Monmouth Battlefield State Park

In 1778, two armies slugged it out in sweltering heat in these east-central New Jersey fields. Though technically a draw, the Continental Army showed it could finally stand toe-to-toe with the best soldiers in the British Army.

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The Battle of Monmouth Court House was fought on June 28, 1778 between American forces commanded by General George Washington and Major Generals Nathanael Greene, William Lord Stirling Alexander, Charles Lee, and Marquis de Lafayette and British forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis and Lt. Gen. Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen near Freehold, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical draw, with both sides exhausted after fighting the longest battle of the war in brutal heat.

After France’s entry into the war on the American side, British Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton withdrew his army from Philadelphia and retreated toward New York City, which was under British control. He sent several thousand Tory volunteers and most of his supplies down the Delaware River, while his remaining 10,000-man army marched overland. General Washington’s 12,000-man army caught up with them at Monmouth Court House.

Washington sent Maj. Gen. Charles Lee and Marquis de Lafayette forward with 5,000 men to attack Clinton’s 1,500-man rearguard. When Clinton turned Maj. Gen. Cornwallis’ forces around to strike Lee’s left flank, the Americans broke and withdrew in confusion. Just then, General Washington arrived ahead of the rest of his army and sharply rebuked Lee. He cobbled together a defensive line, but that also broke under relentless British attacks. Washington’s third line held.

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White Rose Diner in Linden, New Jersey

White Rose Diner, at 1301 E. Elizabeth Avenue in Linden, New Jersey, is a Kullman model once part of a defunct family-owned burger chain called the White Rose System. Robert and Jack Hemmings and their cousin Jim Hemmings opened the first White Rose System in the 1950s in Highland Park, New Jersey and eventually owned three separate restaurants by 1972. Rich Belfer has owned the one in Linden since the early 1990s. The diner specializes in sliders served on a Kaiser roll topped with onions.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

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Tony’s Freehold Grill in Freehold, New Jersey

Tony’s Freehold Grill, at 59 E. Main Street in Freehold, New Jersey, is a 1947 O’Mahony that (unlike many classic diners) has sat at the same location since it opened, making it one of those small town staples. Its current owners/operators, Tom and Peter Iliadis, took the reins from their father, Tony, in 1986. Tony Iliadis started at the Freehold Grill as a cook in 1961, and eventually took ownership and re-christened it after himself.

This diner is only open for breakfast and lunch. It serves a sandwich called “The Trump Tower”, featuring corned beef and roasted turkey, coleslaw, Russian dressing, and melted Swiss cheese on grilled rye. Russian dressing? Hmmm…

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

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Tom’s Diner in Ledgewood, New Jersey

Tom’s Diner, at 1200 U.S. Route 46 (south of the I-80 interchange) in Ledgewood, New Jersey, is a 1930 Silk City badly in need of some tender loving care. The second oldest diner in New Jersey, it was originally called the Silver Dollar. Tom Seretis bought it in 1958 and re-christened it after himself. Frank (Tom’s son) and Pauline Seretis took over ownership and operated it until 2005. Their son, also named Tom, has been trying to raise money to restore it ever since.

The diner was used as a location in Cyndi Lauper’s music video for her 1984 hit “Time After Time“, and nostalgic patrons still faithfully decorate the exterior for holidays. After sitting unused for nearly fifteen years, the interior is badly water damaged. Tom set up a website to raise money for restoration, but last time I checked the site was no longer active. Back taxes and legal wrangling derailed restoration efforts in the past. It would be a shame if New Jersey lost this iconic old diner.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

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Paranormal Books & Curiosities a Rare Treat

As I venture outside my home state of Illinois, I’m continually amazed by how much more interest in folklore, ghost stories, and the paranormal is accepted in other parts of the country. Even though Chicago is a major metropolis, and Illinois is home to three or four annual or semi-annual ghost conferences (in Decatur, Rockford, Mattoon, and Chicago), nothing I have encountered in Illinois compares to the enthusiasm for this subject in other states.

For instance, while famously haunted buildings like Peoria State Hospital and Ashmore Estates attract a crowd, I have never waited in bumper to bumper traffic before ultimately being turned away from a tour by police because there are just too many people lined up, as happened when I tried to visit Willard Asylum last spring.

I was equally impressed when I saw that more than a dozen local tourism bureaus in New York State had banded together to create and promote a Haunted History Trail. Now, in New Jersey, I stumbled upon Paranormal Books & Curiosities, a store catering to fans of things that go bump in the night.

Located at 627 Cookman Avenue in artsy downtown Asbury Park, New Jersey (itself worth the visit), Paranormal Books & Curiosities is owned and operated by Kathy Kelly. She first opened its doors in 2008. More than a store, it offers ghost hunting classes, seances, paranormal investigations, lectures, and a paranormal museum. Several haunted tours depart from there as well.

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