One of the most common “road” myths in New Jersey is the story of Gravity Road, or Hill. We’ve investigated several of these locations where the forces of gravity seem to hold true in theory only. The stories told of the various mystery spots found around the state are remarkably similar, yet all possess their own unique plot twists. All involve at least one violent death, and a spirit of some kind which pulls or pushes your vehicle uphill.
The preferred scientific method of testing these anomalous roads is to pull your car up to the spot in question, throw it into neutral, and remove your foot from the brake. Then, ever so slowly, your car will begin to travel, as if forced by unseen hands, uphill. It really works, and the sensation can be very disorienting and unsettling. Those seeking more concrete evidence of the spectral nature of the phenomenon will often sprinkle flour or baby powder on their car’s bumpers. Then, after the anti-gravity experiment, they check their bumpers for signs of ghostly hand prints in the powder. “The State Of New Jersey prohibits any vehicle from backing up on an off-ramp,” the police officer said to us as we were attempting to test the local legend located at the Ewing Avenue exit off Route 208 in the Franklin Lakes/Wyckoff area of Bergen County.
“We will ticket any vehicle trying out Gravity Road,” the officer said while writing out our ticket. The legend of Franklin Lakes’ Gravity Road claims that a young woman was killed at the intersection at the bottom of the off-ramp. When you stop at the stop sign after exiting the highway, a mysterious force pushes your car backwards up the hill. This is supposedly the ghost of the woman warning you of the danger she succumbed to. Perhaps the incline of the road is merely an optical illusion. Although it seems to be on a downward slope, maybe it really isn’t.
The contours of the embankments make it appear the stop sign is at the bottom of the hill, but it could be that the road actually ends on an upward pitch. On the other hand there could be a ghost at the intersection pushing your car backward uphill to protect you from harm. The officer didn’t believe us when we told him we saw a ghost pushing us backwards. We didn’t try the “historians doing research” routine either. Fine: $76 and a few points.
Putting Gravity To the Test in Franklin Lakes
A friend of mine introduced us to the weird world of Northern Jersey and a spectral child who pulled cars uphill to the spot he was run down and killed. We decided then and there to go on the two hour road trip to “Gravity Hill.” One of my other buddies was driving. We came to the stop sign at the foot of the hill. He put the car in neutral and as the legend predicts, the car began to roll backward. After a few seconds we drove up to the stop sign and did it again. The same thing happened. Finally, we decided to go on and a few seconds later a cop flashed us to stop. His materializing out of nowhere was a trick in itself. “Do you know why I pulled you over sir?” he asked. “No officer.” I replied. “What do you think you’re doing rolling up my off ramp?” “I don’t know officer.” “You came all the way from Pennsylvania to roll up my off ramp sir?” “Yes officer.” “Why sir?” “It was the phenomenon officer.” “It’s a very dangerous thing you did sir. Now, I’m going to let you go without a ticket. Don’t let me catch you trying this again.” “Yes officer.” In the history of moving violations, I don’t think any motorist has offered: “It was the phenomenon officer” as an excuse before. –Mike
The Hopewell/Titusville Gravity Road
Winding down Route 29 along the Delaware-Raritan Canal between Trenton and Lambertville, we were steered towards a very weird local attraction: The Hopewell Gravity Road in Mercer County. Once off Route 29 you’ll find Pleasant Valley Road, where the strange uplifting phenomena occurs. If you travel a mile or so on the thoroughfare, you will notice a small sign on your left indicating where to stop your car for a fun-filled ride. You can stop your car on either side of the road, and mysteriously, your vehicle will either be pulled forward or backward uphill, depending on which way you’re headed.
The local legend of this Gravity Road claims that the field adjacent to the gravity spot was once the property of a farmer who, after visiting with his neighbors one evening, came home to find his house on fire, and his family trapped inside. Carrying a lantern, he came upon a group of people sitting in a carriage watching his home burn. He pleaded with them for help, then rushed to save his family. Unfortunately he and his family perished in the blaze. The legend states that the farmer’s ghost is the force pushing or pulling your car away from the spot, still asking your help to save his family. The ghost doesn’t like vehicles stopping in front of his property, where once people had stopped to gape at his burning home. Ghost lights are also said to appear further down the road, with the apparition signaling you with his lantern to urge passersby to help him save his long forgotten family.
