Okay, Rutgers commuters, how many times have you seen this strange little sign right before Exit 12 on 287 that says “Zarephath”? The RR Team decided that we’ve seen this sign one too many times and since Bound Brook, NJ is one of the record holders for strangeness near Rutgers, we went on a quest to explore the boundaries of the official town and religious cult campus known as “Zarephath”. Now there’s a rumor that somewhere on the Zarephath land proper there’s a “Pillar of Fire” – a literal huge flaming statue that is kept lit all year long. The RR Team encountered this rumor while digging around online and trying to get some material on this self-described “Christian Community Campus” where the “people live as Christ lived”.
We know that Zarephath is an official town with its own zip code and that apparently the town’s name comes from the strange biblical quote: “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” Sustaining widows aside (??), this place is hard to find and even harder to get much info on. One interesting factoid is that the Zarephathians have their own online dating service called “Zarephath Chat” where you can “Meet and chat with Zarephath singles” and presumably start a religious cult of your very own.
The Zarephath “campus” is surrounded by fences, gates and/or shrubbery at all entrances from Weston Canal Road. At night it seems that these gates are all closed and you have to have some type of clearance to get around the 500+ acre campus in the middle of suburbia. However, the RR Team lucked out at one of the entrances off of Weston Canal Road as the metal security gate was open and we gained access to a few long and winding roads that took us through an acreage that was very strange indeed. While straining our eyes to look for the Pillar of Fire, we caught glimpses of rows and rows of solar panels. There were literally acres of them, all turned skyward and looking very X-Files-like as they extended as far as the eye could see without any nearby buildings. We traveled further through the Zarephath acreage and saw no cars, no people and only sporadic barns, silos and concrete structures that best resembled water treatment facilities.
Yet there were no active signs of life, except for these very strange little sparrows that seemed in kamikaze mode as they would fly straight at our car. Perhaps these were the gentle “christ-like” protectors of Zarephath, we wondered? We continued forward and ultimately came to a blocked exit back to Weston Canal Road. We hopped out of the car at this point and examined some very strange footprints in the snow- which suggested that a large kangaroo was in the vicinity and which also led directly to a very old and decrepit looking barn that had a strange, high-tech security door on it. This strange visual distracted us as we immediately began to ponder the implications of fitting a steel, computerized and electronic security-featured door to a weathered, rickety old barn that looked as if it would blow over at any moment. Who, on this Christian campus would need such a door on such a barn and why? Ray also noted another ancient-looking barn that had a “Warning” sign on it that alarmed us further as underneath the warning as it read “hearing protection required beyond this point”. Ok, now what the heck is going on at this Christian Campus where a few cows and maybe a sustaining widow or two should be the norm? Are weird cult sacrificial activities taking place on this campus alongside experiments in animal husbandry and solar energy harvesting?
The Zarepath Campus (always under tight security) with no obvious Pillars of Fire.
Alas, the Team never got the chance to explore further as a very large and friendly Osh K’oshed type of man in a plow-truck stopped by our car and very politely told us that we were “being watched on video-tape by the big bosses” and that we “had to leave now, please”. Big, friendly farmer/plow truck man also pleasantly informed us that “normally no one can get in here – see the electronic gates stop everybody, but they’re malfunctioning tonight and that’s how you got in”. The Team was a little dumbfounded by the mention of security cameras, electric gates and “big bosses” but we recovered quickly and proceeded to quickly get out of Zarephath, chilled by the knowledge that our explorations were under surveillance and certain that the cult would exceed a payment from us in blood upon exit. However, we got out safely and did not even encounter the anticipated police car, which wouldn’t have been too surprising. I guess the “big bosses” were being benign on the RR Team that night- they must have been already satiated with their mutated victims in the barn!