ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Move over, Florida - there's a new weirdest state in the Union. Sure, you may have American Horror Story: Freak Show creeping it up all over the place, but there's another state that's been taking things to a whole new level of strange - for well over a century.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet...New Jersey.

Home to Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Smith, Bon Jovi, Jersey Shore and...pretty much everyone in Hollywood, as it turns out - the state is also home to some of the weirdest, creepiest and downright terrifying stuff you're ever likely to see. So much so, in fact, that there's a whole magazine (and website) dedicated to the strangest things the state has to offer,

Pretty much all of which would make the craziest, darkest, and most out there movies you'd ever see - and which we now very much want to see get made.

Here are five of our favorites, but be warned...things are going to get seriously, seriously weird...

1. Midgetville, NJ

First up, we take a trip to one of the most iconic - and most desperately sought out - pieces of New Jersey's strange tapestry of weird: 'Midgetville.'

(Note: we're pretty darned sure that 'midget' is no longer the politically correct term for what we're talking about here - with 'little person,' or 'person of short stature' being the preferred, non-offensive term. However, 'Midgetville' is a place so long sought after under that specific name that it seems impossible to discuss it without using it - the name itself having become an integral part of the legend).

'Midgetville,' the stories say, is a community made up entire of persons of short stature - for the most part consisting of ex-circus or vaudeville performers. There, the houses, streets and even cars are all proportionally smaller - designed specifically for their inhabitant's diminutive size.

The mysterious thing about it, though?

No-one can find it.

Rumors of 'Midgetville' have persisted for years - with the closest thing to visual confirmation being the small lake and river-side cottage communities that are dotted around the state - all without investigators being able to actually find the place.

There may have been no definitive proof of 'Midgetville' existing - but that hasn't stopped numerous reports coming in from people claiming to have been there - and of having been attacked by the town's residents. The quote below is typical:

"He told us that he drove through the town late at night with his friends with the headlights turned off. They all started yelling “Fee Fi Foe Fum!” over and over again. A couple of minutes later they noticed that things were hitting the car hard. After the back window broke they noticed that it was rocks being thrown at the car by midgets all over the area. He told us that there were also some normal sized people there too, but they had weird looking eyes."

But, until there's some kind of photographic evidence, we'll never know for sure if 'Midgetville' really exists at all. If someone does ever find it, though, they might have to think about changing the name...


What do you guys think? Is 'Midgetville'...

2. The Voodoo Bunker

From impossible-to-find communities, then, we move on to a structure that is most definitely there - and pictured above: The Sandy Hook Bunker.

Located in an abandoned military base - that from 1874 until 1919 - was used as a testing ground for the military's experimental weaponry, before later becoming a defensive battery during World War II, and a missile base during the Cold War.

In the 1970's, though, it was decommissioned, and fell into disuse and disrepair - which leads us to its present state. Time, and the sheer force of the tide, has worn away the beach, leaving the bunker pictured above stranded partly in the water.

What's inside, though, is the real mystery:

Within the abandoned bunker lie a number of strange, anthropomorphic pictograms - featuring animals being devoured, winged birdmen and odd, three-headed deer-like creatures.

Their purpose, though, is less clear. Speculation has suggested that they may have links to voodoo, and that the building has been re-purposed as a venue for secret rituals.

All we do know for sure? They've been there for over ten years, and remained undisturbed, and unclaimed.


What do you guys think? Is the Sandy Hook Bunker...

3. Jaws' Granddad - The Matawan Maneater

Some of the strangest happenings in New Jersey, though, are absolutely, indisputably true - including one of the worst shark attacks in history.

Way back in July 1916, the residents of Beach Haven, Spring Lake and Matawan, New Jersey found themselves under attack - not from the war raging in Europe at the time, but from a deadly, man-eating shark.

First, Penn Graduate Charles E. Vansant was killed while swimming offshore - attacked by a mysterious aquatic menace.

Five days later, near the Essex and Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake, Bellboy Charles Bruder became the creature's second victim - last heard screaming “A shark bit me! Bit my legs off!” while swimming off shore.

The creature, though, was far from finished. The small town of Matawan, 11 miles inland, was the last place anyone expected a shark to attack. So, when retired fishing boat captain Thomas Cattrell spotted a huge shark heading up the inland waterway towards the town, no-one believed him.

Soon, tragically, he would be proven all too right.

