Shep Jones Lane is notorious for being considered one of Long Island’s most haunted spots. The road begins paved before petering out, leaving one seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and actually passes through the Avalon Preserve in Stony Brook, as well as property belonging to the Nature Conservancy. Hikers and strollers alike are common in the area in the daytime, but at night, the curious come out to play.
There are a multitude of folk tales involving an infamous Mary on Long Island, and one of the most harrowing involves Shep Lane. In all likelihood, this particular story isn’t old enough to fall into the category of folklore, but more likely a recently invented urban legend. In this tale, Mary is abused by the man of the family who took her in, prior to hanging herself from shame, guilt or sadness. Too often the name Shep Jones is used to refer to the legendary instigator of these heinous acts.
In reality, like the Mary stories from nearby Head of the Harbor, the names behind the places were real people, and well-known people at that. The real mystery is who was Shep Jones?
Shephard Jones owned a general store on Shep Jones Lane for many years, and was also a successful Smithtown politician. As a young man he was a noted fiddler, immortalized by painter William Sydney Mount, who was his second cousin, neighbor and friend. In addition to his business affairs, Jones was elected as Smithtown Supervisior in 1880.
Irish music afficionados will recognize the Shep Jones Hornpipe, which was passed down from his playing and first notated by William Sydney Mounts, a musician himself, in February of 1854. Hear the Shep Jones Hornpipe played by Tim Eriksen here.