Cemetery Columns: Blairstown NJ Home of Friday the 13th

Cemetery Columns: Blairstown NJ Home of Friday the 13th

A weekend spent in Blairstown New Jersey is a weekend spent in a time capsule. For filming location hounds, the town that Friday the 13th(1980) calls “home” is essentially untouched. No strip malls, no Wal-Marts. Just a thoroughfare of iconic structures and history. When the 13th day of the month slams into Friday, the sleepy village of Blairstown reanimates as tourist dollars begin to flood the otherwise sleepy village.

We arrived on Friday September 13th 2019, just prior to noon. Cars lined the streets and parking was at a premium. The impending opening of the Friday the 13th museum beckoned fans from the four corners of the globe. The stone arches that Annie walks through on her way to Camp Crystal Lake are still there. Appearing identical to the way they were captured in 1979. The local community seems to welcome the onslaught of rabid slasher aficionados. The pub was serving Friday the 13th themed martinis, a yoga studio had a t-shirt in the window featuring a meditating Jason Voorhees in the lotus position, and a hall was showing Friday the 13th titles and some fan films. The streets were alive with conversation, and this was no place for a casual fan. Outside the museum celebs were casually mingling with the guests. Ari Lehman, C.J. Graham, and Tom McLoughlin strolled around embracing the fandom. 

To get a real feel for the town I decided to speak with some locals. Noticing a salon called “A New Beginning” I stopped to talk to a stylist outside on her cigarette break. “Did you know that is the title of Friday the 13th Part 5” she quickly put out her butt replying “wait till I tell my boss she hates the movies!!!!” I guess not everyone embraces the celebration. A crowd began to gather in front of the museum for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Ari Lehman who played the child Jason in Friday the 13th 1980 took hold of the oversized scissors and quipped “where is Debi Sue Voorhees” making reference to the gorgeous actress’s graphic garden shears death scene. The crowd erupted in laughter, this being a group that would get the esoteric joke. After the ribbon was cut there was a delay in accessing the museum. So my companion and I decided to grab a bite to eat. 

Through an alley adjacent to the museum and across a busy two-lane road sits the Blairstown Diner. Still in operation this is the diner that Steve Christie visits after leaving the counselors to work on the camp unsupervised. The restaurant is a popular spot on Friday the 13th and when you open the stainless steel door a flood of conversation comes spilling out. Its loud, busy, and virtually the same as it looked in 1979. There were dozens of holiday specific menu items including a breakfast served with “Kevin” bacon. While the waitresses look flustered with the “all hands on deck” day, the owner oversaw the chaos with a smile that can only be described as “shit eating.” He more than likely made enough money that weekend to buy a convertible, or at the very least a yacht. The food was typical diner faire, hearty portions with a down home flavor. On our way out as we paid the bill I couldn’t help but purchase a Blairstown Diner t-shirt. Always a sucker for horror apparel that only the most passionate fans will recognize.

Back at the museum there was a small but amazing collection of props, memorabilia, and sculptures. Noted items in the collection include Mrs. Voorhees’ fishing knife, a copy of Friday the 13th the Nintendo game, and a table recreating the game of strip monopoly, complete with Budweiser pony bottles. Strolling through the fanboy promise land I began to take note of the other patrons. Obvious looks of elation were stapled tightly across their faces. It was magical, finally a museum dedicated to the slasher we all grew up with. A slasher that defined the 80s just as much as Michael Jackson, Punky Brewster, and Marty McFly did. It needed to exist, and now it did. 

On Saturday we ran into the event organizer while having breakfast at the diner. I asked “Can we go to the entrance of Camp NobeBosco?” This being the Boy Scout camp where the lion's share of the movie was filmed. She assured me it was permitted but entering the camp was strictly off limits. Well, off limits to anyone not willing to pay the 400 dollar price tag on entering. We decided to drive out, with the knowledge that the camp signage had been removed. Approximately 3 minutes after leaving main street we lost GPS signal. I remember now having the thought, “we are in Jason’s woods it's only fitting that global positioning would malfunction.” Two cops were posted at the entrance. As I stepped out of my truck  I could see the nervousness of the younger officer, scared I was going to rush the entrance on foot. I assured law enforcement I only needed directions and he guided me back to town using road names. It was all rather, picturesque, rural New Jersey looks like any other American area that lies “off the beaten path.” Still, there was something different, and while it is entirely unintentional the lack of cell phone signal adds to the charm. Immediately transporting tourists back to 1979, where it took the kindness of strangers to get you where you were going. 

It's a short drive, no more than 10 minutes to Hope New Jersey, where the remainder of Annie’s scenes were shot. The iron work arch way to the local cemetery is most likely original and just down the road you can see where the character hitched a ride with the local trucker. It was here we ran into a couple of gentlemen meticulously recreating a shot of the cemetery entrance. After briefly chatting I learned that one of them had been invited to the boy scout camp as he was a movie prop collector and was the current owner of Betsey Palmer’s (Pamela Voorhees) head. These two men with the resources to travel to recreate film shots, and own “an old friend of the Christie’s” decapitated head would most likely be standoffish folks, but James and Kurt were wonderful companions. They assured us if they could they would smuggle us into Camp Crystal Lake, but security was tight as a drum. We spent the remainder of the afternoon recreating shots of crazy Ralph and bullshiting about mutual friends we shared. 

Blairstown New Jersey for the occasional  Friday the 13th viewer is nothing much. Just a collection of structures you may or may not recall. Not to mention, a museum and gift shop. However, for those of us who truly embrace the franchise as our own, Blairstown can be a museum in itself. The town and its surrounding locations are nothing short of relics. Untouched by time, but perhaps a new coat of paint. It's a cinematic world that becomes tangible. I found myself running my fingers along those stone archways more than once, trying to commit it to memory. Amazing to me now, four weeks later, I still am trying to burn that short mainstreet in my mind. Not willing to forget it for selfish fan-boy reasons. For the most part, it hasn’t changed. I hope it never does.

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