Who doesn’t love a fall cruise down a beautiful wooded two-lane road with dips and turns as the leaves begin to change color? What if those woods held something other than deer and squirrels? Something more sinister? These five stretches of asphalt are said to have everything from ghosts to escaped zoo animals, all ready to scare the heck out of you…
1: Archer Avenue.
Possibly one of the most haunted areas in all of the Chicago area, the stretch of Archer Avenue between Resurrection Cemetery and St. James-Sag Church weaves its way through forests, lakes, and multiple graveyards, all with their own terrifying tales. Ghostly monks haunt the areas around St. James-Sag, the “Gray Baby” lurks at Sacred Heart Cemetery, and phantom horse riders cross the street at nearby 95th and Kean. But perhaps none of the supernatural tales is as well-known as that of Resurrection Mary. Chicago's Resurrection Mary is one of the most famous "vanishing hitchhikers" ever. She's been scaring the crap out of the motorists on Archer Avenue since the 1930s, and with her consistent appearances she shows no sign of slowing down.
According to legend, Mary is the spirit of teenage girl who, after getting into a fight with her boyfriend, decided to walk home from the Oh Henry Ballroom (now known as the Willowbrook Ballroom and Banquets) late one night. After less than a mile, Mary is struck and killed in a hit-and-run by a driver who flees the scene and is never found. Distraught, Mary's parents lay her body to rest in Resurrection Cemetery , wearing the same outfit she wore the night of the dance. The End. Kind of.
Since 1939 people leaving the Willowbrook Ballroom have reported seeing a woman in a white dress standing on the side of the road. Whenever she's picked up by a passing motorist, the quiet girl says nothing the entire ride, until the car passes the Resurrection Cemetery and she promptly disappears into thin air. Sometimes Mary exits the car, and in one famous story she actually burns her hands into the cemetery gates, which still bare the marks to this day.
Sometimes men will meet Mary at a local dance and when they offer her a ride home she'll accept, only once the car passes the cemetery she pulls the usual disappearing act. There are plenty of variations of the vanishing hitchhiker story, though they all end the same way... with Mary disappearing into thin air. Folklorists and story lovers believe Mary's true identity is actually Mary Bregovy, a young girl who died in 1934. Others think she might be Anna "Marja" Norkus, another girl who died in a car crash returning home from Oh Henry Ballroom.
Plenty of perfectly sane people have claimed to see the ghost of Mary standing on the side of the road along Archer Ave. And if you're looking for something spooky to do this Halloween, Resurrection Mary is one of the most iconic American ghost stories of all time, so you can't get much spookier than that! Swing through Resurrection Cemetery (home to the world's largest stained glass window) and grab a drink at the Willowbrook Ballroom and maybe you'll see Mary too. Just, don't give her a ride, 'cause she never chips in for gas.
2: Clinton Road.
Ghost sightings, KKK meetings, Witches, and even Druidic ceremonies all on one road? That’s how the rumors go about Clinton Road in Passaic County, NJ. After a sharp “dead man’s curve” you’ll come to the Ghost Boy Bridge where legend says if you toss a coin into the water a boy will toss it back. A little further up the road are the ruins of Cross Castle, thought to be a hotbed for Satanic activities and even the KKK. Not scared yet? We forgot to mention that thanks to Jungle Habitat closing years ago there may be all sorts of terrifying wild animals roaming the woods.
Jungle Habitat, is a completely abandoned animal theme park turned somewhat terrifying “recreational area.” When the decision was made to shutter the New Jersey safari-themed amusement park, the powers-that-be thought that simply abandoning the grounds would be enough to take the wildlife out of the park. However, they neglected to remember one key fact about the abandoned jungle’s untamed beasts– they're hard-wired for survival. First reports of the abandoned space being not-so barren came a few years after the initial closure of the park in 1976. When West Milford residents voted against the expansion of Jungle Habitat, the current owners, Warner Brothers, cut their losses and stepped away from the unlucky theme park. Leading up to this decision there were troubling incidents of visitor attacks and diseased animals on the loose. From the first days of the park’s opening, it became apparent that no one involved had the slightest notion of how to run an entertainment spot filled with wild beasts- closure seemed like a much simpler option.
