Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cursed Haddon Lake and Surrounding Areas

by Chris Chaos
The covers of the three Cursed books

This location and the incidents of Haddon Lake were the inspiration for the book and video series entitled "Cursed", as of this article there have been three editions published. The lake and many location adjacent to the lake itself have been plagued in such a way that many feel that the area is cursed. The lake itself was the dumping grounds and location where over the years several bodies were found. The McDonald's located along the Blackhorse Pike is the location where a distraught man attempted to commit suicide by driving his car nearly 100 MPH down down Prospect Ridge Blvd and ramming it into the building. Sadly, three McDonald workers died that day and the man attempting suicide lived, go figure.
The mouth of Haddon Lake

The mysterious location is also home to the Oaklyn Suicide Nazi Tree which over the years several people hung themselves from its branches and has become a popular party spot for teens.

The Oaklyn Suicide Nazi Tree

Sylvan Drive is the road where the transsexual Leslie Nelson lived and was being investigated by the police for  molesting his niece, when he/she open fired upon officers killing two of them. 13th Ave runs past this street and of course many consider the number 13 an unlucky number. The street was later renamed after one of the police officers that died in the shoot out.

Leslie Nelson

Cooper River is within the area and is the location where a 3 year old boy went missing to be later found dead near the river. After a few weeks, the father of the boy was arrested and charged in the child's murder.
Brendan Creato

Haddon Lake Park is 73.47 acres and is located in three south Jersey cities: Haddon Heights, Audubon and Mount Ephraim. The park runs from Station Avenue to 10th Avenue and from Kings Highway to the Black Horse Pike.


In 1904 a young girl was murdered and dumped into a well in this area. In 1910 the two bodies of little boys, John Coffin and Price Jennings were found on a farm. Paul Woodward, a 16 year old boy from Camden was charged in their murders.
Original newspaper article concerning the death of the two boys

On Sept 9th, 1995 at 8.30am the body of a white female was found in Haddon Lake and appears to have been bludgeoned to death and dumped. Her nude body was found by two park workers and a fisherman when they spotted her forearm sticking out of the lake.  Her body was found in the shallow water near the lake bank opposite the intersection of Oak Street and East Lake Drive. On her left calf she had the tattoo of a devil holding a pitchfork and on her left wrist she had either the letter J or T. It appeared that her body had been stabbed and beaten, but not sexually assaulted.  Based on water in her lungs indicated that she was tossed in the lake still alive, but died from drowning.

Location of Haddon Lake, Oak St is to the East (right)

Howard Kasselman, assistant Camden County prosecutor, said the victim was white, had distinct bikini tan lines, appeared to be in her mid-20s, and had shoulder-length, light brown hair. She was about 5 feet tall and weighed 120 pounds, he said.

The morning after her body was discovered, neighbors found a trail of blood on the sidewalk from the middle of Oak Street to Lake Drive.

"On each square of concrete going toward the lake, there were one or two drops the size of a dime to a quarter," said Jane Merryfield.

Oak St looking towards Haddon Lake

"You looked at the blood and you realized . . . somebody was alive at one point," she said. "Here was her blood and nobody heard or did anything - nobody knew. It was a sad and ugly thing."

Police found a black denim jacket they suspect is Reed's, on the sidewalk, neighbors said. Kasselman would not comment on any physical evidence at the scene.

The only resident who heard anything during the night was Evelyn Campbell, who lives on Oak Street. Campbell couldn't sleep. So she woke up and went to the kitchen to do a puzzle, she said.

At about 3:45 a.m., she said she heard a rattling sound.

"I thought, geez, that darn raccoon," she said. Raccoons had gotten in her trash cans before. So she thought this noise was a raccoon moving a trash can lid. "I just sat there," she said. "I thought it was an animal."
The house where Latisha Reed tried to seek assistance

This morning, she went outside, then saw police and other people by the lake. She discovered her family-room window forced open "but not large enough for a person to get through" and the screen bent. This was the only window that was not locked, she said. "I thought, geez, somebody was trying to get in," she said.

Campbell also found a hand print and reddish smudges on the window she believed to be blood, and many blood droplets in front of her house. She said investigators took samples of the smudges and droplets.

"I feel bad now, in hindsight," she said, adding that if she heard a scream or a moan or if someone knocked on her door, she would have called 911. ''It's a darn shame."

