Jenny Jump Park's Ghost Lake from NJ State Parks
Jenny Jump State Forest is located in New Jersey's Warren County along the rolling terrain of the Jenny Jump Mountain Range. Vistas of the Highlands and the Kittatinny Mountains - which has its own set of eerie legends - to the west, and scenic views of the Great Meadows in the east await the visitor who climbs the narrow path leading to the top of the peak.
Rocky outcroppings and boulders line the trail, evidence of the great glaciers that once covered the site. There are 14 miles of trail, scenic views galore, hunting and fishing lands...and the spirit of Jenny, the lore of Ghost Lake, and the legends of neighboring Shades of Death Road and Lenape Lane.
The namesake's story has it that Jenny was a nine year old girl from back in the settler days who lived in a small white house below a cliff. One day the child was picking berries on the rocks above when an Indian surprised her.
In fear she cried to her father below for help. He responded, "Jump, Jenny Jump!" The child leaped from the cliff to her death (it's unsaid, but we assume poppa was below and tried to catch her. Oooops.)
Her small figure, it's claimed, can still be seen wandering around the cliff. She's been described differently; some say she's a little girl in white that skips along the trail, while others describe her as being in a dark blue dress with white sleeves and light hair.
Ghost Lake was created in the early 1900's when two men dammed a creek that ran through the narrow valley between houses they had just built. They came up with the lake's name because of the wraithlike vapors they saw rising off it in the early mornings, and called the vale Haunted Hollow; both are part of the park.
Visitors report that no matter what time of night they visit the lake, the sky above it always seems as bright as twilight. Several have sighted ghosts in the area, especially in a deserted (and now demolished) old cabin across the lake from Shades of Death Road. The spooks are supposedly the victims of long ago murders.
As far as the lake itself, one legend says that the early settlers killed the Indians and threw them into the lake. This seems pretty unlikely, considering that the lake doesn't date back that far in time.
A more likely tale says that the mists are the ghosts of Indians floating up the mountain from an old burial ground beneath the waters. Nearby is a cave known as the Fairy Hole, a Lenape site that may have held religious significance to the Native Americans. Now it's sacred to teen party crowds and graffiti taggers.
Then we have Shades of Death Road which runs along the border of the park by the lake. Why the name? Well, pick your poison; no one really knows the origin.
Some say it's named for the guys murdered in the Ghost Lake cabin. Other theories cite malarial swamps, murderdous highwaymen who were hung along the road, a long history of killings and suicides, attacks by wild animals, or fatal car accidents that happened along the dark, twisty lane at night. The area has its own mythology.
A popular saga of urban mythology involves Lenape Lane, an unpaved private road that is little more than a driveway to some homes that ends at a farm house.
People report that the area is always chilly, gives one a sense of foreboding, and there are claims of seeing apparitions on it.
Legend also has it that nighttime visitors to Lenape Lane can sometimes spot an orb of white light (other versions of the story claim the orbs are the headlights of a phantom car) that appears near the end of the road and chases cars back out to Shades Of Death. There's also the tale of the eerie red light.
The red light is from a reflector nailed in a tree in the middle of the lane, meant to warn drivers that the road bears right. Legend says that if you circle around the tree and drive down the road again at midnight and see the red light shine in the mirror, the driver will die.
Our guess is that the legend was started and spread by the homeowners on Lenape Lane, who have had it up to here with the kids laying rubber up and down their narrow lane at all hours of the night.
Another bit of lore tells of a bridge over the Flatbrook River on Old Mine Road off of the Shades of Death. If drivers stop after midnight with their high beams on and honk their horns three times, they'll be greeted by the ghosts of two youngsters who were run over while playing on the road.
The bridge is no longer accessible by car; a new span has been built next to it. You can still get to the spooked-out bridge on foot. Maybe if you have a good set of flashlights and a vuvuzela, you can still coax the spirits out to visit...
The most enduring legend from Shades of Death Road is that of the Native American spirit guide who takes the shape of a deer and appears along the road at night. If drivers don't avoid him as he crosses the road and crash into the phantom whitetail, they will soon get into a serious accident with a real deer.
A local threw cold water on the legends, writing us that "Bootlegger's started all the spooky tales to keep people away from the area and their stills in the 1920's; it's that simple. Quite a few farmers hung themselves along that road, but more hung or shot themselves on Alphano Road, which runs parallel to Shades on the other side of the valley. I was raised there and never saw a Ghost. I saw lots of spirits though, of the liquid kind."
Our suggestion is to take a day trip to Ghost Lake if you're into communing with the spirits. While the Shades of Death lore is appealing, it's beyond old to the homeowners, with the noise and stolen street signs making their lives spooky. And most people think the combination of its name and unlit, tree-lined back road make-up are the genesis of its tales.