Saturday morning, Ahmadi and I saddled up and headed out to the wilds of southern New Jersey. At some point along the way, I found myself wondering if I should’ve brought Mom’s urn with us, and in my head I could hear her say, “What, so you could sprinkle me in NEW JERSEY?”
You have a point mom. I always did wonder why New Jersey had been dubbed the garden state. I’d only ever run through it on my way to NYC, and all I ever saw were ugly marshes and petroleum facilities. This trip completely changed that. We found ourselves in really beautiful parts of New Jersey, which was both surprising and happymaking.
The destination was to be Atlantic City – at least, that was the plan. Few things happen the way the two of us actually plan them out when we get in a car and hit the road. Our first planned stop on the way to AC was Eglington Cemetary in East Greenwich. Apparently, Eglington Cemetery is the oldest (still in continuous operation) cemetery in the United States. Originally the land was set apart as a cemetery by John Eglington in his last will and testament in 1776.
From what I’ve read, this cemetary has been investigated by several paranormal groups and was supposedly bustling with activity. We found it to be tranquil and relaxed. Granted, we DID go there in the daytime, so there’s that. In the back, there’s a lovely collection of old, thin tombstones. I found myself drawn to the grave of a WWI soldier – his metal marking was covered with leaves so I cleared it off and straightened it up, wishing him and his wife, in reponse beside him, well. We prowled around, being very respectful of where we stepped and I got a couple of great pictures. (I’m SUCH a tourist)
Next stop was to be the ghost town that had once been Veterans Haven in Ancora. Inexplicably, we ran across a house with a yard FILLED with statues of David. It was a moral imperative to get a picture as proof.
We could only find Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, which was still very much active with current patients and guards. We went back to the main road and drove around a bit, trying to figure out where the old Veterans Haven could be and happened upon a large stone gate to an open field with an enormous tree in it. We parked across the street and ventured up to the gate itself, which was simply gorgeous. (PICS)
As we went around the large tree trunk blocking access to vehicles, there was an overwhelming smell of cinnamon. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but it felt very warm and welcoming – as if this was where we were supposed to be. There are times when we’ll be pulled off path, only to find something completely unexpected and awesome on the detour. This was but one of many. We wandered around, checking out an abandoned shack and barn, then headed back to the gate. As we walked around the tree trunk blocking the way, again – the smell of cinnamon was almost overwhelming, but still pleasant. Reassuring, somehow.
Next stop was the Pine Barrons to check this whole ‘birthplace of the Jersey Devil’ thing. First – apparently the actual house that the supposed child was born in (the Shrouds house at Leeds Point) has been torn down. We went all around Moss Mill Rd and Leeds Point Rd, but instead of finding the ‘overgrown depression in the ground’ that online sources have cited, we found ourselves out at Scotts Landing in Leeds Point.
It’s the first time in my life that I’d actually seen extensive marshes. It was fascinating and beautiful. The drive down Scotts Landing was phenomenal as well, all twisty vines wrapping around thick, tangly trees. A major tick check was needed after we got back on the road. Ah, well. That’s what one gets for tromping around in nature. Was still worth it. This particular area of New Jersey was really beautiful. (PICS)
We looked around a little more for anything that would indicate that we’d stumbled upon the overgrown remains of the Shrouds house and then headed out to Atlantic City. I’ve been to Las Vegas several times, so the opulence of Atlantic City didn’t really impress me all that much, but I’d always wanted to go, just to check it out. I was pleased that they’d tried to maintain the look of the original boardwalk in some places, but overall Atlantic City just felt like this overly needy, poorly maintained hooker desperate for someone to dance with. It was garish, just like Las Vegas, but the entire place felt like the end of the strip, where gamblers go to die.
Granted, we only hit Ballys and the Trump Taj Mahal (it was cold as hell, and I didn’t have my awesome cool silly birthday hat yet, so we rolled down the boardwalk in one of those old timey rolling carts). Both hotels are fairly old, so perhaps I would have been singing a different tune if we’d gone to one of the newer, ritzier hotels, but I’m guessing not. I’ll just say this – it’s really sad when bathrooms in gas stations are better attended than the two to four stall shitbuckets in these places.
The one high point of Atlantic City was the small Korean War memorial displayed there. Played the nickel and quarter slots enough to get bored, but not enough to lose more than I’d planned on paying out – then we left. It was time to go find a hotel.
In hindsight, we should’ve checked in BEFORE heading out to Atlantic City, but hey – nobody ever accused us of thinking ahead, so we ended up having to go to about five or six hotels before we found one. We dropped off our stuff, then headed back out into the night. We drove back over to the Leeds Point area, found a nice dark secluded spot on the highway that looked like it might be promising, then parked and turned the lights and the car off.
It was about 10:30pm and the night was actually warming up a little. We rolled the windows down and sat in the darkness, listening to the wind blow through the marshlands and forest around us. We heard a low growl shortly after rolling the windows down, and there were several times where gravel was kicked up around the car, but there was no sound of successive footsteps or anything. It was strangely meditative and relaxing. There were no BOO moments and nothing jumped out of the woods or anything. At one point, Ahmadi said she saw a shape run across the road, but I hadn’t been looking where she was when she saw it, so who knows?
After about a half hour of just enjoying the various night sounds of the marshlands, we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we headed up to Bernards Township, NJ to check out the Devil’s Tree. It is a wonderfully creepy looking tree, but there’s such sadness surrounding it. As we started walking up to it, we noticed that somebody – perhaps the local authorities – had wrapped chain link fencing a couple times around the base of it. It also showed signs of fire damage, as well as a bunch of marks where people had apparently tried to chop at it.
Some asshole kids had thrown cans and bottles over the top of the fencing, so they were now being pushed into the trunk of the tree. (PICS) Many stories cite the tree as the site of numerous KKK lynchings, which is gruesome enough. The tree itself is said to be evil, but we felt no evidence of this – just the sad resignation of a tree being blamed for things others had done on and around it. We sent what healing energy we could into the tree itself and left rum and cigars for the spirits left surrounding the tree, then got back on the road.
On the way back to Pine Grove, we spotted an abandoned barn and spring house out in Tamaqua, PA. I quickly pulled a U and redirected. As we pulled up to the buildings, we disturbed a doe and her fawn, and they darted quickly to the safety behind a tree, then just watched us with curious eyes as we stopped, rolled down the windows, then got out of the car. Once we started walking around, they ran up and over the hill, out of sight. We checked the area out and I snapped a couple pics. There was a road going up further into the hills, but it was too slick for the car to make it up the slope.
We then tried to find Broney’s Hotel – unsuccessfully, so we headed out to the Vraj “Founded in 1988 on the doctrine of Love, Dedication, Devotion and Servitude, VRAJ is a place of pilgrimage for an average of 100,000 Hindus a year.” The building itself is visually stunning – it’s an enormous three story facility with gorgeous Indian architecture. The building itself seems to be sprouting out of and around an enormous concrete lotus. The people were gracious and very welcoming. We were invited by a priest into the main meditation room that grounded me immediately. I could’ve stayed in the low lit room, meditating for quite some time, but there were more parts of the facility that he wanted to show us. Also, one of the community members was having a baby shower, and we were invited in to both eat with them and bestow blessings upon the new mother to be.
It was the perfect way to end the weekend’s adventures.