There’s just something about the autumn air.
As the season’s vibrant showcase of color winds down with each leaf’s descent, the once cool relief develops a definite chill, and the light assumes a spectral glow as it shines through naked branches, casting eerie shadows and creating the perfect atmosphere for beings of a darker nature.
But the shortened daylight hours are the perfect time to take longer drives down some of the country’s spookiest stretches of road—and there are plenty to choose from, if you’re feeling brave behind the wheel.
If you’re in the market for a new trick-or-treat route, however, stay away from these streets: most are rumored to be riddled with ghosts, and that creepy-looking creature may not just be a kid in a costume.
The paths all have long histories of strange visitors and peculiar occurrences, so beware, and drive ahead only if you dare.
Clinton Road—West Milford, New Jersey
Often referred to as the country’s most haunted stretch of road, this 9.3-mile run, a twisted string of old pavement tucked away in heavy northeastern woods, has been associated with everything from the KKK to the Jersey Devil.
Phantasmal sightings include multiple reports of phantom headlights, following dangerously close behind drivers before disappearing into thin air, as well as glowing red eyes staring out from the forest. At Ghost Boy Bridge, where the road crosses Clinton Brook, legend says any change tossed into the water below will be tossed back by the little boy who haunts the spot.
In New Jersey, the road has long been infamous for its myriad associations with the dark side, with the nearby ruins of Cross Castle rumored to house occult meetings and druid rituals. The abandoned Jungle Habitat zoo along the route—a scary site in its own right—was said to have dabbled in cross-breeding, creating possessed albino deer that still roam the forest.
And even without the supernatural associations, the road is a dangerous one—pitch black at night without any street lights and full of sharp, hairpin turns and old stone walls dating back to colonial times. (It even has its own aptly named Dead Man’s Curve.)
For many reasons, it’s best to proceed with caution.
Shades of Death Road—Warren County, New Jersey
It seems the only thing the Garden State has more of than disgruntled drivers is ghoulish streets.
The 7-mile stretch of wooded road, which runs along the state’s Jenny Jump State Forest, is another hotbed of suspected paranormal activity, periodically blanketed by an unnaturally thick fog, which rises off nearby Ghost Lake. (Some have claimed they’ve spotted spirits walking through the mists.)
Rumors about the origins of the road’s morbid—yet official—name have swirled for decades, with some of the most enduring finding root in the real-life reports of a spate of murders perpetrated in the surrounding woods, lynchings in the trees there, and the large death toll the area suffered during a malaria outbreak in the 1850s.
Whatever the explanation for the moniker, though, it will likely still fail to explain the mystery of the road’s Lenape Lane, a mile-long, unpaved, dead-end offshoot from which one can reportedly glimpse a strange white light burning. (Rumor has it, if it turns red while you watch it, you may find yourself meeting an untimely end.)
Archer Avenue—Chicago, Illinois
Considered one of the most haunted areas of Chicago, a city with its own long history of strange occurrences, the 7.2 miles of Illinois Route 171 between the Resurrection Cemetery and the St. James-Sag Church is reportedly riddled with paranormal activity and unexplainable phenomena.
Winding through forests and passing by a number of eerie lakes and cemeteries on the city’s southwest side, the topography of the area is enough to cause chills during the daytime—but at night, the road’s environment is even creepier.
Supernatural sightings along the stretch include phantom horses crossing the road, ghostly monks haunting the grounds of St. James-Sag, and the “gray baby”—alternately described as a rabid man or a werewolf—who reportedly lurks around the woods and horse trails near Sacred Heart Cemetery.
The area’s most frequently sighted spectral visitor, however, is called Resurrection Mary. Described as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed hitchhiker in a white party dress, the apparition has allegedly tried to bum rides out of the cemetery from several motorists over the years—only to disappear after getting in the car.
Route 2A—Haynesville, Maine
This length of rural route running through the woods of Haynesville has been responsible for a number of real-life horrors, including the untimely deaths of many truckers who got into accidents along icy patches of the street during the treacherous winter months. (Closed in on both sides by thick forest, the road cuts a path as intimidating as it is frightening.)
Still, most of the spirits associated with the road don’t belong to truck drivers. In fact, one of Route 2A’s most common sightings is the ghost of a small girl, wandering down the lane, looking lost and confused.
Some locals have said she’s the ghost of a 10-year-old girl who died along the road after being hit by a semi-truck. (This story is apparently based in some truth, as two girls were reported dead in a truck accident along the road in August 1967.)
The road’s other most famous apparition is that of a young woman, who allegedly asks passing drivers for help, saying she and her new husband were involved in a car accident. Legend has it, those who have stopped to offer her a hand have felt an overpowering chill, before watching the woman disappear into thin air.
Boy Scout Lane—Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Don’t let the wholesome name fool you: this 3-mile stretch of road has a number of dark rumors swirling around it.
Crossing through a densely wooded area, the unpaved avenue was originally intended to lead to a campground that was scheduled to be built by the Boy Scouts of America, who used to own the land. But the project was never completed—or even started.
According to legend, a troop of Scouts ventured into the unwelcoming woods for a camping trip in the late 1950s or early 1960s, never to return. A myriad of morbid tales have been spun to explain their disappearance—from murder at the hands of their bus driver or Scout Master to a bus crash to a forest fire—although the state has no official record of any of these occurrences.
Still, travelers of the lane have reported all manner of mysterious experiences, from hearing labored footsteps through the woods to seeing red lights flash from between the trees.
Life’s no fun without a good scare.
If you find yourself in need of even more freaky destination inspiration, try driving down one of these other haunted paths.
Sweet Hallow Road/Mount Misery Road—Long Island, New York
Nestled in a thick patch of woods in the island’s Nassau County—an area bursting with supernatural phenomena—these parallel roads are both laden with haunted history.
Among other morbid misadventures, they’ve allegedly seen the deaths of many early settlers, the construction—and subsequent fiery end—of a mental institution in the 1700s, and more modern-day unexplainable car crashes. (There’s even a gravity vortex, where rumor has it some helpful ghosts will push your idle car uphill.)
Kelly Road—Ohioville, Pennsylvania
At just over a mile in length, this piece of pavement may not be long, but it’s got no shortage of spookiness.
Sometimes called the “Mystery Mile,” Kelly Road isn’t as much known for freaking out its human travelers as much as its animal visitors. Rumor has it, any critter who steps foot on the road is instantly turned crazed and rabid.
Strange noises and lights have also been reported from the dark, deep woods surrounding the street.
The Devil’s Promenade—Hornet, Missouri
From along this largely empty Midwestern path—actually in very nearby northeastern Oklahoma on Road E-57—comes a phenomenon that not even the U.S. Army Corps has been able to accurately explain. It’s called the “Spooklight,” and sightings of it date back more than 100 years.
The mysterious fiery ball—reportedly anywhere from baseball- to basketball-sized—is best seen between 10 p.m. and midnight, according to locals, and is known to streak wildly along the path, leaving only bewildered witnesses and even more questions in its mysterious wake.