Who doesn’t love a haunted hike through the woods in the middle of the night? Sign you up?
So, what that makes the BoToNa Trail (short for BAck TO NAture) in New Jersey so frightening!? It’s the Jersey Devil!
The Jersey Devil story is centuries old. And, over the years, there have been over 2,000 reported sightings (right up there with Sasquatch!). In 1735, Mother Leeds, a Pine Barrens native, gave birth to her 13th child. Some say she was a witch and that the child’s father was the devil himself.
Born on a stormy night, the baby was anything but human. It killed the midwife and flew off into the woods. For years it tormented local children and farmers, killing livestock. Many describe the creature as having hooves, wings and a forked tail; some also add horns and a blood-curling scream to the description.
Researchers theorize that the story began as an attempt to discredit the Leeds Family by political rivals or local Quakers who did not approve of their non-Quaker religious beliefs. Known as the Leeds Devil until the early 1900s, even Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph claimed to have spotted the winged devil. 
The BoTona Trail is a very rural, secluded trail through deep woods making it the perfect setting for a haunted hike. However, the stories don’t end with the Jersey Devil. There is ghost town called Ong’s Hat situated in the northernmost terminus of the BaToNa Trail. The area can be seen on maps dating back centuries. Legend says that the town had just a handful of houses, along with a thriving dance hall. However, industry left the area and Ong’s Hut/Ong’s Hat slowly became abandoned.
The last resident left the town in 1936, but not before some strange disappearances. A Polish immigrant, John Chininiski, and his wife lived in the area. She disappeared without a trace, and shortly after he went missing as well. Years later, a single skeleton was found in the woods nearby.
But the story gets even stranger. According to an urban legend (and a handful of conspiracy theorists), Ong’s Hat contains a portal to another dimension. Disgraced Princeton professors, mocked for their quantum physics theories, fled to the area in the 1970s. They are said to have discovered the secret of inter-dimensional travel. 
And, although the trail may make you feel sceptical about venturing out into the woods at night, it does make for a lovely hike during the day. There are beautiful lakes, ponds and greenery to take in. Oh and cemeteries.
If you plan to go, there is plenty of areas for parking and camping along the route, so you can make this hike as long or short as you’d like.
If you want to explore more haunted experiences, click here.
Travel responsibly taking only memories and leaving a near to zero carbon footprint. We are all visitors on this beautiful planet of ours. Let’s treat it and all inhabitants with love and respect!
A Governor-General Award recipient, Helen Hatzis was also voted as one of Canada's Nicest People! A xenophile at heart, she lives to travel and loves to share her experience on Trip Jaunt (formerly Weekend Jaunt), an online travel community and hub she founded in 2010. She hopes that you will feel inspired to discover the world as well! Helen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and the Academy of Canadian Film and Television.