LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. – A Christmas mystery is unfolding in the New Jersey Pinelands, right along the shoulders of the Garden State Parkway.
For the past few weeks, someone has been adorning two large pine trees next to the southbound lanes of the highway with Christmas ornaments.
It started before Thanksgiving at mile marker 58.2 with two glass ornaments, with a shiny red ball about the size of a cantaloupe, and a smaller oblong red ornament with swirly gold glitter running from top to bottom. They were tied to branches by long strands of white cord, so that they could hang down far enough to be seen by motorists zooming by at (at least) 65 mph on a stretch of highway where there are no houses nearby.
Then, one by one, more decorations started popping up. One week it was a green ball the same size as the original red one, with gold glitter glued to it. Next it was a smaller gourd-shaped ornament with red and gold glitter.
After that, a smaller red ball with white glitter snowflakes appeared.
They kept coming this week. On Monday, a large silver bell appeared hanging from a branch on a tree on the other side of the road. Tuesday it was a burgundy apple-shaped ornament about the size of a medium pumpkin.
Joseph Orlando, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which also operates the Parkway, was unaware of the decorations until he was contacted by The Associated Press.
His first thought: "Somebody has a lot of holiday spirit, which is great, but a lot of spare time at night, which is not so great."
His second thought: "I'm just afraid in today's climate we're going to have to put up a Menorah on the northbound side."
There are no notes nearby, nor any indications of who is responsible for the roadside ornaments.
"It's a mystery to us," said State Police Capt. Al Della Fave.
Although there are several locations along the Parkway in which roadside memorials have been placed by relatives of people killed in crashes, some of which include Christmas decorations, the Little Egg Harbor site consists solely of ornaments. Della Fave said State Police have no record of a fatal crash at or near that spot.
Orlando, the Parkway spokesman, said another possibility may be a frustrated husband, a la Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold character in the film "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," who hasn't yet hung enough decorations at home to satisfy his excessive instincts.
"This is probably some guy whose wife finally said, `Enough!' "