THE SEARCH FOR THE LEGENDARY BLUE HOLE OF THE JERSEY PINELANDS
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The New Jersey Pinelands is a sparsely populated and mostly wooded area of Southern New Jersey. Its sandy soil has spawned many legends, the most famous of which is the Jersey Devil. There is another legend in the Pinelands, however, that is not so famous, but equally mysterious, the legend of the Blue Hole.
We first read of the Blue Hole in Henry Charlton Beck's book, "More Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey." Beck described the site as a bottomless pit filled with clear blue water, unusual in the Pinelands where most of waterways, ponds and lakes are brownish. The water in the Hole was always ice cold no matter the season, but there were small patches where hot water bubbled up to the surface. Legend says the Blue Hole is the home of the devil and a passageway directly to hell. At night you could hear his hoof beats through the pines as he raced to his hideaway. If someone dared swim to the middle of the Blue Hole, the devil would reach up and grasp their leg and drag them to their death. The Blue Hole was also known by another name, the Bottomless Pit of Beelzebub. Whatever the truth to these legends, the pit was immeasurably deep and did have many unusual properties. Many thought it was a result of meteor striking the earth.
Thus armed with our copy of Beck's book, we headed out to the Pinelands to retrace his steps. This method proved successful in our quest for Sybil's Cave in Hoboken, New Jersey (see our story, "Mary Cecilia Rogers and the Legend of Sybil's Cave"), when we used his book, "Forgotten Towns of Northern New Jersey." Beck described the path to the Blue Hole as, "A side road that cuts through a second growth of oaks on a sandy trail that goes from Winslow towards Berryland." Our first step was to locate the trail from Winslow to Berryland, and using an old map and modern atlas we pinpointed East Piney Hollow Road as the most likely route. We started in Winslow and followed the road southeast. After driving about two miles we came upon a sandy road in the wood to the right. We traveled along the path for half a mile when it veered right. After driving for another mile we realized we were going in the wrong direction. Perhaps we were on the wrong road.
We consulted Beck's book again and were pleased to see he had made the same mistake all those years ago. "We picked the wrong path first," Beck wrote, "And then found the another that allows the passage of a single car to a rise above the Great Egg Harbor River." Backtracking, we found the path he spoke of, barely visible and moving uphill deeper into the forbidding Pinelands.
We drove a bit further and reached a small clearing where we parked the car and began to look for the creek Beck wrote of. There was no one around, and, in fact, we had not seen a soul since we left the paved road earlier. The silence and loneliness were becoming overpowering, when suddenly gunfire broke the mood! The sound of shotgun fire, uncomfortably close, rang out again and again. Was it a warning? Our first instinct was to run, but although the gunfire was close, it was not getting closer, so we held our ground, though keeping a sharp eye out for murderous gunslingers. We continued to search for the creek Beck wrote we would need to cross and began to notice many eerie things in the area as more and more we felt like characters from the film, "The Last Broadcast." We found the remains of campfires with beer bottles strewn about. Were these traces of satanic rituals we had heard occurred in the area? We proceeded along a promising trail down a slight incline and noticed small strips of clothing in the bushes along the side. Were these markers showing the way to the bridge we needed to find? We finally came upon the creek, but there was no bridge in sight.
We knew the Blue Hole lay only 100 yards across the creek. Just the length of a football field separated us from our quest. Beck had written of a new bridge (in the 1930's) that had been built to transverse the waterway, but when we finally found it, it was new no more. Our hearts sank as we realized the bridge was gone. All that remained were the abutments on either side of the creek. Since the stream was too deep and too fast moving to ford, we were forced to retreat. The Devil's Hole was only 100 yards away, but it might as well have been 100 miles.
Our search was over, but we did enjoy following the trail Henry Charlton Beck laid out over 60 years earlier. When we later had the chance to peruse a more detailed map of the area, we could see why the Blue Hole remains so mysterious and hidden. It lies between the Great Egg Harbor River and the Big Bridge Brook (the waterway which thwarted us) near the fork where they meet. Without the bridge Beck wrote of, the only way to access the site is by crossing the brook by boat, or by hiking approximately 5 miles through the swampy wooded Winslow Wildlife Management Area. We have not yet given up and intend to return again in a few months, more adept and better prepared to solve the riddle of the devil's own puddle, the Blue Hole.
More Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey
The Last Broadcast