Death and Paint in the Pine Barrens: Brooksbrae Brick Factory Ruins

September 21, 2021 —
To get to this oddity, drive to Pasadena Woodmanse Road in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Look for the section of asphalt that is completely covered in graffiti. Park to the side of that vandal’s crosswalk and follow the graffitied trees over the graffitied railroad tracks and into the graffitied forest, following more graffitied trees for about a hundred yards until you reach it: The graffitied ruins of the Brooksbrae Brick Factory. You can’t miss it. Because of all the graffiti.

In previous centuries, the Pine Barrens was a factoryscape, with industrial buildings steadily churning out the molecules of modern life—iron, glass, and paper, for instance. One of those factories, the Brooksbrae Brick Factory, barely started spitting bricks when it became a pile of bricks itself.

In 1915, the building was sitting idle because the death of its owner had put it in limbo seven years back before it was even completed. A pair of caretakers lived in one of the buildings on the property, a couple in their sixties named Julian and Katherine Tomaszewski. One night they lit a fire and perished. Apparently, the chimney was faulty. The building burned to the ground.

The rest of the complex was taken down a couple years later by another watchman, Gildo Plazziano. His body was found in bed among the flames that were engulfing the entire plant, along with the body of a 12-year-old neighbor girl named Harriet Chattin. It was believed to be a murder-suicide…with all the nefariousness that implies.

Anyway, I think I got all that information right. It’s a bit confusing to parse, and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. And a lot of buildings in the Pine Barrens burned. More on that in a second.

The charred bones of the factory were left to bleach as the forests of the modern-day Pine Barrens swallowed it. Now, more than a hundred years later, its remains remain, hidden in the woods, the opposite of bleached. Those remains include freestanding walls and tunnels and pits, all of which are so skinned with graffiti that it’s almost an art installation.

Of course, anything that creepy will get some supernatural lore, too. And if it involves fire, some start talking about the Pine Witch and the Pine Wizard. In life, they were a married couple named Peggy and Bill Clevenger. When he died, he sent back a message to Peggy by boiling the water in their well. Peggy eventually joined him when she was killed during a burglary-arson. The Pine Witch and the Pine Wizard have been setting fires ever since. Maybe even the ones at the Brooksbrae Brick Factory.