More Legends Of Hopewell’s Gravity Hill
In the early 1900’s a family lived in a farm house right off the road. The husband and wife that lived in the house had some problems and he used to beat her. One day she fought back and knocked him unconscious. Seizing the opportunity, she tied him up. Using the cover of night she dragged his unconscious body up the hill and across the field that is located directly opposite the house. At the top of the hill across the field she tied his limp body to the lone large tree. From that day on her ghost has roamed the field and hill and will pull your car up the hill as she did to her husband’s body so many years ago. –Jackie L.
Powerless Against The Phenomenon
I grew up in rural Pennington hearing stories of a Gravity Hill located nearby in Hopewell. Some dismissed the phenomenon as an optical illusion. Skeptics say the road ends on a slight uphill grade, hence the rollback. The story I remember centered on a husband and wife in an isolated farmhouse. One night, in a fit of rage, the man murdered his wife in their home and attempted to flee via automobile. It is said the murdered woman’s spirit tried to pull the car back toward the home, and does the same with everyone who shifts into neutral at the bottom of Gravity Hill. Another version of the same hill’s origin claims the husband was involved in an extramarital affair. When the wife found out, she hanged herself from a tree close to the home. Now when motorists, myself and friends included, try the hill they roll back too far and reach the tree. Then the car loses all power, including electric. Stalling could be explainable, but not the complete loss of current from the battery! –Edmont
Gravity Not A Law In Holmdel
Back when I was a teenager, around 1965, there was a hill just down the side street from the huge Lily Tulip Plant on Highway 35. You would appear to roll right up the hill when stopped at the end by the stop sign. Unfortunately, there was also another hill before the stop sign where you could launch your vehicle off the road surface with ease, if driving fast enough. I did it once, and would never do it again, it was very scary. A few years later several teenagers were killed there attempting to do the same thing. The road was leveled sometime after that. –Roland M.
Gravity Hill, Jackson
When I was 15, I was taken to a road that was not familiar to me at the time. My friends would not tell me where they were taking me. They got to a stop sign at the bottom of a hill and said, “Watch this.” The driver placed the car in neutral and let go of the brake. To my amazement, we started to roll backwards up the hill! They told me this story: At this hill if you turn right and go about 5 houses down, you will see a house that was a living nightmare for a little girl. A girl and her father lived alone at this house, and rented a room to a stranger that they did not know. One day the girl came home from school and the stranger took her downstairs to the basement and tortured her until the father came home from work. When the father heard noises in the basement, he went down to see what it was. He was brutally murdered by the stranger. Legend has it that when you are at this hill, the father is trying to protect his daughter from any harm, pulling you as far as he can from the house. Even though the house is now abandoned, I have heard of people driving past it and seeing a light on in the basement. –9Volt
Serious Backwards Action in Jackson
I heard that it was your typical dark night. A man on a motorcycle came over the overpass and didn’t realize the stop was so close. He ran through the stop sign and into the woods across the street, dying. So now he is protecting all the other motorists from going into the woods. –Jesse in Jackson
The Magnetic Hill Mystery Spot of Morris County
The phenomenon known as Magnetic Hill has been noted on Sussex Turnpike in Morris Township for over 100 years. On some maps the location is marked as the entrance to the Bradford and Butterworth housing developments, but locals say that before the property was sold to the Frank H. Taylor Co. in 1960, the old Victorian mansion built in 1865 that sat on the property marked the spot. Kids years ago would place wooden boxes along where the magnetic spot was supposed to be, and watch the cars as they would try the phenomena and block Sunday traffic. One legend said that inventor Thomas Edison developed a special formula that he poured on the road, and the remains of this special potion created the magnetic force. When Weird NJ visited the gravity defying byway we were informed by a local man that the roadway had recently been regraded and repaved. This, he admitted with a sigh, has somewhat subdued its powers to distort the laws of physics.
On Sussex Turnpike between Starlight Drive and Raynor Road in Morris Township is a stretch of road called Magnetic Hill. Traveling west by car you are driving uphill. Take your foot off the gas and you keep going up! My dad has a State issued map from 1972 that marks the spot. He has not been able to find another NJ map in the years since that mentions it. –Anonymous
This story is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “YourTravel 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. Weird NJ photos by Mark Moran.