USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’
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.

Customs
Foodways

New Jersey Taylor Ham

The informant and I were having breakfast one day, when he mentioned how much he missed Taylor ham from New Jersey. I asked him to tell me more about Taylor ham.

“So there’s this breakfast food and its called Taylor ham and it only exists in four counties in all of New Jersey and everywhere else in New Jersey it’s called pork roll, because that’s the generic version of Taylor ham, and in New York City and Pennsylvania it’s also called pork roll, and no one else in the United States knows what it is, and it’s amazing, and every morning a New Jerseyan wakes up, and they are like ‘I want a Taylor ham on egg and cheese and everything bagel at salt pepper and ketchup’ and they go to the bagel shop they get that… this guy named Taylor just decided to have this cut of ham.”

A peculiar aspect of the informant’s account of Taylor ham is his perspective that New Jersey has the “original” Taylor ham, and that other parts of New Jersey and New York call it something else. It would be interesting to find out if these other people consider “pork roll” the original version of the ham, and consider “Taylor” ham some quirky name that a small weird group of people in New Jersey use to refer to pork roll. Clearly, Taylor ham is a point of pride for my informant, and something that he shares the knowledge of with some fellow New Jerseyans.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures

Hockey in New Jersey and no-shave rule

The informant and I were talking about sports and superstitions so he mentioned something specific to his home state’s sports culture.

“Hockey is really huge… a culture unlike anything in California. Everyone grows out their beard during playoffs season, and they don’t shave it until their team’s out of the playoffs. Bad luck for your team if you shave your beard. I don’t [participate], because I’m Asian and I can’t grow a beard.”

Sports superstitions are nothing unheard of, but it’s still interesting to observe how they vary from region to region. Some people don’t wash their jerseys until their team is knocked out of the playoffs, and some people don’t shave their beards. How such a tradition begins and spreads amongst a group of people would be interesting but probably difficult to investigate.

Customs
Foodways

Early family dinners on Sundays

My informant was telling me about some customs his family in New Jersey celebrates, and he seemed particularly fond of early Sunday dinners at 2pm.

Informant: “Every Sunday you eat dinner at like 2pm, and you have like a really big dinner that someone cooks. And you always have bread at the table, salad, pasta, and your whole family is expected to be there.”

Collector: “And then you wouldn’t have dinner after that?”

Informant: “Yeah, it was really dumb, like ‘why are we eating dinner right now?’… Italians really like to cook, and when they have a guest, they always try to feed them”

When I asked the informer if he knew why his family chose to do early dinner at 2pm instead of just a regular large dinner at the “normal” dinner time around 6pm, he was unable to recall how this tradition started. My personal hypothesis is that it’s a way for the Italian side of his family to reconnect to their European roots, since many European cultures eat a large meal at around 2pm, and then dinner is typically late at night, around 10pm or so. However, a 10pm dinner would probably be too out of the ordinary for this Americanized family to handle, so they just chose to stick to an easier option, of having a large family meal at 2pm.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Rutgers Jokes

*Note: The informant, Harriet, is my grandma. She attended college at Rutgers University in New Jersey!

 

INFORMANT: “Well, there were a lot of jokes about the football team, the Scarlet Knights. They weren’t very good. West Virginia had a lot of jokes about us. And then there were the usual jokes about Rutgers kids being stupid, Rutgers kids being idiots. It was all pretty generic, most of the jokes could really be applied to anyone or anything. But one of my favorites was the one about the cemetery. It was … there was … a little boy and his mother were walking through a cemetery and they passed a tombstone that said ‘Here Lies a Rutgers Graduate and a Great Man.’ And the kid looks confused and he says to his mom, ‘I don’t get it,’ and she asks ‘Why not?’ And he asks, ‘Why are there two people buried here?'”

While the cemetery joke was pretty general, Rutgers jokes are a good example of the wider category of sports or college rivalry-related jokes. Almost every college has a direct rivalry with other colleges, whether it’s based on sports, academics, or something else entirely. With this competition always comes a slew of jokes, often very basic and general, that demean the other team, emphasize their shortcomings and failures, and downplay their triumphs. These jokes build on the lore of each particular school, strengthening bonds between its students and alumni, and enriching campus culture.

Generic jokes, I suppose, are also a form of folklore all their own, because they are blank slates to which any number of things can be applied. They aren’t specific enough to be blason populaire, but rather they’re so general that they can be used as a quick put-down for virtually anything.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Jersey Devil

*Note about informant: Laura Zucker is my mother. She grew up in New Jersey.

 

INFORMANT: “So I grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey, and in the southern part of the state of New Jersey, there’s a place called the Pine Barrens, which is a big expanse… uninhabited expanse of pine trees and forest. And there has, for … 200 years been this legend of something called the Jersey Devil that lives down there. And the story is… I mean, it’s kind of like a Bigfoot/Sasquatch thing, but … um, it’s said to be this creature with the head of a horse or a goat and bat wings, and it emits this shrieky… loud, scary, shrieky sound. I don’t know if it eats people or just scares the pee out of them, but it’s, you know, why you don’t want to stay in the Pine Barrens alone by yourself at night.”

COLLECTOR (myself): “Who told you about it?”

INFORMANT: “You know, it was just one of those things that you grew up knowing about. I don’t remember anybody telling me, it was just sort of part of the world that we swam in because we lived in New Jersey.”

Before I posted this, I saw that a student from last year’s class had published a post also called “Jersey Devil,” so I gave it a look and wasn’t entirely surprised to find that my mom’s version of the story and the other informant’s version were pretty different. Some elements stayed the same, like the bat wings and goat/sheep/horse head, but the back stories and the informants’ opinions on the underlying message were very different. While the other informant had a detailed back story about a promiscuous woman, my mom’s version has no such back story – the creature simply exists, and that’s the way it’s always been. The other informant saw the Devil as a warning to women not to be promiscuous, while my mom saw the Devil as a warning for children and others not to spend time alone in the Pine Barrens. I thought it was interesting that the other informant had a more detailed back story, because if I remember correctly, that informant was from Delaware, not NJ. You’d think that my mom, as a Jersey local, would have a richer understanding of the legend than an outsider.

The Jersey Devil is a great example of folklore because the origin of the story is absolutely unknown. My mother can’t even recall a person telling her the story – she says it was just part of the general context of her hometown and her growing up, that it was almost known and understood by default because it was so ingrained in the local lore.

Legends
Narrative

The New Jersey Devil

When I asked my roommate if she had any folklore from New Jersey she replied “Yes, New Jersey has a devil.”  This is an urban legend that tells of a woman who gave birth to a devil like creature that disappeared into the swamps immediately after being born.  The creature has the head of a goat, the body of a kangaroo like creature and bat-like wings.

My roommate did not have any personal stories about the New Jersey devil but noted that it was where the state basketball team gets its name.  She also compared the creature to other mythical animal creatures like the Sasquatch.

This story is interesting because it is very similar to myths like the Chupacabra and Big Foot, but unlike those myths it is specific to New Jersey, which builds a sense of pride in the people who are active and passive bearers of this piece of folklore since they are bonded together by identity.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Devil

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