39° 54' 43.332" N / 74° 37' 11.412" W
We're not gonna lie— this one was a deflating and disappointing visit.
Old issues of Weird NJ and internet tales galore speak of the ghost town of Ongs Hat buried deep in the Pinelands and its mysterious abandonment. A circulated old photo of the name of the place, scrawled into a slab of concrete and wedged in a tree, conjure up images of an eerie and desolate village left to the clutches of time. Even some Youtube videos about the place use still images of homes with weathered clapboard and splintered decks.
Now, as a bit of history, there is indeed a bit of urban legend about the name of the place. One of the early settlers to the area was a man by the name of Jacob Ong, and his settlement was noted on a map as early as 1778. Ong's became a lively town and stopover point for folks traveling through the Pine Barrens, so at some point the designation of "Ong's Hut" made it onto area maps. While it is believed that poor penmanship let one transposition to rename the place as Ong's Hat, the much more exciting folk legend tells of a story where Jacob Ong's brand new hat got trampled during a dance, and in a fit of anger he threw it into a tree. It stayed stuck up there, and became a landmark for passing travelers, earning the place its name.
We dug around a bit, and found some coordinates that would "get us started" on our visit to this mysterious place. When we arrived, we found a small sand road of occupied houses, with a clear warning that they were NOT the village in question and for curious visitors to stay out.
Heeding the warning, we headed to a parking lot across the street, which turned out the be the terminus for the Batona Trail. A campy "Ong's Hatrack" peg was hung high in a tree, and, well, that was it. Certainly not the spooky ghost town we expected, but still a good bit of Jersey lore and an interesting landscape to see.