Clinton Road: A Dark Ride
On a recent visit to the bridge at Dead Man’s Curve we were surprised and delighted to see just how many people had recently stopped by to test the validity of the legend of the Ghost Boy of Clinton Road.
The Bridge at Dead Man’s Curve on Clinton Road
Probably the most common ghost story that we hear about Clinton Road is that of a dead young boy who hangs out under a bridge and returns coins to you after you throw them in the water. As far as we know, this tale is unique to Clinton Road, but it is difficult to say when or how this story began. On a recent visit to the bridge at Dead Man’s Curve we were surprised and delighted to see just how many people had recently stopped by to test the validity of the legend of the Ghost Boy of Clinton Road. As we peered over the guardrail and down into the tea colored water of the stream we could clearly see dozens of coins resting on the bottom among the stones of the creekbed. There is no way of knowing how many appearances the Ghost Boy made when summoned by the coin tossers.
Look closely and you will see coins on the creek bed which were thrown to summon the Ghost Boy.
It should be noted that there is more than one bridge located on Clinton Road, and nobody really knows for sure which one the Ghost Boy supposedly hangs out beneath. A second bridge is located several miles to the south of Dead Man’s Curve, just above the old stone iron furnace. This bridge straddles a stony cleft through which a waterfall crashes mightily. If the Ghost Boy’s spirit haunts this bridge then his trip up to return thrown coins would certainly be a much more challenging task—if he was alive, that is.
Although he is the most talked about apparition to haunt Clinton Road, he is by no means the sole spirit to spook this street.
If you ever decide to travel down Clinton Road at midnight, stop at the bridge by dead man’s curve. As the story goes if you sit on that bridge and throw pennies into the river, the ghost of a young boy will throw them back to you. –Anonymous …We found the bridge on Clinton Road that was said to have started the rumor. Years before any of us heard about the road, a boy was challenged by his friends to stand on the bridge as they drove to Route 23 and back. Unfortunately by the time the friends returned from driving to the highway, they found their friend dead. There is a bridge painted as a memorial to him. –Anonymous Another rumor of Clinton Road is that if you throw a penny into the lake, the next morning the penny will be on the road. Supposedly there was a kid that drowned there trying to get a ball or something and the kid is supposed to appear at night and pick up the penny and put it on the ground. –Gregory MC. My friends and I decided to find out for ourselves what is true and what is not. We went to the bridge and threw a quarter off. Not but a minute later you hear the bloop, as if you dropped the quarter in again. The water filled with ripples and a child’s reflection appeared. I flew back to the car. That scared all of us. –Dina, West Milford
Ghost Boy Pushes You in the Lake
I went up to Clinton Road with two friends of mine. The really weird legend is that of the little boy. The story I heard was that a little boy was hit by a car and killed on the bridge when he went to pick up a quarter he saw on the ground. The legend is that if you get out of your car and stand on the bridge you will see a quarter drop, and if you bend down to pick it up the little boy will push you into the lake to save you from being hit by the car. –Anonymous
The Clinton Ghost Kid Doesn’t Want Your Quarters
Yesterday at 8pm me and my friend Mike were going to a movie at the drive-in. We took Clinton Road. We stopped on the bridge and he told me all the stories about the boy being killed and all, so I threw a quarter off the edge and we drove away. On the way home at 11:30 we passed over the bridge and stopped because Mike wanted to point out the kid’s name on the side of the bridge. Just when he said the kid’s name a quarter or something metal was thrown hard against the window of the car. We were shocked for a minute but then we drove away. I am not going on that road for a long time. –Anonymous
Clinton Road – A Dark Ride
There is one road in particular that we have heard more rumors and tall tales about than any other thoroughfare in the state by far – Clinton Road in West Milford (Passaic County). What is it about this road? Why are there so many strange and frightening stories told about this particular byway? Is it the isolation of Clinton Road that makes it such a ripe candidate for modern mythology? And if this is the case, why are these stories told of Clinton Road, and not its comparably deserted neighboring roads like Paradise Road and Union Valley? Clinton Road just seems to strike terror into the hearts of those who travel it.
