USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Fisherman and His Wife

Text:

Informant: So anyways, it’s something to the effect of, I don’t remember it very well but it was, it was part of a theater thing that we did and apparently it’s a very old story where, like a fisherman catches like some magic fish that, he and his wife were kind of down on their luck, and the fisherman catches a magic fish and the magic fish gives him a wish every time he catches it, but the fish doesn’t like being caught. So, he gets, he gets them like I don’t know, just kind of enough to feed themselves for like however long they want to be fed because they were kind of born destitute and like need it. And he gets it. And then his wife starts to ask for like, more and more and starts to live a more and more lavish lifestyle, so every day he goes back and catches the fish and wishes for some new thing and the, and eventually the fish just gets fed up with it and takes everything away. And it’s kind of, I don’t know if I would call it, yeah sad, I guess it’s a little bit sexist because it’s one of those like “women are gold diggers” or whatever. That’s basically what the message of it is, but I guess in a larger sense, in just relating to the audience members regardless of gender, it’s just “don’t ask for too much” and “don’t get, don’t get caught up in wanting more when you already have everything you need.”

Context: The informant learned this story from a theater group in New Jersey, where he was told that it was a theater story. It had been passed down from other actors. This story was recorded by the Brothers Grimm in 1809 (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Von dem Fischer un syner FruKinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales — Grimms’ Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no. 19.). That said, it likely has origins outside of the New Jersey theater community.

Analysis: I tend to agree with the second analysis given by the informant, with the sentiment of “don’t ask for too much.” While it is technically the wife’s desire to have more, that doesn’t mean that the husband isn’t also wanting the same things. At the same time, I also feel like the tale could show how hard work and persistence can lead to getting your goals (at least before they are taken away). Essentially, the idea is to know when one is successful enough to stop taking advantage of others to garner more success when it’s unnecessary. Overall, the idea of complacency and assuming that you can keep all good things is a theme of the tale that resonates with me, especially because of the emphasis on capitalist ideals in America.

Legends
Narrative

New Jersey “Vanishing Camaro” Legend

Main Piece: “On this really tough stretch of road, there is a part that has a severe turn which can be difficult for drivers to make when going at highs speeds. Well one night, a woman was driving her Camaro down this road and she lost control and got into an accident, which immediately killed her. However, this was not the last time she was to be seen… In fact… apparently at night if people are driving down the road, this very same Camaro will randomly appear and chase the driver until it finally vanishes into thin air. There really isn’t much that triggers the sighting, but most people say that if you or someone in the car talks about the woman who died and her car, it will act as a call to her and she will appear.

 

Background: KC said that this one is what scared him the most after he heard it from his friends. Because he has to do a lot of driving, and sometimes he will pass that road late at night, he said that he was always keeping an extra head over his shoulder to ensure nothing happened to him. He also said that he saw this story as a way to remind young people about the dangers of unsafe driving, and what the consequences of that can be on someone so young.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were in my apartment discussing some of our most memorable stories about haunted houses, or ghost stories from our areas that we grew up in. He knew this one very well, and was delighted to tell the story of how creepy the vanishing Camaro was. He wanted me to understand just how much spooky stuff happened in and around the area from which he grew up. He even said that because driving was always something that kind of had him on edge, this idea of a spectral Camaro chasing him really had an impact, so much so that he remembered it pretty well.

 

Analysis: This legend is another interesting ghost story that I think definitely has a deliberate point to it. Much like KC said that he believes that this story could potentially be a warning to young people so that they do not make the same mistakes as the woman who died in her Camaro. I also find the symbolism of the car following the people on the road to be very fascinating. Personally I read this as a literal specter and a reminder of the past, and I think in some ways this story is trying to tell people: “No matter what, the consequences of your actions will follow you until the day you die. And if your mistakes hurt others, then that is something that will be with them until the day they die.” So while it is most certainly a ghost story to tell to friends and families, I think its themes are indicative of New Jersey’s paranoia to keep people safe, as they have seen a lot of death, and they don’t want to lose anymore young men or women.

