I had a view on Greece I wanted to express today, but decided instead to share this view from my New Jersey garret window. It seems a far more comprehensible scene at the moment. Besides, after Leighton’s searing to the nerve piece this week on looming Brazilian class warfare, I saw no reason to risk Foreign Affairs filing another grievance with the blog gods claiming “turf invasion.”
So, today I'm aiming for the pastoral.
Picture a late autumn day by quiet woods far removed from any public road. We’re not talking Robert Frost here, though the weather is about the same.
Deer graze in peace by a pasture while just beyond the borders of the farm the hunters wait. And geese drift upon a pond—still but for the ripples they create—seemingly oblivious to platter size snapping turtles lurking below.
|Matt Groening's Scream travesty|
Okay, so it’s more like a Stephen King pastoral, but don’t blame me for the tension of the setting, blame Jason. And I don’t mean the one with the fleece. I mean the Jason. The one with the hockey mask.
For not so distant from my tranquil woods sits the actual site of the fictional Camp Crystal Lake. From here launched one of America’s most successful media franchises, the very one that turned slasher Jason’s hockey mask into an immediately recognizable symbol of pop culture.
Thank you, Friday the 13th (1980), for giving my woods that unique, special touch it lacked when the only distraction to its sylvan setting was the occasional wandering seven hundred pound black bear and entourage. It makes me wonder how peacefully Thoreau would have slept had he known his beloved Walden Pond had a psycho past.
|John Blair (1802-1899)|
I mean we’re talking about a sleepy, northwestern New Jersey community of less than 6000 souls nestled within the Great Appalachian Valley. It was named after one of the richest men of the 19th Century, John Insley Blair, who practiced philanthropy and managed his vast railroad and business empire from this rural town until his death at the age of ninety-seven--less than thirty days from the 20th Century.
Today, Blairstown is home to a prestigious private school, a private airport, and woods filled with summer camps for city kids—yes, all of the above is terrific fodder for a story, but why did they have to pick my woods for the film.
|Main Street Blairstown|
I wasn’t living here when the movie was shot, but locals tell me they didn’t think much about it at the time. Today, though, there’s no escaping that Friday the 13th stands high in this community's history of significant cultural events. Indeed, when twenty years later The Blair Witch Project launched as one of the most successful independent films of all time, some thought it another film linked to Blairstown but that distinct horror honor belongs solely to the woods of Maryland.
I still haven’t seen Friday the 13th. I spend a lot of time in those woods and have no desire to link the film’s images to my reality. No need to be looking over my shoulder any more than the thought of it already has me doing—especially when I walk Jason’s woods after dark. And just in case you think all this is a bit silly, Blairstown has another unique place in the history of modern American horror stories. But this time the story is for real.
|Computer generated composite of Princess Doe|
Two years after Jason first stalked Blairstown’s woods, and less than a month before he took up wearing the hockey mask in a sequel, the body of a petite fourteen to eighteen year-old female turned up murdered in a Blairstown cemetery. She was named Princess Doe and became the first unidentified body entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer system. Nearly thirty years later, the crime remains unsolved.
The wind is now rattling the panes of my garret window.
Perhaps it’s a sign for me to return to fictional thoughts. That’s not to suggest I actually believe Jason’s out there haunting my woods (he said prayerfully)…but I do have a farmer’s message for any itinerant, machete wielding wannabe: I use double-ought in my shotgun, sucker.
Jeff — Saturday