But why is Clinton Road so much richer in lore than any other road in New Jersey? Yes, it is a long and lonely stretch of poorly paved asphalt, fraught with perilous curves. True, it runs through a vast expanse of seemingly impenetrable wilderness. And without a doubt, it is a very dark lonely trip when traveled alone on a moonless night, when your only companions are the mysterious sounds of the forest which seem to surround you. Yet there are hundreds of other rural roads in the state which are even more desolate, isolated and less well-traveled than Clinton Road, some of them without a single creepy story to claim as their own. Why?
There are many reasons to visit Clinton Road; the scenic beauty of the forest, lake, and abundant wildlife; the historic sites of the Clinton Furnace and Cross Castle; and sometimes to just get the wits scared out of you. This rugged ten mile stretch of deserted road is so rich in lore that it has been attractinglate night visitors for generations. The stories that these sightseeing sojourners have brought back with them of their adventures are sometimes harrowing, often terrifying, and almost always intriguing.
Many of these tales of midnight joyrides may seem unbelievable, while others leave one wondering just where truth ends, and an overactive imagination begins. You can decide for yourself whether or not to believe some of the more fantastic stories about this mysterious road, but one thing is for sure, the people who lived these tales believe them, and they will not soon forget their experiences.
An Introduction to Clinton Road and the Castle
It’s amazing that a patch of woods and a few piles of rocks right off of Route 23 in West Milford could be the source of so many rumors and tall tales. Where else can you find a place where Satan worshippers hide behind every tree, sacrificed goats and chickens litter the woods like leftover barbecue, and black trucks driven by escaped lunatics chase innocent teenagers over dark, pothole-ridden roads?
Where else have so many people have reported the eerie sensation of being watched by something in the woods, strange lights beating white streaks on their cars, or hearing disembodied childish laughter emanate from a remote playground? Where else do ghostly boys with quarters, and snakes alternately appear on the streets? And has it always had such a bad reputation?
Rumors of bad vibes have been floating in the area since it was first settled. In 1905, J. Percy Crayon wrote about the woods just beyond the Clinton Furnace: “It was never advisable to pass through the “five mile woods” after dark, for…tradition tells us they were infested with bands of robbers, and counterfeiters, to say nothing of the witches that held their nightly dances and carousels at Green Island, and the ghosts that then made their appearance in such frightful forms, that it was more terrifying to the peaceful inhabitants than wild animals or even the Indians, that often passed.”
Once upon a time there was and actual castle in the woods off of Clinton Road. Most who remember it liken the edifice to something out of a fairy tale or Gothic English novel, rising from the mist. Clinton, or Cross Castle is how most locals remember it, named for the man who had it built – Richard J. Cross, but Cross himself and his family called the place Bearfort, after the mountain range it was nestled in. In 1905 Cross bought heavily forested land around Newfoundland, NJ, and began construction of the castle-like mansion. Its walls, which have intrigued so many people over the years, were 3-stories high.
You can see remnants of the concrete today. Cross died in 1917, and the family sold the property to the City of Newark in 1919. A fire eventually destroyed much of the remaining wooden structure, leaving the stone walls intact as a place where hikers, teenagers, and the occasional Satan worshippers could congregate. Those walls, eventually painted over with graffiti and picked apart for souvenirs, were knocked down in 1988 when the Newark Watershed Commission deemed the structure unsound. –Joanne Austin
Cross Castle: The Unholy Edifice
Castles seem to have always inspired the imagination. The Cross Castle is no exception. For centuries writers have chosen mountaintop castles as the settings for their tales. From the terror of Count Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania’s Carpathians, to Dr. Frankenstein’s lair in the Bavarian Alps, castles have provided the perfect environment for fear and ungodly mayhem. In its abandoned state the ruins of Cross Castle would become the stuff of legend. For some it may have just been a place to party, for others it was a place of pure evil. The castle on Clinton Road will live on in local lore and weird New Jersey mythology.
Partying At Cross Castle
Back in 1979 I went to the castle for the first time. We would tell people the Jackson Whites would cut a tree to block the road. Then, when you would turn around, you’d find that they had cut another one down. That’s when they would get you. –Victor
The Albinos of Clinton Road
One time, when a bunch of us climbed up the walls, we did see something. We were up there and saw two white figures. They were about 100 yards away from our friends on the ground. They couldn’t see them from their vantage point. They came to within 100 yards of the group and then disappeared into the woods. When we got back to terra firma, we told them about it and that’s when the stories started coming; there was instantly talk about an albino village in the woods. –Brian R.