 The body was identified as Latisha Reed's when authorities linked it to a set of fingerprints from an April 2, 1994, arrest record on a contempt-of-court charge. Authorities believe that Latisha Reed - the name on her latest arrest record - may be fictitious because she also has a string of aliases and four Social Security numbers. Her record indicated two Philadelphia addresses - one in the 2000 block of Fitzwater Street and another in the 500 block of South 12th Street. But an acquaintance of the victim told authorities that Latisha Reed - whom she knew as Angel - lived on the streets.

The following month, children playing near the lake found a mud-encrusted knife that authorities believed might be linked to Reed’s slaying. Her killing remains unsolved.

Authorities believe that this murder may be linked to several other similar cases where prostitutes were beaten, murdered and dumped in very similar ways.


McDonald's store #420, Blackhorse Pike Mount Ephraim, NJ

McDonald's on Blackhorse Pike, Mount Ephraim

Frank Nastasi Sr killed 3 McDonald’s workers back on May 15, 2002 at 4.20 am (oddly 420 is also the store number) in a failed suicide attempt. Frank accelerated his Cadillac to about 100 MPH down Prospect Ridge Boulevard and crashed through the front of the McDonald's Play Land and the car plowed into the restaurant until it came to a rest in the kitchen. The police pronounced 3 workers dead on the scene and a few others were injured. Luckily only the drive thru was open and minimal staffing was in the store. The restaurant was razed and reopened again in 2003.

Location of the Mount Ephraim McDonald's

The three women killed at the  McDonald's on the Black Horse Pike - Cynthia Molino, 45; Joanne Marie Bowen, 52; and Nancy King, 49 - were among six employees at work that morning.
Bowen, of Mount Ephraim, had almost called out sick on the day of the crash.

"Why don't you stay home? Dawn will understand," Bowen's husband, Wayne, said to his wife the night before, according to Salamone.

"No, no, I'm going in. Dawn needs me," Bowen told him.

The new arch that was installed once the store was remodeled

His lawyers stated that he was mentally disturbed and very depressed leading up to his suicide attempt. In the months before he drove his car into a McDonald's restaurant and killed three workers, Frank Nastasi would use markers to draw imaginary security keypads on the doors of his furniture store. Then he would poke at the numbered buttons he had drawn, in an attempt to set the alarm.
Prior to getting into his car, it was reported that Nastasi sent this email to a friend:
"John Nash, there is no way
to save it, you are right it would take a miracle, think and John
Lennon and Yoko, Occam's razor, Catch 22, too imaginable."

Nastasi was sentenced to 7 years  but died in prison back in 2010, six months before his parole date of December 2nd.

It is noted that McDonald’s #420 is not a franchise but is owned by McDonalds Corp.

Rebuilt in this photo, but point of entry where the Playland used to be

The year prior, 2001, and at the same McDonald's location, an employee who was also a want to be fireman intentionally set fire to the McDonald's in order for him to put it out himself to be seen as the hero. The restaurant was closed for a few months to be renovated and expanded thus providing the store to become a 24 hour operation. The employee was then charged with arson.


Location of the Suicide Tree (Penninsula)

The 1st time I visited this location was in the Spring of 2013, for so long I wanted to go back for an update and this Fall afforded the perfect weather day to go back and see if there were any updates. So I gathered the gear and charged the cameras and headed off. Luckily for me, the location is only 3 miles from my house.
The Oaklyn Suicide Nazi Tree

Since the 1st draft of the article went live a year ago this location raised more questions than it answered. I decided to put my nose to the books and conduct more research in an attempt to go deeper and find more information about this legendary location. Some of the residents living in the area were unaware of this dark history that this location welcomed, but then again many didn't know that a dinosaur (Reference: was found in Haddonfield many years ago. Too many people are unaware of their surroundings and if it isn't presented blatantly in their face, then in their little world it did not exist or happen. Also when the original article hit a popular social media outlet, a member went ballistic after the word "Nazi" appeared in the headline. Of course they never bothered to read the article, just that word, "Nazi", set them off and they thought Neo-Nazis were invading. They panicked and started some unnecessary drama within the group before they were removed.
Chris Chaos at the Tree

This article was formed with research from the internet, old news microfilms reporting on the incidents and interviews with people from the area that follow and are aware of these kinds of events.

