New Jersey has always been regarded as being a little... odd. Ever since the days of the Last Royal Governor, Ben Franklin's illegitimate and loathed son, New Jersey has been the butt-end of jokes. And, quite frankly, it's a little tiring. We gave you guys Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Buzz Aldrin, Abbot and Costello, and Eddie Murphy (AKA the best part of Shrek), among countless others. Oh, and George R.R. Martin, so you wouldn't have Game of Thrones without this state. Nor would you have The Sopranos. Basically, HBO as a network would be nowhere without New Jersey.
But we do have a lot of strange things in this state. A lot of creepy, unsettling things that are fun for any traveler hoping to find the strangest sights the Garden State has to offer. New Jersey has plenty of weirdness that any urban adventurer can seek out, so next time you're passing through, take a look at the strangest places in New Jersey.
The Gates of Hell - Clifton
What better way to start a list of weird places in New Jersey than to start off with the Gates of Hell. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
The Gates of Hell are a sewer system beneath Clifton, labeled by graffiti that says "The Gates of Hell." Legend has it that cults would meet in these tunnels below Clifton, conjuring devils and demons so frequently that they left a permanent vortex between this world and the next. Travel far enough down, and you'll be confronted with the unholy terrors of the underworld itself as you venture to the front gates.
Now, even ignoring the fact stories, this place is pretty terrifying. It constantly floods, is incredibly dark, sounds from above refract through the tunnels so you start to hear things, and, oh yeah, it's a disgusting sewer system.
Hey, this far down, it can only go up from here.
Martian Landing Site - West Windsor Township
No, you didn't miss First Contact. Aliens didn't touch down while you were napping. At least, not unless you were born back in the 30s, back when Orson Welles performed his infamous radio drama of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. His performance was notoriously mistaken by listeners tuning halfway through as a real report of an actual alien invasion taking place in New Jersey.
Of course, everyone had a good laugh about it after everyone learned it was all just a drama (history has exaggerated the actual response people had to it), but, as a tribute to the famous broadcast, the location of the fictional alien invasion, West Windsor Township, erected a little monument in honor of the invasion, to respect the landing of the Martian threat.
Trenton Psychiatric Hospital - Trenton
Abandoned asylums are always disturbing places to visit, but Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, which still stands inside New Jersey's capital, has to be one of the weirdest of all. With a history almost as disturbing as the infamous Pennhurst Hospital, the asylum, unlike many others from its day, has yet to be torn down, as many of the halls are still in use to this day.
In this psychiatric hospital, there was a doctor named Dr. Henry Cotton. Cotton wanted the best for his patients, but had convinced himself of a radical, new method to treat the insane. He would carve out their organs with a scalpel, as he believed that, once he extracted the spleen – intestines – lungs – that the insane would suddenly be healed of their instability.
Instead, they died. Rather than pick up on the fact that his treatments weren't really doing much good, Dr. Cotton just figured he failed to extract the organs correctly, and that, next time, he'd do it right.
Dozens died before anyone caught on that Dr. Cotton may not be the most stable person to be watching the mentally unstable. Some say the spirits of those experimented on still wander the halls of the hospital to this day in this, one of the strangest places in New Jersey.
Snake Hill - Secaucus
On the subject of the mentally ill, let's talk about Snake Hill.
Ever take New Jersey Transit? Then you've probably ended up in Secaucus Junction, one of the biggest train stations in the Garden State. Nice place, except at night. You can't help but feel a little uneasy when staying at a train station at night, with no one else there, all alone.
But don't worry. You're not alone.
You see, Snake Hill, near the station's current location, used to be host to an insane asylum. It was closed down before station was built, but, when they started building Secaucus Junction back in the 70s, construction crews found they were in for a surprise.
Thousands of coffins. Some say four thousand. Others ten thousand. But all of them were loaded with the mentally ill, immigrants, and other vagrants buried by the staff of Snake Hill's closed asylum.
So if you're waiting on Secaucus Junction at night all alone, don't worry. You are not alone. Chances are, ten thousand dead souls are standing right alongside you, and not all of them are right in the head.
Devil's Tree - Bernards Township
The Devil's Tree is one of the greatest examples of the Garden State's cursed plant life. And, unlike that mutated weed springing up next to the New Jersey Turnpike, this tree is something wicked. Something evil.
