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STATE: New Jersey
COUNTY: Burlington County
LOCATION DETAILS: Burlington County, New Jersey, Batona trail, Wharton State Forest
OBSERVED: I was part of 30 person 3-day hike on the Batona trail. The first night we made camp at an isolated spot two miles off the trail. The camp ground has only a dirt road for access and is very remote. It was also the off season so presumably no one had been there for quite some time.
The group split up and was strung out over 100 or so yards for the night. I slept outside at the very fringe of the camp. It was 1:30 in the morning and i was awoken by a terrible scream. I've heard racoons fighting before and I'm familiar with the cries of local wounded animals and this was nothing I had ever heard before. I also heard it moving rather smoothly through the brush, it was large and was within twenty yards of us. I was too scared to look up. I buried my head in my sleeping bag and tried to look as unappetizing as possible.
Later it passed by again (about an hour or two). A few of the other hikers also heard it but we kept it quiet. Also some of the people who heard it had heard it before, I was informed that screams are heard quite often in that neck of the woods.
ALSO NOTICED: We heard dogs barking in the distance.
OTHER WITNESSES: Sleeping.
ENVIRONMENT: Thick pine forest after a week of rain. A lot of the forest was flooded to the point of being impassable, that may have caused the animal to divert its path which brought it close to us.
Follow-up investigation report:
I spoke with the witness. This individual struck me as a level-headed, credible witness. He indicated that he would not have posted to the site but for a strikingly similar incident which he saw and was posted 2 yrs ago to the Geo. Database from the same location. (See GDB, NJ; Burlington County). The two encounters are so similar as to raise issues of credibility, but it could also be that these are just 2 encounters with the exact same phenomenon in the same locale. Both incidents occurred on the Batona trail and indicated something not happy with campers being in area.
These encounters occurred in the Pine Barrens, a large and largely unihabited tract of land in South Central NJ. Actually, the Barrens run up and down the East Coast; there is a large area of Pine Barrens on Long Island 30 miles east of me. It is a weird piece of territory both in NY and NJ. I have camped in the Jersey Pine Barrens not too far (@20 miles) from the reported encounters. It is a strange place. Just acres and acres of short, almost stunted pines rooted in sandy, loamy soil traversed by numerous creeks leading to some of the main rivers of southern NJ, eventually leading to the sea. Lots of deer and LOTS of ticks. Thick underbrush, basically very flat terrain, some small hills. Very easy to get lost in as everything looks the same. The trail the witness was on is a 52 mile circuit which goes through the Wharton State Forest near Chatsworth, NJ. The place he camped w/ approx 30 other individuals was off the trail. He and a small group including his younger brother camped in an area @ 100yds from the main group; he and his brother were at the very furthest perimeter of the campsite. He and his brother slept outside on a tarp as they were too lazy to set up a tent. At apprx. 1:30 AM the witness was awakened by a sharp scream emanating from an area about 20yds from where he and his brother were lying. He heard a large animal moving through the undergrowth. It is impossible to move thru this undergrowth without making a racket as the forest floor is a carpet of twigs, underbrush, and dried leaves. In it's the progress, this animal was making a rolling sound over the forest floor, not discreet steps like a deer and was hitting tree branches as it passed.There were 3 distinct screaming wails which indicated that the animal was moving past and around the area. The witness was very scared and indicated that when the noises stopped he pulled the tarp over himself and his brother. 2-3 hours later the screaming wail was heard further off, but the witness had the impression that the animal was returning the way it had come. However, no more steps or rolling sounds were heard. It is possible that again, the animal was moving toward and back from the Batsto River as in the 1991 encounter, but the witness could not confirm this. This would comport with the documented nocturnal habit of BF feeding near bodies of water. The witness reported no odors but indicated that he may have been upwind of the animal. The next AM, some of the other campers reported hearing the wails but nothing else. The witness was
reluctant to examine the area wherever the wailing screams were coming from, thus no tracks or other evidence was found. Witness opinion that whatever it was may have been angry at having to wade thru water to get to where it was going, as large area of the forest were flooded from a week's worth of rain and the area where the campers set up was one of the few dry areas.
Witness has an acquaintance who lives in the area. He reports that the "Screamer Phenomenon" is common in the Barrens. The witness spends a lot of time in the outdoors in the area, being an avid camper and hiker and is familiar with the local fauna; he also has spent time in the jungles of Mexico's Yucatan. He indicates that nothing he has heard comes close to the volume or quality of the sounds he heard that night. The witness indicates that he plans to visit the area of the occurrence in the near future and will keep the undersigned and the BFRO posted.