Legends
Narrative

“Cross Castle” New Jersey Legend

Main Piece: “There is a castle off Clifton road, called Cross Castle and it is notorious for being super weird and having some strange stuff happening over there.  It is said to be the sight of many satanic rituals and also it is supposed to be super haunted. People went up there one time to investigate it and see if they could find anything crazy, and they were camping outside when they started to hear whispers and chanting coming… from inside the Castle. When the chanting started, one of the members started having a seizure and after a few more seconds the chanting stopped and so did the seizure. They left soon after that, but it is also known that people who entered the castle would have seizures, and only after they exited the castle would they stop.”

 

Background: KC said that Cross Castle was a staple of legends that he remembers hearing from his friends as a kid, especially the ones who wanted to see the remains of the Castle and see whether or not it was really haunted. KC also mentioned that in the 50’s there was a serious problem with teenagers and drug dealers hanging out in the castle and doing a bunch of things that were either illegal or unsafe. For that reason he tried to stay away from the area, but his friends were very persistent and would continuously ask him to go with them to visit the castle.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were in my apartment discussing some of our most memorable stories about haunted houses, or ghost stories from our areas that we grew up in. He knew this one very well, and was delighted to tell the story of how creepy Cross Castle was. He wanted me to understand just how much spooky stuff happened in and around the area from which he grew up and went to school and work.

 

Analysis: I find this story to be intensely creepy, and the meaning behind it seems to be very apparent given the circumstances of what the castle had become to the youth of the present. In Jersey, KC mentioned that there wasn’t always the greatest level of supervisor from parents, and so there were many kids that ended up getting themselves into trouble by doing dumb things. This story seems to scare people away from this specific location, and I would imagine that is mostly motivated by people’s desire to keep young adults and drug dealers away from the location. Seeing as how there was a growing problem at this location with drugs, it would be entirely reasonable to suspect that perhaps this story was meant to scare kids, teens, and adults away from this place. Also the seizures mentioned in the story, could even be linked to showing people the consequences of over using drugs, as again, KC mentioned that there was a serious problem with drugs being bought and used at this place.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Signs

“Clinton Road” Hellhounds

Main Piece: “So there’s this road in Jersey called Clinton road, it’s in west Milford, and this road that is haunted in multiple ways. But the biggest thing is that people that go down there, swear they see a giant black dog with glowing red eyes just roaming around the road. It’s said that this creature is supposed to be a hell hound or something, and that if you get too close it will try and attack you by ramming the side of your car, and then it will disappear. A bunch of people also say that if you see this hellhound, and it attacks you it means that you will have an untimely death in the near future, and it is even believed that this road may even be close to some entrance to hell because there are mad sightings of these hellhounds.”

 

Background: KC grew up in New Jersey, and he mentioned that this road was one that he and his friends were highly aware of growing up as it was always a topic of conversation. He said that he heard this from one of his friends, who also tried going to this road late at night in the hopes of seeing the famous hellhound, but he didn’t have any luck. Nonetheless, because he told KC that he heard some really strange noises and howling while he was there, he was convinced that something must be out there. KC said that because this was a fairly dangerous road, he doesn’t know if he believes the hellhounds but that he certainly thinks its some warning to people to be extra diligent and cautious on that road.

 

Context of the performance: KC told me this story in my apartment as we were talking about some of the spookiest places that we know from our hometowns. Me being from LA, I was not familiar with this story and he was eager to relay the information about one of the most infamous roads in New Jersey.

 

Analysis: I find this story to be incredibly fascinating and very eery, as I feel that it must have some role in trying to ensure drivers are paying attention on the road while they are driving at night. KC mentioned that this road is kind of notorious for accidents happening and because of that, I think its safe to assume that while this story may certainly be a product of someone seeing a creature in the night, I think it most certainly has an extra layer to it.This extra layer of course being that cautionary aspect, pleading drivers to pay extra attention so as not to get into another accident.

