Hayden History

Every town has its horror stories, its dark, unsettling history that resists contradiction. Some stories are born of urban legends, some of wicked campfire tales. Heinous, unfathomable, is the story of The Haunted Scarehouse. To fully understand the mysterious origins of the Scarehouse, we must go back in time, far back in time, in fact, to the 1970s, to an old farmhouse, an ordinary farmhouse, ensconced by pristine land—until the Haydens moved in: a man, his wife, and two children. The Haydens refused to adapt to it—or to its surroundings, or to its humble denizens. The Haydens lived in relatively close proximity to their neighbors. Despite this, they kept their distance from civilization, remaining indoors, rarely venturing outside; and when they set foot beyond their dreary dwelling, it was only to roam without purpose about the vast property, as if out of obligation, boredom, always in silent contemplation.

The children, too, no more than ten years of age, almost never engaged in outdoor activities, hardly ever becoming noticed, never playing in the elaborate tree-house just fifty feet from the back porch, attached to a massive oak. Mrs. Hayden occasionally came out of the house, for a jaunt to the nearby brook, rinsing her hands and face with the murky water, then returning to her life of self-confinement. Why would such a family be averse to exploring their own scenic wonderland, a photographer’s paradise? People from the neighborhood from time to time visited the farmhouse hoping to introduce themselves to their unusual neighbors, but never got a response, a warm greeting—nothing. Not a soul would answer the door, not a voice would break the haunting stillness. The Haydens had made their wishes very clear: to be left alone, to be outcasts, to be unlike the majority, no matter the consequences, the backlash.

A year passed. Though by their actions the Haydens imparted their wish of being left in peace, undisturbed, they soon began receiving visitors—none from the neighborhood—at odd times. Some would be seen leaving late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, others left without having been detected while coming or going. This bizarre behavior had become so widely discussed within the community that soon the Hayden farmhouse became known as “the haunted scarehouse.” Of course, even though the Haydens willfully lived a life of seclusion, having been mocked and ridiculed and scrutinized, day after day, they apparently had become troubled, irked, compelled to expose their mounting frustration.

Mr. Hayden had on several occasions been spotted in the yard, axe in hand, not using it to chop wood for the fireplace or to fell cumbersome, unruly trees, but brandishing it as a weapon, caressing it, seemingly admiring its strength, its purpose, swinging it downward and driving the razor-sharp blade into the ground like a brute. This he had done at an alarming rate. What was going through his mind during these strange lapses in sanity? Was he quite possibly reacting to the verbal abuse he and his family had endured, though they had never infringed on the lives of others? Not having been given the freedom of complete privacy, without judgments, without harassment, the Haydens, cloistered from the rest of society, dealt with their struggles alone.

Nothing helped. None of the pictures captured family members; none shared insight into the interior, into the unimaginable goings-on behind the buckling walls. After all, once the nosiness had become an infringement on the family with the passage of time, windows had been boarded up or blackened with paint or paper. Overgrown trees, bushes, and other vegetation had grown wild, sealing off even the slightest glimpse of their existence. The so-called haunted farmhouse would remain an unsolvable mystery.

In addition to the Haydens’ abnormal behavior, inhuman sounds and eerie voices had given the community reason to stay away from the farmhouse. A once-beautiful, thriving property had gradually become poorly maintained, decrepit—the eye sore of this venerable town. Rancid odors issued from randomly broken basement windows, accompanied by indistinguishable human voices, groans, garbled speech of one sort or another. Smells persisted, the foul stench unbearable, death-like, especially during summer. Wanting to rid Wharton of this plague, this motley, non-conforming family, concerned residents began taking pictures, turning them over to local newspapers and television sources, bringing to the surface isolated reports about the “freakshow” that would not move out, thereby hoping to instill the neighborhood once again with a renewed sense of safety and harmony.

1971 ushered in another year of uncertainty, confusion, and further unrest, hardship for all. The community had long since lost hope of ever forcing the Haydens out of Wharton Township. Though they’d done almost everything possible to conquer these irrational people, to band together and clean-up their decaying land, the efforts of the townspeople proved fruitless. The problem worsening, the community began reaching out to the citizens of the state of New Jersey, trying to earn sympathy, imploring the masses to sign a petition, to be forwarded to the governor for review. Just when they had begun gaining momentum, Hurricane Doria, the fiercest hurricane the state had been victimized by in decades, swept through the area and demolished sections of Wharton, tearing houses and families apart, rendering thousands of people homeless.

The Haydens’ farmhouse, the “haunted scarehouse,” had been ruthlessly torn asunder by the raging storm, left in irreparable shambles—immense relief for a once-hopelessly defeated town. The farmhouse would have to be rebuilt from the ground up, though the community had voted collectively to keep the property as is. The Haydens themselves had fled during the hurricane, taking with them only the bare minimum, which wasn’t much, never to be seen or heard from again. A crippled Wharton, eager to rebuild and start over auspiciously, found a great degree of relief in having the disgusting farmhouse gone forever; its potentially dangerous inhabitants made to relocate, they hoped, to a place far, far away, maybe even to be locked up forever.

The people who investigated the interior of the farmhouse—residents, journalists, passers-by, media—spoke of sickening discoveries: utter squalor; human feces; bloodstained floors, walls, and ceiling; battered, rusty cages that might have been used for ghastly experiments; moldy food; dirty threadbare clothes; discolored drug bottles with unreadable labels—a real-life nightmare beyond human comprehension. A horrendous scene, a disturbingly baffling story through and through, permeated that farmhouse.

Who were the Haydens really? Where did they come from? What had been going on in that house during those unstable years, before the vicious hurricane came along, stripping the farmhouse from its very foundation? The answer to these questions, as well as countless others, awaits you. Prepare to be transported back to the 1970s, a time when the scariest family in the annals of Wharton’s history, the Haydens, struck fear and dread into the minds and souls and hearts of all who saw them, went near them, or ever spoke of them.