Salem Tunnel Report Stuck in Whiting NJ

Well, I was traveling where I found tunnels in Washington DC and Baltimore and Frederick MD. Then the virus put us into shutdown and traveling ended. So my parents’ house in Whiting NJ was a better bet for isolation than my bipolar roommate with a gun for a few months…

While I am here I remember that I have always been interested in tunnels. I have met my old friend Shawn Wirth on that trip to Moneta VA. He recently texted me recalling our trips under Pershing Ave in the storm drain as kids watching out for snakes. Then in my teens, I would head for the Pasadena Terracotta Factory and climb through their air vent tunnels and those in which the fires were lit for the kilns above.

Now the strangest things about tunnels here is, in the middle of nowhere you can find them too! Now when we would walk from fallen cedar tree to tree trying to cross the swamp in between Fox Hollow and Roosevelt City, we would find PVC pipes coming out of the swamp. We used to joke that there were underground military bases there. Now Shawn’s father was a Liteneut Colonel… Did he know something? Who knows.

Today they stick PVC pipes in the ground near swamps to take frog samples, but I believe this is a current means of research not invented until a few years ago.

So here I am 40 years later back in the village. I am heading up Lake Road and I stop at what I always thought was a siding for the old train that used to run in the middle of the road heading to Tuckerton NJ. This was the first time I looked at it. It was a concrete slab with different PVC pipes going deep into the ground through it. One looked like a plumbing stack and the others were white PVC Pipes about 6″ in diameter. Above the slab was a post with two modern electric meters on it? On the other side of the slab was another PVC pipe going into the ground. Then on either end, the two closest telephone poles had two 6″ PVC pipes, each, going into the ground. All of the pipes were open. So naturally, I start remembering the stories me and Shawn made up as kids about the PVC pipes in the swamp. Were these means of supplying air to tunnels or even an underground base?

Did I mention that the main military communication center for the east coast is in town? Plus a few miles down the road is an old Nike silo site which was leaking since 1960?

Back up in Massachusetts in Reading is a National Guard base. My friend had mentioned that during a war game exercise he found a tunnel and had his battalion enter it in hopes of surprising the other team. They thought it might go a 100 yards or so, but they ended up walking a couple of towns away. It connected that base to another Nike silo, the National Guard base in Danvers, and they found themselves exiting on Tremont and School Street in Salem MA. They almost got court marshaled for going AWOL.

So was this a popular trend during the cold war? There are rumors that the communication center on St. Mary’s Ave which is built on a paved octagon is mostly underground.

Then today I found another strange hole. It might just be a place to fix some electrical apparatus for the hot dog hut at Harry Wright Lake, but who knows. It didn’t have a meter, but two switches sticking out of boxes above the large circular metal plate with the trapdoor.

Whiting NJ might be a sleepy hamlet at the northern end of the Pine Barrens, but we have a colorful history!

Part of our township had seen the crash of the Hindenburg that was blamed on our moonshiners trying to shoot down revenue agents (at least that was what New York newspapers thought and the 1975 movie). Our most famous mayor (Harry Wright that the lake is named after) got elected by handing out moonshine off the back of a truck during Prohibition. Our most infamous made precedent in the Supreme Court that evidence used to convict another can not be used against you (he robbed us of 20 million dollars in 20 years and faked his death in Maine; closed casket, death certificate signed by a veterinarian, he was Stephen King’s neighbor, and his twin brother still walks around that town.). We probably had the first elected Black judge in the state because the election was held during deer season. The year I moved off to college and the mayor died… below the hill I was partying on a serial killer was depositing one of many dismembered bodies he was leaving behind during his 20-year spree. Since Whiting sits at the confluence of RT#70, RT#539, and RT#530 (which leads to Philadelphia, New York, the Jersey Shore, and Atlantic City) our various pizza shops owned by Lisanti Foods were a distribution hub for cocaine. It didn’t hurt to have the Chief of Police’s son at the time work with the mob selling it. My housing development was created on December 24th, 1924 by Joseph Parisi of Brooklyn. He planned to make a new city with a rich neighborhood, poor neighborhood,  a church on Block 66 lot 6 behind the town hall, train station, hospital, utility alleys, and all. He thought our town with the train station with three rails was a desired location. He sold 4 houses after cutting all the roads out. One of those was a 24-acre lot to his masseur friends who ran a nudist colony next to my parents’ house. Parisi was head of Teamster local Union 27 who killed other union leaders, was a member of Al Capone’s (Who had a pink concrete castle with tunnels and a murder hut the next town over) Murder Inc., and owned the Arsarco’s mineral pit where the mob disposed of its bodies (One road leading to the mineral pit is called Bone Hill Road)  with the owners of the nudist colony. Supposedly, we have the Jersey Devil running through our woods too…

So military tunnels in Whiting? Who knows.

To read more about tunnels in Salem MA, check out Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City.

