In West Milford, New Jersey there runs a lonesome stretch of road that is feared by many. Curious out-of-towners search out Clinton Road, while the locals seek alternate routes. The narrow two lane, ten mile road, which supposedly dates back to the 1700s, runs north to south beginning at Route 23 and terminating at Upper Greenwood Lake. New Jersey’s Clinton Road connects two areas of minimal population, and is remote, quiet and surrounded by thick, dense woods. Only a few houses line the road. Clinton Road may seem forgotten, perhaps even a tad neglected.
Maybe there are reasons that Clinton Road has acquired a strange and unfavorable reputation. For over a hundred years it has been associated with bizarre legends, the paranormal, attacking highwaymen, and supernatural creatures. The infamous road and its surrounding woods are reputedly haunted; some claim the area to be pure evil. A powerful and malelovent energy seems to surround Clinton Road. Ghoulies and odd beings burrow deep within the dark shadows of the road’s wicked woods. Clinton Road runs directly through the mysterious forest; its tall pines standing tall, holding dark secrets.
One of the more well-known stories is that of a ghostly truck. Large, glaring headlights will rush up out of nowhere behind Clinton Road motorists, tailgating them and terrorizing them beyond belief. Typically the ghost truck will appear around midnight or later. It will chase helpless drivers down the narrow road and then will suddenly disappear, leaving not a trace. Legend also tells of a phantom Camaro often seen driven by a ghostly girl who was said to have died in a crash on Clinton Road in 1988. Supposedly any talk of this paranormal tale while driving down this road will prompt the manifestation to occur. There is a section of Clinton Road referred to by locals as “Dead Man’s Curve,” which may account for some of these spectral vehicles.
Cars and trucks are only part of the ghost lore connected to the ominous road. There is the famous story of the phantom boy at the bridge. According to townsfolk, there is a bridge at a reservoir just off of Clinton Road. If you throw a penny into the water at that spot, within a minute or two, it will be thrown back to you by a ghostly little boy. The boy supposedly drowned while swimming there, or he may have fallen in while sitting at the edge of the bridge. Some visitors to the bridge have seen the boy and describe him as wearing dirty overalls. More often though the boy is not seen at all; the penny just gets thrown back by unseen hands. And in some very rare cases, those who stop there have claimed to have gotten pushed into the water.
Some West Milford locals have reportedly seen two park rangers walking around in the Clinton Road woods. According to legend, the rangers died while on the job back in the 1930s. In addition to the ranger sightings, there have been numerous reports of people seen in strange clothing wandering along the side of the road who disappear as soon as they are spotted.
The spirits of people driving and walking around Clinton Road and its surrounding woods may be enough to send chills down your spine, but there are many more frightening tales and odd happenings to expose.
Ghostly monkeys, hellhounds and other strange cryptids have all been sighted over the years on and around Clinton Road. Occasionally, an unidentifiable hybrid with glowing red eyes will run across the road, nearly getting hit by a car; headlights illuminate the strange beast as it leaps off into the black woods. Some folklorists believe these mutated, freakish creatures could be possible survivors of Jungle Habitat, a nearby zoo attraction that closed years ago in 1976, and somehow managed to crossbreed over time. According to certain Clinton Road motorists, a greyish-white colored wolf with red eyes has been seen in the surrounding woods. There are reports of demonic dogs charging cars and then disappearing just as quickly into the dark night.
But it’s not just the unusual creatures that make Clinton Road so incredibly eerie and strange; there are also the mysterious spellcasters lurking in the woods. Smoke from bonfires swirl magically up through the pines. These fires, set deep within the forests, beckon curious passers-by. Black caped witches and warlocks dance around the crackling embers as the harvest moon timidly peeks out from behind the tall branches. Witchcraft, including black magic, has been reported in the Clinton Road woods for years. Evidence of sacrificial rituals has been seen by hikers and motorists time and time again. There are stories of “witches who stand in the woods, shadowed by the majestic trees.” In the deep of the Clinton Road forests stands the ruins of a Druidic temple, which some say is used by witches. The conical stone structure just east of the road is said to be the site where New Jersey Druids practiced their rituals, some of which were quite horrific. However, the origins of the temple are not what they seem to be. Hardly mysterious, the ruins are of an old iron smelter from the 18th Century, when ore was prevalent in the New Jersey area and was needed for the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. There is no religious or mystical revelance to the decaying structure and is currently fenced off by the Newark Water Department.
