Tag Archives: new jersey pine barrens

‘Alternate Reality Gaming’–in Spades

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As you read this, remind yourself that our country boasts the biggest, costliest public education system ever devised by human beings.

Here is some of what we get for it.

A dot on a map of New Jersey called “Ong’s Hat,” in the heart of the Pine Barrens, has fascinated people for years. What kind of town would have a name like that? Patty and I went there once, just to see it for ourselves. But there was nothing to see: just a lot of trees and a little-traveled road.

And then one Joseph Matheny in the 1990s invented an Internet game called “Ong’s Hat,” billed as “the secret to interdimensional travel.” And it took off.

“Alternate reality gaming” fans flocked to Ong’s Hat–which, remember, is nothing in particular–looking for a secret laboratory where rogue scientists discovered a way to visit parallel universes: not to mention the parallel universe now inhabited by some of these gamers. The most popular local legend had it that the place got its name from a man named Mr. Ong who, exasperated by a fight with his girlfriend, threw his hat into the air and lost it when it got caught in a tree. But now it was seen to be the nexus of a lot of far-out, conspiratorial goings-on. Gamers even went to Matheny’s house in California to peer through his windows, trying to spy out clues to the secret.

Finally, having decided that enough was enough already, Matheny discontinued the game in 2001. But a lot of people didn’t believe him when he said it was only a game that he’d made up. Sort of like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle refusing to believe Houdini’s admission that he had no genuine magical powers. “Yeah, right!” said Doyle.

Just this morning my editor, Susan, and I were talking about people who can’t seem to understand that science fiction isn’t real; and then Patty read me this article about the Ong’s Hat game which, for some, mutated into a full-blown delusion.

There is no interdimensional travel. There are no starships capable of faster-than-light “warp speed.” No time travel, no evidence that anything like a parallel universe exists, no Slender Man–and there was no secret science project headquartered in the nowhere that is Ong’s Hat.

And they say we’re credulous for believing the Bible.

Maybe we should’ve spent more time in college.


‘Are Unicorns Real?’ (2015)

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Before you instantaneously cry out “No!” or “Yes!”, let me add the qualifier, “sort of.” Are they sort of real? Were they ever sort of real, even if they aren’t anymore?

https://leeduigon.com/2015/01/04/are-unicorns-real/

God’s creation is too vast for any human mind to grasp. Every day we find something in it that we’d never seen before.

I mean, we can’t even be 100% sure of what’s in the New Jersey Pine Barrens–let alone the taiga forests and sprawling tundra of Siberia, thousands of times bigger.

Save some room in your mind for wonder.

 


Seein’ Things

Image result for images of jersey devil by miller and mccloy

Some of you seem to think that anyone who says he’s seen the New Jersey “Mantis Man,” let alone the Jersey Devil, must be a kook. But I’m not so sure.

My late brother-in-law, Ray, co-authored two books on the Jersey Devil, for which he conducted many face-to-face interviews and spent a lot of time getting nibbled by strawberry flies all around the Pine Barrens. At the end of it all, he used to say he was halfway convinced there was something there; but he didn’t know what.

Seeing weird stuff in places like the Pine Barrens is nowhere near as badly tainted as the whole UFO scene. There are no alleged hypnotists running around finding repressed Mantis Man encounters in everyone they put under–even if that is a good way to find “Brett Kavanagh tried to rape me!” stories. I dare say the Mantis Man stories are less incredible than those. And as for the Jersey Devil, they’ve been telling stories about him since early in the 1700s.

In evaluating stories told, currently, by persons who swear they’ve seen either of these famous cryptids, I look for several things to help me decide whether the witness is telling the truth.

*The story has to be pried out of him, and he’s clearly uncomfortable, telling it. He may even break down into tears. B.S. artists, unless they are especially gifted and happen to be named “Bill Clinton,” don’t behave like that.

*The witness is not cashing in on the story–no monetized Youtube channel, no guest spots on Lifetime TV, no Go Fund Me account, etc.

*Other than the “monster” itself, the details of the story contain nothing improbable. Like, “I was driving down this country lane at night when my car conked out” is really a lot better than “The KGB chased me into the Pine Barrens when they discovered I was a plant for the CIA.”