I pulled up and parked in the VFW parking lot which takes care of the park and has a nice garden and picnic bench set up in the center. It was a beautiful Autumn day and the leaves were falling, a nice 51 degrees, not too cold and not too hot, just perfect for a walk in a hoodie. While I was getting out of the car an older gentleman was making his way towards the benches with his newspaper ready to enjoy the day.
The Tree is located off of Manor ave

I entered the peninsula and walked along the waterline of Newton Lake which snakes its way to Newtons Creek and was a part of the infamous Haddon Lake before Blackhorse Pike, Route 130 and 76 were built. It is such a beautiful view and the water was a crisp blue hue. I made my way to the tree that claimed many lives, several of the "suicide" branches were cut in an attempt to stop the "curse" that many claim possesses this tree. The blue spray paint on the trunk of the tree was faded to a degree that you could not tell what it was. Many times a swastika was spray painted on the truck, hence how the Nazi part found it's way into the tree's name.

The 1st time I visited this tree one of the rope pieces was still visible on a branch that was cut down from a previous suicide. This time I did not see any evidence of the rope. The location is still used as a party spot as I could see beer cans, blunt wrappers, condoms and what appeared to be a burnt hoodie on the ground. When teenagers come back to this isolated location they get a great view of the lake while they drink, get high and have sex.

Close up of some of the branches that have been cut off

On the bank of the lake I found a segment of police caution tape, I wonder if that was left over from some prior or recent incident. I conducted an intense internet search and study of the last few weeks but I did not find anything related to the location.

I even went as far as contacting Weird NJ to see if they had any additional information:

"Hey Chris,

We couldn't substantiate any reports either. Here is our report from issue #39 including the original letter.
Thanks for the photos!

Mark Sceurman"

I forwarded them some photos that I took along with requesting more info, but they didn't have anything new either.

This article mentions one of the hung men

Mention of the tree:


Overview map of some of the locations affected by the curse

On April 20th, 1995 Investigator McLaughlin and the Haddon Heights police, went to the Leslie Nelson (A 37 year old transsexual formally named Glenn whom had a sex change operation 3 years prior to this incident) house at 1231 Sylvan Ave on Thursday to question him/her about allegations involving the molestation (fondling) of a local child (stated to be the 3 year old niece living in the house).
1231 Sylvan Ave

During the investigation, Nelson indicated that a loaded firearm was kept in the house. The officers returned to police headquarters to check Glenn Nelson's record and realized that Nelson had been convicted in 1988 on unlawful possession of a firearm and hollow-point bullets, serving 60 days of jail time and placed on three years’ probation. The officers returned with a warrant for Nelson's arrest; it is a crime for a convicted felon to possess a firearm. The events after this played out like a
Tarantino film.  At this time a standoff occurred and lasted for 14 hours. Leslie held off the officers with an AK-47. It ended at 4.34am when Leslie came out of the house. 2 officers were killed and several others were injured during this siege.

Leslie Nelson

When the dust settled after years of appeals, Leslie Nelson was given two consecutive, non-concurrent life sentences.

Many neighbors have been trying to put this rampage behind them But due to the sheer insanity of the actions taken that day it will be a long time and will never be out of memory completely.
Leslie's mother, Jean Nelson, covered her once white house with beige siding a few months after the shooting to cover the bullet holes. Many from the press and news attempted to interview her but were unsuccessful.
NOTE: the photo of the house used on that site is incorrect

The number of gawkers driving by to see the house or the bullet-pocked tree out front has dropped off. A next-door neighbor's home that was scarred in the siege has been re-sided, too. One of the many changes to come of that day for police was tactical. Although the officers on the scene were wearing bulletproof vests, the type of weapon Leslie Nelson was using “goes through a bulletproof vest like a hot knife through butter,” Detective Sgt. Bruce Koch said.

The site of the siege

According to, Jean sold the house back in 2012 to a new owner. On the second floor, next to the new owners son Ian Bomgardner's bedroom, they found a wall blocking off a closet-like space. Bomgardner, whose husband pulled off a panel to look inside, wonders if Nelson kept her guns there. According to home sale records, it is reported that Jean Nelson now resides in Somerdale New Jersey.
 Property sale records as listed on NJ parcels

The Norcross Memorial

Leslie is currently serving a life sentence at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township, Hunterdon County.

