The New Jersey Pine Barrens is a truly extraordinary place that covers a vast amount of land, roughly 1.1 million acres. With so much land to cover, it's easy to see how so many ghost stories could have spawned from its turbulent history as well as the abandoned towns that dot its landscape. The Pine Barrens also drew plenty of attention when it was featured in The Sopranos, and many people drove to New Jersey just to see what this barren landscape was really like.
The combination of the atmosphere this land has surrounding it as well as its environment, which is filled with soil that's devoid of nutrients, meaning the only plants that grow there are those which are carnivorous or can survive on nutrient-deficient soil. Knowing that, it's also easy to see how this land is pretty devoid of human life, too - there are many people who call the Pine Barrens home and the businesses that do reside in this area of New Jersey often have some tribute or another to one of its many ghost stories, such as the Jersey Devil. As of 1978, all 1.1 million acres were designated as protected land, and it's open for hiking and other recreational activities.
Pine Barrens Settlements Date Extraordinarily Far Back
The first people to ever live in the Pine Barrens were the Lenni Lenape Indians, who lived in the area around 1200 A.D. For centuries, the land was undisturbed and around 1694, the first European settlers began moving in. They brought with them their families and started new families, slowly growing in size as they moved in the Mullica River region of the Pine Barrens. Since New Jersey was such an iron-producing region, the area played a large role in the Revolutionary War as well as the War of 1812. This is, perhaps, the first known timeline of violence on Pine Barrens land. When coal was first discovered not too far away in Pennsylvania, the settlements in the Pine Barrens for essential goners - many people fled to the state in the name of jobs and on the promise of a better life.
As a result, entire settlements in the Pine Barrens were left, basically, to rot. This is where much of the paranormal activity is said to come from - along with the ghost of what was once a somewhat lively settlement, the ghosts of those who once lived there are said to still inherit the land. One of the spirits who is said to still wander the Pine Barrens is none other than the headless Captain Kidd. Along with his spirit, it's said that many more roam the land, including a boy who was the victim of a hit and run who still wanders, said to be searching for the person who killed him on Burnt Mill Road. Stories about a white stag that wonders the area, as well as a black dog that is said to dwell in the area, as well. One of the most famous stories involves a man named James Still, who was a doctor during the time of slavery, who was lynched for practicing in the medical field. In contrast to the others, it's said that Still is a friendly spirit who will actually help people who find themselves in need.
Strange Supernatural Creatures
The Jersey Devil is perhaps one of the most popular and well-known legends to come out of New Jersey, specifically, out of the Pine Barrens. This region is a breeding ground for supernatural stories and there's none so menacing as the creature that is said to fly through the trees. The tale of the Jersey Devil claims that the creature is actually the 13th child of a woman who went by the name of Deborah Leeds. When the child was born in 1735, it's said that the demon who came out had hooves, wings, and a head like a horse. If that's not creepy enough, there are plenty of eyewitness accounts to back up the claims that this cryptid creature actually exists. Those who haven't actually seen the creature have said they can hear it, as its high-pitched scream is terrifyingly recognizable.
The first person who recorded an actual sighting was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte's brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The sighting dates back to 1820 when it was said that he saw the creature himself and, 20 years later, the same creature was determined to be the cause of various livestock killings in the area. The paranoia and fear surrounding the Jersey Devil became so real during the early 1900s that in 1909, hundreds of people reported seeing the creature. These sightings were taken very seriously as there were a number of reported attacks in the area, as well, and things were so chaotic that schools even shut down for a short time until things returned to a relatively normal state, but not before a $10,000 bounty was announced for anyone who could catch the elusive Jersey Devil.