Some of these witnesses do seem credible to me. At least, I can’t see any reason why they would make up such a story.

Maybe they’re mistaken in what they thought they saw, although at least in some cases, you have to say nobody could be that badly mistaken. The fine details of the story may be helpful here, especially if you can get a clear description of the monster–which hardly ever is forthcoming. A lot of these encounters badly startle the witness and last for only a matter of seconds.

Is it possible that there are things out there, living things, no farther away than the Jersey Pine Barrens, that no one has ever captured, classified, or understood? Creatures that haven’t even been photographed successfully, but nevertheless exist?

I don’t know.

 


Where ‘The Jersey Devil Lurks’

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I wish I could have found a full-color image of this painting. Unfortunately, the original was lost years ago, and this black-and-white is all I could get. In the original, the prevailing color scheme is a rather sinister yellow. I saw a color photo of it many, many years ago in Life Magazine, and never forgot it. I think I must have been ten years old or less.

If you’ve never passed through the Jersey Devil’s home territory, the New Jersey Pine Barrens, I can tell you there’s no other place quite like it. Technological progress left it behind early in the 19th century, the local economy shriveled up, most of the people moved away, and their towns, homes, and factories fell into ruin. The region is known for its odd place names–Ongs Hat, Double Trouble, Speedwell–and its sandy tracks that may or may not accommodate your car and may or may not lead somewhere, or nowhere. A part of it features large vistas of stunted pines that plays tricks on your eyes. You’d swear, from your vantage point on the road, that the pines were full-size. And then a child comes walking through them, and you startle because you think you’re seeing a giant little girl.

All in all, it’s just the kind of country the Jersey Devil would choose to live in, if it lives at all. No one knows. There’s only belief or disbelief.

But when you find yourself alone on one of those deserted, feeble imitations of a road, disbelief is a little harder to come by.


‘The Jersey Devil’ by My Brother-in-Law

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I was revisiting my brother-in-law’s book today: bittersweet, because Ray is in a bad way and needs our prayers; and his co-author, Jim McCloy, has passed on. Published in 1976, with a new edition in 2016, this is sort of the definitive work on New Jersey’s most famous (or infamous) piece of folklore; and there are some 75,000 copies in print.

And y’know something? This is a very good book! They had a lot of fun researching it, chasing down people and their stories all over the Pine Barrens. It’s well-written, an easy read, and full of wonderful illustrations and photos. Years later they wrote a sequel, Phantom of the Pines–because there are always new stories and sightings of the Jersey Devil. He could fill another volume today, if only he were well enough to do it.

I think the book will live on after him. He never did achieve his dream of being a published novelist, but The Jersey Devil has staying power. It’s still out there on amazon.com, and it’s the kind of book you’ll want to read again from time to time.

For him and Jim it was a labor of love; and it shows.


The Mystery of the Jersey Devil

Here is the definitive work on the Jersey Devil. Yes, I know co-author Ray Miller is my brother-in-law. That doesn’t mean there’s no Jersey Devil. Doesn’t mean there is, either.

For those of us who think we know everything, or someday will know everything (thanks to Science), allow me to introduce the Jersey Devil.

Stories of the Jersey Devil have been circulating in New Jersey since the 1730s, and encounters with him, or it, are still being reported today ( http://weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/ ). Normally associated with the Pine Barrens of southern NJ, the Devil has recently–so it seems–expanded his operations to the area of Round Valley Reservoir in the northern part of the state ( .http://thedamienzone.com/2012/06/16/jersey-devil-sightings-in-northern-new-jersey/)  Over the centuries, he’s also popped up in other states.

We are at liberty to say the stories aren’t true. There are an awful lot of stories, though. Thousands of ’em. And why should anyone but a kook want to go around saying he’s seen the Jersey Devil, when he hasn’t? Is everyone a liar? Is everyone a kook?

We don’t have the fire, but we sure do have a lot of smoke.

What is the Jersey Devil? Some say it’s just that–a devil, a demonic entity. Others insist it’s a flesh-and-blood cryptozoological critter, like the Loch Ness Monster. Or a raptor, like in Jurassic Park. The point is, no one knows. No one has ever known.

And, in all probability, never will.


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