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.
The first Mason Lodge, Hiram Lodge No. 1, in Connecticut was chartered under the Provincial St. John’s Lodge in Boston. It resided in the same city as Yale, New Haven. Influential to its charter was Israel Putnam. Putnam was from Salem and sided against his relatives in the hanging of Rebecca Nurse during the Witchcraft Trials. He went on to serve during the French and Indian War and was at Bunker Hill and the Crossing of the Delaware. He was one of the founding Masons in Connecticut. Another who would help start the first lodge was Col. Nathan Whiting.
Nathan was the grandfather of Nathan C. Whiting who was the founder of the town I grew up in NJ. Col. Nathan Whiting also served during the French and Indian War and was instrumental during the battle of Louisbourg along with Sir William Pepperrell.
Pepperrell’s portrait hangs in the Peabody Essex Museum. He is the spitting image of my friend Jim Armstrong. The portrait hangs next to Richard Saltonstall, who is the spitting image of his brother Neil Armstrong. Not the astronaut… Then again I am not sure if Col. Whiting’s wife Mary Hayes Saltonstall was related to Richard Saltonstall…
Col. Nathan Whiting’s uncle Thomas Clap who was president of Yale University brought him up after his parents death. Nathan attended Yale and served in the state senate.
Others instrumental in the founding of the Hiram Lodge No. 1 was Pierpont Edwards, a relative of Aaron Burr. He also attended Yale with Benedict Arnold. Also David Wooster and Elihu Lyman were founding fathers who attended Yale.
Nathan C. Whiting the grandson founded a sawmill in the Pine Barrens of NJ and had a train station across from his house. The stop was called Whiting’s. So that is how my town in NJ got its name.