Shades of Death ― a road with such an ominous name has to be home to many ghost stories and local legends. Yes, it is! This twisty stretch of road in New Jersey may look pleasant enough during the day, but if you believe the legends, a nighttime voyage is not for the faint of heart.
Shades of Death Road is situated almost exactly 60 miles west of Manhattan, in quiet Warren County, New Jersey. This seven-mile stretch, from farm country just off I-80 along a portion of Jenny Jump State Forest, riding the edge of a lake known as the Ghost Lake, has seen uncountable deaths, decay, disease, and unexplained phenomena over the years.
Hauntings Of The Shades Of Death Road
Ever since its creation in the 1800’s unnatural forces have taken a hold on those who travel upon the Shades of Death Road, leaving a bone-chilling experience to all who pass through. There are many stories about how the road received its infamous name, a few of which are told below. The past can’t hide its ghosts from telling the tragic tales.
The Murder Highway
While travelling along the roads southern half you will notice that it contains plenty of natural shade. Back in the day, this portion of the road provided a hiding place for highwaymen and bandits who would supposedly lay in wait for their helpless victims in the shadows, then often cut their throats after taking what they had. Hundred of pounds of gold, treasure and coins have exchanged hands at the price of blood. One such murder involved a local resident, Bill Cummins, who was killed and buried in a mud pile. His murder was never solved.
If those mischievous were caught, the townsfolk would lynch them and leave their bodies hanging from the trees that covered the road. And there you go, Shade’s of Death Road is born. There have been reports of shadowy figures on this road seen out of the corner of your eye as you pass the lynching trees, making it a favourite hotspot for ghost hunters!
The lynched highwaymen’s presence is known by a thick fog and dark apparitions and appear and disappear constantly. Some ghosts even follow the visitor’s home. They attach themselves to those who are bullies, sending a lesson to those who harm others as the ghosts did in their previous life.
It seems as though ghosts aren’t the only entities parading around Shades of Death Road. Large black cats have been spotted as well. Some say they are shifter hybrids or humans that can transform into beasts. So the road is home to werecats, as one might call them. Bear Swamp nearby was known as either Cat Hollow or Cat Swamp, because of packs of vicious and overly large wild cats that lived there who frequently and lethally attacked travellers along the road.
Cabin In The Woods
About a mile down the road is a small one-lane unpaved road which contains a farmhouse at the end. But halfway down the road, there is a small cabin-like structure. Visitors to this cabin have reported strange supernatural activity.
A Weird NJ reader told the following story of the cabin:
You can barely see it in the day, but at night forget it. If you don’t know where to look, you won’t find it. Me and a couple of kids were inside it one night and I remember it was trashed – the windows were all broken, the walls were falling apart the floor had holes in it, the place was a mess. In one of the far corners of the house is a hallway with a piano built into the wall. The keys are all smashed up on it and that alone is enough to be kinda freaky. We went on exploring the place and then went upstairs, and I was the last person up the stairs. I remember that so there wasn’t anybody else downstairs. All of a sudden the piano sounded like someone banged on it really hard. Then it happened again, and there was a crunching sound like the glass on the floor was being stepped on. This sound came closer and closer down the hallway. Our first reaction was that it was the cops. But when we heard the sound right in front of us and saw no flashlights, wee quickly ruled out that one. So someone shined a light on the area and there was nothing there. We took off out of there as quickly as we could and didn’t look back. when we got to the road we noticed that there were no cars parked along the side, so it wasn’t anybody fucking with us.
There’s a waterbody, located just off the road, south of the I-80 overpass, that is unofficially called the Ghost Lake. It was created in the early 20th century when two men dammed a creek that ran through the valley. Rumours have it that as the lake had grown in size, it inflicted the paranormal activities within the lake area. The men were soon constantly haunted by the spirits of Native Americans who once lived (and maybe died) on the land. It is said that an Indian burial ground is located in the center of the lake. As the hauntings became worse the men moved from the area, but not before naming the lake “Ghost Lake.”
Ghost Lake has now become one of the greatest attractions in the New Jersey paranormal tour. Today visitors say the lake still reveals many spirits, especially those who visit the cave located on one side. Early in the morning, a thick fog covers the area, emitting a smell of dread. Another legend tells that the middle of the lake boasts an endless pit of the dark ― a hole in time ― that will suck in any who swim in the lake. Its calm water has claimed so many lives through the years.
There’s a small ancient cave in the right corner of Ghost Lake, that was once used by Lenape Indians. It is said that in the early 1900s archeologists found bits of broken pottery, tools, and carvings inside. It has lead historians to believe that the cave was used by native hunters and travellers as a pit stop during long travels. This cave was used before the existence of Ghost Lake where tribal burial grounds are said to have once existed. Now the lake, and its sprits, haunt all those who visit the site.
Disease In Warren County
Shades of Death road wasn’t only home to murders and natives, but was home to swarms of mosquitos who spread nothing but disease and pain. In the mid-1800’s they caused an outbreak of malaria resulting in high mortality rates. That was due to the remoteness of the area from proper medical treatment. The tragedy led this road to be recalled with ‘death’. In 1884, a state-sponsored project drained the swamps, ending the threat.
A Crime Zone?
A few years back Weird NJ published correspondence from two anonymous readers who said they found hundreds of Polaroid photographs, some of them showing the blurred image of a woman, possibly in distress, scattered in woods just off the road. The magazine claims the local police began an investigation but the photos “disappeared” shortly afterward. What were these photos there for? Where did they go? Are those that took them still around and visiting the old forest?
The Shades Of Death Road – A Paranormal Tour Destination
Today the Shades Of Death Road is considered to be one of the most famous paranormal tour destinations in America. Travellers visit this place in the hope to catch a glimpse of a spectre. Visit this adventurous site, if you really want to gain a new experience from America’s dark side. But, beware of unknown harms because this place is mostly desolate, and we will advise you not to go there alone in the dark.