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Blairsden- The Horror, The Nuns and Other Tales

Weird New Jersey Launches an all out attack on the horrible tales of what went wrong inside the Blairsden Estate in Peapack, New Jersey.

This article originally was posted on another site back in 2007. We thought it was time to bring it back and provide additional details since the original article was published.

Mr. Local History - Weird New Jersey Blairsden
The Weird New Jersey Blairsden article that changed the discussion. Source: Weird NJ

Before we get started, you have to read how the Blairsden Horror Phenomenon took hold. It really started to take off when a niche magazine called Weird New Jersey published an article about the Blairsden estate in Peapack. Well, with the internet and all, the story took off and the rumors took off with it. Click Here to load the Weird NJ piece.

I’ve been working with a local historical society for over 13 years and while being the webmaster I get to see the email requests that come from the site. Hands down, the most popular request is from curious webbies looking to find out the truth about what happened up at the Blairsden Mansion in Peapack. So before you get all excited, maybe you’d like to learn a little about the real history of Blairsden, before we get into some of the weirder tales and current stories that have been floating around the internet and in local publications. But that’s no fun. So lets see what people have come up with.

Blairsden’s Horror Story

This article takes a bunch of information that I’ve been gathering over the years since I live in the area. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go see Blairsden, but I’m one of those freaks that respects the law and won’t go over there to scout the property. True story though, the one time I tried to do it with my daughter, it took a whopping 2 minutes for the local police to be right behind me threatening to arrest me if I didn’t get off the land. (Geeze, I thought I was safe with my four year old with me- no dice).

So there’s definitely alarm triggers out there around the waterfall on the Ravine Lake “rear entrance up the hillside. So why all the excitement with this place? From a historical perspective, not really that much happened there except it was one of the most iconic large scale building projects to ever hist the area.

Probably the most notable social activity, Clinton Ledyward Blair’s four daughters all got married on the estate. It’s also known that Blair had just about every boxwood tree dug up in a fifty mile radius and had them carted up the mountain to the estate. Seems like the guy had a real ego problem (BIGGEST, mostest, largest…you get the idea). See, you can’t write this type of stuff on the official historical society site! But we can here!

Then there’s the locals. And there’s really a bunch of funny stuff that I’ve been receiving via email over the years and that’s just another reason to post this to a blog (so when you read this and you’ve got something to add, well then just post a comment and tell your story).

Video Humor about Blairsden

Let’s start on YouTube. YouTube over the years have laid claim to young filmmakers trying to build off the media buzz that hit when the Blair Witch Project was released. The filmmakers love the shaky camera that invokes “seeing something” alongside so weird or paranormal behavior. I caught these beauties about Blairsden on YouTube and had to laugh…..

After that on, now there is this other budding film director came up with this one (I have to admit it must have been a local, cause there are a bunch of local scenes around Bernardsville, but I have to admit it was pretty funny (not to mention if I were a teen again, I’d be all over this Blairsden tale as well)!

Didn’t you love the dumbass reporter? Hope she got arrested!

So with videos like these two, how can the authorities expect any thing less than always having a bunch of kids going up the mountain looking for a thrill, or historical buffs climbing the backside cause they want to see what was once the “grandest of grand” beauxs arts estates?
I can hardly blame them. Can you?

Funny thing. I was at a local historical presentation and a lifelong resident (John Smith) starting asking questions about Blairsden. He asked the audience how many people have been to (or inside the estate) and about three quarters of the audience raised their hands! Geeze I thought, “I’ve been wanting to get into this place for years and look at everyone who’s already been there! Holy Crap!”. Funny thing is that John’s was also pushing to get into Blairsden at the time as well, but without any luck.

Natirar and Matheny

See, both of Blairsden’s neighbors have open access. You’ve got Natirar, pronounced NAT -arrrr- R, a recent purchase by the Somerset County Parks Commission for Twenty something million, and a subsequent lease of the estate out to Sir Richard Branson from England, who’s going to create a monster health spa and restaurant on the current grounds.

