Saturday, October 31, 2020

A Dozen Images of Haunted New Jersey

Abandoned asylum
This place no longer exists.

It's Halloween 2020, and as if things aren't scary enough, I'm haunted by a review of some photos from past posts.

In New Jersey, you can't take photos anywhere without a ghost looking over your shoulder. Here's what I mean:

Clinton Road (West Milford)

Clinton Road is the setting of a 2019 movie about the nearly 10-mile stretch of road that cuts through a thick forest in former iron-mining country. Ghost stories abound, and you've no doubt heard a few yourself if you grew up in the Garden State. As a character states in the movie's trailer, "Everyone knows that place is haunted!"

This story in The Record, including the photo here by Michael V. Pettigano (other photos on this page are mine), does a great job in detailing the backstory. As David M. Zimmer writes:

"Tales involve a ghost boy who throws back coins dropped over a small bridge, a phantom car that appears at the rear bumper of nighttime visitors with lights blaring, and a satanic cult that gathers at odd stone structures in the woods."

Devil's Tower (Alpine)

The Devil's Tower is located at the end of tony Esplanade Road. Manuel Rionda, a U.S.-based sugar baron in Cuba, built it in 1910 for his wife, Harriet Clarke, so that she view New York City in the distance.

Legend has it, she was enjoying that view one evening in 1922 when she saw Manuel kissing another woman. Overcome with anger and rage, Harriet leapt from the tower to her death.

As every schoolgirl at nearby Academy of the Holy Angels (both my daughters are graduates) will tell you, if you drive or walk backward around the tower three times, you see the ghost of Manuel's wife. Another version of the legend states that, visiting there, you might also find yourself face-to-face with the actual Devil.

Devil's Tree (Bernards)

Here's what Weird New Jersey has to say:

"This is one sinister looking tree, and according to the locals, who told us of its legends, everyone in the vicinity of Bernards Township seems to have a story about it.  They say that at one time a farmer killed his entire family, then went to the tree to hang himself. According to some, numerous suicides and murders occurred around the evil arbor. Supposedly anyone who tries to cut down the tree comes to an untimely end, as it is now cursed. It is said that the souls of those killed at the spot give the tree an unnatural warmth, and even in the dead of winter no snow will fall around it.

"We noticed evidence that many attempts had been made over the years to fell the unholy oak, but all have failed. 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. Nor do we know what has become of those who have tried."

Bernardsville Library

Not far from the Devil's Tree is the old (and former) library in Bernardsville. It used to be the Vealtown Tavern, built in the 1700s.

Phyllis Parker, the tavern owner's daughter, has been rumored to haunt this building ever since. Librarians claimed to have seen her or heard her crying so many times, they issued her a library card.

The historic marker, which looks like a tombstone, states, "By this route, Washington with his army retired to Morristown after his victory at Princeton, January 1777 -- erected by the DAR."

Hermitage Museum (Ho-Ho-Kus)

Built in the 1840s in Gothic Revival style, this site is Bergen County’s first National Historic Landmark. Guests of the original estate included a who's who of Revolutionary War heroes, and Aaron Burr was married there.

According to a story in The Record, tour guide Craig McManus reports that lights and motion detectors have gone on unprovoked, and a woman has been seen in the upstairs window. "We think there are about four or five spirits in the house," he said. "The house itself is kind of a paranormal hot spot."

The Hermitage has been known as a ghost house since at least 1917, when Bess Rosencrantz and her niece opened a popular tea room there. The tea room operated for about 15 years. Its haunted tales made newspaper headlines as far as North Dakota.

Easton Tower (Fair Lawn)

Here's what has to say:

"Easton Tower is a stone and wood frame structure, once an irrigation pump, built in 1900 as part of a scenic park. It now abuts the Saddle River Bikeway. It was named after Edward D. Easton (1856-1915), founder and president of the Columbia Phonograph Company. It is sometimes mistakenly called the Red Mill because in the early 1800s a mill nearby was painted red, and many mistook it for the Easton Tower.

"Residents who live near the tower say strange noises come from the building at night, and at least one witness saw a white apparition at the window."

Red Mill (Clinton)

This is a photo of the Hunterdon Art Museum, across Clinton Falls from when I stood at iconic Red Mill. You don't need to see another photo of that! As Only In Your State explains:

"Clinton's famous Red Mill is often hailed as the most photographed building in New Jersey. While there's no way to track that data, it has been featured in numerous films, calendars and advertising campaigns. Today, it's a charming museum and popular wedding venue… but it has quite a dark past.

"[Some] say the spirit of a young girl whose father worked at the mill often comes to visit. A verified tale involves the tenant house on the property -- documentation shows a death by heart attack. Guests have reported hearing footsteps in vacant areas of the tenant house, objects moving with no clear cause throughout the property and even seeing a man on the third floor of the mill. Many have mentioned the authentic period re-enactor on the third floor -- but the mill does not employ period re-enactors."


Finally, here are three haunted places from in and around the town where I grew up. This isn't counting the abandoned asylum (photo at the top of this post), which has since been completely leveled and is now a construction site. Never mind. I have no doubt it will soon be an addition to my list of haunted places.

Dey Mansion (Totowa Road, Wayne)

Every time I've visited here recently after stopping by Mom's house, the place has been closed. Blame the pandemic. Or maybe it isn't closed and it's filled with visitors, and I'm one of the ghosts haunting the site!

