One of the most scenic areas in our state is also one of the most storied. It’s a park in the Great Meadows/Hope area named Jenny Jump State Forest, and it features large glacial boulders and stone outcroppings carved by glaciers 21,000 years ago. In addition to its many camp sites and extensive hiking trails, it boasts some of New Jersey’s oldest and best-known folk tales.

According to legend, Jenny was the nine-year old daughter of early settlers of the area. One day while out picking berries near the precipice of a mountain, the young girl was surprised by a band of Lenni Lenape Indians of the Minsi tribe, who snuck up on her through the forest intending to abduct or kill her.

Jenny ran for her life screaming, alarming her father who was working in his field below. “Jump Jenny, Jump!” He hollered up to her, and poor Jenny leapt to her death, or so the story says. Some have speculated that the name could simply be an Anglicized form of the area’s original Lenape name.

Located adjacent to Jenny Jump Mountain there’s an old-timey kiddie amusement park called the Land of Make Believe, which not only claims to contain the cliff that Jenny jumped from, but they even have the house that she and her family supposedly lived in. The white farmhouse, circa 1748, is located at the bottom of the ravine where Jenny took her final plunge, right beside a waterfall named Jenny Jump Falls. A loudspeaker mounted on the outside of the building plays a recording that recounts the tragic tale over and over again for visitors.

Not far away from jumpin’ Jenny’s house, you’ll find one of the most unsettling attractions that the park has to offer. At first the two over-stuffed scarecrows standing by the side of the walk looked pleasant enough. One is supposed to be a man, dressed in a ratty old pair of overalls, a flannel shirt and straw hat. The other is apparently his wife, wearing a weather-beaten denim dress and gingham shawl.

The sign posted next to the pair reads “Talk to Colonel Corn, but please don’t touch him.” You can actually ask them the legend of Jenny Jump and they’ll talk back to you! The figures are rigged up to some sort of audio intercom which is monitored by an unseen park employee hiding someplace nearby.

At the eastern boundary of the forest, you’ll find Shades of Death Road, which winds its way past Murders Mountain and through Haunted Hollow on its way up to Ghost Lake. There has been much speculation as to the origins of the name Ghost Lake – Some have credited the infamous moniker to a few local citizens’ flare for melodrama.

The body of water was created in the early 20th century when two local men named William Crouse Jr. and Leon G. Hull, dammed a creek that ran through the narrow valley between houses they had just built. They gave the lake its ghostly name for the wraithlike misty formations they often saw rising off its waters on cooler mornings. hey also named a nearby mountain “Murderer’s Mountain” and their property “Haunted Hollow.”

Along the shore of Ghost Lake, you’ll find a small cave known as the Faery Hole (or Faerie, an old English spelling of fairy). From parking lot at Ghost Lake follow the rocky trail along the lake’s edge about 200 yards, then turn to the right and climb up steep slope to the cave. The main room of the cave is about ten feet wide and twenty feet deep, the floor is flat and the ceiling is high enough to allow most people to stand up comfortably. Beyond the main chamber the passage continues into smaller chambers and vertical shafts. There is a natural chimney formation at the rear of cave that contains cave crickets.

When surveyed in 1918 the cave was found to contain pottery shards, flint, broken arrowheads, remnants of a firepit, and other evidence of Indian occupation. It was concluded that the Faery Hole was probably not a permanent dwelling, but may have been used as a simple resting place for traveling Lenape hunters.

The Faery Hole was excavated in 1936 by archaeologist Dr. Dorothy Cross of the New Jersey State Museum, who discovered ten thousand bone fragments from 23 different species of animal. Among them was the tooth of Home state Hauntingsa giant extinct beaver that has been found nowhere else in the state.

Whether all the legends of Jenny Jump are true or not, no one can say for sure. But the forest and mountains did get their curious monikers somehow, and you’ll never get the real story from poor Jenny herself.

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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