On the other side you have the Matheny Rehab Facility for CP patients. Of worthy note, the Matheny Center actually was part of the Blairsden Estate and the Carriage Barn is actually a building they use today.

So back to Blairsden. While the back gate (off Lake Road) is still closed, and the front gate (off Peapack Road) in Peapack is also shut, there is no easy access to the estate. That did change in 2012 when the estate was reopened and the front entrance restored. In the winter, you can travel up and around Ravine Lake and you’ll get a pretty good view of the estate up on the hill.

In 2012 the estate was listed for sale by the local real estate company Turpin Realtors. It sold in 2014 for just over $4.5 million. There were supposedly two guys, yes two guys (don’t ask me if they’re gay either, cause I don’t know), who bought the estate from the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, the same ones who have a lock on the Mosley estate up the Road that was recently sold to Morris County (geeze these Government Agencies know how to spend our tax dollars don’t they!).

Anyway, the new owners were working under an organization called “The Foundation for Classical Architecture” and later the Blairsden, LLC. I’ve tried to do a bit of research on this and have come up empty. While it might just be a front organization or holding company of sorts, if anyone has any info on the group, let me know. I’ve been told unofficially that it is “holding company”, but cannot confirm. In the meantime, it is definitely still private property and you’ll get popped if you try to go in. So those that keep sending email requests if they can lease Blairsden for a wedding or a paranormal session, you’re out of luck.

The Killing Nuns and Orphan Abuse

The Peapack Gladstone Blairsden estate- Mr. Local History #mrlocalhistory

I do love the stories that come with the history and of the Blairsden estate. Anything from Sisters that devil worshiped and killed the orphans that were living in the house, to gardeners that went wild and killed the nuns, then the kids (poor kids always get the bad end of the stick). I do hate to disappoint but there are no records of anyone getting killed in or around the estate. Sorry. Doesn’t work well for selling more tickets to the Blair Witch Project (which also has nothing to do with Blairsden- but everyone wants to think it does).

Another story that locals tell is the story of a Mother Superior driven mad by an undefined ancient evil force residing somewhere in the area.  After she murdered everyone at the commune, those that fled escaped to the harsh winter New Jersey environment around the lake. She disappeared into the woods never to be seen again.  Others say she eventually found her way back to the mansion, although she was somehow different, changed by the force she had contacted and forever now living in the deeply furrowed veil between the real and the unreal. They blame the Devil’s Tomb.

The Jacobs Ladder and the Devil’s Tomb

Mr. Local History Archives - Jacobs Ladder
The Devil’s Tomb – Would you dare touch it?

I laugh when I bring my kids by “The Devil’s Tomb” and they all point like they know something that no one else does and they giggle. They snicker right up until the point when I pull the car over and say “wanna get out and go touch it?” Then their faces change immediately and they all say with a quiet whimper “No Thanks”. That’s the best part!!! But they are learning their history, and I do believe that stories like this do deserve a place in history. While it’s great for blogs, hence the reason for writing, it’s not too good for the local historical societies, who tend to frown upon such stories.

I did write another story about what’s known as the Devil’s Tomb and Jacob’s Ladder (two other local devilish stories). In fact, I think it was the nuns of Blairsden that actually caught the devil himself and dragged him over and up Jacob’s Ladder to the current site of the Devils Tomb.

Such is life.

The Real Blairsden

Now once you’ve gotten your dose of devils and nuns gone haywire, venture over and read the real story and history of Blairsden.  We have videos of the estate (both interior and exterior) so go take a look. It’s like a narrated walking tour.

Mr Local History Archives
Blairsden during the Mansions in May 2014 – This is the rear view of the property. Source: Brooks Betz

Any Stories to Share?

If you have any stories you’d like to share, feel free to post a comment below or email us. Here are just a few that were emailed in.

