Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Frightening Thought Returns: Whose Woods These Are I Think I Know

Jeff — Saturday
My post last Saturday on the state of domestic violence in Greece triggered a followup topic I intended to explore today. Instead, though, I've decided to  spare the bloodshed and opt for the pastoral


We’re not talking Robert Frost here, but picture a day by quiet woods far removed from any public road. Deer graze in peace by a pasture while just beyond the borders of the farm 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.  

My Woods
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. 

Jason's woods
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.

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.
Computer generated composite of Princess Doe

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’s Upcoming Events


CrimeFest, Bristol UK


Panel THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2024 @ 17.00

“Overstepping the Mark: Abuses of Privilege and Power” with

Ajay Chowdhury, Alex North, Kate Ellis, Jeffrey Siger, Sam Holland (Moderator) 


Panel FRIDAY, 10 MAY 10 @ 17:10

“What a Thrill: Page-Turners and Cliff Hangers” with
Chris Curran, Antony Dunford, Charles Harris, Christine Poulson, Jeffrey Siger (Moderator)

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