I was doing some research about the scout camp I attended as a kid in New Jersey and after finding the above photo of the entrance to Pine Hill Scout Reservation I was immediately brought back to my carefree days as a camper there at summer camp and weekend trips during the school year.
My memories are hazy but one thing I distinctly do recall – beyond the standard stories of a legendary axe murderer and the Jersey Devil – was a story about how Al Capone had a nearby hideout.
When the memory popped into my head I assumed it had as much truth to it as the stories about a crazed axe-wielding murderer and the spawn of Satan roaming the Pine Barrens. But it turns out there might actually be more to the story. Might.
A nearby estate with a $3.9 million listing on this real estate website is supposedly that hideout I heard tell of all those years ago, a place where the notorious gangster from Chicago spent time in the 1920s. Realtors aren’t held to the same standards journalists are in making such claims, but it’s still fascinating to discover that this story was more than just something kids talked about around a campfire back in the late ’80s.
According to a profile of the community in the newspaper I delivered when I was a paperboy, the Capone rumor first started circulating in the ’70s after a mention in a newspaper article but there’s scant evidence or much turning up by way of Google beyond some message board discussions and references with words like “legend,” “rumor” and “purported.”
A book about Pine Hill published in 2010 calls the house Blanchard’s Mansion and says Capone stayed there when things were “too hot for him in Chicago.”
One message board post I found is from someone who claims to have been in the house in the ’70s. Perhaps this is the person who started the rumor?
I was in that home as a guest of a friend who knew the owner of the home at the time. It was in the late 70’s.. and the house was unreal inside. There was a room in the basement that had 18″ think walls that is supposedly where Al Capone stored his money. There was a cave-like huge ballroom on the 2nd floor and the house was full of antiques. Including a suit of armor at the front entrance. It was indeed attached to the Boy Scout Camp and back in the woods. The one evening I spent there, I felt as though I was in a dream……
Whoever started the rumor, I now appreciate the sleep I lost imagining gangsters in fedoras and Tommy guns attacking our camp in the middle of the night and the memory of the story being told around a campfire that still lingers more than 20 years later.
Have a story about your time at camp you’d like to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.