Mark Moran, co-creator of Weird NJ, once described Clinton Road, New Jersey as a “dark highway into people’s innermost fears”. In the 2019 movie Clinton Road, actor Ice-T said about Clinton Road, “Man, that shit is dark, that place is evil. Do not go there.” What is it about this mysterious stretch of pavement through the heart of New Jersey that’s made it the subject of so much horrifying folklore, so much so that there was even a horror film made about it?
Located about 55 miles outside the bustling heart of New York City, Clinton Road sits in an unassuming corner of New Jersey. People traveling through the Garden State might end up in this fabled place without even realizing they’ve turned onto one of the scariest roads in America. According to some locals, unfortunate fates befall those who journey through this 10-mile stretch of asphalt. To others, Clinton Road is the birthplace of stories about satanic cults, inexplicable paranormal events, Ku Klux Klan gatherings, and much more.
If you look at lists of the scariest places of the United States, Clinton Road inevitably shows up. But what makes this road so scary? And how did it get its haunted reputation? In this article, we’ll dive into some of the horror stories that have earned Clinton Road its sinister place in American folklore.
Dead Man’s Curve Bridge
One legend about Clinton Road centers around a bridge that’s located just around a stretch of road called “Dead Man’s Curve”. The name of this area was probably adopted after all the creepy stories surrounding the area spread, but it still gives this bridge a pretty ominous feel nonetheless.
As the story goes, a young boy was killed by a motorist while looking over the bridge and still haunts the waters under the bridge to this day. Apparently, if you toss a coin off the bridge at Dead Man’s Curve, the coin may appear on the road in front of you only moments later, or may even be thrown back at you. Visitors to Dead Man’s Curve have even reported seeing the reflection of a little boy in the water.
This haunting gets even more sinister than childish games, however. Apparently, some years ago, a boy was challenged to stand on the bridge while his friends drove to nearby Route 23 and back. When they returned, they found their friend lying dead in the water beneath the bridge. The legend says that if you toss a coin off the bridge, it will appear on the road in front of you again, and if you bend down to pick it up, you may be pushed into the water by the ghost who haunts the water.
It’s safe to say that most people who visit Dead Man’s Curve and toss a coin in the water do not end up dead. If you visit the site and look into the water, you’ll see a full-on treasury of pennies, nickels, and quarters. Still, if you plan to visit Dead Man’s Curve, I’d suggest keeping your loose change safely in your pocket just to be safe.
Back in 1905, Richard J. Cross bought a plot of land in the woods bordering Clinton Road and started building an actual 3-story-high castle for his wife and kids to live in. Cross eventually died in 1917, and his family sold the property off to the City of Newark. The castle was neglected and eventually fell victim to a fire that burned down all of the wooden structural elements, leaving only the foundation and the stone walls.
After the fire, the stone walls became covered in graffiti, and the location was probably used by high school kids looking for a spot to guzzle some cheap vodka. However, there have been reports that Cross Castle was a notorious hangout for satanic cults, the Ku Klux Klan, and the fabled Jackson Whites. Some visitors have reported being turned around by terrifying chants coming from the castle.
In 1988, the New Jersey Watershed Commission deemed the structure unsound and tore down the walls of Cross Castle. Today, only the foundation remains.
Many of the terrifying stories that surround Clinton Road deal with encounters with a group of people known as the Jackson Whites. From as far back as the Revolutionary War, New Jerseyans have told stories of a reclusive group of people living in the Ramapo Mountains and surrounding areas. Apparently the descendants of escaped slaves, Hessian missionaries, American Indians, and West Indian prostitutes, the Jackson Whites have developed mutations from generations of inbreeding, and are now mostly albino.
While the term “Jackson Whites” is certainly not recognized by the people it’s describing, and the term is almost certainly used in a derogatory way, there have been many reports of visitors to Clinton Road seeing white-skinned people behaving strangely in the woods. Some have even claimed that they’re a murderous bunch who like to trap hikers between fallen trees and then drag them off into the forest.
In reality, the people referred to as “Jackson Whites” are certainly a real group of people; however, the terrifying stories surrounding them are most likely the result of xenophobia. Many people in the West Milford and Clinton Road area have reported having very normal and pleasant interactions with these people.
Another type of strange occurrence that travelers on Clinton Road have reported are ghostly cars seeming to appear out of nowhere and threatening to run them off the road. Apparently, such vehicles have been responsible for a multitude of crashes along Clinton Road. Whether these crashes were because Clinton Road is quite curvy and not particularly well paved or because of phantom vehicles forcing people into roadside trees is something we can never truly know.
In particular, several different people have reported a black truck seeming to come out of nowhere. All of a sudden, the truck appears with its fog lights blazing, its exhaust blaring, and its horn honking. The truck then drives entirely too close to your rear bumper before disappearing just as suddenly as it appeared.
One of the strangest and most truth-based stories to come out of the area surrounding Clinton Road is that of Jungle Habitat. The story surrounds a closed-down safari-themed amusement park in West Milford, New Jersey that was operated by Warner Brothers in the 1970s. Jungle Habitat was a very real place that people who lived through the 1970s may remember seeing advertisements for on television. Visitors to the park could drive through the simulated jungle and see many different safari animals such as lions, zebras, and elephants.
The last weekend that Jungle Habitat was ever operational was Halloween of 1976, to start this story off on a spooky note. Apparently, because the residents of West Milford voted against the expansion of the park, and because they had gotten into some legal trouble over animals attacking park visitors, Warner Brothers decided to just pack up and sell the land. Apparently, though, many of the animals were not removed from the premises.
Since the park has closed, many local residents have reported seeing non-indigenous animals and even strange cross-breeds that may have resulted from these animals living in unnatural habitats. West Milford residents have reported seeing ostriches and emus running through their backyards, and one resident even recalled a pack of baboons ransacking the town pharmacy. In more extreme accounts, drivers on Clinton Road and in the surrounding areas have reported seeing “hell hounds” and cross-bred hybrid animals running between the trees. Just another reason not to go to Clinton Road, or to definitely go, if you’re a thrill-seeker.
If you’re especially interested in learning about Clinton Road folklore, go watch the 2019 film Clinton Road or visit the area and see for yourself. I must say, the thickly wooded forests, the poorly paved asphalt, and dilapidated bridges do give the area an unmistakable scary ambiance.