Legends
Narrative

New Jersey Bridge Ghost Story

Main Piece: “On this stretch of road theres a long and old looking bridge. Apparently back in the early 1900’s this was a place where some kids would constantly play on and such. One day a little boy was playing on the bridge, and a car came across the bridge going mad fast, and it didn’t see the boy until the last minute. The car tried to steer out of the way but it hit the kid and sent him flying off the bridge and into the river below. It is said that to this day that bridge is haunted by the little boy, and sometimes people have said that they see him at the edge of the bridge, however the most common story is that if a person goes to the bridge and throws something into the water, like a coin or a rock… the item gets thrown right back at you.”

 

Background: KC doesn’t necessarily like this piece, but he said that it is so popular in his community and in the people that he is close with that it is a story that he heard all the time. He mentioned that one time his friends went to the bridge and were trying to see if they could see any weird happenings, and that they didn’t see anything in the water but at the far end of the bridge they thought they saw the shape of a small boy walking down towards the river below the bridge. KC also talked about how his friends would try and get him to go and check out the bridge with them, but he never wanted any part of that, but he admits that to this day he is still wildly curious about the bridge, albeit very hesitant to visit it.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were talking about some of our favorite ghost stories. After we had talked about there being some very questionable drivers on the road in LA, he remembered this story about the bridge and felt that he had to tell me, especially cause he know that I liked scary stories.

 

Analysis: This is a super creepy ghost story and one that I found to be very tragic and dark as well. Seeing as how this revolves around a careless driver killing a child, in an area where children have been known to play, it seems to function as a warning for two very different types of people. Firstly it seems to be a warning for careless drivers to make sure that they stay paying attention while they are driving on the road. And secondly, it appears to be somewhat of a cautionary tale for children as it displays the consequences of playing in dangerous areas. KC mentioned that in New Jersey, there isn’t always the most parental supervision, at least where he was from, so I think that its very possible that this ghost story can double as that cautionary tale in order to try and keep children and young adults safe.

Legends
Narrative

Pineys and the Jersey Devil

“So I grew up in NJ, but not in the part of NJ that’s near new York. I grew up in the part of New Jersey near Philadelphia, and that’s considered South Jersey. In South Jersey, toward the Jersey Shore, there’s an area called the Pine Barrens, and the people who live there are referred to as Pineys. They’re described as not having running water or electricity. They live in a very primitive way, and live in shacks. Their families have lived in the Pine Barrens for generations. And there’s a legend that in the Pine Barrens lives a creature called the Jersey Devil, and if anything unexplained or violent or weird happened, it would be in South Jersey in the Pine Barrens. So people would say it had to do with these people who are not very sophisticated and live just among themselves and don’t mix with others combined with the evil that is the Jersey Devil. People in South Jersey really believe that there is this phantom Jersey Devil.”

Context: The informant was raised in Cherry Hill, South New Jersey.

 

Interpretation: It seems clear that the Pineys and the Jersey Devil are both used as a scapegoat for New Jerseyans’ anger and sadness in response to tragic and/or unexplained events. The Jersey Devil could also be viewed as the embodiment of New Jerseyans’ negative feelings toward Pineys. Instead of explicitly citing the elusive, exclusive Pineys as the root of evil, they can veil their hatred in a more fantastical being and dehumanize whoever is being blamed for such events. For another interpretation of the Jersey Devil, see the “Jersey Devil & Folklore” page of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance website.

 

Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Clinton Road

Item (direct transcription):

In New Jersey, one of the few things New Jersey has is… um… New Jersey has the most haunted road in the United States: Clinton Road. It’s a haunted road, and it goes really long.

The reason it was haunted and that hype started up was because of just the terrain and how, just, like, rural it is. That’s where a lot of murderers go and bury the bodies of their victims. So, like, there’s a lot of, like, lost souls there that haunt the road.

