Shades of Death Road


Out of all the grim monikers encountered out on the roads less traveled throughout New Jersey, perhaps none is more foreboding than the infamous Shades of Death Road. Like many places steeped in local lore, reality and legend have become intertwined over the years, obscuring exactly what can be considered fact regarding this byway.

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Many legends are associated with Shades of Death Road, which winds alongside Jenny Jump State Forest up to Allamuchy in Warren County. One of the more famous street names in New Jersey roadside culture, this road runs along an old haunted lake bed which occasionally has pillars of mist rising from the top of the water.

“I don’t know what causes it, but I’ve seen it when I was fishing,” states Pete Valliere. “I think it was a legend about the early settlers killing the Indians and throwing them into the lake.” This phenomena is also called The Great Meadows Fog. Some people claim to see the dead walking along the road in the mist. Shades of Death Road also runs by the Dark Moon Bar, a must-stop on any Weird N.J. trip. The road was also the site of many deaths once thought to be a curse on the area. But Chrissy Waters, an employee at Chruszâs General Store in Johnsonburg, said that her mother had told her it was some kind of plague caused by the water that was responsible.

“Someone is always trying to steal the sign,” says Waters. “That’s why they greased up the pole.”


The Long and Winding Saga of Shades of Death Road
Out of all the grim monikers encountered out on the roads less traveled throughout New Jersey, perhaps none is more foreboding than the infamous Shades of Death Road. Like many places steeped in local lore, reality and legend have become intertwined over the years, obscuring exactly what can be considered fact regarding this byway. What is known is that for centuries, this road has been a dark, mysterious thoroughfare for travelers to cut across one of the more isolated parts of our state. What isn’t known is exactly how this street earned its curious name.

Shades Sign©Steve O'ByrneAccording to one legend, murder is at the root of the Shades of Death name. One tale relating to murder says that the original inhabitants of the area surrounding Shades of Death were an unruly band of squatters. Often, men from this vile gang would get into fights over women, and the squabbles would result in the death of one of the participants. As the reputation of these murderous bandits grew, the area they inhabited was named “Shades of Death.” When the civilized world encroached on and disbanded the bandits, the last remnant of their control over the meadows was restricted to one road that retained the name they made famous.

Another murder theory says that the road was originally known as “The Shades,” because of the low hanging trees which formed a canopy over the length of the street. Legend says that over time, many murders occurred there, and many stayed unsolved, causing local residents to add the sinister “of Death” twist to the formerly pleasant “Shades” name.

Road Sign LeftThere are still other explanations of how Shades acquired its name which have less to do with murder, and more to do with death by natural causes. Shades of Death traverses an area long known as the “Great Meadows,” which upon its original settlement was a vast area of marshy swampland. Around 1850, an outbreak of malaria carrying insects was discovered near a cliff face along Shades. As the citizens around Shades came to expect the yearly outbreaks of this terrible disease, they began to anticipate the annual spate of deaths of friends and family members which came along with it. Like any community, their landmarks, in particular this one road, came to reflect the morose attitude they had regarding these epidemics.

Traveling along Shades of Death today, it is still a mysterious, foreboding place. WhateverHome state Hauntingsthe real origins of the name are, something about this tract of land caused its earliest settlers to imbue upon it a name which speaks of death. No matter which legends or facts you choose to believe, it would seem that the road’s name was offered up as a warning from beyond the grave to those who might travel this dark path unaware of its potential hazards. Though we may never know for sure how the road actually got its name, it might be a good idea to heed those warnings and say a little prayer when traveling on Shades of Death Road.

Beware the Fog of Lenape Lane

My friend Rob and I went to Shades of Death at about 1:30 this morning.  On the way back we noticed a small road called Lenape Lane. We checked it out and at the end we found an abandoned stable. At this time we got really bad chills and decided to leave.

