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The “Killer” History Behind Spooky Shades of Death Road

About an hour outside New York City is Shades of Death Road, a place marred by history and lore. Some say spirits from long ago still torment drivers along this ill-fated roadway.

If you’ve never heard the name, you’re missing out on the creepy cruise of a lifetime.

Today, we’re exploring the history of this scenic byway so you can decide if it’s a ride you’re willing to take.

Let’s hit it!

A spooky forest with what could be spirits along the Shades of Death Road.
Is Shades of Death Road a little too spooky for you?

About Shades of Death Road

The ominously named Shades of Death Road serves as a spooky tale, especially as Halloween approaches. Folks claim that spirits haunt this seven-mile stretch and the land it traverses. According to locals, you just might see them if you travel the route late at night. 

Appropriately, nearby locations include Ghost Lake and the Fairy Hole. The latter is a small cave once used by the indigenous Lenape peoples. 

Ethereal wisps of fog appear on Ghost Lake, rising up like creatures from the deep. If you choose to venture down this infamous road, either of these spots might give you the heebie-jeebies.

Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the prevalence of strange sightings is undeniable. Perhaps animals or some other mundane cause are to blame. No matter their origins, it’s safe to say this spooky scenic byway has earned an interesting reputation. 

Where Is Shades of Death Road?

Shades of Death Road runs through rural Warren County in Northern New Jersey. This is one of the least populated regions in the state. Fertile river valleys make it a vital agricultural zone. In addition to farmland, you’ll see hilly terrain scarred by rocky outcroppings, dense woodlands, and the occasional lake or river.

The southern end of the route hugs the edge of Jenny Jump State Forest. More than 21,000 years ago, receding glaciers formed the landscape. 

In temperate weather, you can enjoy sprawling vistas, superb hiking trails, and hidden fishing spots throughout the park. Snowshoers, ice fishers, and cross-country skiers take advantage of the natural resources in winter.

However, autumn brings out ghost hunters, mediums, and others looking to connect with the other side. Or simply to enjoy a spooky adventure.

How Did Shades of Death Road Get Its Name?

Growing up, most of us probably heard stories about haunted sites in our hometowns. While many are urban legends, others have roots in reality. For kids in Warren County, Shades of Death Road is that creepy place. 

Plenty of lore exists about this eerie locale. According to one tale, the road was the site of multiple murders in the 1920s and 30s. They range from a robbery gone wrong to much more sinister stories. Another claims a woman murdered her husband, chopped up his body, and buried pieces of his remains along the route. 

Other accounts point to a more ancient history. They say the disturbance of Native American burial sites is to blame for the terrifying sightings. After all, the Lenape people inhabited this area long before Europeans arrived and drove them from their ancestral lands.

Both mythology and historical reports about Shades of Death Road are plentiful, making it harder to get the facts straight. We may never know precisely where the foreboding moniker originated.

Fun Things To Do Near Shades of Death Road

If you’re looking for a spooky route to explore, this New Jersey byway has the potential to scare your socks off. However, you’ll also want to keep yourself occupied during the day.

Here are a few top picks for things to do in the area. 

Visit the Lakota Wolf Preserve

You won’t find many places around the country to see the majestic wolf up close and personal. However, you can do just that at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, the largest sanctuary in the Northeast. Located less than 30 minutes from Shades of Death Road, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.

They’re not always open for visitors, so be sure to book a tour beforehand. In fact, they might fill up as much as three months in advance. 

After parking on the grounds, you can take the half-mile walk to the preserve or wait for the shuttle bus. Tours last about 75 minutes and include information about their four wolfpacks, plus foxes, lynx, and bobcats.

Explore Tranquility Farms

When the leaves turn from green to gold and a chill hits the air, you know it’s time for a fall farm visit. Tranquility Farms in Andover is a family-friendly destination with many seasonal activities. 

Traipse through the pumpkin patch and pick your own gourd. You can get lost in the corn maze or ride on the Cow Train. There’s also a petting zoo, a pumpkin launch, and a whole lot of good food. Prices start at less than $10, so it’s an economical and fun way to spend a fantastic autumn day.

Pro tip: Visit the Tranquility Farms website for weekday and weekend events.

Check Out the Waterloo Village Historic Site

Another short drive from Shades of Death Road will take you to the Waterloo Village Historic Site. You can explore the grounds of this 19th-century township from dawn to dusk at no cost. They offer tours on weekends between May and October. 

The farm site and the Rutan Cabin offer a glimpse of life in the 1800s. You might learn about wilderness skills, food foraging, or the lifeways of the Lenape. 

Located in the Musconetcong River Valley, the property has numerous natural resources. Many amphibious species live in the Waterloo Vernal Pool, and lots of wildlife inhabits the surrounding Winakung forest. 

Tour the state and explore these 7 Spectacular Castles in New York.

Wolf howling at sunset with fog and mist. Tour the Lakota Wolf Preserve while you're waiting to visit Shades of Death Road.
Tour the Lakota Wolf Preserve while you’re waiting to visit Shades of Death Road.

Best Places to Stay Near Shades of Death Road

Make yourself comfortable and stick around for a while. Whether you’re just in town for ghost hunting or have a whole itinerary planned, you’ll enjoy your time here if you’re not in a rush. Here are three options for overnight accommodations in the area. 

Jenny Jump State Forest Campground

If you want to explore Shades of Death Road, Jenny Jump State Forest Campground might be the most convenient place to stay. That is if you’re okay with dry camping. They offer 22 RV and tent sites from April through Halloween. Showers, fire rings, picnic tables, and water are available on the grounds. 

But the main reason to stay here is the natural beauty. Recreational trails meander through the park, with some leading to spectacular views of the valley below. 

We found more camping options for you: 7 Best New York Beach Campgrounds.

Everitt House Bed and Breakfast

Hackettstown, New Jersey, is about 15 minutes from Shades of Death Road. This charming town is home to Everitt House Bed and Breakfast. Visitors note the first-class accommodations, delicious breakfast, and cozy beds. 

The home dates to 1875 and still retains its vintage charm. Colorful stained glass windows, French doors, and tasteful decorations speak for the home’s rich history. Because it has a limited number of rooms, you’ll want to book ahead if possible. 

The Inn at Millrace Pond

This property offers a unique stay on the grounds of the old Moravian Grist Mill. The inn and wedding venue surround you with beauty. Explore the streams, stone cottages, and 250-year-old tavern while you’re here. 

You can rent a private cabin or one of the main building’s 17 rooms. Depending on which space you reserve, you might have a jacuzzi tub, a loft, or views of the trickling river out your window.

Discover more Ghost Stories of New York State.

Is a Shades of Death Road Trip Worth It?

If you like the idea of exploring a scenic byway steeped in mystery, Shades of Death Road could be worth the trip. Even if you don’t catch an apparition on camera, you’ll enjoy telling spooky stories along the way.

Plus, the surrounding area has a lot to offer visitors. Local, family-friendly farms, ancient history, and captivating scenery are just the tip of the iceberg!

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