In September, the Roadtrippers blog asked a semi-rhetorical question: "Is this the scariest road in America?" The subject was Clinton Road, a narrow, north-south running strip just shy of 10 miles long through West Milford, New Jersey.
Most of the land on either side of the road is undeveloped and densely wooded, which is basically all that is required for a place to be fairly terrifying once the sun sets, and maybe even a little before. And then there are the rumors of ghost sightings, escaped animal hybrids — left over, it's said, from a 1970s Warner Brothers theme park called "Jungle Habitat" — and Satanist gatherings that have centered around the road and its surroundings for decades.
There are three major hot spots (or, let's say, "haunt spots," haha) along Clinton Road:
1. A 19th-century iron smelter said to double as a Druid temple
2. The "Ghost Boy Bridge" whose namesake is said to do various spooky things with coins you leave for him
3. The ruins of Cross Castle, built in 1905, burnt to the ground and much later, maybe, used for gatherings of witches and devil worshippers
As if that were not enough, visitors have also reported encountering "phantom trucks" that chased their cars only to vanish at the end of the road. So, to see exactly how haunted it felt on a near-to-Halloween Saturday in October, I — an avowed ghost enthusiast — visited Clinton Road. I went during the daytime "so that I could take pictures," by which I mean I was too scared to go at night.
1. The "Druidic Temple"
Why It's Creepy: possible Druid ritual site
As I was informed by the signpost standing uphill from it, this furnace is all that's left of an ironmaking community built here in the 19th century. It's closed off, sort of, but the section of fence directly in front of the furnace's mouth has been broken and trampled flat, presumably by other weirdos like me. Wikipedia says it's a rumored site for "Druid rituals," but what even is a Druid? My friend Matt asked me and I pretended to know, but I didn't. I was like, "They're Masons or something." That isn't actually true. Historically, Druids were priest-philosophers, but in modern terms I think it just means "people who seem like they could be into human sacrifice."
2. Inside the Furnace
Why It's Creepy: Druid rituals; also dark and cold
At first I was too afraid to go into the furnace, but nothing weird seemed to happen to my friend when he went inside, so I decided it was probably OK. It is always good to make somebody else go in a scary place before you. Inside it was chilly like a cave, and you could look up the chimney to the (blue, non-threatening) sky above. The etchings on the inside wall were disappointingly non-Satanic — all I could make out was a heart with just one set of initials. (Maybe something happened to the other one??)
3. The Ghost Boy Bridge
Why It's Creepy: potentially murderous ghost of drowned boy
The Ghost Boy Bridge is a bit tough to find at first, because along the road's 10 miles there are several points at which you're crossing over a creek or river — this one is just the one with the most litter, graffiti, and coins sitting on rocks beneath it. Legend has it that a coin thrown over the bridge will be thrown back at you by the ghost of a boy who drowned in the brook. In other versions, he recovers the coins you leave between lane lines at midnight, or, on some days, he might even push you in.
4. Death Mask Under Ghost Boy Bridge
Why It's Creepy: masks are terrible
Before handing over our money, we explored the area beneath the bridge, which is something I definitely would not have done had it not been sunny and 3 p.m. It was mostly normal as far as bridges go until I saw this horrible mask lying on a rock and screamed "WHAT IS THAT." I kind of got over it because it was still sunny and 3 p.m., but now I'm afraid again seeing it in this picture.
A Quarter for Ghost Boy
Why It's Creepy: I gave $1 to a ghost
To accommodate the various retellings of the Ghost Boy legend, I threw a coin over the bridge and placed one between the lane lines. The one I threw off the bridge was not returned to me, though I did not wait for very long. The one I left between the lanes could very easily have been seized by a ghost boy at midnight, and I would never know.
5. Abandoned Beach Balloon
Why It's Creepy: balloon of unknown origins
The areas between sites along Clinton Road are vaguely spooky unto themselves. There wasn't anybody around when I was there, and it was very nearly silent. It was easy to imagine the woods being used for sinister purposes. My friend kept pointing at random sections of forest and saying "something is definitely going on THERE," but it was never actually clear what his criteria were. It seems fair to say that the entire thing will give you the creeps, though maybe only if you're interested in feeling the creeps. For example: Either the abandoned blue balloon I saw weaving alongside a pond was left there recently by a family with young children, OR, if you're me, it is a sign of Ghost Boy having relocated.
6. Cross Castle
Why It's Creepy: site of Satanic worship
I knew beforehand that all that was left of Cross Castle was ruins, as most of it was razed in the late '80s. I knew this. But you hear the word "castle" and you run with it, so it was somewhat underwhelming to hike a mile off the main road and arrive at this, a floor and a chimney. This is the supposed site of the evilest of gatherings, but I didn't see even one pentagram. There was a lot of broken glass, and while I suppose it could have been of the Eye of Newt bottle variety, it seems more likely that teens drink here when they are bored. If heathens gather here, they are milquetoast ones at best.
So how creepy is Clinton Road IRL?
Calling something "the scariest road in America" is a lofty claim, and one that cannot fairly be disputed by anyone who ran around it nervously during broad daylight. I did leave feeling both unafraid and unwilling to ever go back there at night.
There is just one Clinton Road rumor I can claim as having happened to me too: The Wikipedia page notes that one theme among those who visit is "seeing people dressed weirdly at odd hours." I saw a man wearing khaki shorts over white long johns with a sweater tied around his waist, which seems like it is probably weird regardless of the hour. So I would say it is definitely worth going.