Secrets of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey: Notorious Burial Ground of the Mob


Oct. 4 2023, Published 4:11 p.m. ET

deserted forest
Source: Getty Images

Part of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

The Gist:

  • The Pine Barrens are found in New Jersey and formerly were the home of Indigenous peoples.
  • Over 1.1 million acres of preserved woodlands are protected by Congress.
  • The Pine Barrens are known for being a mob burial ground and for haunted folklore.
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The Pine Barrens are an area of woodlands in New Jersey that Congress voted in both 1978 and 1979 to protect.

Due to the unusually large number of bodies that have been discovered buried across its vast acreage over the years, some may believe the Pine Barrens are dangerous. Here, we'll explore the history of this place and whether the stories of danger are true.

trees standing up straight in a swamp
Source: Getty Images

A swampy portion of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

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Are the Pine Barrens of New Jersey dangerous?

If you're thinking this location is dangerous to visit because of high rates of crime or natural disasters, it's not that kind of place. The Pine Barrens of New Jersey aren't dangerous; rather, they are infamous for the many bodies that have been recovered from within the vast woods. They might be said to be more of a "haunted" area, if you believe in that sort of thing.

The Pine Barrens have appeared so often in the news of mob deaths that the area was used or mentioned as an ideal spot for making bodies disappear on The Sopranos. According to MEAWW, it was the place where Robert Durst had allegedly buried the body of his wife, who disappeared in 1982, though her body was never found.

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Shore News Network explains that New Jersey Pine Barrens have "dense forests, secluded trails, and limited access" which make the area appealing to those carrying out illegal activities. Some shallow graves have been discovered in the Pine Barrens, many of individuals connected to organized crime (aka the Mafia).

Other than the rumored ties to the mob, the Pine Barrens are the origin of supernatural myths about creatures like the "Jersey Devil," a legendary demonic child. According to OnlyInYourState, reported Jersey Devil sightings date back as far as 1820. This creature supposedly had wings, hooves, and a head like a horse. The creature was blamed for deaths of livestock in the 1840s and in the 1920s.

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How many bodies are buried in the Pine Barrens?

As MEAWW states, a 1967 Asbury Park Press article was entitled "Victims Dumped in Ocean Woods." It said that one body a year had been discovered in the deep woods of New Jersey since 1962. A 1973 article in the New York Times entitled "Mob Favors Pinelands for Burials" continued the idea that the mob was disposing of bodies in the Pine Barrens landscape.

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It's difficult to say exactly how many bodies are buried in the Pine Barrens. As Shore News Network says, the South Jersey Mob Wars of the 1960s may have led to groups forming secret burial areas in the Pine Barrens. And Compass and Pine notes that the earlier inhabitants, the Lenni Lenape tribe, would have buried their dead within the land, adding to the totals of bodies.

While the history of the New Jersey Pine Barrens provides plenty of folklore and stories of illicit activity, there's no need to fear the site. The Pine Barrens are home to wild ecosystems that provide water to millions of people, habitat for rare species of plants and wildlife, and they have been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, per the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

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