On July 12th, 11-year-old Lester Stillwell was attacked by the shark while swimming in the Matawan Creek - and, after his friends went to get help, his would-be-rescuer, Stanley Fischer, was too. Neither survived.

They were to be the final fatalities of the shark's rampage - but they weren't its final victim. Within an hour of that attack, 12-year-old Joseph Dunn barely escaped with his life - and without one of his legs - as the shark headed back towards the ocean.

The resulting shark-hunt was swift, broad, and lethal. Hundreds of sharks were caught and killed - and with no-one knowing the species of shark that was the culprit, all sharks were slaughtered with equal vigor.

Then, finally, an eight and a half foot Great White shark was caught near Raritan Bay - and reportedly contained 15 pounds of human remains when dissected.

The only question remaining - Did it act alone?


What do you guys think? Did the Great White kill all those people?

4. The Haunted Hindenburg Hangar

Some mysteries, of course, are far less earthly than a shark attack. The one in Lakehurst, New Jersey, for example, home today to Lakehurst Naval Base, but once to Lakehurst Naval Air Station - and the German passenger airship LZ 129, otherwise known as The Hindenburg.

When, on Thursday, May 6th, 1937, The Hindenburg caught fire, and was (iconically) destroyed, the world's attention was on Lakehurst.

Soon, though, we all forgot about the naval base there - until rumors began to spread that one particular building there - Hangar No. 1 - was home to more than just historical drama. As one former resident puts it:

"I was stationed at Lakehurst Naval Base, and let me tell you, Hangar No. 1 is indeed haunted. They used it as a morgue after the Hindenburg explosion, and there is a tunnel leading from the adjacent hangars where it was cooler to stow the bodies there. As adventurous as we were, no one would explore No. 1 after dark. There were serious bad vibes in that place!"
"Anyone in the hangar would get the “Let’s boogie now!” feeling. There were always footstep sounds up in the rafters. Something happened there to us, where a bunch of burly SEABEES all ran out screaming like girls, but for the life of me I can’t recall what it was. We were in one of the classrooms, doing MOPP training and we all ran out in the fishboots and charcoal suits, and it was high noon in the 90 degree mark!"

How much of the naval bases history can be explained, then, might just remain up in the air.


What do you guys think? Is Lakehurst home to...

5. And, of Course...The Jersey Devil

After all, no list of the weird and peculiar goings on in New Jersey would be complete without a mention of the state's most famous(ly terrifying) son.

Note, not Bon Jovi.
Note, not Bon Jovi.

That's right - The Jersey Devil.

For almost three centuries, the people of New Jersey have told tales of a mysterious creature - resembling the Devil - that terrorizes residents of the state's Pine Barrens.

It's in there, somewhere...
It's in there, somewhere...

Exactly what it is, no-one knows - though descriptions vary from a creature with "a furry body, huge feet with three toes on each one, large teeth, and stood about six feet tall," to one that "had no tail, no fur, its ribs showed, and...had a long odd head with short ears that laid flat."

There is, however, a legend that tells of its origins - way back in 1735.

As WeirdNJ tells it:

"In 1735, a Pines resident known as Mother Leeds found herself pregnant for the thirteenth time...Her husband was a drunkard who made few efforts to provide for his wife and twelve children. Reaching the point of absolute exasperation upon learning of her thirteenth child, she raised her hands to the heavens and proclaimed “Let this one be a devil!"
"Mother Leeds went into labor a few months later, on a tumultuously stormy night, no longer mindful of the curse she had utter previously regarding her unborn child. By all accounts the birth went routinely, and the thirteenth Leeds child was a seemingly normal baby boy."
"Within minutes however, Mother Leeds’s unholy wish of months before began to come to fruition. The baby started to change, and metamorphosed right before her very eyes. Within moments it transformed from a beautiful newborn baby into a hideous creature unlike anything the world had ever seen. The wailing infant began growing at an incredible rate. It sprouted horns from the top of its head and talon-like claws tore through the tips of its fingers. Leathery bat-like wings unfurled from its back, and hair and feathers sprouted all over the child’s body. Its eyes began glowing bright red as they grew larger in the monster’s gnarled and snarling face. The creature savagely attacked its own mother, killing her."

And so, a legend was born - or, at least, begun...


What do you guys think? Is the Jersey Devil...

So, the lesson from all this?

New Jersey is freaking terrifying...


So. The big one. What's the freakiest thing hidden in New Jersey?



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