Near where New Jersey Route 72 intersects with Route 70, there’s little left to mark what was once a small town called Ong’s Hat – but it was, in fact, really there. You can find evidence of its history in things like a local street called Ong’s Hat Road.
Depending on who you ask, it may have once been a bustling town, or nothing more than a stopover point for a farmer with the surname Ong who was transporting goods from Little Egg Harbor to Burlington. Midway between, the farmer built a hut where he could spend the night, and over time, Ong’s Hut became Ong’s Hat.
Whatever the case may be, the town (if ever was one) is no longer there, but it left its mark. In fact, there’s an online conspiracy theory suggesting the town is gone because it’s in another dimension. But if that’s not the case, where did the story come from?
The answer lies in a sort of alternate reality game (ARG) or a work of meta-fiction created by Joseph Matheny, among others, on early BBS sites and other places during the internet’s early years. The story suggested that some Princeton scientists working in Ong’s Hat had found a way to reach another dimension and, ultimately, took themselves and their studies to this alternate Earth. Alternatively, the government wiped them out to keep their discoveries quiet.
If it is, in fact, widely known that this story of inter-dimensional scientists is fiction, why would people still believe it? Because, according to conspiracy theorists, its creators supposedly had to pretend it was fiction in order to protect themselves from the government.