You don’t need a ticket. You don’t need special permission from the historical society. You don’t even need a crowbar and steel-toed boots to explore one of the most haunted places in the country. To experience the ten miles of terror of that is Clinton Road, you need only a car full of gas, a belly full of courage…and a Twitter account, to document the whole adventure.
“Are you scared?” Those words have prompted many young (and old) people into taking the trip on America’s most haunted strip of pavement, Clinton Road. Located in lovely West Milford between Route 23 and Upper Greenwood Lake, the ten-mile stretch of horror will pop up in most scary stories told this time of year. The legends vary greatly, from gruesome to just plain interesting. Some will have you avoiding North Jersey all together, while others may tempt you to take the drive and see for yourself.
The Legacy of Clinton Road
One thing is clear about Clinton Road, it’s a great place to Tweet, take Instagram pics and Snapchat with friends. In terms of social media, Clinton Road has become the Kim Kardasian of haunted places.
Where did all the terror come from? What legends lurk along the dark, lonely road? The woods and land surrounding Clinton Road have a long, sinister history of monsters and mayhem — and like most good ghost stories, the spookiness began during the Revolutionary War.
“In the days of the Revolution, these woods were infested by bands of robbers and counterfeiters, and true believers in witches and ghosts asserted that their ‘departed spirits’ were more terrible to meet and more numerous than wild animals and Indians.” wrote J. Percy Crayon (circa 1905) as quoted in “Historic Passaic County: An Illustrated History.”
Since then, the area held an aura of eerie feelings. From this ten-mile belt of land stemmed stories of murder, suicide, ghosts — even and Bigfoot himself. There are stories of phantom children, phantom cars, phantom trucks and phantom orbs. Mulder and Scully could spend their entire careers unraveling the seemingly endless amount of stories and still only scratch the surface.
But of all the legends, there are few that stick out. If you drive along the road at night armed only with your phone and your social media accounts, here’s what you may find.
The Ghost Boy is the most famous of all the legendary spirits hanging out on Clinton Road. His origin varies from story to story — some claim he drowned in the nearby Clinton Reservoir, while others say he died on the bridge. But which bridge? His ghost has been spotted on various bridges along Clinton Road, including the bridge by “Dead Man’s Curve,” which is the sharpest turn in the road.
If you toss a coin from these bridges, the Ghost Boy will return it —or so the legend says. Those driving past any of the bridges may stop to find loose change, or maybe the Ghost Boy himself, hanging out.
Most likely, you’ll just end up with a really scenic picture.
The ghost trucks are more modern take on phantom carriages. These trucks will appear out of nowhere at night along the road, and follow close behind your vehicle, flashing its brights. But just when you’re about to pull over to let him pass — the truck vanishes. Cynics and skeptics will say the trucks (or maybe just one truck) belong to nearby residents who like to stir up stories and trouble, but it certainly makes one think twice before driving aggressively in the presence of one of the phantom pickups.
There was, indeed, a castle built near Clinton Road in 1905. After the castle burned down, the remains became a popular spot for teens and ghost hunters to hang out. In an attempt to stop people from searching for the castle, the remains were removed in 1988. It didn’t really work, as people still hunt around looking for spooky remains.
It has also been rumored that those who stand where the castle once stood will experience seizures. Explore with caution. (Also, the ground is really uneven.)
The Bold and The Brave
Not everyone is scared. Surviving all ten miles of the road has become a badge of honor.
But generally, when someone explores Clinton Road, the the only thing that haunts them is disappointment.
The good news for ghost hunters and thrill seekers is that social media makes it fun to post and share stories, and YouTube is filled with professional — and shaky! — amateur footage of road videos.
The downside to all the hashtags and posts — everyone wants to visit the road.
“The Bad People Are Here.”
For residents who live along and near Clinton Road, the ghosts stories bring about real terror. If the ghosts won’t force you to leave, the ghost hunters will. Residents Kim and Paul McKinnon went to the media, telling the Hackensack N.J. Record that they’re sick and tired of ghost-hunting teenagers driving by their Clinton Road home late at night, honking car horns and causing trouble. The couple’s young children would often wake up at night to sounds of revving cars and tell their sleepy parents, “The bad people are here.”
So, if you take a trip down the road, please, please, please be courteous to those around you. You don’t want to wake up the evil spirits, or worse — a sleep-deprived New Jersey resident!
Clinton Road begins at Route 23 near Newfoundland and stretches 9.3 miles north to Upper Greenwood Lake. For more information, throw some change off the bridge.