There remain two major legends about the place. One is that the Klan used to lynch black people on the branches of the trees, and that the evil committed upon that soil turned the tree into a rancid, twisted thing of evil. Another is that a man bound for Hell hung himself on the branches, and the weight of his sins managed to punch a hole to the underworld, through which the tree took root, making this one of the strangest places in New Jersey.
Either way, this is one evil tree. Those who abuse it, from trying to chop it down or water it with some natural body fluid, meet a terrible fate. Also, it radiates a hellish warmth that melts the snow around it. It is always warm to the touch.
I don't know if the tree really has taken root inside of Hell, but that's still pretty creepy for me.
The Devil's Tower - Alpine
Perhaps even more bone-chilling than the Devil's Tree, the Devil's Tower is the ultimate college dare in the making. You drive up to this fairly wealthy part of New Jersey, and take a spin around the tower. Some say three revolutions, other say six, some say you have to go backwards around it, but the story remains the same.
Once you complete the ritual, look up at the tower's peaks. See that? Someone's watching you.
A shadow is said to appear at the peak, looking down at those who complete the ritual. Some say it's a spirit, cursed to wander around. Others say it's one of the damned, peering out at you through a crack between Earth and Hell. And others say it's the Devil himself.
Yeah, the Devil really seems to have a lot of homes in New Jersey. We haven't even gotten to New Jersey's most famous devil yet, and we've already seen old Beelzebub visit this list a few times now. I guess the Devil likes the smell of Newark smog.
The Spy House - Port Monmouth
Now known as the Seabrook-Wilson House, some say that the Spy House is one of the most haunted places in America, let alone one of the strangest places in New Jersey. The Spy House served as a tavern during the Revolutionary War, where British soldiers would hang out and talk strategy. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the tavern owner and his wife were revolutionists, and would overhear strategies from the red coats, which they'd relay to General Washington himself.
The other part of the legend is that, when the Red Coats slept at the tavern, the tavern owner would take a knife to their throat, slice it open, and dump their bodies – still alive but unable to draw breath – down in the cellars to rot.
Also, according to some legends, pirates would bury treasure there. So the house may have a colossal treasure underneath it.
But what does it certainly have? Ghosts. Lots and lots of ghosts. Supposedly.
Clinton Road - West Milford
Clinton Road, among some, is legendary. Many claim it to be one of the most haunted roads in America, due in part to the number of accidents, strange sightings, and bizarre... everything!
Depending on who you ask, Clinton Road is either:
- A hot spot for apparitions.
- A meeting ground for Satanists/Klansmen
- Situated over the Gates of Hell itself
- A poorly lit road that needs to be fixed up to avoid accidents.
Regardless as to what your theory is, there is something truly creepy about Clinton Road. Traveling down, you can't shake that feeling that you are not alone. Be it cult members, ghosts, demons, or just wild animals, you are being watched.
The Pine Barrens
You knew this had to be here. C'mon, you don't go looking for the strangest places in New Jersey without looking at that big stretch of pine trees in South Jersey. Ever since the beginning of New Jersey history, the Pine Barrens have just been a weird place. Stereotypes dating back to the early 1800s exist about the people who lived there... but today it's more well known as the home of New Jersey's favorite cryptid: the Jersey Devil.
The 13th Child of Mother Leeds has garnered something of a reputation ever since a string of appearances in the early 1900s. The weird thing about the Jersey Devil is how varied accounts of it depict the creature. Some people claim this hodge-podge of animal parts is a ferocious demon, bent on eradicating all that stand before it, while others seem to say the Jersey Devil is a merely mischevious imp, content with dancing on top of people's roofs.
And, let's be honest, the idea of the Jersey Devil is pretty silly. I mean, the wings of a bat, the horned head of a goat, crocodile tail, and the body of a kangaroo? That's sort of ludicrous if you ask me.
But the people of the Pine Barrens will insist that not only is the Devil real, but he walks the Pine Barrens to this day.
Even if you don't find the Devil out in those woods, you will be confronted with an overwhelming sense of unease. It truly is a humbling experience, wandering through those woods, as you realize that, for all of mankind's control over the world, Mother Nature still holds a hold on the Earth... and that there are some parts of the Earth that man simply is not welcomed.
But we New Jersians will live there anyway. You can't tell us what to do, Mother Nature! That Devil of yours? We'll make a hockey team out of it. Win a few Stanley Cups. There you go.