Never Get Out of Your Car On Clinton Road!
One road in New Jersey that’s really terrifying is Clinton Road off Route 23 north in West Milford. The road is well known for many mysterious occurrences and weird activity. Cross Castle, which used to be off Clinton Road, had dungeons where many bodies were found. Satan worshipping was active around Cross Castle and the KKK was also rumored to be active in the area. Never get out of your car, especially at night. It is definitely weird. –U101
The KKK and Kross Kastle
Two friends, brothers who I will call “John” and “Bill,” regularly took excursions through areas of West Milford known for their legends. They were driving down Clinton Road. Both noticed a bonfire near Cross Castle. As they drew closer, they saw a group of people dressed in robes around a bonfire. They could make out the leader, who was dressed in typical KKK regalia. One of the members of this meeting spotted them and called out to stay where they were. Of course John and Bill took off to their car and left. Their hooded friends got into their vehicles and began chasing them! John and Bill said they were wielding shotguns. –Sly C.
Chants at Clinton Castle
After one night of hearing tales, me and six others decided to go to the castle. As we got up the dirt road that wound up to the castle. We parked the cars, got out , it a fire and drank some beer. After a half-hour we began to hear chanting and chains rattling. One of the girls started to go into a seizure. Three of us tried to move her to no avail. It was like she was nailed to the rock. Then the chanting stopped. The girl came around. We all looked at each other like “What the hell is going on here?” –G.J.R
The Writings on the Wall at Cross Castle
I had a friend who lived near Clinton Road. He used to take me on May Day and Halloween’s Eve to spy on Wiccans practicing in the areas near his house. The proof I have is more than a kid’s flashback of witches. It pertains to what was transcribed on the walls of Cross Castle and how a historical fact about the writing will reveal that a Satanist movement was using the area for their practices.
It was a nice afternoon in 1977. We decided to get our packs, a tent, and a rifle to spend the night up in the woods. I took a journal along with me. When we came upon the castle we were amazed, as always, at how it stood out in the woods. We entered it and were shocked to learn that someone had put up two huge boards with words spelled out in red paint.
The nature of the writing intrigued me so I copied down what the walls proclaimed, and my friend snapped a picture. The journal stayed in a box until six months ago, when after my wife’s death, I was going through everything and read it. What was once scribbled down in my youth was now revealed as one of the writings of Anton LaVey of The Church of Satan! I went to a local book store to match my journal with the Lex Satanicus. I concluded that the tales about Clinton Road were seriously understated! The Satanists who practiced there were not a joke, but a local grotto of people using dark forces to bring forth their evil reign. Now when I go to Clinton Road I look at everything in a different light. –Scot
Satanic Scripture Puzzles Wrecking Crew
A demolition crew came in and destroyed the castle, and all that remained was the basement. On the walls were old Satanic scripture. This baffled the demolition crew because there did not appear to be any entrance to this area of the castle. –Nick B.
Spirit Souvenirs from the Inner Circle
I have actually taken three trips to the castle. The first time we found the castle by accident. We wanted to see if the rumors were true. I will tell anyone: NEVER step over the boundary of the castle. One of my friends did so. She became stiff, and ran out of there. She said she saw something in her head – a little boy being slaughtered. We decided to get the hell out of there. We realized that my other friend had dropped his wallet on the trail. We headed back there around 11pm. I was nervous about going back, so the other people did without me. My friend once again started gagging. We drove to our local diner, and I noticed a bruise across my friend’s neck. –Teddi
Clinton Road Makes Me Sick… Literally
About a month ago, my sister, her husband, my boyfriend and myself decided to take a ride down Clinton Road. We started from Route 23 and it was around 12:30 AM. I can’t exactly explain the feeling I started getting. I don’t know if my imagination was going wild, but my sister, my boyfriend and me started telling my brother-in-law to turn around. I felt so scared and sick to my stomach that I couldn’t even breathe. It was an oppressive feeling like just pure evil and I definitely believe that something would have happened if we had just kept going. –Anonymous
Dead Man’s Corner
I have heard that down by the very end of Clinton Road, after you go down about 12 miles there is a place called Dead Man’s Corner. I heard this is where the animal sacrifices take place. If you see a cow, dead or alive, in the middle of the road, DO NOT GET OUT! They want you to get out of the car to kill you or eat you. Just turn around and floor it. –Allison R.
