Category Archives: Weird NJ

Jersey Derby story online

I updated the “My Work” page with a link to the article I wrote about New Jersey-based roller derby, in case you’re interested in checking it out.

If there is a sport I was healthy and badass enough to participate in, it would be roller derby.

I spent a year or so traveling to games all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania (the pictures taken above come from a tournament held in PA). And what I saw were players working together to come up with strategies and score points. They were athletes; either starting out as “fresh meat” or seasoned veterans of the sport. And like any sport, there were rivalries and in-fighting, players splitting off to form new teams, gossip. But I never once got the impression that these people (they were women, men, transgender) didn’t take the sport seriously. Any professional wrestling-type vibe is fading away, fast. There is discussion of making it an Olympic sport – at least on an exhibition level.

And there’s this:

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Those are kids, they play co-ed, and they are awesome.

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Filed under Roller Derby, Weird NJ, Writing

Following Annie

Yesterday I took a trip to two New Jersey towns–Blairstown and Hope–that were featured in scenes from the 1980 horror movie, Friday the 13th. Both appear early in the film, when we’re following the perky and independent Annie, who signed on to be the cook at Camp Crystal Lake and is getting there on a combination of foot power and hitchhiking.

My visit was for research, as I’m working on a story about the Blairstown connection for the next issue of Weird NJ. The museum in town has hosted movie-themed events for the past three Friday the 13ths, with the next one on schedule for April 13, 2018. So the story is about those events, but also a little bit about why these locations got their screen-time in the fall of 1979.

And yes, there are spoilers here for anyone who has never seen the movie.

I re-watched the movie twice in preparation for my visits. The last time I saw it was decades ago, probably on cable TV. But back then I just watched it for the scares, and even if I was aware that some of it was filmed in New Jersey I didn’t make it my focus. So now I watched as Annie stops at some old gas pumps to pet a dog, walks over a bridge, and walks past a few storefronts that have clearly seen better days. Today, it’s much nicer and has a variety of shops you can visit, plus the Blairstown Museum.

She goes through this cool walkway at one point. It looks like only the tiniest of people can walk upright in it, but it’s kind of like a Tardis.

And she walks down this street, past a performance venue called Roy’s Hall. In the movie, Roy’s Hall is painted red.

She stops in a restaurant (interior is from a location in Hope, I think) and asks how far it is to Camp Crystal Lake. The locals all look at her like she’s crazy, and one woman encouragingly refers to it as “Camp Blood.” But the friendly local oil tanker driver is willing to drop her off a little closer to her destination, so they leave. But only after Crazy Ralph comes up to them and tells Annie that she and the rest of the camp staff are “all gonna die up there.”

Annie is dropped off in front of this cemetery, which is in Hope.

I’ve been past this spot it many times before, as a kid on my way to my grandparents’ home in Knowlton, NJ. And it never clicked in my head that it was THAT cemetery. Or that we probably visited my grandparents in the fall of 1979, when they were filming the movie (though in Hardwick – at the camp where most of the slashing takes place).

This is the last we see Annie among people she can trust. She soon hitches one last ride, and despite her sweet charm, she can’t make the driver, aka Pam Voorhees, aka the killer, aka not Jason, understand that. She’s just one of a new crop of teenagers that must die. I didn’t visit the locations where these final scenes from Annie’s life were filmed – there’s nothing really distinct about them that would stand out today. Wooded roadways are wooded roadways.

This most recent viewing of the film has established Annie’s character as one of my favorites. I suspect that if she had been a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake in 1958, she would have kept an eye on Jason.

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Filed under Cemeteries, Horror, Movies, Weird NJ

An update on KD

About a year ago, I wrote about KD Cyr, a young woman and fellow lover of the weird who died in a car crash. I wanted to let you know that you can learn more about her through the website that her family created not only to mourn her loss but to also celebrate her many talents. Please take the time to check it out.

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Filed under Death, Weird NJ

Home State Hauntings now in print

Today I was surprised to find out that an eBook that features a lot of my writing and editing has become a printed “special issue” of Weird NJ. Home State Hauntings: True Stories of Ghostly Places in New Jersey is available through the magazine’s online store, as well as their Amazon store. As you can guess, it’s about ghosts in New Jersey.

I believe it has the same content as the eBook: Just a different format for you luddites out there. With illustrations by the always amazing Ryan Doan.

Trees have died so that you may have this.

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Filed under Ghosts, Weird NJ

Rabbit Tree Redux

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It’s been 18 years since some photos I took of the Rabbit Tree in Vernon Township were published in the May 1998 issue of Weird N.J. These photos taken last weekend show that it hasn’t changed that much, except that somebody unhelpfully decided to spray paint over the “eyes” and “nose” of the rabbit, in case you couldn’t figure that out from just standing there looking at it. *Sigh.* Anyway, it looks pretty surrounded by the phlox.

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Katie in Death’s Garden

My story, Katie Likes Flowers, was recently published on the Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World website, as part of the Death’s Garden project by Loren Rhoads. Check out the story and take the time to read the other posts on the website, which features stories about cemeteries, graveyards, and how death impacts life. It’s all really amazing.

And thank you, Loren!

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Filed under Cemeteries, Weird, Weird NJ

Katie Likes Flowers

This short piece about an experience I had in a nearby abandoned cemetery was originally published in Weird Hauntings (Sterling, 2006).

Many abandoned bits of civilization are found in the woods in the part of New Jersey where I live: Towns that simply disappeared off the map for one reason or another. Their remnants include foundations of buildings, mineshafts and cemeteries—and the closest I’ve ever come to a haunting was in one of these forgotten cemeteries. Continue reading

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Filed under Cemeteries, Death, Nonfiction, Uncategorized, Weird, Weird NJ

Leo the MGM Lion

The Asbury Park Press recently published another story I wrote for the “Last Exit” special issue of Weird NJ: This one is about the original Leo the Lion, one of a number of roaring lions that MGM featured at the start of its films. This Leo in particular lived on a farm/animal sanctuary in Gillette, NJ, and is rumored to be buried at the foot of this pine tree.

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Kinda looks like a roaring lion, right? Photo by me, 2009.

Here’s a closer view of the alleged burial site.

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Leo the MGM Lion: Buried here? Photo by me, 2009.

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Filed under Cemeteries, Weird NJ

A ghostly byline in the Asbury Park Press

WeirdEncountersCoverOne of the ghost stories that I wrote for Weird Encounters, about the Old Bernardsville Library, was republished today in the Asbury Park Press. It’s fun to see my byline there, though the Press is veering pretty far north of their territory for this story. Fine by me! I’m grateful for the exposure.

The story of the ghost in the library was published as “Phyllis Isn’t Talking” in Weird Encounters.

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Filed under Ghosts, Weird NJ, Writing

Krampus, Jersey style: The Dark Servant by Matt Manochio

I reviewed Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant in Issue #44 of Weird NJ and was poking around the Internet (okay, Googling my name) when I came across a thank you post on his blog:

Weird NJ gives some Krampus love!

I always get scared when I publish a story about a person or book recommendation, as I’m never quite sure if the subject/author will be happy with it. It’s a person’s life, or the fruit of months or years of labor, and something that I try to approach respectfully. It’s always nice to know that what you’ve written is appreciated.

And just to reiterate on the original recommendation…The Dark Servant is a great, scary YA book about the Krampus terrorizing a Northwestern New Jersey community that’s loosely based on the town where I grew up. I suspect it’s a heck of a lot more compelling than the upcoming Hollywood treatment. If you’re looking for something to get you into the holiday season in a weird way, try The Dark Servant.

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Filed under recommendation, Weird NJ