Friday, October 31, 2014

For Halloween, some of our favorite haunts

It's Halloween, and New Jersey-based websites are having a field day with posts citing the state's top scary and haunted places. If you're into old graveyards or things that go bump in the night, there are plenty of places where you can satisfy your itch to get a good fright.

At Hidden New Jersey, we generally don't cover the mysterious, spooky and altogether ooky places that are well known to many explorers, but the spirit of the day got me thinking. Of all the places we've been, which ones do I wish were haunted? Or perhaps more accurately, which ones have stories so interesting I'd like the chance to commune with the people who once lived or worked there?

Here are a few I'd like to revisit, this time with a Ouija board or trusty medium:

Site of the explosion
The site of the Kingsland explosion: It was 1917. The United States was on the brink of entering World War I, and Lyndhurst's Canadian Car and Foundry plant was manufacturing munitions for American allies. Saboteurs were afoot, and Tessie McNamara's quick actions were the factor between life and death for her 1700 coworkers as explosions tore the factory apart. Everyone got out safely, but the saboteurs were reportedly never found. Did they go up with the blast?

The seafaring community of Mauricetown: This now-quiet town once was home to what was probably the largest number of sea captains per square acre. I'd love to hear what one of those captains saw on his many journeys to foreign lands, long before airplanes made the world much smaller. What exotic places did he see? What did he think of the native people he met?

Along the Morris Canal
The Morris Canal: whether it's the excavated remains of an ingenious inclined planelandlocked port towns in Warren County or the canal bed that's been repurposed as the Newark City Subway, this long-dormant technological marvel has tons of stories to tell. A cooperative spirit, say of a mule tender or barge captain, might have a few words to spout about the canal's now derelict state.

The Delaware Bay lighthouses: More than one old lighthouse has a tragic story of a lonely, suicidal keeper living a solitary life miles from shore. To my knowledge, none of the Delaware Bay lights in New Jersey waters have such a tale to tell, but I'd still like to chat with one of the early keepers at Ship John Shoal, Miah Maull or Cross Ledge Light.

Gloucester City's Immigration Station
The Gloucester City Immigration Station: It was first Philadelphia's Ellis Island, then part of a Coast Guard base, then abandoned and now an office building. What were the hopes, dreams and fears of those who were detained here? Where did they ultimately end up?

Earl R. Erdner's warehouses in Woodstown: Simple, sage wisdom is right there on the outside walls, ripe for the reading. I'd love to know if the long-dead Mr. Erdner has any more advice for us from the great beyond.

Alexander Hamilton's room at Liberty Hall: While still a young student, America's first Treasury Secretary was the guest of Governor William Livingston's family in what's now Union Township. He already held ambitions for greater things and was building friendships that would serve him well throughout his career. What was going on in his teenaged mind?

Whatever you end up doing to commemorate All Hallows Eve, have fun! And if you happen to run into the Jersey Devil, give him our regards.

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