Even Aliens Like to Cruise Clinton Road
I know you guys get a lot of stories, some true, others a little fabricated, but what I saw on Clinton Rd one night was in my eyes a UFO. After we went around Dead Man’s Curve we suddenly saw a huge flash in the sky, and a triangular disk. This thing was damn big in the sky, and was hovering over the trees about 250 feet in the air. My friends and I always said we would pull over if we saw a UFO, but we were too scared. After about 5 minutes, it disappeared and we took off. –Steve, Kinnelon
More Clinton Road UFOs
I too have seen a UFO on Clinton Road. It was mad low in the sky and was so big that it looked like it could fit a small army in it. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. –Seanie P., Vernon
Hundreds of Blue, Red and White Lights
We were at Clinton Road one night. As we went further we saw lights. Hundreds of them, on both sides of the woods – blue ones, red ones, white ones. We got so freaked out. As we went 75 miles per hour on this 35 mile per hour road, the lights would keep up with us. If we stopped in the middle of the road, they would stay there on each side. Suddenly, they vanished. –Jay Radicals
The environs surrounding Clinton Road have always been home for a variety of wildlife, some species wilder than others. Black bears and poisonous snakes have always been present in these West Milford woods, and more recently coyotes have become a feature of the landscape. The threat that these critters pose pales in comparison to the fearful animal apparitions that some of our readers have told us they’ve encountered on Clinton Road.
Beware the Grayish Whitish Wolf with Red and Yellowish Eyes
I never thought that my first trip to Clinton Road would be horrifying. As we were turning, in the bushes appeared to be a grayish whitish wolf with red and yellowish eyes. Later on, NO JOKE, my friend told me about his first trip where he also saw a grayish whitish wolf with red and yellowish eyes running in the bushes. –Amy, Pequannock
The Floating Dog
One legend states that Cross Castle rebuilds itself every October 30th, and the KKK sacrifices a goat. I get scared every time I go down the road that leads to that area, because the one time I went down there a strange figure chased our truck out of Clinton. When I got a good look at it, I screamed and told my friend to drive faster. It was a dog of some sort, but it was floating, not running. –Kelly B.
Is There Anything NOT in the Woods of Clinton Road?
One night my sister and her friend were driving down Clinton Rd when my sister’s friend says “What IS that?” My sister looks and there was a MONKEY. They were both freaked out. Monkeys aren’t common to West Milford. –Ryan O.
The Hell Hound Of Clinton Road
After once through this 10 mile road nothing had happened. So we went back, and checked out a dirt side road. Nothing was around except for dense woods. It felt very eerie and the “trespassers will be shot on sight” sign did not ease my mind. That’s when I noticed something walking toward our car. All eight of us saw the same thing; an animal of some sort. We went 60 down this off road with this “animal” on our back. Finally we got back on Clinton Road and got pulled over by a cop and the animal disappeared! People say it’s a hell hound or the Jersey Devil…all I know is that it was not human. –Jessica
The Ghosts of the Dangerous Curves
The ghosts of the Dangerous Curve are said to be visible if you drive up to it at midnight, then turn off your car lights. It is also said that on the island in the center of the reservoir there are many Satanic rituals, including KKK happenings taking place involving animal sacrifices. –Laura R
This girl was racing down Clinton Road toward Route 23 in her blue 1988 Chevy Camaro. She slammed right into the cement divider on the sharpest turn on Clinton Road, and was killed instantly. If you tell someone else the story of the accident while driving down Clinton Road, you will see a blue 1988 Chevy Camaro drive by. When my friend Vince told me this story, we saw headlights in the distance, and when the car passed we made it out to be the Camaro. –Mike
Ghosts Rangers Patrol the Forest
Hanging out at the old castle was great. Much further up the road on the right there are trails that go up the mountain to a lake called Terrace Pond. The pond was crystal clear and great for swimming. We used to camp up there and we had a really weird occurrence that happened to us. We were camping one night around 1am and two park rangers noticed our fire and walked over to us. They were concerned about the fire, drinking, etc. We asked if our vehicles would be OK where they were, and asked if they would be ticketed. They said they were fine and no ticketing would be carried out. In the morning we ventured down the mountainside and approached our cars and they had two summonses per car.
