Feltville! Tell The People How We Felt!

The deserted village of Feltville…doesn’t that statement just conjure up the weirdest images? Before Rutgers Rarities visited this nifty old place in the Watchung Mountains, I visualized a small country village with lots of smiley people making felt while dressed in clothes made of felt, kind of like merry elves. I imagined that at some point there was a great sheep plague and suddenly all the felt-makers lost their occupations and trudged sadly out of Feltville to the nearby town of Fanwood to begin their new lives as wooden fan makers. I’m not too bright, I know. Feltville is really named for David Felt who built the milling town in 1845. The citizens were millers, not felt-makers, but they couldn’t have enjoyed the millin’ life too much as the village made a mass exodus in the 1860’s and became a literal ghost town for good by the 1900’s.

Today it’s kind of a public park place, although it is a bit tricky to find, as we found out in our attempts to get there following a very dubious set of directions pulled off an on-line Boy Scout trail site. Nonetheless, the RR Team did finally get there and we actually managed to get inside one of the “abandoned” buildings on site. After examining the exterior of the first few historic remnants, we had noticed some tarp on the back of a barn further in the village and says Co-Investigator Jess “where there’s tarp, there’s an entrance”. This maxim proved true as we were able to enter the barn with no problems, albeit the floorboards were all rotting away and we had to creep along very carefully. The barn proved to be a horse stable, originally, at least, as now the building seems to serve as some type of storage place for the park’s outdoor recreational activities. 

We also noted some “cold” spots in the rooms- there were sections where I suddenly felt chilly despite the 80+ degree weather in an otherwise hot, smelly barn. While examining the old horse stalls we found an old Dr. Zhivago-style horse sled bearing the proud inscription of “Watchung Stables”. We also found some of the expected graffitti, complete with references to Satan and all the usual angry teen expletives. In retrospect, perhaps more attention should have been paid to the satanic homages’ as the Watchung Mountains are notorious for local legends of Devil worship and rituals. Lastly, as we were carefully exiting the barn we were startled by some loud noises in the attic. Trying to stay cool, and not lose our precarious footing on the rotting planks, Ray and I froze and tried to decipher if the noises were of animal or human origin. After listening for a few minutes in silence we decided to just carry on and that’s when we heard an even louder & more distinct series of noises which that suggested someone of considerable weight was perhaps trying to do as we were – move quietly on the unpredictable soft rotten wood. Needless to say, that was when we kicked it into high gear and got out of there. Once outside we circled the building and paid careful attention to the windows, hoping that our barn dweller would take a peek out at us, but we saw no one. While the most likely explanation is a raccoon or large squirrel happening upon some treacherous ground in the attic, we still cannot be certain of who was with us in the barn. 

We next meandered around the Watchung woods for a while and managed to come across the old Civil War burial ground, where soldiers’ remains had been interred. Dating as far back as 1776, The Willcocks family graves did have the occasional odd lumps or bumps in the pit of the graves that suggested coffin-less human remains. Nary a trace of felt though. 

Overall, it’s an excellent spot to stop at if you’re truckin’ around the Watchung mountains. Just don’t have high expectations for sighting any felt-beclad occupants, as they ditched this dump a long time ago. 

©Rutgers Rarities and Unexplained Phenomena, 2005

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