Trying to pick New Jersey’s creepiest town is like trying to decide which Kardashian is the dumbest. You have so many from which to choose.

But I want to make a strong case for Westfield, the town of about 30,000 nestled in Union County. Its expensive homes and tony downtown belie its dark side.

The Watcher

Creepy Letters Family Sues

We can start with the most recent. You can argue this was just some shady real estate deal, or you can think what you would do if the house you were about to move into suddenly was receiving strange anonymous letters asking things like, "Do you know what's in the walls?" Asking which rooms the children would be sleeping in and referring to your children as "young blood." Laying ownership claim to your home in an ominous and threatening manner just after you purchased it.

It doesn't help the neighborhood move on from that now that it became the subject of a 7-part Netflix show. The house at 657 Boulevard is drawing fans who just come stare at it. Do those fans realize that they have now become The Watcher by doing so?

John List

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

John List was a man known for his rigidity. Always disapproving of his children for, basically, being normal kids. His family never lived up to his uptight standards.

They lived in a huge mansion in Westfield and he kept to himself. On November 9, 1971, he saw his three put-upon children off to school then calmly went into his garage to retrieve two old handguns.

He went back inside Breeze Knoll, the name of his 19-room home, and shot and killed his wife Helen in their kitchen. Then he made his way upstairs where he killed his own 84-year-old mother.

He dragged his wife’s body to the ballroom and after mopping the blood from the kitchen floor, was so depraved he was able to casually and calmly sit and eat a sandwich.

When the children arrived home from school he murdered each one at a time. Patricia was 16 and Frederick was 13. They were quick. One bullet each. But the middle child, John, 15, put up a fight. His father shot him 10 times.


He lined the dead bodies of his family up on the floor in that ballroom and put on an album of organ music on the turntable. Then he left the home and for many weeks, until the bodies were finally found, that dirge-like music played over and over and over again, throughout the days and nights, as the bodies decayed.

Because the mansion was set back from the road, no one heard it. But imagine that scene with that music playing as police finally entered the ballroom.

List disappeared and assumed a new identity and got away with it for 18 years, even settling down with a new family under his new name Robert Clark, until 1989 when his fugitive story was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.” Someone recognized the man they knew as Bob Clark and called the tip line.

List eventually died in prison on March 21, 2008, while serving a life sentence.

Charles Addams

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Charles Addams was a cartoonist who was born and raised in Westfield, New Jersey. His work had a flair for the dark. Among his creations were the characters that eventually became “The Addams Family.” The creepy and kooky clan became a TV show and later a movie franchise.

He passed away in 1988 at the age of 76 and all these years later Westfield honors the macabre works of one of its most famous residents by holding AddamsFest every year. It’s a monthlong celebration of Charles Addams and features things like the Morticia and Gomez Masquerade Ball, lantern cemetery tours, the Addams Family Fun Day and more.

Other homicides

For such a small town there have been too many other high-profile murders as well.

— Even before the John List case, there was the tragic murder of Raymond Bailey III in 1959. He was only 17 and was stabbed to death by his mother in their Westfield home. She then stabbed herself 25 times but survived.

— Leaving a local train station in 1974, John J. Graff was killed by a mugger while on his way to his home just three blocks away. No one was ever caught.

— In 1976, Lena Triano was hogtied with electrical cords cut off of her own appliances. She was raped. Then with a tie from her own bedroom blinds of her home, was strangled then stabbed multiple times. Authorities found her killer 36 years later.

— Sohayla Massachi was a 23-year-old college student at Seton Hall University when an ex-boyfriend abducted her from the school in 2000. He brought her to his Westfield apartment and shot her to death.

You can talk about the Devil’s Tree in Bernards Township and Shades Of Death Road in Allamuchy all you want. My money is on Westfield for the creepiest town in New Jersey.

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Over the past few years, state lawmakers have taken on the challenge of dealing with accused child predators among the ranks of teachers and educators.

In 2018, the so-called “pass the trash” law went into effect, requiring stricter New Jersey school background checks related to child abuse and sexual misconduct.

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