Another creepy, old formation once stood in the Clinton Road woods and was known to the locals as Cross Castle. In 1905, Richard Cross built the imposing edifice on an elevated piece of land near a reservoir. Later on in the 2oth Century, the castle started to crumble due to a devastating fire. Over the years, it became a popular spot for hikers and teens as a place to camp out and party. Yet, there was also a darker side to Cross Castle. Reports of Satanic worship and sacrificial rituals began to surface. Evil and demonic messages were found scribbled on the walls in parts of the castle supposedly inaccesible to humans. Cross Castle was razed in 1988 by the Newark Water Department because it was deemed “an attractive nuisance.” Today the foundation remains and traces of trails can be found leading up to the site. Some locals warn of being chased if you should get too close to the old castle’s location, while others claim you will surely experience a number of supernatural encounters if you tread near. One local went as far to say you may even find yourself physically harmed if you are within the castle’s vicinity. Bruises may suddenly appear on one’s body for no apparent reason, or perhaps worse, you may seizure. Some Clinton Road visitors say you could also experience unusual and disturbing visions in this part of the woods. Feelings of uneasiness, strange voices, cold spots and black shadows have also been reported near the castle’s grounds.
Mobsters driving down Clinton Road and walking through its nearby woods have been seen often over the years. Because the road is typically less traveled, often dark when night falls and feared by many, the mafia has found this to be an ideal place to engage in illegal activities, such as disposing of dead bodies. Back in May of 1983, a bicyclist traveling down Clinton Road noticed a large group of flesh eating vultures feasting on a carcass in the woods. Thinking the birds’ meal to be simply a deer or other large animal, the curious cyclist went on to get a closer look. However, this man was about to get the surprise of his life. The carcass was hardly an animal, but instead, a decomposing human. The autopsy later showed the mysterious man died from foul play. There was something very puzzling, however, in regards to the corpse. Ice crystals in the blood vessels were found near the man’s heart. His interior organs had decayed at a rate much slower than his skin. Pathologists concluded his body had been frozen after his death in hopes to mislead investigators into thinking he died at a later time than he actually did. The death was connected to the mob. In 1986, Richard Kuklinski was arrested and charged with five counts of murder. Kuklinski was a veteran hit man for the New York mafia and claimed to have murdered over 200 people. The notorious serial killer supposedly had dumped the body found by the bicyclist in the Clinton Road woods, and most likely, had left dozens more there as well. Kuklinski “iced” each of his victims, thus earning him the nickname, “The Iceman.” In the end, Kuklinski received two life sentences. He died in March of 2006.
I recently caught up with a friend of mine who lives in New Jersey. Megan, a paranormal enthusiast, has been visiting Clinton Road and its haunted woods for years now and is somewhat an expert on its lore. According to Megan, there are many oddities that encircle Clinton Road. “There have been numerous UFO sightings, hellhounds seen lurking in the woods and many strange things involving the occult,” claims the New Jersey resident. “One time, my friend was driving down Clinton Road and he had to hold on really tight to the steering wheel because it just started going by itself.” Megan also went on to say that although Clinton Road and its woods are legitimately haunted, the locals do like to embellish the ghostly activity a bit more. “‘The Jersey Pineys’, as the Clinton Road locals are called, like to scare first time visitors,” laughs Megan. So who knows if and when you should ever visit this desolate thoroughfare with a haunted history if the shadows in the moonlit forests belong to a group of harmless, fun-loving locals or rather to the evil and dark entities of its supernatural lore.
One thing is for certain, the miles of nothing which is surrounded by rows of trees and thick brush is hardly a joking matter. God help you if your car should break down or get a flat tire; for whatever you do, don’t get out looking for help. Some disadvantaged motorists have stepped out of their cars only to be greeted by omnious growling sounds emanating from the nearby woods, or will see black shadowy figures walking toward them that seem to appear from nowhere. One couple said that they had to stop their car on the side of Clinton Road due to engine noises. Looking out their windows, they noticed movement in the woods and upon a second glance, saw a pair of glowing red eyes surrounded by silvery coarse fur. It looked much like some kind of wolf. The frightened couple quickly left the scene, despite having car problems. Later that night after arriving home, the two exited their car and noticed on the side passenger door that there were long, claw-like marks, jagged and freshly made. To some non-believers the story may be nothing more than pure urban legend, but to those who know Clinton Road, this is horrific reality. One young woman, who was traveling down the road with her beau one night, had her own terrifying encounter. The couple witnessed a phantom car, which mysteriously disappeared right into thin air. Greatly startled, the woman and her boyfriend crashed their car. The two both survived the accident, but the tragic event will forever live in their memories.
It seems that no matter who you are, whether a local or tourist, young or old, male or female, the feelings surrounding West Milford’s creepiest road are always the same. There is great uneasiness and dread, sometimes so intense, certain individuals cannot find the courage to drive down the road. They search for alternate routes, quickly turning back the way they once came. Some who must travel the eerie stretch of road carry with them crosses and Holy Water for protection.
Clinton Road and its woods are feared by many and they very well should be. The dense forests are black as coal, even on nights when there’s a full moon. There always seems to be a cloud of coldness enveloping the road, even on the warmest of summer days. Clinton Road and its woods are, well, strange, and if you are brave enough to venture out there one night while in New Jersey, you will see for yourself why there are so many stories and such rich lore. This is where a skeptic becomes a believer, and urban legends become a whole lot more.
Photo credits: Daniel Case