Monday, September 13, 2010

Weird New Jersey

"From "Weird Pennsylvania," p. 240
There are a lot of weird things about New Jersey, but what comes to my mind first and foremost are the roadside "attractions." You just don't see as many hubcap pyramids, giant fiberglas people, or googie custard stands in any other state in the Union. Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran recognized this back in 1994 when they began publishing Weird N.J. magazine, a bimonthly offering that served as "Your Travel Guide to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets," to document the never-ending supply of weirdness in their home state.

For those who've never partaken of the Weird N.J. world, the periodical depends in part on contributions from readers. People send in stories and photos related to such weirdness as abandoned mental hospitals, cemeteries, and New Jersey's version of Sasquatch, the 'Jersey Devil." Urban explorers investigate haunted houses, legends, and deserted military bases, often trespassing for the thrill and the photographic "evidence." I contributed a photo essay which was published in the Oct. 2004 issue called "The Parkway as Road to the Necropolis" (view it on the link below), based on my experience photographing in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in East Orange, New Jersey.

The Marks typically answered their own mail back then and were very polite and
friendly to deal with. You kind of felt part of the club if they published your piece! Over time, Weird N.J. grew into a series of books based on the Weirdness of each individual state in the Union, then finally the "Weird U.S"  summary book. This spawned the hit television series of the same name on The History Channel (2004-5), "Weird U.S. -- Real Tales of the Bizarre." The series is a travelogue, as the Marks visit various weird locations around America.

"Weird Pennsylvania," p. 241
Actually, the name of this article should be "Weird Pennsylvania," as that book is really the topic of this blog. Published in 2005, Weird Pennsylvania included two of my photographs in the "Cemetery Safari" section, both taken on a rainy day at Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh. They are the angel at top and the statue of the reclining child here. I was thrilled, of course, and immediately checked the photo credit page in the back of the book to find my name. Not there! I was more bummed out than pissed off, and I wrote the Marks to note this omission. They were very apologetic, sent me a free autographed hardbound copy of the book and promised to correct the error in the next printing. Realistically, I didn't ever expect this to happen, as I'm sure they had more important things to do.

I forgot about the situation until the summer of 2009, when my wife and I were vacationing on the north Jersey coast. We stopped into a store called "Paranormal Books and Curiosities" in Asbury Park. Among the great selection of books, Jill found a newly printed paperback copy of Weird Pennsylvania. Ever the astute observer, she showed me that my name was listed in the photo credits at the back of the book! Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran are real standup kinda guys! True to their word, which made me even bigger fans of theirs than I was before!

Some related links you might find interesting:

Ed's "Parkway as Road to the Necropolis" article on his StoneAngels Website
Weird U.S. on the History Channel