As an interesting side note, (unlucky number) 13th Street runs right by this location.

13th Ave..later co-named McLaughlin Lane after the officer killed in action
On Tuesday October 13th 2015 at 6 am a frantic 911 call was placed by D.J. Creato explaining that he woke up to find that his 3 year old little boy was missing.

Location of where Brendan's body was found

Here is the 911 call:

Creato:  "I don't know if he wandered out or what happened. I don't know where he is." "The door was locked. I guess he unlocked it and left,"

"He says he doesn't need a lawyer because he didn't do this. We know he didn't do it, he loved his baby," said family friend Bernadette Ferrara.

Brendan Creato

A few hours later, at approximately 9 am the young boy's body was found by Cooper River, only a few blocks from where he lived. Initially there did not appear to be any bruises or signs of a struggle on the boys body and the house did not present any evidence of forced entry.

Prosecutor Christine Shah said on Tuesday investigators do not believe Brendan went to that area on his own. First, she said, Brendan's socks were clean despite the muddy surroundings.

Later on the father was charged with the murder of his son. It was alleged that he murdered the child due to the fact it interfered with his relationship with his 17 year old girlfriend. In September, the girl went away to college and, according to prosecutors, became upset that Creato had custody of his son every other weekend, limiting their time together.

The location of where Brendan's body was found

As for the cause of death, investigator say it is still undetermined, but Brendan's brain showed a lack of oxygen before his death, indicating causes such as drowning, smothering or asphyxiation.



Location of the park (Robert Krupinski Sr. Memorial)

Robert Krupinski Sr. Memorial Park in the West Collingswood Heights
Body Discovered in Haddon Twp. Park, Authorities Dismiss Foul Play

Authorities confirmed Monday that a body discovered in a Haddon Township park on Sunday was ruled a suicide.

Andy McNeil, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said that local police found the body at 9:33 p.m. Sunday in Robert Krupinski Sr. Memorial Park in the West Collingswood Heights section of the township.

Personally identifying information is not released in such instances out of respect to those by whom the victim is survived.

Haddon Township police would only comment that the case does not pose a threat to public safety


Ricky Phillips

In December of 2011, Ricky Phillips was found dead in his submerged car in Newton Lake. It is still unclear as to what happen and how he ended up in the lake.

Red arrow shows path of car into the lake

"It looks like he came straight down Browning Road and across the parking lot at some point overnight," said Camden County Parks Police Sgt. Vincent DiPasquale. "We don't know why."

Fire rescue

For more info:

Ricky's memorial page:

"I live right by Newton Lake and at night I can hear screams from the lake. The same exact screams of agony every time. I've looked and seen nothing. I know there was a drowning there once and I'm thinking this might be a haunting from that event."
Submitted by anonymous

"I lived in Oaklyn and experienced a disembodied voice pathetically begging for help. It seemed to be an adolescent female saying over and over again ''help, Katrine, help me. '' (My name is Karen, so I am guessing the spirit had mistaken me for someone else. ) Anyway, the voice was first heard outside my bedroom window. Then it entered the room and circled around the ceiling, then exited out the window again, but not before coming nose to nose with me still calling for help. I swear I could feel her breath. I was 10 at the time, and it was a beautiful spring morning with the forsythias in full bloom. For some reason, I thought the timing of the forsythias blooming triggered the visit."
Submitted by Kay
"I did a little research of the history of Oaklyn and learned there was race track that had once stood near Newton Creek, WHP, and the surrounding area. The track was built in the mid 1800s, was visited by Ulysses S. Grant, and tragically destroyed by a fire with many casualties. I often wonder if this spirit perished in body on that day and roams the nearby area still seeking her lost ''Katrine'' and the help she needs. Perhaps the screams you hear from the direction of the creek are also from the tragic racetrack fire. Next time you hear them, take note if you smell smoke also."
Submitted by

For more info and more pictures:

(Chris Chaos is a long time resident of South Jersey who once again resides in and writes from Gloucester City, New Jersey. He is a filmmaker, a business owner, writer, urban explorer and investigator of the odd and weird, a proud parent, happily taken and a connoisseur of hot wings. Chris can be reached at


  1. Chris
    I have info about another suicide at Haddon lake in November of 1995

    1. Greetings, could you send any info to: much appreciated.