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I Survived Camp Crystal Lake!!
Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey, is a sprawling Boy Scout summer camp facility hidden away in a rural Northwestern corner of the Garden State. Countless Cub and Boy Scouts have passed through its hallowed gates since the camp was founded in 1927 - including my Dad, who attended "No-Be" for several summers when he was a Scout in the late 50s/early 60s. In a nutshell, if you live in Northern New Jersey, Upstate New York or Northern Pennsylvania and have ever had anything to do with Boy Scouting in that region over the past eighty-something years, chances are that you've at least heard of Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco.
...but its amazing longevity and rich natural beauty are not the only things that Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco is famous for. They may not advertise the fact very much nowadays, but "Camp No-Be" also happens to be the birthplace of one of the most enduring horror film icons in Hollywood history. Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco is where the legend of Jason Voorhees began (heh heh heh heh!)...
Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake...
In the Fall of 1979, a film crew working on a low budget horror movie rented Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco for four weeks of location shooting. The film told the grim tale of a group of unfortunate teenagers hired to renovate a dilapidated Summer camp with a dark past. Over the course of the film, each of them met grisly deaths at the hands of a psychotic killer whose identity was eventually revealed during a battle royale with the final surviving girl. The movie was called Friday the 13th -- and it unexpectedly became a massive box office hit in the Summer of 1980, igniting a seemingly endless series of sequels and inspiring a craze for copycat "slasher" flicks that lasted through the end of the decade. Virtually overnight, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco - now known to millions by its film alias of "Camp Crystal Lake" - became Hallowed Ground to horror maniacs around the world.
Surprisingly, No-Be-Bo-Sco has never done much to capitalize on its connection to the Friday the 13th saga, but then the film's graphic violence, gratuitious nudity and gore runs somewhat contrary to the Boy Scouts' lessons of piety, morality and clean living. I'd be willing to bet that when the "Friday" crew came knocking on "No-Be's" door in 1979, the camp took their money and thought, "Ehh, it's no big deal, nobody's ever gonna see this thing" - never dreaming that people would still be talking about the movie more than three decades later. Aside from occasional "F13" themed walking tours for movie fans, day-to-day access to the camp's facilities is limited strictly to Cub and Boy Scouts, scout leaders, and their families. Be warned - If you're an outsider and you get caught trespassing on "Camp Crystal Lake" property, you will be prosecuted.
"Friday the 13th" Trailer (1980)
A Horror Geek Finally Gets His Chance
My son Matt's Cub Scout den - who were working towards their "Webelos" rank (the highest level they can achieve in Cub scouting before moving up to the Boy Scouts) were invited to No-Be-Bo-Sco in April of 2013 for the 24th annual "Weboree" celebration. Weboree is kind of like a "Sneak Preview" of Boy Scouting for Cubs, in which Webelos dens from all over the region visit No-Be for a weekend of camping and workshops on everything from archery and fire safety to outdoor cooking and emergency first aid. I was the Den Leader for my son's Webelos group, and I'm also a massive horror film nerd who's seen the original Friday the 13th countless times over the years... so naturally, I completely spazzed at the thought of actually setting foot in Camp Crystal Lake. I told the other Den parents (only half jokingly), "I hope you realize I'm going to be completely useless for the entire weekend, because I'm going to be too busy geeking out!"
Matt and I pulled up to the front gate of No-Be-Bo-Sco early on a gorgeous Spring Friday afternoon, and found out that we were the first from our group to arrive. In fact, we were an hour early for check-in time. Since we had time to kill (pun not intended), we opted to take a walk around the grounds and check out the lay of the land. My son was ten years old at the time and though he'd never actually seen Friday the 13th, he knew of the film and knew that I was a huge fan. As we wandered around watching camp staffers set up the displays and workshop areas for the next day, he asked, "Do you see anything from the movie, Dad?" and at first my reply was "Um...no, not really." (I wished I'd had time to watch the film again before our trip; it had been a couple of years since I'd last seen it.) It turned out that Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco was quite huge, and as I'd soon learn, the Friday the 13th crew did most of their shooting in a relatively small corner of it.
Eventually the rest of our group arrived and we were able to check in, so my horror geek destiny was put aside for a while as we busied ourselves with claiming our camp site, unloading our gear, setting up our tents, and various other tasks. Eventually we had some "down time" after dinner and my son and I went for a second walk around to see what we could see. I told him, "Y'know, most of the movie takes place around the lake, so what say we head down that way?" -- which proved to be a wise decision. Shortly thereafter we strolled down a hill, came around a bend and BOO-YA, I found myself smack dab on the waterfront staring at the famed Crystal Lake Beach where final girl "Alice" battled Pamela Voorhees to the death!! Turning around, I saw the cabin that the "counselors" stayed in for the bulk of the film! "HOLY CRAP, THIS IS IT! THIS IS IT!" I squealed, then I whipped out my cell phone and started snapping pictures like a good little fan boy.
Camp Crystal Lake Beach!
The bulk of our Saturday was spent going from one end of the Camp to the other on a series of Scout workshops and activities, so Matt and I didn't see much of each other except at lunch break. I sat in on a couple of lectures near the waterfront and "counselor cabin" I'd seen the night before, and my suspicions that these were the actual filming locations were proven correct when one of the counselors at the waterfront announced, "By the way, you're standing on the spot where Jason's Mom was killed." YEEEEESSS!
When Matt and I were reunited back at our camp late on Saturday afternoon, he announced to the rest of the boys in his Den, "Me and my Dad found the Friday the 13th houses last night!" -- naturally, all of the boys then cried out in unison, "DUDE! NO WAY! You GOTTA take us there! We wanna see them too!" so I ended up taking my entire group on an impromptu "hike" down to the waterfront area yet again. None of the other boys had ever seen Friday the 13th either, but like Matt, they all seemed to know of its reputation as one of the nastiest horror films ever made. I got a chance to show off a little by dropping a bunch of Friday trivia on them as we walked, causing one of the boys to ask me, "How come you know so much about this movie?" ... to which I replied with a sigh, "Because I'm a nerd who's seen it WAY too many times." I can only hope that if and when they ever do watch the movie, they'll think back to this weekend and say "Wow, my old Den Leader actually knew what he was talking about!" Haha.
"The boy, Jason... in the lake!"
Under the Blood Red Moon...
As we prepared to crawl into our tents late on Saturday night with our bellies full of campfire-cooked grub, Matt suddenly piped up, "Oh, wow! Dad, look at the moon!" -- I glanced at the sky and saw that the moon was not only full, but it had a very cool, sinister looking reddish/pink tint to it...what a perfectly horrific way to end our experience at "Camp Blood." I couldn't help myself, I cackled and said, "It's a Blood Moon! Jason and Mrs. Voorhees must be watching over us!"... my son, of course, rolled his eyes and said "Yeah, sure, Dad. Whaaaat-ever. Good night."
Sunday morning awoke chilly and clear, and after breakfast our Scouts quickly went to work dismantling our camp and preparing for the long trip home. The only Friday the 13th related site that I hadn't been able to see for myself over the course of the weekend was the camp's archery/rifle range (where counselor "Brenda" met her unfortunate end), because it was apparently way back in the woods and the opportunity simply never presented itself. Still, I had nothing to complain about. It had been an excellent weekend of Scouting for the boys, and a dream come true for their horror-fan fearless leader. I could barely wipe the fanboy smile off my face during the entire ride home. I can now proudly tell people that I spent a weekend at Camp Crystal Lake... and I survived!!!
© 2013 Keith Abt