your left indicating where to stop your c ar for a f un-filled r ide. You can stop your car on either side of the road, and mysteriously, your vehicle will either be pulled forward or backward uphill, depending on which way you’re headed.”
Senior Evan Mydlowski once went to the Hopewell Gravity Road and he recalls the trick actually working. “In 2011, my high school friends and I went to check out the myth. We heard that if you put your car in neutral at the bottom of the hill, your car will suddenly start going up the hill without touching the gas pedal and it worked to our surprise.” If you plan to go to this spot, be warned that police are known to issue tickets to any attempting this trick.
One of the most bizarre Weird NJ sites is located in Watchung, NJ. The legend has it that in the 1800’s, there were thirteen witches in Watchung who killed children. When the townfolk found out what was happening, they hanged the witches for punishment and buried them side by side. Centuries later, Watchung made a road over the site of their graves. Locals began to notice that although the road appeared to be flat, a distinct thirteen bumps could be felt in the pavement when driving over it.
“I decided to go on a Weird NJ trip with some friends back in 2010,” sophomore Brian Martin recalled. “When we went to Thirteen Witches’ Road, I put my face down on the road before we drove over it just to see if there were bumps, and there were none, but when driving on the road, it is obvious that there were thirteen bumps.” On weirdus.com, the Mark’s would like to remind all their readers that these are legends. “So how do we decipher the fact from the fiction? How do we separate the history from the mystery? We don’t. What we do is listen to what people tell us is weird about their own hometown.”
With all this background information, it now falls to whoever has decided to take a glance at this article: are you daring enough to explore a scary, desolated area or will you succumb to the fright and stay away.
IMAGE TAKEN FROM weirdus.com