Just outside a small town in Northern New Jersey lies a road with a thousand stories. I myself have visited this road and have been told the old tale that haunts it. Legend has it that one night, back in 1957, a young woman who lived on the road was waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up for a school dance. She wasn’t waiting happily, though, because earlier in the evening her mother, who highly disapproved of the young man, had decided to forbid the daughter to go with him. Upon his arrival, the angry mother greeted the boy, and an argument ensued. He stormed away from the house, hopped in his car, and sped off down the road.
While the mother and daughter continued bickering, they heard a loud explosion in the distance. In a panic, the girl flew out of her front door and ran along the road to where it started downhill. At the bottom, she could see her boyfriend’s car, slammed up against a telephone pole, with flames coming from the engine. Crying hysterically, she ran down the hill and to the car, frantic to free her boyfriend. She managed to pull the driver’s door open and could see that the young man was still conscious, though he seemed dazed and there was blood on his head. What she didn’t see was the slow, steady stream of gas that flowed from beneath the car. She tried to pull the young man up and out of the seat, but he was much larger then she was. She lost her footing and instead fell against him. At that same moment, the fire reached the gas tank and it exploded. The mother, who had followed her daughter down the hill, could only look on in horror as she saw the two young people on the front seat of the car, clinging to each other like lovers, engulfed in flames.
Now they say that on some evenings, if you stop at the bottom of the hill and turn your engine off, you can hear, faintly, what seem to be screams. And they say if you park your car in such a way that perfectly matches the position the young man’s car was in when it came to a rest and put your car in neutral, it will ever so slowly reverse itself. And slowly, steadily, inevitably make its way backward, up the hill and into the driveway of the house where the girl once lived. It is almost as if the girl and the injured young man have climbed into your car with you. The girl, taking the steering wheel from you and is attempting, futilely, to bring her boyfriend back to the house before the fatal accident.
This is the legend that has grown up around what some call “Gravity Hill,” and into this legend, just a few years ago, drove David Urbansky.
One night in the winter of ’85, seventeen-year old David Urbansky was on his way home from his after-school job, where he flipped burgers in the food court of a local mall. He drove his car defensively in a heavy snowstorm that had hit northern New Jersey without warning. Though David had only received his driver’s license, he was already a good driver who respected the roads and the other vehicles on it. This night, he knew he had to be especially alert due to the extreme condition of the roads. Spinouts and locked brakes were easy possibilities even going at fifteen miles per hour.
David was on Route 216 north, where traffic was heavy, and the going slow. If he took Exit 28, it would let him off on Brooks Curve where the traffic would be much lighter. Though he would never normally take that road, he knew he would be home faster than if he waited in the mass of cars that were slowly making their way down the highway. So when Exit 28 came, he took it.
The road was lined with dark trees, and there were very few streetlights. David guessed that it was probably a pretty creepy road even on a clear evening, but it seemed especially threatening on this snow-filled night with menacing gray clouds in the sky above. He passed a service station, but after that there was no sign of life for almost two miles until his headlights caught and froze a scared rabbit crossing the road. He had almost hit rabbit when it suddenly lurched out onto the side and ran off into the trees. A moment later he saw a house to his left, with a single faint light in an upstairs window. As he passed it, he wondered who could live out in this lonely place.
The snow had started to come down more heavily now, and David’s windshield wipers were failing him. Just after passing the house, he stuck his left hand out the window to clear it of the pestering icy obstructions. He didn’t realize that he was heading down a hill until he felt his tires slipping. He tried in vain to straighten out the car, but it turned sideways, continuing to slide down the icy slope, picking up speed.
David woke to a rapping on the window. Not realizing where he was for a second, he then remembered what had happened. He guessed he must have hit his head when his car ended up in a ditch at the bottom of the hill, but felt no pain. He opened his door to get out and found a young woman there to help him.
“My name is Angela,” she said with a smile and a peppy sound to her voice. “Would you like to come up to my house? It’s nice and warm, and you look a bit cold.”
David was a little confused. The girl hadn’t even asked if he was hurt or okay. But she seemed nice enough, friendly, and hospitable. “Yeah I guess so,” he replied. “I’ll never get my car out now anyway, and I’d like to use your phone if that’s okay with you.”
“I’m sure you will find what you need up at the house,” Angela replied, “Let’s get going.”
As David climbed the hill side-by-side with Angela, he noticed she wasn’t wearing a coat, though she didn’t seem the slightest bit cold. She wore only a white blouse and an ankle-length checkered skirt with bobby socks on her ankles. Her saddle shoes looked as if their soles would be slick in the snow, yet she walked up the hill with no trouble.
“Were you on your way somewhere?” David asked as they got to the top of the hill.
“No, not really,” Angela said with a chuckle and a skip, seeming light and airy in the dark night.