Kristie Lombardo wrote:

Good Lord. I find that story hard to believe. I went to MSJA, as a boarding student from 7th grade all the way through High School and graduated from there in 1981. Although I hated the school, mainly because my mom dumped me there so she could travel with her wealthy new husband, the nuns never mistreated us. Some were nasty and sharp tongued mainly because they were frustrated, but never ever abusive. Most were kind and loving and felt sorry for us boarders.
Although I wasn’t happy when I was there, I made lifelong friends and look upon the experience as a somewhat pleasant one. The stories about Jacobs Ladder and Devils whatever are ridiculous.
The Sister Aurora I knew was a kind elderly harmless nun who ran the kitchen and cooked us meals. I cannot fathom that this was the same monster that was described in the previous post.
Funny story, my frlends and I used to raid the kitchen at night and steal food. One night we stole a gallon of ice cream and took it up to our dorm room. We heard one of the nuns coming and my friend took the icecream and chucked it out of the open window. The next day, when we were saying the Pledge of Allegiance, we looked out the window and there was the gallon of icecream stuck in the tree. We couldn’t stop laughing. Oh the memories!

Milagros Navarro wrote:

Yes of course it’s true! Actually its the first time I’ve ever been brave enough to share my experence @ Mount Saint Johns Academy. I’m in tears as I’m writting this…it’s painful.. How many more details do you need to know? I’ve lived with these nightmares buried my entire life . With THAT being said, How am I supposed to trust that anyone has my best interest in mind? I’m not about to post my phone number on here. If thats what ur asking for? Send me a name & contact number via email. I will contact you directly.

Unknown writer posted:

Karen, I was one of the “Cuban” boarders. I was only 5yrs old when I arrived there & English was my new second language. Yes the abuse was very real for me. The nuns had very special ways of punishment or “disciplines ” as they called it & enforced it regularly to us little girls, in the name of Jesus. If they did it today those nuns would be locked up in jail. Sister Aurora was one of my nightmares to this day !! The threats were real & the punishment cruel. I was in my 30’s before I was able to speak about it & some I would rather forget. I’m happy you enjoyed urself at school since you got to go home every day. Unfortunately I didn’t. I got to go home every other weekend to a loving home. Only to be returned on Sunday, praying things to get better but it only got much worse. I would get punished if i spoke Spanish to anyone including my parents on the weekend when I was allowed briefly to call, as Sister stood over me scowling cuz she couldn’t understand what I had said to them. God forbid if i cried during the call. Afterwards I would be forced to kneel on my little hands for hours. Until one day I got very ill with the fever, for days the Sisters neglected me, wouldn’t call my parents since my parents only spoke Spanish. The only one who would care for me was the cleaning lady. She would bring me food & comfort me as I got sicker with delirium fever, dripping in sweat. In secret, the cleaning lady found my contact number .. when she carried me to a phone & dialed my mother for help….I had the Mumps ! That was the last straw for my parents. Sister Aurora who would pinch my anemic pale cheeks daily until they were bruised red. Imposing her power over me when I wet the bed with fear almost every night. God would kill my parents if I dare tell anyone about any of the Sisters cruel punishments. All in the name of the Man who died on the cross for me & my sins. Jesus Christ, Amen !! I believe in a good, kind God. I pray little children don’t ever have to live with torture & cruelty by the people who should love & care for them. Especially in a school that’s suppose to teach them God’s Love. Please parents be vigilante to whom you leave ur children. Don’t ever give complete power over ur little innocent children to anyone but urselves !! For God’s sake !

Karen wrote:

I went to my St. John’s academy from 1960-1965. In kindergarten, I was told that I must write with my right hand, I was left handed, as left handed meant you were a son/daughter of the devil, who while you were in chapel each day was in the back waiting for you to turn around so he could get you! I must say I loved the nuns. Sister Baptiste was my kindergarten teacher, sister Carmalita for 1st, Mrs. Sutton for 2nd, sister Luke for 3rd, sister David for 4th and sister Mary Celeste for 5th. We had 15 minute classes which resulted at least in my case put me on an 8th grade level when entering public school in 6 th grade. Our religion classes were much longer as was daily chapel. We had a 2 hour lunch/recess. I was there when the Cuban borders were there. Perfection and discipline were at the top of the list. But instilled in us was a conscience. Being so young, I was not aware of any abuse. I was not a boarder but a bus rider. As l sit here thinking about my time there, I begin to remember more!

