Friday, June 28, 2024

Visiting Big Rusty in South Jersey

I had first seen the gentle giant on a recent cover of Weird NJ. Their cover art always features unique scenes from across our great state. Of course, I get new copies as soon as possible, but most of the time they are always first added to my continuously growing to-be-read pile instead of being immediately devoured. In this case, I did not have the chance to learn about the creature until I had already met them. That might be a Weird NJ first for this traveler. 

Nonetheless, the story is quite straightforward: in Hainesport, New Jersey, there is a giant troll made of scrap metal who lives in the woods, just off of a highway and guarding an abandoned pottery shop. 

Friday, May 31, 2024

An evening with the author of House of Leaves

In late March I was fortunate enough to attend a rare speaking event featuring the author of House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Anyone familiar with my work and interests knows how significant this was to me. The event was hosted at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia and an online friend of many years sent the announcement to me in passing. It wasn't highly advertised. I never would have known about it for this message and I'm eternally grateful for their thinking of me.

The host of the event, a professor, had an idea for a project (of which I'm curious to see how it turns out) by providing a litany of secondhand books to attendees of the events. We were to jot down notes and thoughts in the books as we listened to Z. speak, and then the books would be turned into a massive, physical piece of art. At a certain point though, I stopped taking notes that would contribute to this interesting piece and took out my phone to write down things I found significant for myself to think on later. These pieces and stray thoughts are what I'm recollecting now. Some are direct quotes and some are things I inferred from the public conversation. One way or another, it was a night to remember. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Shadow on the Road - Leroy, West Virginia

On that day, we had already spent eight hours on the road, and we had another hour to go to reach our final destination. After several failed attempts over the years to visit the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the stars had finally aligned. A group of friends and creative collaborators, whom I had known solely through digital channels for over a decade, had finally organized a trip to attend the annual Mothman Festival. It is only fair to mention that our last earnest attempt in 2020 was thwarted by the world-ending, so that wasn't entirely our fault. But now, we had made it. We were almost there, less than six hours away from the midnight of the official kickoff.

You see, there are many people like us who consider this location and the event itself a peculiar destination. It's like a blend of Comic Con, Christmas, and Halloween all rolled into one. Who doesn't love the story of the Mothman? I've always regretted not having the chance to personally meet the legendary John Keel, who, indirectly, was responsible for this gathering of oddballs. It was his writing that somehow caused all of this, or at least brought it into pop culture. All of that being said, the Mothman legend is not the primary source of this experience in high strangeness.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Mr. Wilkie's Cabin

In the Before Times, the array of abandoned and urban exploration pages I follow online would sometimes provide a blueprint for future trips. At some point, I saw a gratuitously tagged cabin and I had to do a double take when I read its location as familiar. Never before had I heard about or seen pictures of this cabin, nestled away somewhere in South Jersey. It had such a unique personality and I was shocked that I had not seen it previously. It just so turned out that my discovery of it and my subsequent trips to see it in person occurred just before most of the country entered lockdown a few months ago due to the pandemic. I had accidentally spent the last afternoon before the shutdown, oblivious of the coming health crisis, ducking through the woods to find Mr. Wilkie's cabin.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

It Takes a Village

With the proliferation of ghost hunting and other less-than-objective reality television shows available throughout the last decade or so, I always default to imagining that the regionally accessible list of every "well known" locale for such haunts has long since been exhausted. Sometimes, all that it takes to break this facade and minor hubris is a well-timed and sudden "discovery" late one Friday night, spent otherwise doing nothing. You have the cluster of medical facilities on the fringe of the larger metropolitan areas nearby (Philadelphia and New York) and the tried and true smaller facilities in my home state of New Jersey and you can tell yourself that there are only so many times you can visit and take the same photographs of familiar broken cinder blocks and causeways.

Even outside of the realm of abandoned institutional properties, recycling these visits purely for capturing some sort of media becomes redundant. Surely, always worth a day out, but always yielding diminishing returns when it comes to the photographic proof. There was a running joke when we lived in Piscataway that we had "done Watchung to death," resorting to its hiking trails and abandoned village when we could not muster the cleverness to discover someplace new. The fact that we can access these places often enough that they become familiar is a hidden blessing itself, in a way, but that does not take away from the undeniable fact and feeling of mystery that you feel wandering these places for the first time -- and that inkling of a new experience, one that was apparently not that far away, found me in bed around two am on a Friday night / Saturday morning.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The House at Hollymont

The child with black eyes, Tobin, lives under this room.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Deer Lure

Certain places can exist in various, evolving forms to an individual, altering throughout their lives. Hidden shortcuts and off-trodden routes can become mundane and monotonous if abused enough. What I am describing has the same color, but necessarily the same cynicism, that you would expect from one telling of their experiences of working an unsatisfying job at a beloved theme park. Sure, you can recognize the love that is there, and why it is there, but nonetheless, that bit of magic might have faded.

Whether it is complacency, or just plain taking a mainstay sight for granted, this abstract recognition holds for me a small, near-ancient two story house in the center of a public park. It is known by a few names, registered and historic, but I've known it by a handful of my own and my family's creation over the years. Presently, and probably until it is eventually demolished and only a memory, I recognize it as the Deer Lure.