Here's what the Try to Scare Me site has to say: "Built in the early 1700's by Dirck Dey, the Dey Mansion (pronounced Die)... served as headquarters for Washington twice. [He] returned to the mansion after learning that Benedict Arnold betrayed the Americans. It was said that Washington battled his own ghosts and internal battles during his stay after this devastating news.

"There are numerous rumors of visions that appear on the road and grounds. Late at night while drivers pass the mansion, they might come across the ghostly apparition of a soldier."

Annie's Road (Totowa)

Annie is the ghost of a teenager, dressed in white, killed by a pickup truck as she tried to find her way to safety along unlit Riverview Drive. She fled her boyfriend's car after an argument on Prom Night.

All the locals call this stretch of Riverview Drive "Annie's Road," and roadside memorials keep her legend alive. A Halloween tradition is to spill red paint on the blacktop and guard rails so that drivers will think they see Annie's blood.

Annie's Road snakes behind a cemetery and bypasses an alcove of small homes called, with no pretense of political correctness, Midgetville.

Laurel Grove Cemetery (Totowa)

There are over 96,000 people buried in Totowa, a borough with a population of only 11,000 living souls. Following the Passaic River north on sharply bending Annie's Road, right past "Dead Man's Curve," is Laurel Grove Cemetery, where Dad is buried.

Reading a paranormal investigator's adventures at the site reveals quite a few "orb photos" (circles of light seen only on film) in images of the mausoleums and at various locations on the cemetery grounds.

In visits here, I'm mostly taken by the assortment of odd and curious gravestones and monuments. You can see one while passing through town on the highway -- a large, majestic elk on a bluff overlooking Route 80. Perhaps the most unique gravestone there belongs to Sal Giardino, the "World's Greatest Electrician."

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Most Romantic Place in New Milford, NJ

This is the gazebo next to Borough Hall in my hometown earlier today. It's a humble structure, maintained by the local Girl Scout troop and "Borough of New Milford Clean Communities" (aka DPW).

It's also the most romantic place in town.


Take a look at the Facebook page of New Milford's mayor's office.

The gazebo is where Mayor Michael Putrino officiates civil wedding ceremonies.

Ever since the start of the pandemic, I've seen some of the most heart-warming images on the site, including these six wedding photos in just the past two months.

Congratulations to all -- although it looks like this past week's newlyweds, Connor and Kristen Bohling, found an alternate gazebo to pose with Mayor Mike.

All the same, I still think this is the most romantic place in town...

Sunday, October 11, 2020

5 New Jersey Stories (October 2020)

Devil's Tree

From Heaven to Hell to home, the world is full of stories.

Beginning with the Devil's Tree.

A Thrillist story this past week calls it the creepiest place to visit in New Jersey.

It's located along Mountain Road in Basking Ridge, and Amber Sutherland-Namako writes:

"Out of context, the tree's silhouette alone is enough to inspire nightmares: a warped, half-dead oak looming in the middle of a lonely field, with dozens of ax marks lining its trunk. Then there's the gruesome history. A purported meeting place for the KKK, notorious suicide site, and rumored gateway to the depths of hell, the Devil's Tree is infamous among locals and has evolved into a chilling tourist attraction. Legend has it, anyone who harms the tree will suffer swift and violent retribution..."

A few other Garden State stories piqued my interest this week.

Here's a Record story about the rededication of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Passaic:

More than 3½ years have passed since the church was forced to close its doors after the ceiling partially collapsed on Holy Thursday. Parishioners organized raffles, festivals, carnivals and other fundraisers to raise $1.3M for renovations. It shows.

"This beautiful church is a symbol, and we pray for 50 and 100 and hundreds of years more [that] we continue to be here in this community, this beautiful symbol of all of God's goodness and blessings that he gives to us and that we receive,'' said Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney of the Paterson Diocese, who led last week's rededication Mass in both English and Spanish.

Passaic has a special place in my heart because my Mom always talks about it affectionately. More about that later.

Closer to home, I found two stories practically outside my front doorstep. Here are Instagram posts about each:

Returning to Passaic:

I once wrote about how proud Mom was to be known there as "the girl in the photo shop window" when she worked at Kresge's in the 1950s. A photographer on Main Street displayed a large portrait of her – a print from her engagement photos – in the main window of his shop.

I recalled this story as I sat with Mom on my recent birthday at an outdoor cafe on a beautiful Sunday morning. She had an egg and cheese sandwich, and I ordered eggs over easy with bacon and rye toast, which is what my Dad always used to order for breakfast.

Dad died 15 years ago on Oct. 24, and we both miss him terribly.

Before we left, I asked Mom if she would pose for a photo with me. Mom readily agreed, but she made me take about a half dozen photos before she said I took one of her that was good enough for me to post.

Decades pass, and life is so post-pandemically weird, but some things never change.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

3 Haikus for New York City

Underground steam on East 43rd Street
Just blowing off some steam...

I love New York, and I have the photos to prove it.


Radio City Music Hall

Radio City.
Anarchist Jurisdiction?
No Ghost Town tonight.


Trump World Tower
A Trump-made tower,
melting into the background.
Soon to disappear?


Couple walking on rainy street
A precovidian memory...

Rain glistens at night. 
Two, under an umbrella,
seek the Rainbow Room.