Shades of Death Road, or commonly called “Shades” by local residents, is a two lane rural route road spanning over seven miles. It is located in central Warren County New Jersey. Shades travels north and south through Liberty and Independence Townships and then east and west through Allamuchy Township through to north of Interstate 80.
It did not take long for the stories and reports surrounding Shades to draw in thousands of visitors- so many in fact, that the residents had to grease or oil the “Shades of Death Road” signs to prevent theft and increased accidents. The road has a long dark history and many theories have evolved about how the road has gotten, or rather, earned its name.
First, since the southern half of Shades runs through a dense pack of forest and trees, the road is left nearly completely black at all hours of the night and day. History has it that highwaymen and bandits used to lay in wait there and attack travelers. They would steal their possessions and leave them to die after cutting their throats. They even fought to the deaths amongst themselves for “possession” of women. Stories go on that locals, after being tormented for too long, took revenge against the bandits and lynched them, leaving them dangling over the road as a warning to other criminals.
In the 1920s and 30s, the road was home to three violent deaths. The first was after the robbery of a man who was killed by being hit over the head with a tire jack. His death was the result of plundering over gold coins he had possessed. The second was a local resident who was brutally shot and buried in a mud pile. Neither of the two deaths was ever solved. The third murder was the result of an angry woman who beheaded her husband and buried his body parts on each side of the road.
Other explanations are that the twists and turns result in an unusually high number of accidents, resulting in a mounting number of guard rails being added each year, serving as a reminder of the many grisly deaths. Similarly, Bear Swamp, located nearby, has been home to wild cats who frequently attack travelers. Or the malaria outbreak in the 1850s, when infected insects found the perfect home in the wetlands and took many lives in a span of years with high mortality rates.
It might just be the shade provided by the trees that resulted in the name, or any number of the seemingly imminent death options for travelers on this road. Either way, there are numerous accounts of the sky always appearing as though it is twilight and certain places of extreme chill without explanation. Ghosts of children, murder victims, and Indian chiefs have been seen and apparitions have appeared at one of the streets which ends at an abandoned stable. General unease fills travelers with fear and an unexplained orb has been known to form and almost chase travelers off certain areas of the road.