 

A Viking in Baltimore Finds Fleet of Dragon Ships, Tunnels, and Hill Forts…

Hostels and Fudge

Baltimore was a popular travel location while I was a kid. My family stayed in the Inner Harbor several times throughout the years. We would go to the malls and get to our favorite Jelly Beans (root beer, green apple, and cinnamon) from the wall dispensers before Jelly Belly took over the market, fresh roasted cashews, and fudge. There were great shows at the Maryland Science Center to see and I got to see my first person standing on the soapbox claiming the world was going to end in front of the World Trade Center. We even got to stay in the same hotel as the band Krokus…

So I went back. Instead of staying in the Inner Harbor area I got a room in the Cloudbunk hostel in the Charles Neighborhood for a mere $24 a night. The room I shared with 5 others. One of which just showed up once a day just to step in the room and step back out. One was traveling, one was looking for an apartment, and one was here for work. The last just woke us all up in the middle of the night confused about the process. It was in a row house with three floors with their own bathrooms. On the main floor was a large TV and couch, a communal table, and an eat-in kitchen in which we shared foods donated by local companies. The front door locked after 8pm, but there was a back door with a code open 24hrs. Most of the people who gather in these hostels are out looking to meet new people and experiences. Few of us traveled to one of the many art museums in the city together.

The thing I found interesting was behind the building was an alley that ran parallel to the street. It was the service corridor where the garbage was put out and the garages were kept for each building. I grew up with a similar alley in behind my house, but it was cut out in the 20s and left to become overgrown by the time they started building houses in the neighborhood in the 70s with only deer traveling through it. Joseph Parisi, a mobster who controlled the garbage for NYC, had plans to develop a new city within the NJ Pines at the intersection of three railroad lines. Similar to Baltimore, but he only sold a few houses after cutting out all of the roads. One was to a nudist colony.

So when you return to a strange town, you search out the familiar. So I started out with in the Inner Harbor. Across the harbor, I had seen the old Federal Hill fort that reminded me of Fort Pickering in Salem MA. A fort built on Smith Hill during the Civil War. From where I was standing looking at the fort was the USS Constellation.  She was commissioned during the war to help the British attack slave ships leaving Africa to the Confederate states. Up to the point that Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation the British were hemming and hawing which side to support. Prior Laird’s shipyard was producing screw-sloops for the South, one of which, the CSS Alabama, escaped before George Peabody bribed the English Prime Minister to stop the delivery of the other two to the South. Which is strange since he was profiting from the sales of southern cotton from Baltimore to acquire armaments for the South. The Constellation and Alabama both sailed the waters around Africa.

 

 


Then believe it or not, behind me was this sea monster. Next to it was Bubba Shrimp which pumped out out brine and the smell of fresh fish at all hours of the night. I was looking for Forrest to run by…In the same building up to three years ago was the Fudgery. As a kid I got to see it’s opening year watching these singing and dancing fudge chefs bring joy to large crowds singing ‘time to make the fudge’ and handing out free samples all day. The dancing security guard Terry told me of their demise over a dropped bologna sandwich. I got to meet him and his friend, Manuel, after I got done playing some flute in front of the Constellation. The band Dru Hill started at the Fudgery and I missed out hearing them and all the other staff at the Fudgery.

 

 

Then I walked to my right a little toward the Maryland Science Center. A top-notch science museum where I saw a movie prop show years ago with an animated full-size King Kong head and a Ripley model in a cargo lifting exoskeleton fighting the Alien. That night it was closed so I only got to see this monster in the window. So I ventured on and seen the coolest Barnes and Noble, the World Trade Center (without the doomsday preacher), the Domino Sugar plant lit up, and a beached lighthouse. Probably the coolest thing I found was my own dragon ship fleet. What good is a Viking without his own dragon ship fleet?

 

 

The next day I walked around Fellspoint historic district with its railroad tracks and sets. Cobblestones are round and sets are square… In this neighborhood, I had seen many signs of possible smuggling tunnels. Many service entrances and basement dwellings could of been converted sections of the tunnels in the city. George Peabody from Salem frequented this area and he utilized the tunnels in every city in which he lived in. He was a friend of Alexander Bown of Brown’s Wharf in which I passed.  The Horse You Rode In On, the oldest tavern in the country seemed to have signs of tunnels out front. Its location has been a tavern since 1775 and was the last bar Edgar Allan Poe drank in on the night he died. For something a little more spicy, but safer I headed to the Saffron Grill for a mix of Yemeni and Pakistani food. They had the best lamb shawarma Sandwich with a nan wrap which was head and shoulders above any other traditional wrap I ever had. Plus I found Sound Garden celebrating 25 years filled with some really cool choices of music with new and used vinyl. Many musicians played here including Motorhead!

Then as I walked further along the waterfront I found a statue of Frederick Douglass and realized I had walked through his old neighborhood. Douglass left Baltimore for Lynn MA where he ventured to Salem from and met the Remonds who taught him how to speak on the abolitionist circuit. Sarah, the sister, probably gave him his signature haircut. The brother Charles, she coifed his style as well. I also found some homes with exterior chimneys. Exterior chimneys allow easier access for tunnels to enter the basements without any flashing problems and creates a draw system to bring fresh air into the tunnels. Plus I found some very nice views.

As I headed back to the Inner Harbor I passed the National Aquarium and its dolphins. Continuing on I had seen the harbor’s several attempts to create mini wetlands and other ways to clean the water. One was this snail that picked out the garbage of the river as the tide went out.

Then I headed back to the Cloudbunks for a good night’s sleep and took a picture of the garage behind the shelter. Then I left that morning for Frederick, MD, but I need to come back and enjoy the live music scene, the art museums, Poe’s House, and much more. So I might just be continuing my tradition of visiting this city for years to come.

 

Now here is the video of me playing the flute in front of the USS Constellation: