An ominous looking edifice stands in the town of Alpine that has come to be known as Devil’s Tower. It’s a six-story gothic stone clocktower that the Devil himself is said to inhabit. There are several dark legends about the structure, including exact procedures to follow in order to conjure its spirits. Here are just a few of the dozens of stories that our readers have told us about this unholy place:
“The big stone tower at one time housed evil rituals by Satanists early in the century. Some evil tragedy happened, and after the group’s demise, there have been several attempts to tear it down, but to no avail. Some say work crews have died in the attempt.”
As with most sites like this, it became a popular destination for teens in the ’70s and friends of mine who have been inside reported encountering mysterious gusts of cold wind that sent them screaming for their cars. Another reader e-mailed us a slightly different version of the tower’s legend:
“As you approach it, you can almost see people in the windows of the tower. When you get there, according to what I have heard, witnessed and attempted myself, you are to drive your car around the tower in reverse three times. After the third, when you come to a full circle, turn off your car and headlights and the ghost of a woman should approach you. This hasn’t happened yet, but I and others have seen a mist start to form. After that, I don’t know what is supposed to happen, and what isn’t.”
Still others say six times around the tower is the magic number which will raise the dead:
“The Devil’s Tower was owned by a rich married man. He built the tower so his wife could see New York without really going to New York. One night, his wife was looking out of the top of the tower and she saw her husband with another woman, so she jumped right down the center of the tower. The husband was so upset that he stopped all the work on the tower because it was for his wife and now his wife was dead. Now if you drive around the tower backwards six times, the ghost of the wife is supposed to control your car and drive it straight into a tree. This happened to a group of teens. When they went around it the sixth time, something controlled their car and drove it into a tree, killing a girl.” –Nick G.
One person told us that if you walk around it backwards six times at midnight, the Devil himself will appear. There is satanic graffiti on the inside walls, but the tower is now gated and locked. The doors and windows have also been sealed, allowing no entrance.
According to the Alpine Historical Society, the Devil’s Tower:
“…was the centerpiece of an estate called Rio Vista, which was owned by Manuel Rionda in the first half of the 1900s. Rionda was a Spaniard who made his fortune from sugar cane plantations in Cuba. His mansion was on the cliffs where the present day Alpine Lookout is located. His property was the largest estate on the Palisades. Rionda used to delight in taking guests up to the top for the view (there was an elevator).
Just off to one side of the tower was a chapel and ornately decorated mausoleum. Rionda’s wife and sister were both interred there at one time, though their bodies were removed when Rionda died in 1943.
The entire estate was subdivided years ago, and was mostly just woodlands through the 1970s. The name “Devil’s Tower” probably came about around that time, when kids used to break into it and party and leave graffiti, sometimes of a “Satanic” nature. Eventually the tower was sealed up, and large houses were built on Rionda’s former property (the development is called “Rio Vista”). The tower is on a public road called The Esplanade, which is accessible from Route 9W, about a mile north of the Tenafly-Alpine border.”
Ghostly Figures Haunt the Tower
I recently visited the Devil’s Tower and heard a loud strange noise coming from within it. The noise sounded almost like creaky steps, but we have no idea what it actually was. Then we decided to drive around slowly and take a closer look. We got to the right side of it and parked the car because we saw something in the window on the right. Not the very very top one, the one that’s a good number of feet under it, all the way to the right. It looked like there was a broken window, but yet the window kept going up and down, up and down. It disappeared for a couple seconds and then a blurry figure of a person in all white, leaned out and looked down at us, but there were no facial features! It almost looked like it was wearing a veil or cape. It was grayish white and very distorted. –Michele
Devil’s Tower Figures
My friends and I went to Devil’s Tower in Alpine. We decided to drive around, what we thought was the correct number, six times in reverse. We got to the last time around and stopped. Huffing and puffing we looked up and saw nothing at first. Then to our amazement me and my friend May saw what we thought were white eyes in the top middle window. As I started to drive away, May turned around and looked at the tower. This is when the screaming started. At that instance Jenn also turned around and both of them started screaming, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed a bright white object in the round window on the second floor, that started to fade towards the back. I immediately floored it as the screaming continued. After driving for about five minutes we talked and the girls both agreed that they saw a white figure in the top window immediately move to the second floor, get really really bright white, and then as we pulled away it moved to the back of the tower and faded. –Anonymous
The Hanging at the Tower
The story that I heard as a teenager is that the tower was built by a farmer who owned the surrounding property, so he could just tell what time it was from where ever he was working. Apparently his wife hung herself in the tower and if you drive around it three time backwards you will see her apparition hanging in the tower. –Susan
Mr. Riondo Still Hanging Around the Tower
My father, who used to go there a lot when he was a teenager, told me one of the more
popular legends behind the tower. It really was a clock tower for a mansion that used to be located there. The owner of the mansion went insane and hung himself from the tower. When they knocked down the mansion they attempted to knock down the tower also, but crew members started to quickly die off in odd and painful ways. Supposedly the ghost of the man still haunts the tower, keeping everyone away from his body up inside the tower. –Mike P.
