The Pine Barrens: New Jersey’s weird, wondrous, wild world all its own

Excerpt of an article behind a paywall. The original article requires a subscription.
Is there a portal in the Pines? In his 1936 book, “Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey,” Henry Charlton Beck calls Ong’s Hat a “vanished town of murder, of prize fights and of isolated country dances,” a place that “a hundred or so years ago, we were told … was a center of life among the Pineys,” with “brawls and fisticuffs, some of them bloody enough.” While the book outlines Ong’s Hat’s somewhat sketchy origins, including how the ghost town got its unique name, there’s another, more mysterious narrative. WeirdNJ, the indispensable guide to all things strange and unusual about our great state, dove into Ong’s Hat’s paranormal possibilities in a post entitled “Ong’s Hat: Piney Ghost Town or Gateway to Another Dimension?” Drawing on a book by Joseph Matheny, “Ong’s Hat: The Beginning,” WeirdNJ tells the story of a 1950s quasi-church/sect and one of its “travelers,” Wali Fard. According to their tale, Fard bought 200 acres in the Pine Barrens and, joined by “a group of runaway boys from Paramus and two lesbian anarchists,” he formed his own breakaway sect, publishing newsletters and drawing the attention of a pair of Texas twins and UFO enthusiasts, Frank and Althea Dobbs. The pair, rejected from Princeton after submitting a PhD thesis on “cognitive chaos,” believed people could tap into the unused portions of their brains to perform extraordinary tasks, including halting the aging process; the sect formed the Institute of Chaos Studies. WeirdNJ’s post says that within a couple of years, the Dobbs twins discovered “the Egg,” a device they used to chart brain waves. Experimenting with mind manipulation, they believed they could “control the chaos they found within the mind,” the post says. But one version of “the Egg” appeared to open a portal to another dimension, opening “the Gate.” And when a chemical spill from nearby Fort Dix (now called Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst) forced them to abandon the Pines, they did so not physically, but “inter-dimensionally.” “In this dimension,” WeirdNJ writes, “they still lived in Ong’s Hat, but humankind did not exist.” So, is Matheny’s book fact or fiction? According to WeirdNJ, the author isn’t saying, so you’ll have to decide that one for yourself.