Wandering Around South Jersey is the first book by author Ryan Stowinsky, which chronicles some of the lesser known, out of the way places in South Jersey.
I tore through the one hundred seven page volume in the course of two sittings, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because it’s paced really well. The book covers a good number of locations throughout South Jersey from the well known to the obscure. Each chapter is devoted to a separate place, with a few paragraphs describing the history or legend of the area, and then usually followed up with a photograph or two. It’s a bad thing because the book is just too short. Some articles, such as the one on the Charles Wills grave, went by too fast. Others, like the one on Thompsons Beach, were just right. It would have been nicer to see a little more “meat” on each article, and perhaps more talk about the actual search for the place.
What really struck me about the book is that it reminded me a lot of Weird New Jersey, minus all of the crap about ghosts, KKK camps, and Nazi’s. This is a good thing because in my opinion there is enough “weird” history in South Jersey that doesn’t need to be muddled up with the “cheap thrills” that’s used to sell magazines. The places mentioned in the book are mostly not too far off the beaten path, and this book would make an excellent guide for other explorers to plan out their day trips.
Of particular note was Stowinsky’s reporting on the “Pet Cemetary” or Ten Mile Hollow cemetery. What I really enjoyed was how he talked of how hard it was to find this place – something that I can sympathize as I still have not been there myself. His description and photographs are the best I have read with regard to that site. He is also, I believe, the first to talk about a town with no roads – Grassy Sound.
What really makes this book shine is how it blends a good deal of original discovery with visits to well known “weird” places. Even if you have a large collection of books on South Jersey and read every issue of Weird New Jersey, there’s still good reading here. While my own preference for exploring is down the forgotten sand roads of the Pine Barrens, it’s nice to follow along with Stowinski’s adventures. I’m told that he’s working on a companion book – I’m looking forward to seeing that when it comes out.