Red Eyes and Growls in the Dark Tower
As a teenager growing up in Bergenfield, my friends and I would take the trip up 9W to climb the tower, explore the chapel, and hang out. Even into the early 1980’s the estate grounds were largely undeveloped, and the property was cris -crossed with old gravel roads intersecting with the roughed out new roads being laid for the current development. During a late summer evening in 1980 my friends and I were driving around looking for something to do. We decided we hadn’t gone up to the Tower in a while and off we went. I and another friend were looking in the window of the dark wing on the south side of the tower, and our other friends joined us. It was then that we had what I’ll call a mass hallucination. As we stood there, we all heard growls come from the darkened chamber, and as we looked into the darkness we saw in the right corner a pair of red eyes looking back at us. –Alan M.
The Devil Don’t Pose for Pictures
One night a group of my friends and I decided to take a trip up to Devil’s Tower. We parked on a side street and made our way down the road with a flashlight and a couple of cameras. We snapped a bunch of pictures and took about 15 minutes of video footage. As we began to speak louder, a banging sound began to emanate from the right side of the tower. We paused and the sound stopped immediately. We checked around the tower for any sign of life, but no one else was around. My friend said he saw a white object hanging out of one of the openings in the tower. As we all looked up we saw the white object move back from the window. At this point I had pissed my pants. We stood there taping as the banging became louder, then became silent once more. At this point the video camera died instantly, and we ran for the car. –Andrew F.
The Devil’s Tower Fog
I grew up in the area where Devil’s Tower is located. Before all the houses were built around it, there was just a road that cut through the woods. There used to be a very small church there which had paintings inside that you usually see in some of the larger places of worship. Outside someone had painted upside down crosses everywhere. Where the altar was were remnants of a bonfire, so all the ash and heat blackened paintings. Some people have sworn to seeing figures peeking out from behind the trees and staring at them. I went there one night years ago, to play a “I stalled the car” bit on a girlfriend and she freaked out , screaming “Get me out of here now!” When I turned back on the lights to start the car, what I saw made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. There was a fog that I didn’t see while driving in creeping toward the car, about waist high. I backed the car out of there as fast as I could. We laughed afterward, but for that moment – wow! It is one of those places that at night, just the thought of it makes my heart beat a little faster. –Ed S.
The Smell of Dirt and Flowers
There was one time when a bunch of us were at Devil’s Tower goofing around. We had gone there with four cars and someone tried the “driving around the tower backwards 3 times” bit. While the one person was driving around, the rest of us stood looking at the tower waiting for something to happen. After the driver stopped and got out of his car, we noticed the wind was picking up, but only from the right side of the tower. Soon after there was a dark, cloud-like shape forming over head with the strongest aroma of dirt and flowers. Mind you, this group was made up of believers, and some strong non-believers who experienced the same thing! Suddenly there was a humongous gust of wind that sent the feeling of death right through us all! That was when we high-tailed it out of there. Later we all discussed what happened and found that each car still smelled like dirt and flowers afterwards, until we reached New Milford. –Jose
When the Devil’s Tower Calls, Don’t Answer the Phone
I grew up and still live in the Alpine area and have been to the tower several times. One of my friends drove around the circle six times backwards. After that the wind kicked up, leaves started to swirl, we heard strange, faint wailing noises, and the lights in the gated area of the tower switched on and off. When we pulled away we saw an image in the narrow window above the clock and felt a bigger chill. The wind picked up even more. We sped off towards Route 9W. Just as we reached the intersection with the blinking light, my sister’s cell phone started to beep, she had a message. The call was from her home phone. The message was garbled, and could not be made out. My sister said the message sounded like a young girl giving a warning of some sort. We were pretty freaked out and stopped at the Royal Cliffs Diner to discuss what we saw. The eight of us were standing around when one of the other cell phones started to ring. The call had come from another one of my sorority sisters who was standing right there and had not made any phone calls! –Beth
For Whom the Tower Tolls
The tower was started as a birthday gift for Riondo’s wife but she passed away before its completion. The tower was completed and fitted with a clock that never was used, but was set to the time of her death. When strolling through the woods at night, the tower clock could actually be heard to ring at the appropriate hour on Halloween night! –Letter via e-mail
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.
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