HomeHaddonfield NewsGet your Halloween scares right here

Get your Halloween scares right here

“Paranormal Activity 3” opened up last week and made more than $50 million at the box office, the largest opening weekend for a horror movie of all time. But who needs to be scared at a movie theater when there are oh so many paranormal hotspots and local legends right here in South Jersey to raise the hair on the back of your neck this Halloween? This intrepid reporter strapped on his proton pack, loaded up on garlic and holy water, and set out to check out some of the most well-known haunted locations right here in our backyard.

First and foremost, I decided to put my foot down on possible Jersey Devil sightings. Yes, it’s quite possibly the most well-known legend in the state, and every few years, someone will report seeing a “kangaroo like” monster with a horse head, cloven hooves, leathery wings and fangs flying through the woods somewhere in the Pine Barrens, but enough is enough, really. Sure there was that one week in 1909 where clusters of cities throughout South Jersey (such as Haddonfield, Camden and Haddon Heights) reported eye-witness of the Jersey Devil, but there are just far too many to investigate.

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And really, what has the Jersey Devil done for anybody lately? Sure, it’s the namesake of a very mediocre NHL team in the state, but other than that, I can’t think of anything else (Editors note: If I’m found dead tomorrow with hoof prints on my caved in skull, then you’ll know who to search out).

Lets start down in Atco, shall we?

The Atco Ghost

When I was trying to decide what local hotspots to feature, I stuck my head into the Elauwit advertising department on a slow afternoon and asked two employees if they remembered any legends from their youth growing up in South Jersey. One was no help whatsoever (thanks Joe) but the other, Rob, immediately mentioned the Atco Ghost.

Anyone growing up in South Jersey surely had a friend who claimed to have seen the Atco Ghost on Burnt Mill Road. The eerie specter has been documented by the two authors of “Weird NJ,” a bible for ghost hunters in New Jersey and lovers of local legends in the garden state.

“Weird N.J.,” published, edited and written by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran, is a magazine and now book series that feature written accounts of back road attractions, local legends and ghost stories that are sent in by loyal readers throughout the state.

According to legend, and several issues of Weird N.J., the Atco Ghost appears for motorists as they travel down Burnt Mill Road in Atco. The ghost, according to “eye witnesses,” is a small boy that bounces a basketball and runs out into the road as motorists drive down Burnt Mill Road. A drunk driver supposedly sped down the dead end street and struck the child many years ago, killing him, and then speeding off after making a u-turn, neglecting to stop as the driver sped past the body.

Want to see the ghost? Most versions of the story state that if you drive your car down the road at midnight, stop at the end where it turns into a dirt road, turn off your lights, and you’ll see the ghostly specter of the child run out in front of your car and then disappear into the woods.

Because I don’t have a night-vision camera, nor did I want to have the police called on me, I travelled out to Burnt Mill Road in the middle of the day to see if I could rustle up the little specter. Burnt Mill Road is most certainly a residential road, with homes dotting either side of the mile-long stretch of asphalt and the Atco municipal authority at the end of the road.

But…it is undoubtedly creepy. Lined by old trees, the homes are spread widely enough apart that you do have a sense of loneliness as you drive down the roadway. The road does continue far into the woods, but since my 2006 Toyota Scion xA doesn’t have four-wheel drive I didn’t want to chance becoming stuck in the mud when the road turns into dirt at the end of the stretch.

It was creepy and it was fairly deserted, as I didn’t see any other cars or pedestrians on the road, but it’s hard to be too nervous when there is a youth soccer complex near the end of the roadway as well. I flashed my lights, yelled out a few times, got out of my car and took pictures, but I couldn’t attract any ghosts to at least come out and say hello.

The highlight of the trip? I did see a squirrel at one point on the side of the road. It may or may not have been a ghost squirrel; I couldn’t tell. I swear I saw him holding a small pitchfork, but it might have been the sun in my eyes.

Nuts to the Atco Ghost, I’m going to Haddonfield next, one of the most historic towns in all of South Jersey.

The Three Sisters — 227 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield

Haddonfield has quite a history, with its roots dating back prior to the Revolutionary War, so it’s no wonder that there are so many legends and hauntings that have attached themselves to the borough.

In search of some of the best ones, I spoke with Bill Meehan, a Haddonfield resident and author of “Haunted Haddonfield,” a compendium of tales that feature some of the most haunted locations in the borough. The local author is a professional at this sort of thing. Each year, he gives several walking tours of the haunted history of Haddonfield and is currently working on his second book to share some new stories about this small town.

