When we here at Weird NJ start receiving multiple letters from our readers focusing on a the same local legend, we usually start to do some investigative snooping, and possibly shed some light on some new weirdness for everyone. A letter recently came in describing a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the Pine Barrens called Indian Cabin Road. It read:
“I went to school at Stockton State College and I’m sure you know there are a ton of great scary dirt roads down that way. My friends and I stumbled upon Indian Cabin Road one night. We heard stories circulating through Stockton about this road so one night we decided to go out and find it. There is some freaky stuff on this road. It’s a very small long dirt road with tons of pine trees surrounding it.
“As you drive down it there are some points in the road that are so thin your car barely fits through. First we came across a house that had an insane shrine. It appeared to be some type of devil shrine. Very scary and very bizarre. We chose not to stop since there was a light on in the house. We kept going and a good distance up we came across a shallow grave that had appeared to be there for many years. There was a gravestone. It was right by a small stream. I later found out the tale about it. Apparently a young girl was raped by some man in the late 1800’s who was only known as the Crukker. Her family found her and buried her in the back yard of their home, which burned down in the early 1900’s. The grave is the only thing left that stands of the home.
“This Crukker is supposedly a rapist/child molester who lives off of Indian Cabin Road deep in the Pine Barrens. I’ve heard that on dark foggy nights the cries of young children can be heard as you stand by the grave of the girl and face east towards the ocean. I’ve ventured down that scary, desolate road many nights but have never come across him or anyone else. This road is quite scary and the fact that people still actually live back there is perhaps even scarier.” –J. Magliaro
We filed this letter under “Roads Less Traveled,” the we decided to see if there were any similar entries in any of our folders. Finding a file called “Pine Barrens Church,” we discovered that this too was on Indian Cabin Road. When a third letter arrived saying Indian Cabin Road is a must see site amongst the student body at Stockton State College, we were on our way.
Finding Indian Cabin Road on a map is not easy. Finding it in your car is even tougher. The map tells you it goes straight through the Pine Barrens, but the locals who live along the road will tell you “it don’t, so stay off it!” We found this out the hard way, by following maps that lead us to nowhere, where we encountered a not-so-friendly Piney who definitely didn’t want us traveling on “her” road. So much for southern hospitality and the kindness of strangers.
Forging ahead blindly, we decided to make the full run on Indian Cabin Road from the beginning until we hit the town of Sweetwater. The scraggly scrub pines that crowd the road on either side make it look extremely foreboding, even in the daylight. Our checklist for a “Roads Less Traveled” trip were all in line from our leads; a lone gravestone, a “satanic church,” a bloody Virgin Mary statue, and crazy backwoods people who chase you in trucks. What more could you ask for?
The darkness and desolation of the road seemed to be swallowing us up as we 4-wheeled it through the sporadic potholes, which lined the trail. The road splits to the left and to the right, making it almost impossible to follow. Other roads cross it, all with no street signs to guide you, then narrows to the size of a goat path, which sucks you ever deeper into the pines.
We found the lone Shaler grave about fifty feet from the road. Nothing was around it but remnants of a cement foundation where a house once stood and a small, stagnant stream. We recalled one of the legends of how Mrs. Shaler and her three children were massacred by local Indians while her husband was out to sea. Though the inscription on the tombstone confirmed that Mrs. Shaler was indeed interred with three of her infant children, it offered no clue as to whether the family had really been massacred, as the legend states. It reads:
To The Memory Of
Mrs. Sibbel Shaler
Consort of the late Timothy Shaler
Who departed this life
On the 2nd Day of April 1785
In the 34th year of her age
And whose mortal remains repose
Here together with those of three
Of her infant children
Continuing on our journey, we crossed a few more roads and came to a fork where we had to make a decision: Do we go left or do we go right? At this point we were totally lost in the woods and decided to take the road that literally looked less traveled. Putting the truck in 4-wheel low, we proceeded on. After about a 1/4 mile we saw a cement statue of Jesus on the side of the road.
“That has to be it,” we both agreed. A dilapidated church-like structure lay beyond it, as did a few other buildings, which we could not quite make out through the trees. Just as we began to take a few photos, we turned around to see a pick-up truck emerge from behind the church and start toward us. We motioned for the truck to stop (which it was going to do anyway).
“Can you tell us how to get to Sweetwater?” we asked the teenage driver, looking hopelessly lost, map unfolding on the hood of our Jeep. He pointed in the direction we had just come from, without saying a word.
“Is this Indian Cabin Road?” we inquired. “We seem to be lost.”
At that point he turned the truck around and went back behind the church. A moment later, a woman walking with a dog emerged and started toward us. She was a large, heavy woman with unruly grey hair.
“Do you know you’re on my property?” she squawked, puffing on a cigarette.
“We don’t know where we are,” we replied, in all honesty. “We just stopped to ask if this road continue on to Sweetwater.”
