In 2002 I was headed out to Passaic County with my son Andrew (age 4 at the time) to check out some safe, easy weird stuff. I was 3/4 of the way there when I realized I had left my GPS at home. I use my gps to store locations I want to visit, as well to guide me there. Without it, I’d have a hard time finding anything. I decided not to return home but to just go out and explore and get myself lost.
I realized I was near Button Woods so I decided to re-visit it. I turned off Two Bridges Rd, not entirely sure if I was in the right place. Once I got a 1/4 mile in, I knew I was here. The road was creepier then I remembered. The first thing I noticed was how uninviting the area was. The Passaic & Pequannock rivers lay to the east, and there were thick woods to the west. There are some woods that are warm & inviting. Then there are woods that are very thin, wide and expansive, suggesting freedom and peace. Then there are very thick woods, that are isolated from the rest of civilization, but which have such a variety of flora, fauna, and animal life that you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Then there are woods like this. The trees brood over you, like a street punk ready to take your money. The woods were silent, suggesting that even the animals have the sense not come here. The colors are a bit more somber, the sun sets a little bit earlier, and the trails just a little less forgiving, all of which is a sign:
You. Don’t. Belong. Here.
I rolled the windows down, listening for any strange noises. Unfortunately my son was singing loudly and it took great effort to get him to quiet down. I drove slowly (but not too slow), camera in hand to take pictures at a moments notice. I found three different houses that were torched, as reported by a letter published in Weird NJ issue 17.
I encountered perhaps a half dozen houses that appeared as if they might be occupied, but almost all looked abandoned. I encountered one that looked like a junk yard, and as I drove by I hoped to grab a picture. As I got close, I raised the camera when I suddenly realized there was a large man in front, working on some piece of machinery. As I drove past he yelled,”Hi sweetie!”. I quickly decided not to take a picture and drove on. Quickly. He was posing for the camera, yeah, that’s the ticket…. I later confirmed that this was the “giant of Buttonwoods”
I saw a few trails which I wanted to explore, but not with a 4 year old in tow. After encountering the giant, I felt I had seen enough. I had driven around the entire area (about 3 square blocks) twice and felt if I hung around longer I’d attract attention, something I did not want, so I left.
I decided to explore the surrounding area, so I went over the river and drove around. I found several more boarded up, abandoned houses. What is it with this area? Why does it all look so trashy? And it’s only the houses right along the river. Go two blocks away and the whole area looks reasonably respectable. I would later learn the answer lay in the fact that the area gets flooded so often that many people get sick of rebuilding.