Although there is not strict chronological order, the book is organized into the differing mysteries that abound within New Jersey.
Of course, I did find it jarring having to adjust the reading focus to include a larger emphasis on the testimonials. They cover more of the mysteries than the mystery descriptions themselves.
Mark Sceurman & Mark Moran
Mark Sceurman is a graphic artist with many connections in the printing business who helped him with the fanzines. He has been in the publication business since 1980 and specializes in Jerseyana; and is the co-owner of The Aquarian Weekly.
Mark Moran is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York City, where he specialized in the fine arts.
Both of them share their own personal experiences traveling to some of these sites. Either in their childhood or in their research, they were willing to travel to these locations to record them.
However repetitive the occurring themes may appear, they do tie together the mysteries that surround New Jerseyans.
As can be expected of a book about mysteries, there are ones that specifically involve supposed supernatural phenomena. One such common trait involves the Devil playing some form of role. This trait is typically found in sites that is found in possession of the Devil supposedly.
As for the encounters with the supernatural or the surreal, a common theme is that the encounter itself does not immediately affect the witnesses, but later on it does. Either their vehicle is shut down or damaged, or the witnesses themselves are damaged or scared. Sometimes those spirits appear in a house, or on a road, usually they are the spirits of the people who died at those particular locations.
There is also crypozoology within this book concerning the supposed monsters found in New Jersey. There is the very standard monster, the Jersey Devil, found in the Pine Barrens, but there are also various suppose sightings of a Bigfoot-like creature. There are also sightings of red-eyed monsters and people throughout the state as well.
Amidst the mysteries, there are multiple theories. This may be due to either poor eye witness reliance or speculation based on actually walking into a site and observing it. In the case of the mysterious lights, there had been an effort to demystify the stories with scientific explanation, but it does not dissuade the people who actually witnessed those lights.
Along with the theories, there are those that tend to border along subversive speculation. This is seen with the light sightings, believing that they were UFO’s or aliens. Another is the weapons and petroglyphs done by Native Americans which supposedly resemble the writing systems of Europe.
Another type of mystery found in this book is the people group, who typically would be parts of marginalized demographics who found a sense of unity and a home to fiercely defend. This was true for albinos and Vaudeville actors with dwarfism. While there are stories of murder and cannibalism, I can see a reason why they are fiercely defensive, since they would probably be victimized on a daily basis in the rest of the world.
This book was a compilation of mysteries that were written by the two Marks, which were originally compiled into self-published magazine installments. As mentioned before, they lend their experience traveling to some of these locations to provide history.
There is plenty of history to cover in this book, since they determine how long the legends and mysteries lingered there. Some mysteries started as early as the colonial era, while others are more contemporary, like those taking place in the ’80s and ’90s.
There are echoes of Roberts’ work on the unique nature of New Jersey. Specifically, there are frequent mentions of the Pine Barrens, which is the location of the Jersey Devil and the Blue Hole. It is definitely a place with natural mystery. Roberts simply describes what Mark and Mark describe in this book, since it gets into more detail about the myriads of other mysteries that lurk in the Pine Barrens.
Connecting To The Previous Book
This book definitely connects with Veit’s archaeological overview of New Jersey history, since he sought to explain in concrete detail all of the components of various points of history, from the ephemera to the ruins left behind. In some ways, this type of rational procedure can be seen in this book, specifically when trying to explain the mysterious lights. Though, Mark and Mark leave it to the reader to decide whether they are mysterious or explainable phenomena.
This was written in 2005, so the humor can be a bit out-dated. Though, there are various puns in this book, which matches the wanderlust aesthetics of this book.
Both of the Marks do forewarn that some of the sites will attract visitors, which is why they kept some locations anonymous, such as Midgetville. Indeed, in the update about the Gates of Hell, the Police Department has forewarned any visitors that they will be arrested for trespassing. The pictures are enough for me, because the graffiti shows the history behind the attempted ventures into the Gates of Hell, which is a drainage pipe.
Of course, the book does not have a conclusion, rather it abruptly ends with a paragraph imparting very little expectation on the reader.
Inspiration To Myself
I am in the process of creating a blog dedicated to everything New Jersey. I do plan on making a category dedicated to mysteries. In that case, I would need to be careful about giving out specific locations about where the supposed mystery is located–unless it is under the jurisdiction of the state or local government, like if it was a park or a tourist site. Instead of naming the specific town or township, I would simply state whether it was located in North, South, or Central Jersey, or along the Shore.
I would definitely see this being in the hands of those who would wish to explore the unique mysteries that turn New Jersey into a simulacrum of legends, stories, and myths.
Recommend This To…
- Any non-New Jerseyan who is interested in the side of New Jersey they have never seen or visited. This book may either make them curious or feel small in a crazy, unpredictable world.
- Any New Jerseyan, since this obviously reflects their history. Whether or not any of these mysteries are true, the fact that they are in a state of being told is history in itself, since it provides New Jerseyans with enough interest to distinguish themselves from any other state.
- “The Gates of Hell”. Weird NJ.
- Roberts, Russell. “Rediscover the Hidden New Jersey.” Rutgers University Press. 2015.
- Sceurman, Mark and Mark Moran. “Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets.” Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 2005.
- Veit, Richard. “Digging New Jersey’s Past: Historical Archaeology In The Garden State.” Rutger’s University Press. 2002.