Deadly Tale of Henry Hudson Springs

In early September 1609 Henry Hudson began his exploration of the river that would one day bear his name. Before he ascended the estuary though, Hudson stopped at a small freshwater spring in what is now Atlantic Highlands to collect water for his ship the Half Moon. The spring, now known as Henry Hudson Springs, is located on a steep wooded hillside on Bayside Drive.

A vintage postcard of the Henry Hudson Spring from the early 20th century.

The Curse of Henry Hudson Springs

Hudson’s historic visit to New Jersey has even spawned some local legends about the ill-fated captain and his wandering apparition. Weird NJ reader D. Domenick shares one such tale…

“The New Jersey coastline is filled with legends and tales of pirates, lost explorers, and strange phenomena dating back to the 1500s. One such event took place in 1609, when Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing for the Dutch, entered the area of Sandy Hook. His crew aboard the Half Moon needed fresh water and a restocking of provisions. They came from the New York area and sailed into New Jersey’s projecting piece of land known as ‘the Hook’ in Monmouth County. They navigated around Sandy Hook, landed on the northeast shore of New Jersey’s mainland, and came ashore in longboats to the area now known as Atlantic Highlands.

A depiction of the landing of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon.

“Climbing over sacred burial grounds belonging to the local Indian tribes, the crew found a spring bubbling up from the ground. The Lenape thought this spring had medicinal properties and used it as a source of healing. They approached its waters from what is now Lawrie Road, off Ocean Boulevard. The 400-year-old footpath they used still exists today, leading down a steep, rhododendron-filled ravine. A marker placed by the local historical society defines the spot of both of the Lenapes’ and of Hudson’s visits.

A plaque marking Henry Hudson Springs in Atlantic Highlands.

“At the time of their visit, Hudson’s crew gave little thought to trampling Leni Lenape burial sites, but once the sacred land had been violated, the evil unleashed by the ancient forces was the beginning of the Half Moon’s untimely demise.

“Members of the crew were mysteriously taken ill. Sails tore, masts snapped, and moorings sprang loose. One crew member, John Colman, was killed by Indians with an arrow through his neck. Their explorations became an aquatic nightmare on the high seas. The superstitious crew recalled how Hudson forced them to go through sacred lands and they laid the blame on their captain’s shoulders.

“In November of 1611 Hudson’s next ship, the Discovery, became trapped in the ice in the James Bay, Canada, and the crew moved ashore for the winter. When the ice cleared in the spring of 1611, Hudson planned to further explore and map Hudson Bay with the goal of discovering the Northwest Passage to Asia; however, most of the members of his crew ardently desired to return home. Matters came to a head when the crew mutinied in June. The mutineers set Hudson, his teenage son John, and seven crewmen loyal to Hudson adrift from in a small open row boat, marooning them in Hudson Bay. They were never seen again…until various reported sightings over the past few centuries along the coast of New Jersey.

The late Buddy Rodgers (namesake of the legendary landmark “Bud’s Grave” located nearby) takes a refreshing drink of Henry Hudson spring water in 2002.

“Stories tell of seeing Hudson’s apparition calling “Ahoy!” from the ocean as he searches the shoreline of Atlantic Highlands for a safe landing spot. The ancients still protect the area from unwanted intruders, and his restless spirit is not permitted to set foot on the same lands he violated in 1609. The captain of the Half Moon is forever doomed to roam the rock-strewn shores of Atlantic Highlands, and it is said that moonlit nights are the best to look for him.”

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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