As Central Jerseyans spend their Halloween season wandering through creepy haunted houses, hay rides and trails, they comfort themselves knowing that the disturbing scenes they witness are simply fiction.
However, Norz Hill Farm of Hillsborough’s “Scare Farm,” which offers a haunted hay ride, “Slay Ride,” as well as two walking trails, ‘Paranoia’ and “Creepy Hollow,” has some true haunted history lurking behind it.
“A lot of people who visit Scare Farm don’t know that two murders happened within 100 yards of one another on the adjoining property,” said Rich Norz, owner of Norz Hill Farm, which has been in the Norz family since 1920.
Although the stories of the murders are slightly wound into Scare Farm’s attractions, they aren’t outright publicized to visitors.
Norz said he and his family and friends come up with the scenes for Scare Farm each year by themselves, brainstorming with one another for the 16- to 20-minute hay ride that ventures through 50 acres, including the barn, a pasture and a corn field as well as the 12- to 15-minute walking trails.
However, the haunted history of the site serves as quite the inspiration.
Farmer murdered by greed
Stanley Yankowitz purchased the adjoining property to Norz Hill Farm and former Faukgaowe Indians of New Amsterdam, a sect of the Lenni Lenape Tribe, burial ground site, many years ago.
However he was soon plagued by fires on the land that destroyed his barn and, later, his home. Left homeless on his property, Yankowitz moved into a chicken coop at the farm.
However, word spread that Yankowitz was hiding his money under his mattress in the chicken coop, which led two local farmhands to attempt to find it in 1978. When they were caught in the act by Yankowitz, they beat him to death with a cinder block — and did not find one dollar under the mattress, as it was deposited in a New York City bank the entire time.
The two local farmhands were condemned to the electric chair, a scene that was depicted in Slay Ride’s story in the past, as Norz likes to switch up the haunted hay ride each year.
In this year’s hay ride, the concept of the Indian burial ground is included in the storyline.
Crazed farmer turns loved ones into scarecrows
In the early 1800s, the Atrum family purchased the farming property, where they raised their only son, Elias. However, under a strict upbringing, physical abuse and solitary confinement brought about by his father, Elias’s sanity began to slip.
After the sudden deaths of his parents in the mid 1850s, Elias Atrum’s state of mind continued to worsen. Local legend says that he murdered his unfaithful wife and her lover and turned them into scarecrows, and continued to do so, as more scarecrows appeared in the Atrum fields and more locals disappeared.
When the authorities came to the property to investigate, Atrum escaped and was never seen again.
Scare Farm’s haunted walking trail attraction ‘Creepy Hollow’ is based on the story of the murders.
A former lover suffers a grisly fate
William Edgar of Branchburg and Leo Orlovsky of West Orange were once in what seemed to be a relationship, but according to Edgar, Orlovsky was “an evil man who forced him into a homosexual relationship and stole his only possessions,” according to Courier News reports.
This led Edgar to stab Orlovsky 32 times with a butcher knife, cut his head off with a hacksaw and throw it into a briar bush, then bury him with his own garden shovel in a shallow grave at the then-deserted farmhouse on Thanksgiving eve of 1985.
Edgar, who admitted to the murder because “he didn’t return my things,” according to Courier News reports, was found innocent by reason of insanity in 1986 and spent the next 10 years in a maximum-security hospital until he died of a heart attack in 1996 at age 47.
Throughout the years, Norz said that he has found several artifacts on his land being that the property is an Indian burial ground, as there were formerly several encampments on the south branch of the Raritan River.
However, has Norz ever experienced any real-life haunts on the property which has housed so many gruesome occurrences? “You never know,” he said.
Scare Farm at Norz Hill Farm
Where: 116 South Branch Road, Hillsborough
When: Fridays and Saturdays from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, Sundays from Oct. 11 to Oct. 25 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: Any one attraction is $14, any two attractions are $24 and any three attractions are $30
Tickets: No advance ticket sales (first-come, first-served and no refunds)
Age: Not recommended for those under 13, children under 13 not permitted without an adult