In the mid-1800s, Clevenger lived in the Pine Barrens, with her husband, Bill Clevenger. They were descendants of the Hessians who supposedly fled to the Pine Barrens. They ran a stagecoach inn called the Half-Way Place. It was given the name because it was within halfway between the Pine Barrens and the Jersey Shore. Of course, only few ever dared to reside in it.
Peggy Clevenger was said to be a witch, who could shapeshift and bewitch any who crossed her. Those who live in the Pine Barrens often sprinkle salt over their doors in order to dissuade Peggy Clevenger from visiting their homes.
When a man thought he was bewitched by Peggy, he placed silver coins into his shotgun and fired at a picture he drew of Peggy. When he hit her hand in the picture, the real Peggy developed a badly damaged hand the next day.
But the main component of the story of Peggy Clevenger was that she kept a stocking full of gold hidden in her house. This was supposed to be the cause of a fire that ravaged her house. She died in the fire. The following morning, rescuers found Peggy\’s body that was smoldered by the fire and her head decapitated.
Since her daughter and her husband were in the house at the night of Peggy\’s death, people deduced that they were the ones who killed Peggy so they can access for gold stocking.
Years afterward, a Pine Barrens man became deathly ill. However, as he was lying on his death bed, people started speculating that the man had a secret to share before he can successfully shuffle out of the mortal coil. He confessed to killing Peggy and stealing her gold, before drawing his final breath.
However, the gold has yet to be found and may still be in the Pine Barrens.
What Did She Look Like?
Legends dictate that Peggy was an old woman at the time of her death, yet there is no specific physical description of her. She was said to have been a shape-shifter and had been known to turn into:
- a lizard
- a rabbit
There is evidence to suggest that the Clevengers did exist and that Peggy did endure a gruesome death. In a local paper titled the New Jersey Mirror, there was a December 1857 installment, which discussed the death of an old woman. It was titled A Terrible Affair and noted how her house burnt down along with her inside, but also that her hogs were poisoned and her horse\’s throat was slit.
The paper speculated that the fire and the death of her animals were caused by drunkards who were refused drink. It was unknown whether it was true, since they were never put on trial. Of course, the employer of the accused men was convinced that the fire was caused from the chimney–and went on to defame Clevenger by claiming she was addicted to opium.
Would the addiction explain the \”shapeshifting\” and the \”witchcraft?\” We will never know.
The origins involving the Hessians is not uncommon among the supposed people who dwell in the Pine Barrens or the Ramapo Mountains. Of course, this played into the fears of the people at the time of groups of multiracial savages, with such examples as the Jackson Whites. In the case of the surname Clevenger, it is said to be a Hessian name. However, the surname is not German, rather English or Norman French, as it derives from either the Old English word meaning \”wood-cleaver,\” or it derives from a Norfolk man named Simon le Claver as documented in the Hundredorum Rolls in 1273.
Perhaps, Clevenger in Peggy\’s case was an Anglicization of the original Hessian surname?
Although there is the ominous tone that overlays the Pine Barrens, there does not seem to be much relevance to the Witch of the Pine Barrens. People dare to travel to the Pine Barrens to search for the Jersey Devil, so perhaps they would stumble upon Clevenger\’s gold stocking along the way.
“Clevenger History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms.” House of Names.
Mr. Matte. “Savoy Boulevard Woodland Twp, NJ.” Wikipedia. 16 August 2015. CC BY-SA 4.0. Changes include adjusting image to New Jersey image frame.
Roberts, Russell. “Rediscover the Hidden New Jersey.” Rutgers University Press. 2015.
Sceurman, Mark and Mark Moran. “Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets.” Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 2005.
“The Witch of the Pine Barrens.” Astonishing Legends January 8, 2018.