New Jersey Haunts

Written by: Elias Zwillenberg

Published By: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.

Reviewed by Dorothy Doremus

            Itís that time of the year.  The leaves are turning all of the colors of fall.  Pumpkins are being carved, apples being baked into piesÖah, I do love the Autumn season.  What makes Autumn special?  Halloween!  Since I was a kid I loved all things Halloween: costumes, parties, pumpkin carving and, of course, ghost stories.  So, when I happened across New Jersey Haunts, I could not wait to read it.  Not only for the ghost stories, but for the local history as well.  I was really looking forward to some tales of the supernatural and the authorís claims of authenticating the stories in the book.

            So, I dove into the novel, hoping that the authorís introduction would reflect in all of the stories - some of the most infamous in New Jersey - with Elias Zwillenberg reviewing witness testimony and backgrounds of claims, because the author is a skeptic.  I was expecting some debunking. 

            Unfortunately, he opened his novel with one of the most hotly contested tales around: The Jersey Devil.  I hate to discount any tale, because I havenít experienced the Pine Barrens or seen any unnamed creature firsthand.  I am a total believer in ghosts, but I have a hard time with the legend of The Jersey Devil.  Elias Zwillenberg also doesnít help his case with the tale of The Paulinskill Troll.  Sorry, but the last time I saw a troll it was in a Harry Potter movie.  Of course it would be appropriate to see such a thing in a Harry Potter film, but in a haunted stories bookÖnot so much.  If you are a skeptic as you claim to be, then why the creature double feature?  After all, devils and trolls are a lot harder to prove than spirits.

            The author also promises to have spoken to actual witnesses.  Well, most of the tales were told as if they were legends.  They start with a popular boy, but no one remembers his name.  The only credible evidence from some of the tales came from highly documented stories such as the Spy House, which was actually profiled in an episode of Syfyís Ghost Hunters.  These tales have a large historical background to explain the activity. 

            Most of the accounts in New Jersey Haunts are too vague.  The accounts of experience sounded almost like an article one could find in Weird New Jerseyís magazines or books.  There were several references to Weird New Jersey, that I actually started to think Elias Zwillenberg had an affiliation with them.

            There are some credible locations that have been legitimately investigated by other organizations.  These chapters are worth the read if you havenít ever been introduced to these locations.

            I have to say that New Jersey Haunts was not what I was expecting.  I truly felt let down.  If the introduction wasnít so strongly adamant about checking out the tales and only having credible and convincing accounts, I might have been sold on the quicker stories, such as Rose Hill Cemetery, featuring way too much hearsay and not enough substance.

            If you decide to purchase this book, use it for what it is, a story book for kids sitting around a campfire or at a Halloween party as a way to scare some guests.  Other than that, this book was not one of the better collections of haunted tales I have read.


For more historical ghost tales, check out these links:

Ghosts of Central New Jersey

The Haunted Series

The Nearly Departed

Ghosts of the Revolutionary War

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