Tag Archives: New Jersey

Roaming Soldier


Y: Okay. So, um, I grew up in New Jersey. The town was, like, very colonial. Very like, it was like from the colonial times and like that’s when people started moving there. And just- so we had a tavern and they always find oysters and whatnot around it. But anyway, so this redcoat was staying in the tavern’s hotel room, like in one of the rooms and then he, he was murdered, they offed him. And so <laugh>, um, legend has it. They’re like still haunted and I forget what the name of the class was called, but in fifth grade we had the owner of the house come talk to us about her experience living there. And so she says like, “oh yeah, no, it’s, haunted it like homeboy comes up and down the stairs.” 

Me: So was she like a descendant or was she a whole other person? 

Y: No, just a whole other person. Okay. She just lives in the, I think they bought it like 20 something years ago, but it’s like, it’s like a historical registered, like, and so, yeah, legend has it that this murdered soldier goes around the halls and it was like right next to my elementary school. 

Me: Do you know what experiences they’ve had? 

Y: There’s like, um, she’s talked about homeboy, like on the stairs, like she’ll hear them creaking randomly, and then something with the shutters too, like closing the shutters. 

Me: Does she hear it or do the shutters actually close? 

Y: Hears it.

Me: So it’s all auditory? 

Y: Yeah. 

Background: Y is a 20 year old who was born and raised in New Jersey. She now resides in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: This story was told to me at a hangout among friends.Analysis: I liked this story because of its universality. The tavern that Y speaks of doesn’t have a specific name that sticks in the memory of the teller. She wasn’t even sure what city/town the tavern was in. Instead, the part of the story that stuck in her mind for all of these years was that a man was murdered in the building and now haunts it. The story, as it was passed around and as time moved on, was distilled into its most basic form.

Moth Man

Background: Informant was born and raised in California, right outside of Los Angeles. I was told this story in person.

Informant: Alright, so… the legend of the moth man is that people see him…it? On the street at night, in like, unlit country roads in New Jersey. They just see these glowing eyes. Ummm, and uh yeah. People would see these eyes and see it as an omen that they would crash afterwards or something like that. It was like… only people driving would see it. 

Me: Interesting… do you have any connection to New Jersey or?

Informant: Hellllll no. I think I just picked it up from somewhere, I just know some weird stuff.

Thoughts: These superstitions and ghost stories are the ones that affect me the most, personally. Something about the unknown and the dark always have a bigger affect, since it’s always in the dark and later at night where it’s easy to fabricate things and see things. I wonder if the “glowing lights” seen by people were headlights of other cars, or eyes of animals that are getting reflected from their own headlights, and it’s right before they crash. It’s always interesting to think about the tricks that your brain will play on you in those situations, and almost even more interesting to think about what those tricks may be in reality.

The Jersey Devil


KJ: “The Jersey Devil is like a donkey, kind of, with sharp teeth and bat wings. It also has legs. And it’s supposed to be really big. And I feel like it’s very much a big foot thing, like you’ll see it in the woods. It’s like a devil-dinosaur-goat thing. I feel like a New Jersey Big Foot is a good way to describe the lore surrounding it.”


The informant is a 19-year-old college student from Montclair, New Jersey. KJ described the legend of the Jersey Devil as being commonly known among people from New Jersey and remembers hearing about it from her peers, but also remembers reading about it in a magazine called ‘Weird NJ.’ Though she doesn’t know of any specific ways that the monster is supposed to attack or hurt those who see it, she remembers her peers in middle school stoking vague fears that “the Jersey Devil is going to get you.” KJ claimed that she and her friends ran from the Jersey Devil after seeing it in a public park when she was in eighth grade and describes it as a “lanky” figure with “smoke coming out of its face.” Though she thinks she probably imagined the figure, her friends similarly remember seeing it and they have not been able to explain it.


The Jersey Devil is a pervasive legend which may trace all the way back to 18th century colonial New Jersey. Brian Regal describes a popular mythic origin story of the monster, which is that a witch called Mother Leeds gave birth to “a ‘child’ with horse-like head, bat-like wings, clawed hands and hooved feet” (Regal 79). He argues that this legend arose from conflict between New Jersey Quakers and Daniel Leeds, the patriarch of a Quaker family who published a book called ‘The Temple of Wisdom for the Little World’ in 1688 which promoted belief in a peculiar cosmology, an amalgamation of “theology and the budding Scientific Revolution” which “included sections on angels, natural magic, astrology, theology, philosophy, and the behavior of devils” (Regal 90). Quakers disapproved of Leeds’ philosophy and public espousal of secular or untraditional faith or magic. Regal argues that the public controversy surrounding Leeds’ work, persona, and unconventional beliefs led to the creation of the Jersey Devil.

            While the origins of this legend have to do with Christianity, I don’t think that the Jersey Devil speaks to contemporary fears about religious deviance and alternative faiths. As with legends like Big Foot, people enjoy the mystery of the creature, hearing stories about sightings and arguing about its existence. Moreover, the legend’s long history and specificity to the state makes it a part of New Jersey culture which people can identify with and bond over. The legend is extremely popular, with the state’s football team being named The New Jersey Devils.

