Shades of Death Road

Shades+of+Death+Road

Gkathleen Guedez and Allison Slovak

Every town has its urban legends, and Warren County is no exception. Almost all New Jersey residents know about the New Jersey Devil and Lake Hopatcong’s Sea Serpent, but during this Halloween season, we decided to take on the urban legend surrounding the infamous Shades of Death Road.

Many people have different ideas about the origin of the road’s name, ranging from its role as the location of highwaymen’s murderous criminal activities to Native Americans drowning in Ghost Lake by the road. 

Many believe Shades of Death to be haunted as tales of paranormal activity are not few in number, and scenes of death and murder are certainly not foreign to the road: the three brutal murders took place there in the 1920’s and 30’s. 

We decided to put these myths to the test and went to the road to see if it was really haunted or just another tall tale.

None of us knew what to expect during our visit, but we decided to play it safe with the natural wildlife by bringing a loud keychain alarm and a flashlight.

Driving onto the road we caught sight of the trademark sign and knew we had made it. Locals reportedly greased up the sign to prevent people from stealing it, and when we inspected it later, we observed grease stains. 

The ride down the road was an ordinary car ride, save for us trying to frighten each other. A joke became real when we pretended to see something scary outside, only to see a dark figure running up the mountainside – not a phantom this time, but rather a bear cub no more than 100 feet away from the car. We were all caught by surprise and screamed, scaring it away in the process.

A bear was not the only animal we spotted while hiking. Some legends tell of a Native American spirit guide who would take the form of a deer, sometimes causing drivers who saw it to hit it and die. When we spotted a deer just standing on the side of the road, a usually common sight in New Jersey felt eerie.

We arrived at the trails to take a hike through its (maybe) haunted hills. The trails are located in Jenny Jump State Forest, which holds a spooky tale of its own. According to legend, the park gets its name from a girl named Jenny who jumped to her death from a mountain in the park.

Soon after setting off on the trails, we came across Ghost Lake. When we stepped out of the trees into the open space, the sound of the wind howling through the trees and air was off-putting yet beautiful.

We were encompassed by beautiful fall scenery that seemed ethereal, but the forest on the other side of the lake gave us a scare as we thought there, we saw a person standing on the other side, only to have them disappear. 

Realizing our eyes were playing tricks on us, we continued up on the trail while discussing who would die first if the situation came to it and we all came to the conclusion that we were all easy victims. When we heard twigs snapping around us, we decided to head back down and in the opposite direction.

We soon came across a clearing with old buildings and an abandoned trailer. The floor and ceiling were half rotted, the windows shattered, and rusted metal and insulation were sticking out of every corner. Writing and pictures were all over the wall, but we still did not see a ghost.

Continuing on the trail, we started to hear a noise that sounded like rhythmic snapping, perfectly on beat about every five seconds. Freaked out, we decided to trigger the keychain alarm, and the noise went silent.

After that, nothing interesting – apart from the beautiful scenery – really happened until we found a GeoCache. While we had our attention focused on it, there was a loud bang that most of us heard – but one the group was distracted. 

Ultimately deciding that we should leave because of our unease surrounding the wild animals, we went back onto Shades of Death Road. 

Most likely, Shades of Death is not haunted, but there is no denying strange occurrences happen there. Maybe, a better investigation would occur during the dark…