Content Warning: Murder and violence
The Houdaille Quarry is a 120 acre abandoned quarry located in Springfield Township, New Jersey. It was used from the 1950s to the mid 1970s for quarrying gravel to use for the construction of roads. It ended up closing because fuel and asphalt prices skyrocketed because of the 1973 oil embargo. From the mid 1970s until today, the quarry has been closed off to the public (except for those taking a guided tour) and left to naturally redevelop and is used for composting leaves, sticks, and grass.
I had the chance to take a tour of the Houdaille Quarry a few weeks ago, and it was incredible to see ecological succession in action. The quarry once was rocky and barren, with steep ledges and holes scattered throughout. Now, these ledges are overgrown with different plants and the holes are now lakes.
This quarry is an astonishing local example of how the environment can regrow and reform on land that was originally destroyed by humans. It now is extremely biodiverse compared to even the reservations in and around it, and it has fewer invasive species because it has been closed off to the public. It is home to many different mosses, lichens, and wildflowers today and in the future, ecologist Daniela Shebitz believes that the quarry will eventually turn into an old growth forest in about 150 years.
A chilling part of the Houdaille Quarry’s history includes the death of Jeanette DePalma, a 16 year-old girl from Jersey City. Jeanette’s decomposed body was found in the quarry on top of a jagged cliff named the “Devil’s Teeth”. Allegedly, people reported seeing sticks arranged around her body in the shape of a coffin with small crosses surrounding it. DePalma’s body was found when a hiker's dog ran off and came back with the arm of DePalma. Her case is still unsolved today, and only classified as a “suspicious death” instead of a homicide because the coroner couldn't determine the cause of death (he suspected strangulation but could not confirm it). Many sketchy details were involved in this case, and there are many conspiracy theories about the police covering it up or about occult rituals occurring. You can donate to https://www.justiceforjeannette.com/donate if you are interested in helping to support the use of new DNA technology in reopening and solving this case.
The Houdaille Quarry has a complicated and dark history, with the murder of Jeanette DePalma as well as the extreme destruction that originally destroyed a beautiful area of New Jersey. But, it is also a great example of hope for our environmental future.
Tour by Howard Apsan