Just as La Llorona can be interpreted as warning children to be safe around bodies of water, it’s possible that the Jersey Devil sends a message about safety. The legends popularity among children and adolescents, during periods when individuals are afforded new independence, could speak to fears of encountering dangers one can encounter alone in the world. One could argue that the figure implicitly promotes that young people be cautious among strangers and in dangerous places such as the woods.


“The Jersey Devil.” Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained, edited by Una McGovern, Chambers Harrap, 1st edition, 2007. Credo Reference, https://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/chambun/the_jersey_devil/0?institutionId=887. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.

For another description of the Jersey Devil, consult page 79 of this source:

Regal, Brian. “‘The Jersey Devil: A Political Animal.’” New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, pp. 79–103., https://doi.org/10.14713/njs.v1i1.13. 

Clinton Road Ghost


KJ: “There’s this road called Clinton Road that’s the longest uninterrupted road in New Jersey, if not in the East Coast, or something. Obviously, it’s uninterrupted, so there’s no stop signs or lights or anything, but there’s also no streetlights either. It’s very windy and through trees and there’s some kind of lake or creek on either side. So, there’s one creek that goes under it, so there’s a bridge over, and basically—I don’t know if it’s completely a made-up story, because whenever you go there, there are crosses and flowers where people got killed getting hit by cars on the street. The story is that a boy got hit by a car and killed on the street, and if you put a penny on the bridge at midnight, his ghost will appear.”


The informant is a 19-year-old college student from Montclair, New Jersey. She said the legend of the Clinton Road Ghost is popular across the state and that teenagers often carry out the ritual meant to conjure the ghost. KJ described driving to the site with her friends and staying in the car when her friends put a penny on the bridge. While they were pulled over at the side of the road, a man drove by and asked them why they stopped. When they told him everything was fine, he warned them that “there are more things to be afraid of than deer around here,” which she interpreted as him trying to perpetuate the legend and make them afraid.


In ‘Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore,’ Folklorist Ülo Valk wrote that spirits and ghosts’ “sudden appearance occurs when human beings wander from their daily routes into strange and alien territory by visiting an area of potential danger (such as a body of water) or by being somewhere at the wrong time (such as a graveyard at night” (Valk 33). The legend of the Clinton Road ghost embodies both of these qualities, since it is specific to the most treacherous road in New Jersey, where many deaths have taken place, and it appears at midnight, deep into the night, when it’s dark and when many accidents take place.

This legend’s popularity among teenagers makes sense considering the cultural significance of getting one’s driver’s license at 16 and gaining independence through the ability to drive. Valk wrote that ghosts “may appear in order to reinforce social norms, proper behavior, and traditional customs” (Valk 33). I think this legend is meant to warn teenagers about the dangers of reckless or drunk driving, just as folklorists theorize that legends like La Llorona convey messages about safety around bodies of water. One could argue that the legend promotes responsible driving by illustrating and stoking fears about how injustices of the past—the young boy’s death from being hit by a car—haunt people in the present.


Valk, Ülo. “Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore.” Journal of Folklore Research: An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, vol. 43, no. 1, 2006, pp. 31–52., https://doi.org/10.2979/jfr.2006.43.1.31. 

Doe slaps


AB: “It originated from ‘Give me my dough,’ which may have been more of a universal thing, If someone said something stupid, you’d say ‘Give me my dough’ and then hit them on the head. But then it transformed into, like, the most complex thing ever. It turned into ‘doe slaps,’ so when someone said something stupid you could say ‘doe slaps’ and hit them on the head. But there’s so many different rules. There’s ‘doe slaps extra hardies,’ ‘no returnies.’ But basically, if you don’t say certain things, they can slap you back… it just involved getting whacked in the head for saying something stupid.

I think it started in middle school and it went into the high school. It was big in high school, like if someone said something stupid in class, people would go up and be like ‘doe slaps.’ If it was your friend. It was fun. It was endearing but people slap hard.”


The informant is a 19-year-old college student from Montclair, New Jersey. She remembers “doe slaps” being pervasive among boys and girls, in middle school but especially in high school. She says that the tradition has died out among her friends from high school, but her younger brother attends the same school and has seen people in his peer group do the ritual.


I think that this game and ritual, like the Circle Game, where one is allowed to hit another person if they make them look at their hand making the “OK” gesture, conveys the competitive, emotionally complex social dynamics between adolescents. Teenagers are very critical of one another and often use the failures or missteps of others to bolster their own self-esteem. While it could be seen as a way to perpetuate power dynamics or convey social status through bullying, it also can be interpreted as egalitarian, since the act demands justification and can technically be carried out by and to anyone. Kids sign a sort of unwritten social contract, allowing them to give people “doe slaps,” but also agreeing that they can receive them.

This ritual involves humiliation and physical pain, however, giving someone “doe slaps” is also a kind of act of endearment carried out between friends. While the act is humbling, the practice conveys someone’s status as an insider or outsider. Being able to give someone “doe slaps” indicates a degree of closeness or a person’s belonging in a social group, since it wasn’t acceptable to do it to people you didn’t know or weren’t friends with. Moreover, the elaborateness and specificity to one school in one town in New Jersey makes the practice a cultural identifier, something which people from Montclair can use to understand and connect with each other. Because there’s no cultural understanding of “doe slaps” outside of the town, and because hitting people under any circumstances is generally not socially acceptable among adults, it makes sense that this practice fizzled out when the kids who practiced it graduated high school and left Montclair.