The most haunted locations in the borough? Well that’s easy, Meehan said: That would have to be the “Three Sisters” homes at 227, 229 and 231 Kings Highway East. Built in the 1830s by Judge John Clement for his three daughters, Meehan said that these three historic row homes in the borough have some of the best and most lively tales associated with them.

While 229 has been relatively quiet, 227 and 231 have long been regarded as two of the most haunted homes in South Jersey, Meehan said.

One of the daughters, who owned 227 Kings Highway East, married into the prominent Hopkins family in the borough. Her husband, Griffith Morgan Hopkins, was the chief operator of the Hopkins Mill. He would entertain local children at the mill by performing tricks above the milling wheel, jumping and swinging from rafters for their amusement. However, one day, Meehan said Hopkins lost his balance and fell into the mill and was crushed by the milling wheel, leaving his wife to raise five children at the house by herself.

The last surviving child lived at the house in 1917, Meehan said, and in the 1920s, the home was sold to another family. The family didn’t last long, as the owners claimed the home was “cursed,” and living there made them feel “miserable and anxious.”

“Even to this day, people working there have been saying for many years that there is a cold spot in what was the dining room of that house. In the hottest day it’s freezing cold,” Meehan said. “When people are working there at night, they claim they can hear the voices of a woman and small children when there is nobody in the building.”

Remington and Vernick Engineers currently owns all three buildings, so I decided to take a trip over to the buildings to talk to a few of the employees myself.

Tara McKay, an employee of the engineering firm for the past 10 years, has split time in both the 227 and 231 offices, she said. When I asked her if she had experienced anything “supernatural” or “creepy” in the offices, she was quick to share several stories with me.

“One night, when I was working late, I heard a woman’s voice and the voices of several children in the building. Nobody else was working late and I jumped up from my desk and went to the window to see if someone was outside. Of course, there wasn’t,” she said with a laugh. “It sounded like it was coming from the back of the building, and when I went back there to check it out, nothing was around. It was creepy.”

McKay also talked about an incident when she was working late and walked into the backroom of the building. In the backroom is a magnetic board that the employees clock in and out of, she said, with the use of some very strong magnets.

She walked past the board and noticed that all of the magnets were in place as they should have been, she said, but when she walked back about a minute later, one of the magnets was in the middle of the floor.

“It was smack dab in the middle of the floor. There was no way that it could have fallen off by itself, those are some strong magnets,” she said.

While she didn’t have any good stories about 231, she told me to talk to Chip Adamson, one of the longest-tenured employees at the firm.

231 Kings Highway East

The origins of 231 are a little grizzlier than its 229 sister, Meehan said, as Clement’s daughter Sally moved into the home with her husband Joshua Browning. Browning died at a very young age, Meehan said, for unknown reasons.

So distraught by his abrupt death, Meehan said that Sally hanged herself in the third floor bedroom.

“So she committed suicide in the front, third floor bedroom. The house stood empty for several years, but was then sold to a local doctor in the early 20th century. He moved in with his family and his servants, and it was customary for the servants to live on the top floor,” he said. “One Saturday night, a maid awakened the family with horrible screaming. She had been out on a date that night and had slipped into the house through a back entrance to not disturb anyone. She went into the third floor, which was Sally’s bedroom, and the daughter’s ghost burst through the door when she was getting ready for bed. She ran out onto the street where she was calmed down by the doctor and his wife. For years after, nobody would work in the house, it was widely known in Haddonfield to be haunted.”

Stories about doors closing, footsteps in the third floor and a woman’s voice echoing through the building have circulated for years with employees at the home, Meehan said.

The stories are very true, Adamson said, as the senior associate manager of the engineering firm told me. A number of other employees — who didn’t want to be quoted — said they don’t like to work in the building late at night because it’s too “creepy.”

“I do work long hours at night. The only thing I can say is that I always hear doors creaking and footsteps of people walking around upstairs when I’m alone here. I never hear anything in my office, it’s always upstairs or in the back,” he said. “I’ll get up from my office and I’ll yell out if anyone is here, and then I’ll walk around to see if someone else is around. They never are.”

There are several spots in the building that are always cold as well, Adamson said, no matter what time of the year.

The most disconcerting event that happens about once a month? Adamson said he will hear footsteps walking down from the third floor to the second when nobody else is in the building late at night.

“I’ll go up and check them out and of course nobody will be there. It’s creepy,” he said.

Well, there you have it — three of the oldest legends and haunted hotspots in South Jersey. If you decide to check them out for yourself, please remember that they are places of business and a residential road.

Interested in learning about more legends near you? Check out Weird N.J.’s website at www.weirdnj.com.


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