In the aftermath of the shutdown there were difficulties- it was rumored that a binge-drinking session of some locals had led to an impromptu late night hunting party that killed more than thirty of the park’s more exotic animals, including lions, zebras, and elephants. A horrendous pile of carcasses was left behind for more than six months due to both parties refusing to take responsibility. Without any supervision or structure to regulate the park, Jungle Habitat was forgotten, and the wild things crept back in. And now, decades later, the strange rumors still persist. Locals have reported seeing kangaroos, monkeys, and other non-dangerous untamed beasts roaming around the outskirts of the reserve. The park itself has become overgrown and wild and the buildings have been reduced to ruins. More than forty years later, the park finally looks the part of a jungle habitat. Don’t take our word for it, though- the space is still very much accessible and a compelling scene for those with a passion for exploration- just make sure you watch out for the creatures within.
3. Shades of Death Road.
There are some roads that just shouldn't be traveled, and funny enough, it seems that New Jersey has most of them. The scariest of them all might just be the legendary, and appropriately-named, Shades of Death Road, where murder was mundane and the ghosts of the dead still roam. If Clinton Road is the scariest road in NJ, Shades of Death has to be a close second. Located in central Warren County, NJ, the two-lane road is seven miles of terror running right along Jenny Jump State Forest near I-80. If you can imagine something terrible, it’s probably been said to have happened here… Legend says a band of anti-establishment types took to the woods around Shades of Death Road and often murdered each other and anyone else encroaching on their woods. The low-hanging branches are said to have been used in multiple lynchings. Others say the road used to just be “The Shades,” but as more and more murders happened here, “of Death” got added.
The last, and most plausible, explanation for the name is that the area was the site of a nasty malaria outbreak and the road’s name is in reference to the many who died from the plague. The areas around the road such as Ghost Lake offer their own spooky stories too, like the cabin near Ghost Lake where all sorts of supernatural activities have been reported. And you might want to stay in your car because the nearby Bear Swamp is also known as Cat Swamp for its packs of mean wild cats.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Shades of Death was the site of at least three brutal murders. In one, a man had his head caved in with a tire iron over a few gold coins, and in another, a woman beheaded her husband and buried both parts of his body on opposite sides of the road. Lastly, a local resident, Bill Cummins, was brutally shot to death and buried in a roadside mud pile. His murder was never solved.
4: Mona Lisa Drive.
Legend says a rich local man donated a collection of statuary with the stipulation they create one statue to pay tribute to his deceased daughter, Mona. The details around the legend of Mona’s death are murky, but supposedly Mona and the sailor she loved used to walk hand-in-hand through what is now New Orleans City Park, but their love would not last… One version has her father forbidding the romance and Mona killing herself. Another says the sailor didn’t really love her and when he dumped her the reaction from Mona was so violent he killed her to silence her. Sadly, people eventually destroyed her memorial statue in City Park. Today, she’s said to haunt young lovers who drive down Mona Lisa Drive. Couples hoping to do a little “parking” along Mona Lisa Drive may hear a woman moaning in heartache and even scratching at their windows.
5. Haynesville Woods, Route 2A.
Route 2A that runs through the town of Haynesville in the southern part of Aroostook County in Maine has been a death trap for years and years, and now it has the ghosts of its dead to deal with too... Before driving the road, go listen to the Dick Curless song, “A Tombstone Every Mile.” It’s about this road. The song is more about how dangerous the road is during the winter, but it’s plenty scary the rest of the year for other reasons… With all the deaths this stretch of road has piled up, it’s only natural some scary stories would emerge. The most common involve a woman trying to beg for help for a car accident involving her and her husband. If you choose to help her, however, you’re overcome with a deep dark chill and the woman disappears. The other most common ghost sighting is a small girl who was killed by a semi while walking down the road.