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A mysterious blue swimming hole------ gouged by a meteorite?

- has been put back on the map by two old-timer.

By Melody McDonaId

Inquirer Suburban Staff

MONROE Every time someone jumped into that crystal-blue swimming hole. a new tale seemed to rise to the surface.

No one knew who, or what, had created that perfectly round, purportedly bottom-less pool, and adults would warn their children not to go near it. Defiant swimmers claimed the devil had reached up and tried to pull them under. Some called it the Jersey Devil's bathtub.

The Blue Hole, long a source of folklore in Monroe Township, has been virtually inaccessible for 40 years. And the legends, old-timers fear, are fading like an old pair of new jeans.

Joe Gionti, 83, and Bob Ormsby, 69 -township natives who concede they never mustered enough nerve to dive into the Blue Hole - are reviving the history and the mystery of the landmark. They marked a path to the Blue Hole, drew detailed maps, and penned a brief history.

"We wanted the mystery to influence people to come down and visit" Gionti said. "It has died down, and people have been slowly forgetting."

Located on state land at the edge of the township, the Blue Hole is about a mile off Piney Hollow Road, near the Egg Harbor River in a heavily wooded area known to locals as "Inskips" - named after Inskip Brick, a man who owned a large house in the area.

In the 1930s, the Blue Hole was a popular place for get-togethers. The Williamstown Volunteer Fire Company's corn cookouts and picnics were legendary, Ormsby said.

But about 40 years ago, a storm destroyed a wooden bridge across the Egg Harbor River that made the Blue Hole easily accessible.

So, Ormsby said, residents except hunters and a few adventurous souls -stopped going 10 the Blue Hole, and the legends began 10 die.

But with the help of Gionti and Ormsby and the township's historical society, the old swimming hole is alive again. Maps to the Blue Hole are available at the IrelandHofer House Museum on Main Street in Williamstown. Signs mark the spot, which is accessible on foot, motorcycle or, possibly, a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The group hopes to renew its use.

No one knows for sure how the Blue Hole got there, but the most accepted theory is that it was created by a meteorite. It is about 130 feet in diameter, with a steep shoreline and very cold water, averaging between 58 and 60 degrees in the summer.

It has been synonymous with the "devil" and "bottomless" for decades. As one story goes, a group of scientists dropped a huge weight and a long line of cable in the middle to see how deep it was. The cable played out; so more cable was brought in. The same thing happened again and again.

Ormsby and Gionti would like to believe in the lore, but realize that it is most likely a tale that has been passed down and embellished over the years. On a recent visit, the pool's sandy bottom, which some liken to quicksand was clearly visible to the pair, proving the "bottomless" myth untrue. Not to mention the handfuls of sand that swimmers have brought to the surface in the past, Ornmsby said.

And in regard to the lore that the Jersey Devil swims or bathes there, Gionti speculated that adults made up that tale to keep their children out of the cold water. "They could cramp up because of the cold," Gionti said.

Still, Ormsby said, the legend endures.

"My mother and dad never let me swim in it,"he said. "And I wouldn't let my kids. The Jersey Devil still has a hold on us."

To read about our hike to the Blue Hole