West Milford police and Newark Watershed authorities approached us and we asked them about the park rangers and they looked bewildered. We then told them that we were speaking with two younger men and they said that we were OK to stay and camp, our vehicles were OK, and we would not be fined. One of the Newark Watershed Authorities replied, “What did these park rangers look like and what were they wearing?” We described their appearance, and the authority told us that there were no park rangers patrolling the property anymore, and the two men we saw that night were killed on patrol in 1939. We did not know what to say. Did we imagine this? Why was the authority questioning the description, did he know these men when they were alive? Are we the only people that have encountered these rangers? –Anonymous
Clinton Road Witches Can Crawl Inside Your Mind
After high school, I started working in Chilton Hospital’s Emergency room – the night shift. One Saturday night an ambulance brought in a woman kicking and screaming with third-degree burns on her legs. She was high on heroin and claimed to be a witch. I asked the ambulance driver where they found her. “Walking along Rt. 23 near Clinton Road,” he said. She was up there with a group of people worshiping Satan when they decided to throw her into a bonfire. After we gave her something to bring her down from the drugs, she became violent to the point where I had to tie her down with restraints. She was yelling things like, “My powers are too strong for you,” and “I’m going to crawl into your mind.” Well, it must have worked because I haven’t forgotten about her. –Ron S.
Mob Rub-Outs and the Head in the Bag
Reading some of your Clinton Road stories made me think of a story a guy I worked with went through. He was riding his bike along Clinton Road when a huge bird suddenly flew out of the woods right in front of him and flew off. He was very startled, so he stopped and got off his bike. He started walking into the woods, and another bird came flying out. He thought he recognized the bird type. They were vultures. Trying to figure out why vultures would be flying around in the middle of nowhere, he walked farther into the woods. He saw a large bag, so he walked over to it and started to open it. He saw a human head in it. This shook him up a little, so he ran back to the road, and started biking out to get a cop. He flagged a passing car, who then notified the cops. This started a long string of events in the police investigation, involving a mob rub-out, leading to a murder arrest. –Tim
Bodybag on Clinton Road
I’ve had many weird experiences up on Clinton Road. I was coming home one night with a friend, and we approached the curve located in the middle of Clinton Rd. There, laying in the road was someone in a bodybag. The blood could be seen on the bag. I put the car in reverse, and went back the way I came. We called the police. They found nothing, no blood, no body, no trace of anyone. –Bob E.
Clinton Road NOT A Joke
I’ve been a resident of West Milford for practically my entire life. I have a lot of eyewitness info on Clinton Road. The first and most important fact is that this road is NOT a joke. Many of the stories you hear are not rumors, in fact most of them are true. However, every story does have exaggerations. The facts are that many dismembered bodies are found in the woods off of Clinton Road. Cross Castle did exist, and if you go to the wrong place, you will be chased. The KKK does have gatherings there, and there is Satan worship. The strange animals are there, and though no one knows what they are, many people have a theory that some of the survivors from Jungle Habitat have interbred. So all in all, if your going to check out Clinton Road be careful, and be smart or else you will be the next tale. –Anonymous
The Clinton Road Cop
Wow was this place scary. I was there a few times before and it wasn’t that bad – except when we got a flat in the center of the ten mile road. When the cop asked what we were doing we lied. We asked why he was on such a scary road. His reply was “I’m only out here because I have a gun.” –Anonymous
This Internet story is only an excerpt of the information we have published on this subject. For the full story we suggest you refer to past issues of Weird NJ Magazine. To keep up to date on this story and all the other weird goings on in the state subscribe to Weird NJ and we’ll deliver it to your door. If you’d like to purchase our special issue “Tales From Clinton Road,” please do. But you’ve been warned!
An audio story told by Mark Moran with sound collage by Clay Pigeon. One of a series of Waking Weird episodes which can be heard broadcast live every Monday at 8:39 am (EST) at WFMU FM and WFMU.org. Hear the program archives at www.wfmu.org/playlists/WA. Hear more audio stories HERE.
The preceding article is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.
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