Driving back, the windshield fogged up real bad and as the fog formed I saw the shape of a skull appear in it.  Rob told me that on his side of the windshield he saw a cross in the fog.  We got off Lenape Lane and the fog disappeared.  –Mike D.

Ghost Lake©Mark Moran

It’s Called “Ghost Lake” For a Reason

My friend and I were sitting in a car at Ghost Lake at about 3:00 in the morning.  The people who maintain the park were trying to grow grass and there was hay on the ground.  I saw the hay move, like someone was walking on it.  Footprints went all the way around the car for about ten minutes.

There was also an old abandoned cabin right off of Ghost Lake.  Me and a couple of kids were inside it one night.  The windows were broken, the walls were falling apart and the floor had holes in it.  In one of the corners of the house was a hallway with a piano built into the wall.

We went upstairs.  All of a sudden the piano sounded like someone banged on it.  There was a crunching sound like the glass on the floor was being stepped on.  This sound came closer down the hallway.   Someone shined a light on the area and there was nothing there.  We took off out of there and didn’t look back.  –FIVEL

The Shades of Death Plague

There was a plague that killed most of the people in town, forcing them to lay dead bodies in the street so some sort of doctor could come pick them up.  Some bodies were dumped in Ghost Lake, spreading the plague even more.  –Jennifer B.

12 Bumps On Shades Of Death Road

One story of Shades of Death Road is that there are 12 people buried under the road.  Back in the day, they buried a family in shallow graves, causing lumps in the then dirt road.  It was paved over and the bumps still remained.  If you drive down the road, there will be one less bump.  The owner of this one is a little boy.  He’s watching over his family.

I have also heard of a person who committed suicide by jumping off of the overpass of route 80. On some nights, you can see someone jump off, but they never hit the road.

Someone told my boyfriend about how he was driving down the road and he looked in his rearview mirror only to see a man on a horse following him.  If he turned around to actually look at it out of the rear window, there was nothing there. He looked in the mirror again, and there it was.  –Amanda H.

The Ghostly Lights Of Shades

At this one bridge, if you stop in the road, turn off your lights, and honk three times, you will see images of two kids who got killed playing in the road. I tried it then left.  Not three seconds after I started to move, I noticed a light behind me, like the headlight of a motorcycle, but at the height of a big truck. No matter how fast I went, it stayed right with me.  As l got to the end of the road and looked in my mirror, it was right on my tail.  It disappeared as quickly as it appeared.  I looked behind me to see nothing but darkness. I still can’t tell you what was behind me, but I will never drive down that road at night again.   –CR1CR

Sucker Punched by Spooks on Shades of Death

I remember an old barn on Shades of Death Road that my brother told me about.  He went there to investigate a rumor that it was haunted.  He told me that it was really dark there, and that his friends were drinking and having beer muscles when they walked in and a few minutes later they came screaming out.  Some say that some guy hung himself in there.  Others say it was murder and that his soul haunts the barn.  My brother said that they were inside when his friend was punched by an unseen force.  They each thought that he was fooling around until each one was hit.  My brother will not say what happened there.   –Bob R.

It came from the Shades of Death Corn Fields

An aunt of mine lives on Shades.  One summer, while visiting, I heard the most unusual sounds I have ever heard.  It seemed to be coming from the corn fields.  They were getting closer and louder.  I looked out the window and there it was – a figure was in the window.  The thing that scared me the most was that I was on the second floor and it was right up by the window.   I will never forget the figure walking out of the fields trying to tell me something.   –FreakVETH

Shades Pavement©Steve O'Byrne

The Deer Indian Guardian of Shades of Death

As a teen, my friends and I drove along Shades of Death Road.  The legend was that you had to drive very slow down the road, lest the Indian would get you.  The Indian was the guardian of the area.  You would see a deer in front of you while travelling Shades, but it was no ordinary deer.  It was the Indian in a deer skin.  If he charged your car and you did not stop before he reached it, as soon as he passed through your vehicle you would get into a horrible car accident.  –Alyssa B

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  All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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