I remember going on it. Like, my friends and I. There was a couple of us, and we were going down it. And then, we were just like… okay. And you have to go at night, because that’s the full experience. We went at night. And it fogs up there a lot, and the reason is because there’s a lot of trees and apparently, like, throughout the day there’s a lot of sun out, but all the shade makes the ground stay cool. So it cools down a lot quicker, so the dew point’s a lot lower… or some shit like that. So it like, fogs up easier that normally.

And, umm, we went through it once. It was our senior year. And uh, frickin’… nothing like scary happened. It was just, like, our paranoia. It’s like, “What was that!?!” “What was that!?” “What was that?!” But then one incident… one incident… we were going down the road, and we come across an intersection. With a stop light, alright? And when we approached it, it was red. So we stopped. And then we were just like, “This is a trap!” Cause, like, we thought it was just jammed. That light was long. Or maybe it just appeared long to us. But like, at least from our perspective it was really long. So we were just like, “Nah… nah… this can’t be. It can’t be.”

So we kept looking around, and then Matt—fucking Matt—Matt opens his door, and we were just like, “What!!” But he’s just like, “Nah, I’m just gonna check it out, you know?” So he opens up the door and he walks—there’s no other cars around us—so he opens up the door and he kinda just like walks around. And we’re just like, none of us wanted to get out of the car. I still had my seat belt on. That shit was not coming off. And we’re just like, “Matt! Matt! Get back in the car! This could turn green any second! Matt!” And then umm, at one point, Shabab [the driver] was just like, “Fuck this.” ‘Cause the light had turned green. Matt was still outside the car. I think he was just fucking with us. But then Shabab just started driving away, and Matt was like, “What!?!” [Laughing.] Oh my god! [More laughing.] He didn’t go far. He wasn’t that mean. And then he backed up. And that scared the fuck out of me, too, you know. I’m like, “No, no, Shabab, we can’t leave him. No, no, we have to explain this to his parents!” [Laughs.]

Background Information:

The informant says that Clinton Road is a very well-known “touristy spot” within New Jersey. However, he believes that no one outside of New Jersey really knows about it.

At the very least, he believes that there really are dead bodies of murder victims buried there.

Contextual Information:

The informant treats this story as a cherished memory and hilarious story to tell to friends.

Analysis:

The legend of Clinton Road’s haunting is clearly connected to semi-ritualized visits to the road by high school students. The informant himself participated in such a visit, as well as the practical jokes that accompanied it. This pattern (i.e. a legend, a ritual, and a practical joke) matches typical traditions surrounding American haunting legends.

Also, the informant directly associates his knowledge of and participation in this legend with his identity as someone who grew up in New Jersey. He believes that the legend is something shared only within the state.

Legends
Narrative

Apple Pie Hill

Item (direct transcription):

There’s a hiking trail [in New Jersey] that I went on a couple times with a group of friends. It was about eight of us. And there’s a place called Apple Pie Hill. And it’s along the Appalachian Mountains. Like, the very beginning of it. And the trail that’s like the biggest trail that’s most popular and closest to where we live… when you go up it—it’s a couple of miles—um, when you go up on it, at the very, very top—at the top of Apple Pie Hill—there’s like a tower. And, uh, it’s abandoned. But there’s like a bunch of writing on it. People visit it all the time. They would leave like locks on it, or whatever, like “I love you” locks and stuff. People write on it a lot. I wrote down “USC Fight on! Class of 2019” on it.

There’s a story, though, behind that tower. That tower, you can go up on it—you can spiral up. Um, it’s like, it’s like a metal tower, but then there’s like a little box—like a room—on the very top. And the only way that you can get in is up a ladder there’s a little latch. Kinda like how you would get into an attic. But it’s locked. And there’s a story on why. And it’s because that tower, that place, that certain area is haunted. Because that tower is a… back in the old days—you know, when they didn’t have satellites and just didn’t have the technology that we have today—the way, uh, they would, uh, look out for wildfires was there was literally a guy watching from a tower like that. It’s a really old tower. Like, it looked really unsteady.

