Shades of Death Road, Warren County, New Jersey
Shades of Death Road is a winding, two-lane rural road in Warren County, New Jersey, about 6.7 miles long. The road runs north-south through Liberty and Independence townships, and then turns more east-west in Allamuchy Township north of the Interstate 80 crossing. It is the subject of local legends and folklore, and its name is shrouded in mystery.
The road’s name is attributed to several theories, including highwaymen or bandits who would lay in wait for their victims in the shadows of the forest but were later cought and hanged on low branches, bear swamps that housed vicious wild cats, and malaria-carrying insects in nearby wetlands that caused annual outbreaks of the disease.
During the 1920s and 1930s, a series of heinous murders occurred on the road. One involved a robbery where a man was bludgeoned with a tire jack for his gold coins. Another saw a woman beheading her husband and burying his head and body on opposite sides of the street. Lastly, a local resident named Bill Cummins was shot and buried in a mudpile. Despite investigations, the cases remained unsolved.
According to local lore, there are tales of a Native American spirit guide who takes the form of a deer and materializes at different locations on the road at night. If drivers fail to slow down enough to avoid a collision, they are believed to suffer a severe accident with a deer.
Another story speaks of a bridge where drivers, who stop with their high beams on and honk their horns three times past midnight, will reportedly witness the apparitions of two young children who were killed while playing on the road. However, this legend is not actually linked to Shades of Death but refers to a bridge over the Flatbrook on Old Mine Road. The old bridge is no longer accessible by car as a newer, larger bridge has been erected beside it. Nonetheless, the original bridge can still be accessed by foot.
Ghost Lake, just off the road Shades of Death Road
One of the notable features of Shades of Death Road is Ghost Lake, located just off the road in the state forest south of the I-80 overpass. The lake was created in the early 20th century when two wealthy local men dammed a creek that ran through the narrow valley between houses they had just built.
The lake is named after the wraithlike vapor formations that often rise off it on cooler mornings. The area around the lake is said to be haunted, and visitors have reported seeing ghosts, especially in a deserted old cabin across the lake from the road.
Another site of paranormal activity along Shades of Death Road is The Fairy Hole, a small cave to the right of Ghost Lake, once used by the Lenape. According to Weird NJ, several visitors have reported seeing the ghost of an Indian chief near the cave. However, the cave is now covered in graffiti, and archaeologists who surveyed the area did not find any evidence of the Lenape.
Apart from the paranormal activity, Shades of Death Road has a tragic history of accidents, with some blaming the road’s twists and turns. Reflective guardrails along the road indicate where fatal car accidents have occurred. In addition, locals have reported sightings of ghostly apparitions on the road, particularly in the form of a woman in white who is said to appear and disappear suddenly.
Shades of Death Road has drawn many visitors over the years, to the annoyance of residents. The SyFy channel’s Haunted Highway series featured a segment on the road in 2013. However, the residents have gone to great lengths to protect their privacy, including smearing the pole holding the street sign with grease or oil to prevent theft.
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