Tag Archives: New Jersey

Clinton Road Ghost

Text:

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.”

Context:

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.

Analysis:

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.

Annotations:

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

Text:

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.”

Context:

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.

Analysis:

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.

Benny

Text/Interview:

TM: “Every summer, people from New York and Western New Jersey flood to the Jersey Shore. They invade the beaches, cause traffic, and are generally rude. We call them Bennys.”

PAR: “What does Benny mean?”

TM: “Benny an acronym. It stands for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York.”

Context:

TM lives in New Jersey and has dealt with Bennys his entire life. He said that he first heard the term in middle school but it became much more popular when he was in high school as social media helped to popularize the term. TM claims that Benny is a secret word and these individuals do not know they are being made fun of. He also said that although it is a stereotype, it is a fairly accurate one as he has never met a Benny who did not match his expectation of them.

My Interpretation:

This is a very interesting use of slang. The word Benny is used to foster a divide between the native individuals who live at the Jersey Shore and those who are visiting. In this manner, the word Benny gives the individuals from the Shore power over the vacationers as they have authority over the slang. This is transformative speech.

Spy House

Text/Interview:

MW: “When I was in the Girl Scouts, we went on a field trip to this place called the Spy House. The lady who worked there said that it used to be a tavern during the Revolutionary War and the British would come and stay in the house. The Americans would be under the floorboards and behind the walls and they would spy on the Red Coats. Then, they would sneak out through a secret tunnel under the bay and give information to the other Patriots. The lady who worked there also said that the ghosts of Revolutionary War veterans lived in the house.”

Context:

MW lives in New Jersey and has been to the Spy House several times since that initial trip. Although she has never seen any of the ghosts, she claims to have seen the tunnel which goes under the bay and the hiding places behind the walls. MW says that, unfortunately, the Spy House has been closed for the past few years for general upkeep; however, she claims that the ghosts did not get the message and still haunt the house to this day.

Personal Interpretation:

I think that the Spy House has a very cool story. As a fellow resident of NJ, I have heard claims that the house never harbored British, nor is it haunted. However, I have also heard that the ghosts terrorize anyone who crosses the threshold. I think that the duality between these two stories is what makes the Spy House so unique. Some people claim it is real. Others shout hoax. However, you will never know until you visit it for yourself.

Annotation:

If you want to read more on the Spy House, check out this Weird NJ Article:

Weird NJ Author. “Is the Spy House ‘The Most Haunted House in America’?” Weird NJ, November 3, 2014. https://weirdnj.com/stories/garden-state-ghosts/spy-house/. 

Cooper and Whipporwill Valley Roads

Text/Interview:

TM: “There are these two haunted roads in Middletown, NJ. They are Cooper Road and Whipporwill Valley Road and the two are right next to each other.”

PAR: “What makes these roads haunted?”

TM: “Where do I begin? So basically, on Cooper Road, there’s this tiny stone bridge. The story is that once a baby drowned in the river below and if you stop and turn your car off at night, you can still hear its screams. However, you don’t want to stop your car on this bridge. If you turn it off, it won’t start back up again.”

PAR: “Does that really happen?”

TM: “It did to me and my friend once. I’m not sure if it has something to do with the spirit of the baby or the witch trials.”

PAR: “Witch trials?”

TM: “From what I’ve heard back in colonial times, there were a bunch of witches in Middletown. Over the course of a month, these women were discovered and taken to Cooper Road and Whipporwill Valley Road late at night. There, they were burned at the stake. But before they died, apparently they cast a curse on the surrounding land.”

PAR: “That’s crazy.”

TM: “I know! The craziest part is that I’m not even finished yet. The most recent evil thing to happen on this road is the KKK. From what I’ve heard, they have a secret house on Whipporwill Valley Road and hold marches and meetings there super late at night. These roads are the most evil place in all of New Jersey!”

Context:

TM lives in Middletown, NJ and has driven down these roads multiple times before.

My Interpretation:

There is a lot going on with these two roads and there are various historical legends tied to them. What I think is most interesting is the performative game teens can play. They can go late at night and turn their car off and see the Folklore in action themselves. This makes it into a ritual, as they have the capability of acting on what they believe.

Annotation:

For further research, check out this Weird NJ Article:

Weird NJ Author. “Whipporwill Valley and Cooper Roads: Middletown’s Scariest Byways.” Weird NJ, September 5, 2014. https://weirdnj.com/stories/roads-less-traveled/whippoorwill-valley-and-cooper-road/.