“Oh, come on,” she snapped back angrily. “You can’t see the ‘No Trespassing’ signs all over here?” we were sort of stunned by her unprovoked aggression. For the last 10 minutes, we hadn’t seen a sign of any kind, and believe us, we were looking. Mind you, at this point we were perhaps ten feet in from the road on a barren patch of sand, perhaps fifty yards from the nearest building on the property.
“We’re on a public road,” we told her. “We have a map. It tells us we can follow this road until we get to Sweetwater. Is that right or is it wrong?”
She seemed to think we were lying to her (which, of course, was partially true, but she had no way of knowing that). She’d laugh to herself every time we said we wanted to end up at Sweetwater. She didn’t seem to believe anyone would take the road we were on for any reason, then gave us directions that seemed to be way off course, according to our map. We turned around and backtracked (with the pick-up truck right behind us as an escort) until we came to the first paved road, then stopped the car. At that point the pick-up turned around and headed off back to the weird compound in the woods.
We sat for a moment at the crossroads gathering our thoughts. We had managed to find two of the legendary sites we’d set out in search of, the Shaler grave and the strange dilapidated religious retreat with its unfriendly Pineland guardians. But there was still one story of Indian Cabin Road, told amongst the Stockton State crowd, that we had not found any sign of. So, tossing our map aside, off we went, heading deeper into the weird South Jersey wilderness in search of the infamous Crukker (or is it Kruker?).
Chased on Indian Cabin Road
“Back around five years ago my brother used to attend Stockton State College. Whenever I would make a trip to visit him we would inevitably end up on some road adventure deep in the woods of the Pine Barrens that surrounded the area. In South Jersey there is a long dirt road by the name of Indian Cabin Road. This road stretches far back into the woods and becomes so narrow that you can barely fit one car down it without scratching the doors on the trees. Strange cults and deranged homeless mental patients are known to live in the woods that surround this road. One night my brother and some of our friends were driving on it when we finally reached something truly bizarre.
“Off in the distance stood what appeared to be the remnants of a house or an old church of some kind. In front of the area was a statue of the Virgin Mary in which the eyes had been covered in blood or red paint. Strange symbols and the body of a skinned dog were left on the ground near it. As my friends and I stepped out of the car to take pictures we noticed a light on in the church. A few minutes went by and my brother commented, ‘Hey, the light went out.’ With that, the headlights of a pickup truck went on! We scrambled to get back in the car as the truck came at us. It chased us going 80 mph down a bumpy dirt road while the driver waved a shotgun out the window. We managed to speed away and narrowly escaped. This road is very creepy, especially late at night!
“There is also a grave known as the Shaler grave located near a little bridge on this road. I have heard stories of this grave being inhabited by a homeless child molester by the name of ‘The Kruker’ although this may well be folklore, because I have heard similar stories of this guy living in both Tuckerton and Bordentown. They are incredibly scary!” –Ryan L.
The Kruker’s Soda Pop Shrine
“I was on a comfortable afternoon bike ride one Sunday when I got brave and decided to venture down Indian Cabin Road. As I drove further down the dirt trail I began to notice an unusual amount of garbage on the road. As I continued on, along the side of the road I noticed that the garbage seemed to be getting more and more abundant and I began to see more and more bottles of Dr. Pepper. Literally piles of Dr. Pepper bottles everywhere!
“As I followed this trail further into the woods it eventually led up to an old sign that read ‘Ice Cold Soda.’ Beyond that was what appeared to be some type of shrine or sculpture made entirely of bottles of soda––it formed a large triangle that had been either glued or taped together, and was supported by softball bats duct taped together. In the middle was one word, ‘Candyman.’ I don’t know what it meant, or what it was supposed to be, but it freaked me out, that’s for sure! Anyone who could have drank this much Dr. Pepper has to be slightly deranged!
“When I got back home I talked to several friends of mine about what I had seen. Several of them said they had heard of a local man known as ‘The Kruker’ who is supposed to live in the woods behind Indian Cabin Road. They said that he was a child molester who used to live in the area and that he would sometimes try to tempt children with candy and soda. I didn’t believe a word they were saying and thought that they were making it up, until I read your magazine the other day and saw The Kruker was mentioned in one of the articles! I don’t know if what I saw was the work of him or just some thirsty campers, but it was weird, that’s for sure!” –Seth F.
Abandoned Boys’ Orphanage Off Indian Cabin
“I’ve read about Indian Cabin Road and the creepy Satan chapel there. Well, actually, it’s an old orphanage from the 1930s and it’s really not on Indian Cabin Road, but it’s close enough.
“During its earlier years, it was a branch of a larger organization out of Camden that housed lone children and kids in need of homes. The field at the lake down the road used to be a rough sort of landing strip airport to fly in different people to help run it. I’m really not sure when it stopped operating, but for many years a family lived there and kept watch over the property to prevent vandals from destroying it.
“At the end of the summer of 2004, the family moved out and the buildings were abandoned. Within months and the buildings were already being torn apart. The religious statues and fixtures are all gone. It’s just a shame to see it already beat to hell.” –Anonymous
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.