A moment later they were at the house, climbing the short rise of the stairs outside. “Well, here we are,” the girl said as she opened the door to the modest little home. “Sit down there,” she said, pointing to the sofa that stood in the corner of the living room. “Would you like to play some records or something?”
“All I could really use is a phone right now,” David said.
Angela just flashed him a smile and walked to a cabinet on which a turntable sat.
David looked around the room, and then saw a black phone sitting on an end table. He went to it, picked up the receiver, and put it to his ear, but there was no dial tone. “Isn’t this great,” he murmured to himself. He turned to the girl, “Listen Angela, if you have a car, maybe you could give me a lift to the service station I passed about two miles back up the road.”
The girl didn’t turn, didn’t acknowledge the fact David was talking. She just stood in the middle of the room, singing to herself and dancing in place.
“Angela!” David shouted over the music. “I really need for you to…” The music suddenly came to a halt, though no one had approached the turntable. He lowered his voice as he saw that Angela had stopped dancing and was staring anxiously to the stairs. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“She’s coming,” the girl said. “We have to go now.” She walked to David and grabbed his arm.
“What are you doing?” David demanded, pulling his arm back. “Who’s coming?”
The girl turned, ran toward the door, opened it, and disappeared into the snow and wind. As David hurried to the door to see where she had gone, he saw the woman walking slowly down the stairs. She wore a tattered nightgown and appeared to be in her late fifties or early sixties, with long black hair peppered with gray and sad eyes sunk back into her skull. She stopped near the bottom of the stairs, looked at David, and for a moment appeared to gag at the sight of him. Then she began to speak. “Has Angela brought you here? Where is she, boy?”
David stared at the woman for a moment before answering, “She ran away. I guess she thought you would be angry with her for making so much noise. Anyway, I just wanted to use your phone, but it’s dead.”
“Phone won’t do you no good,” she offered. “Nothing will.”
“I guess I should be leaving then,” David said. “Sorry to bother you. If Angela had told me her grandmother was upstairs I would have…”
“Grandmother!” The old woman chuckled. “You see that picture on the mantle there, boy?
David walked to where the woman was pointing, took the frame in his hands, and looked at the picture. “What about it?” he asked.
“Do you recognize the two people in the photo?”
David looked closer. “That’s Angela on the right, and I guess the woman on the left is a relative. She’s very beautiful.”
“Beautiful!” The woman seemed to find this very funny, cackling like a crone. Then her voice abruptly became sad. “Listen boy, you're right, that’s Angela in the picture. And that woman beside her is me. I’m her mother. That’s the both of us 28 years ago. One week before the accident that killed her."
David’s mind went numb as he tried to put sense into the woman’s words, the picture slipping from his hands to shatter on the pine wood floor.
“She found you at the bottom of the hill didn’t she? They usually run off after seeing Angela. But I can see why you didn’t. I can also see why she brought you to the house.” The woman walked down the last of the stairs and then took a few steps toward David. “Tell me something young man, on your walk up the here, did you feel the cold? Did you really feel it? Or was it just the memory of the cold?”
David couldn’t understand what the woman was asking him. “What are you talking about?”
“See that full- length mirror attached to that closet door over there?”
“Why don’t you go take a look in it?”
David walked toward the mirror while starring at the strange woman, then he turned to look at his reflection. He stood in horror; the right side of his face looked as if it had been charred by fire, and his slick blonde hair matted with blood. Along his upper right arm, his shirt was torn above a deep gash, and he could see his right shinbone jackknifing through his flesh and jeans.
His screams echoed through the house. “This is some kind of trick,” he said, turning to the woman who said she was Angela’s mother. “And you’re a crazy old woman!” He then half ran, half stumbled to the door, then through it and down the outside steps.
The old woman watched from a window as he ran out into the road. “Why was I chosen to have this unwanted gift of vision?” she wondered aloud. Then she walked to the front door and closed it.
David ran down the road, breathing heavily, though the cold air showed no sign of his breath. When he got to the top of the hill, he could see, below him, red lights flashing through the heavy snow. He started down, then fell and slid for what seemed an eternity all the way to the bottom. When he picked himself up, he was able to see what the commotion was all about. His car was a mangled wreck, twisted around a tree. There was a policeman surveying the scene, and two paramedics who were at that moment sliding a stretcher through the double doors of an ambulance.
David ran to the rear of the vehicle just before they closed the doors and noticed a technician kneeling by the stretcher’s side. “This is the toughest part of the job,” David heard him say as the man flipped a sheet over the face of the boy who lay still on the stretcher – the face of David himself.
“David,” Angela said as she reached a hand to him, he turned to look at her and saw, for the first time that, behind her bright eyes was an unfathomable sadness. And he knew the same sadness was in his own eyes. “It’s time to go now,” she said.
He took her hand. They slowly walked up the hill and disappeared into the frigid night.