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July  30

Weird Knows No Limits

Markandmark Kudos to the Weird NJ guys who have managed to parlay their Weird vision to new and national extremes. On the History Channel (sneak preview tomorrow night; debut Monday at 10 pm), is Weird US . It promises to trace "bizarre and unusual stories of American history that have fallen through the cracks--and maybe were meant to stay there."

July 30, 2005 in Television | Permalink


What the Weird NJ guys are really good at it is putting into magazine, and subsequently book, form, tales told by teenagers to each other. More power to 'em, but after reading the magazine regularly since its second issue, it seems there's rarely much of substance there. Certainly there's very little effort at serious research; the magazine is more of a compilation of late night, stoned apocrypha than anything else. Many of its most "famous" stories are ones I was also told while growing up here in the 60s', such as the ones about the "albino colony" and several of the haunted roads. They're not as new as the lads at Weird NJ seem to think, in other words.

But it makes Jersey sound "exciting" for the hour or so you take to read it. Which is nice. And fun.

People interested in more factually based tales of weird happenings in this state, however, might want to turn to the books of Dr. Berthold Schwartz, a psychiatrist (and very nice man) who used to in fact practice in Baristaville (in Upper Montclair) or to the books of Ivan Sanderson, the zoologist who lived in Columbia in Warren County for quite a while. Especially to the latter's coverage of weird events round the Wanaque Reservoir, which garnered national coverage back in the mid-60s.

Posted by: cathar | Jul 31, 2005 11:40:36 AM

kudos-to two local guys who thought to put on paper the sights and sounds of our eclectic state --i personally think it's genius--

-on my way home this afternoon I noticed on the turnpike -just before the airport near these odd black railway cars (northbound)-

a huge oversized growth of foliage growing up and over a pole and some wires that appears to look like a huge guardian angel (and found myelf thinking if it was ever addressed in Weird New Jersey)

so it is ironic that i found this posted just as i log on-

continued success to these two--personally wish i had thought of it-

Posted by: cstarling | Jul 31, 2005 10:11:38 PM

Check out the writings of Marc Mappen -a historian specializing in 'Jerseyana' ( and an old prof of mine ) - has some really interesting NJ history, from Charles Lindbergh to Dutch Schultz.

Posted by: RudeBuddha | Jul 31, 2005 11:22:45 PM

I love these guys...I have every one of their mags plus the Weird NJ book. I've attended a few of their lectures as well.

Yes, some of the stories are ones we heard as teenagers (and they need to hire a better proofreader) but the WNJ guys try to get the lowdown on these tales, where they originated, whether there's any truth to them, etc. To me, it's very entertaining. I am amazed that continue to find stuff to write about 10 years after the mag's inception.

I must confess that I've visited some of the eerier places in the magazines. Demon's Alley comes to mind, the community of abandoned houses off New Road on Route 23 North. Definitely spooky. Took some cool photos, painted some pictures and my friend, Danny, even wrote a song about it. He almost got stuck in the basement of one of the houses, but that's another story, another time.

I also went on a road trip with a friend through the center of the state, through the Pinelands, ending up in Greenwich, NJ, passing through towns I've never heard of before. If you live in NJ, this is a must do.

I hope these guys are around for a long, long time.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Aug 1, 2005 9:12:43 AM

Miss Martta, we have our poltergeists, our haunted houses, our "places of power," etc. just as every other state does. Indeed, for a long time the appellation of "most haunted house in NJ" belonged to a place in Glen Ridge, the heart of baristaville.

It's just that after a fair number of years recounting the hazy (at best, I suspect)recollections of potheads, I'd have expected "Weird NJ" to have, well, matured somewhat. It hasn't. So it chugs along successfully (if often repeating the same few basic tales), and I did say more power to its guiding lights. But even as I expected the magazine to change with time, instead Moran and Sceurman are simply extending their franchise to other states. Okay.

You might also want to scan the books of a long-dead Episcopal priest named Henry Charlton Beck, which are published by RU Press. Father Beck traversed much of the same physical and emotional territory as Weird NJ, particularly in the Pinelands, just 50 or more years earlier. When folks might not have been as stoned, but were equally talky and prone to seeing things.

Posted by: cathar | Aug 1, 2005 9:28:03 AM

I'm not familiar with this guys, but anybody who devotes considerable time to something so frivolous and obviously lacking in any utilitarian purpose is all right by me.

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 1, 2005 10:41:21 AM

Hour-long interview with Mark & Mark here -- scroll just past the Upcoming Events section to listen to the archive.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 2, 2005 9:30:29 AM

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