But, um, there’s a legend saying that the place is haunted by this one guy, ’cause he was a park ranger and there was a forest fire going on. But he was sleeping on that tower. So by the time he saw the fire and he wanted to, like, alert people, uh, the fire was, like, engulfing the mountain around him. He died there. He was burnt to death in those mountains. So they think his ghost still wanders around those mountains to this day.

Background Information:

The informant was told the story by his friend’s mother. He suspects that she was embellishing the story.

He’s not sure whether it’s true that a park ranger died on Apple Pie Hill, but he thinks it’s possible. He says he would be scared to visit the tower at night.

Contextual Information:

The informant treats this story as a cherished memory. Evidently, his visit to the tower and the story associated with it had a significant impact on him, as he was eager to share photos of him and his friends at the tower.

Analysis:

This legend seems to match common American stories about haunted locations. It has the usual motif of someone dying in an unusual way, then becoming a ghost and haunting the site of their death.

Legends
Narrative

The Jersey Devil

Informant is from a suburb in the center of New Jersey, in Monmouth County. She went to a boarding high school in rural Northern New Jersey however, in a very isolated area.

“We had this thing called a Freshman Retreat in my 9th grade year, which was at a campground called Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, which was literally the same camp where they filmed Friday the 13th. Because of this, one of the nights we decided to watch Friday the 13th, and began telling each other scary stories to scare each other before bed. One of these stories was the Jersey Devil, which was a local legend. This is a story that basically anybody who is from New Jersey has heard of, and people tell it all the time.

So the Jersey Devil was like, this winged goat-like creature with hooves and horns that lives in the forests of New Jersey. Some lady a long time ago had a bunch of children, and when she had her 13th child, a devil popped out instead and flew away, which is now the Jersey Devil. Some of the campers said that it was near Trenton, but others said that it was near Blairstown, where we were. Either way, that had me really really scared. So the Jersey Devil would steal away young children from their parents. Uhh… It would either eat you, or raise you as its own child, but I can’t really remember. One thing I can remember though is that someone was saying that if it came into our cabins, it would take people who slept on the top bunk. I was also sleeping on the top bunk, right by the window, so I was thinking about it the whole night and was so scared.”

Why do you think people told this story?

“Now looking back at it, probably mostly to scare people, especially little kids. Like, the cabin we were at was a perfect place to tell it because it was so close to the woods. I even told my little brother the story once when he was being a brat, so he would shut up. But yeah, I guess it was mainly just to give people in New Jersey a fright.”

 

Collector’s Comments:

This is a pretty famous story that even I have heard of all the way in California, through a TV program about supernatural creatures. However, the informant, being in the woods in New Jersey, probably got the full experience and the most impact from hearing it. This local legend has become widespread across all of New Jersey, making it a piece of folklore that is shared through state identity, and I would say that it has become a part of New Jersey’s culture. It was very interesting to hear about it from a person who is actually from New Jersey, making the story seem more authentic than it was when I had seen it on television.

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Jersey Devil

Ok so it’s all about… it’s like the 1800s there’s this like hooker, and she has so many kids and she says that if she gets pregnant one more time, she’s gonna give birth to the devil, and so she gets pregnant again and has the kid, and at first it looks fine, but five minutes later, it turns into a monster with wings and everything, and it flies out of there and they’re all like whoa. And so then it goes and lives in the woods, and a bunch of people say they see it, and it kills people and it’s a lonely thing like… a whole frankenstien scenario… but sometimes its just an asshole who lives in the woods. This is specifically to New Jersey, specifically called the New Jersey Devil. There are tours and stuff like the Pine Barrens of New Jersey… yeah its like a lot of … there’s like t shirts and stuff they sell about the Jersey Devil…

 

Background: I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me in person. I had never heard of this before, so it was interesting to hear about folkore that was very well-know in another part of the United States where I had never been before. The informant says it was not very important to him and he was not sure if he believed it entirely, but it was something was was just so heavily discussed and publicized that he had heard of it many times.

[geolocation]