Category Archives: Weird NJ

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



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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Filed under Weird, Weird NJ

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!


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


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.


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

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


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


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

More of Edison’s talking doll recordings restored

In 2011, I wrote a story about the talking dolls that Thomas Edison produced and sold briefly in the late 1800s.

One of Edison's talking dolls, on display at the Thomas Edison National Historic Site. Photo by me.

One of Edison’s talking dolls, on display at the Thomas Edison National Historic Site. Photo by me.

The dolls had tiny record players in them, and they played wax discs onto which nursery rhymes had been recorded. The discs were very fragile and broke easily, which was one reason why the dolls weren’t on the market for very long. They came to be known as “Edison’s Little Monsters.”

One of the recordings that existed at the time I was doing my research was of “Little Jack Horner.” You can hear it here.

The tiny record player that was stashed in each doll. Photo by me.

The tiny record player that was stashed in each doll. Photo by me.

The other day, the New York Times published a story with great news: thanks to technological advances, other recordings used with the dolls were captured. So there are now eight examples in total.

Just like with “Little Jack Horner,” the other recordings have a distant, ghostly quality that makes them somewhat creepy to hear. And from what I’ve seen on social media, I’m not the only one who feels that way. The voices, people reliably report, are the stuff of nightmares-something I know would horrify the young women who lent their voices to the recordings. But you can tell they didn’t use their normal speaking voices for the rhymes. They instead affected an overly dramatic style that reminds me of Dan Ackroyd’s Julia Child impersonation. So the combination of age and weird style can be disconcerting to the modern ear.

Close up of the doll at the National Park. There's a little glare on the image from the case. Photo by me.

Close up of the doll at the National Park. There’s a little glare on the image from the case. Photo by me.

Adding to the creepy effect is the rumor that once Edison stopped production on the dolls, the parts were buried beneath a water tower on the factory property. I interviewed a park representative who said this wasn’t true, and I agree: I suspect that the parts were instead sold to another manufacturer who made plain old non-speaking dolls with them.

But it’s still fun to think of what could have happened to those parts. It inspired me to write a fictional short story about one possibility a few years back, which I’ve been meaning to shop around to different publishers but haven’t gotten around to for various reasons. This new development in the recordings gives me a little nudge to get going on that.


Filed under Little Monsters, Talking Dolls, Thomas Edison, Weird NJ