LeMarie wrote:

Wow, years have passed and I’m still doing history reports on the Blair family. Apart from the buildings in NY, and the Princeton building I have to say Blairsden is my favorite to this day.

2012, and I am planning on returning soon for more pictures…because the last time I went, in 2008, all lights in the mansion and outside the mansion were on (I could see the Roman’s lining the reflecting pool perfectly) and there was a sign for “parking” with an arrow towards the back of the house. The mansion AND the landscape looked very new and taken care of, so it would be safe to say they are fixing it for potential buyers.

Last I read, in 2011, it was going for 4.9 Million. When back in 2004 it was said to be worth over 10 million. Kind of a shame, considering you cant find homes as sturdy and luxorious like this anymore going for WAY BELOW the worth. Anyway…

I have never ever even attempted to go through the Ravine Lake bridge entrance. Mainly because the grass was higher than me, there is no where to park your car, and in the dark it is dangerous and difficult to walk through.

The front gate on Main St/Peapack Rd will, most times, be open. Every time I’ve been there it was atleast. That road past that gate is considered BLAIR ROAD, it is infact a road, because it is a private road that leads to Blairsden AND also other houses on the land. No lights, just a road in the middle of trees. BLAIR ROAD also turns into BLAIR DRIVE………..

Please if you need any more information, I will be glad to provide you with my knowledge. Because some things are better not written on a public site 

Monica Casey wrote:

n the mid-1960’s, I was a boarding student at Mt. St. John Academy in Gladstone, NJ (the Mosley estate?) The Blairsden Estate was then known as St. Joseph’s Villa. Living at the Villa were wealthy, elderly women who, we students had heard, lived half of the year at the Villa and the other half in Italy. Rumor had it that this arrangement had something to do with the women, all widows I believe, not being citizens of the U.S.

Also living at the Villa were aspirants. Aspirants were very young girls, age 12 to 18, who thought they may want to become nuns. These girls dressed in what were commonly known as postulant’s habits; postulants were (are?) the first of three tiers to becoming a full on nun. The aspirants were driven each morning to Mt. St. John Academy to attend school by a nun named Sister Loyola. Loyola drove them to and fro in a very long station wagon looking automobile – I believe the nuns got the vehicle from some airlines. They were a crafty bunch of women!

In my Junior year, my class, including day students, was forced to go on a three day retreat to St. Joseph’s Villa. Ordinarily, the religious retreats were held at school and lasted for the duration of the school day. For some reason unbeknownst to us students, the good nuns decided to hold it at the Villa. We all packed a suitcase and headed to the Villa. It was a most unusual experience; one I’ve never forgotten.

The room I stayed in was set up like a small dorm room. There were 4 or 6 of us in it. The room was wallpapered in a small flower pattern. In the middle of the wall was a glass door knob that led through two doors to our bathroom. It took us a while to find it.

We were what many considered the rowdy, delinquent bunch in the class and we had a blast at the Villa. The building was most curious. For example, in the main parlor, there were secret passageways on one or both sides of the huge fireplace. As I recall, the room was painted a very light teal.

The priest who led the retreat was a whack job. He was probably in his mid 50’s, with steel gray hair, not bad looking at all. His favorite topic was impure thoughts. He was encouraging the girls to “whip up those impure thoughts!” He told us that as a child he had a stutter and overcame it through prayer and public speaking. Also, I think he told us that he never stuttered when he sang. In any event, it turned out he tried to make out with two of the girls. That storm really gathered strength when it came to light that the poor man had been transferred by some holy person in power at the offices of the diocese or archdiocese to working with girls because he’d had “troubles” with boys. It was the least religious retreat I’d ever been on and as a result, it became one of my friends and my favorites memories of high school life.

To get to the Villa, one would drive past the Matheny Home, where many of us boarders would help out on weekends. The road narrowed and then one would come upon the entrance which was spectacular. In the middle of the driveway, there was a long reflecting (reflection?) pool; and on the outer sides of the driveway were stone busts of what appeared to be Roman or Greek gods. It was quite trippy for high schoolers.

Additional Stories:

Thanks for reading.

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