Weird nj #17
|Editor||Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman|
|Categories||local interest, regional culture, paranormal|
Weird NJ (WNJ) is the title of a semi-annual magazine and two paranormal travel guides that chronicle local legends, hauntings, ghost stories, folklore and anything considered "weird" in the U.S. state of New Jersey. The books contain information and stories about unusual places and or events in New Jersey. There is a wide range of 'Weird' books about many states.
Weird NJ began in 1989 as a personal newsletter sent to friends by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman. Gradually it evolved from a fanzine into a public magazine published twice a year in May and October. Abandoned places, creepy experiences, unique people, and strange landmarks were and still are common subjects for the magazine. Past issues have covered everything from the Jersey Devil and UFO sightings to abandoned Nike missile silos, the legend of the "Hookerman" Lights and the life of Zip the Pinhead.
In 2003 a Weird NJ book, made up of content from earlier issues, was published. The next year saw the follow-up Weird US, covering sites and stories across the country. That led to a series of Weird guides for other states and areas, including Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas, California and New England, and a TV series, Weird U.S., on the History Channel.
The painting of a grinning face named Tillie has appeared in many Weird NJ books and on the magazine covers. In 2004, the Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park with the image of Tillie on it was set to be destroyed to make way for a hotel. When Weird NJ readers learned of the planned demolition, efforts were started to try to save the building. Tillie's face was saved; but the rest of the building, built more than a century ago, was not.
Also covered was the unsuccessful removal (thanks to the efforts of local residents) of the "Evil Clown of Middletown," a large sign painted to resemble a circus clown that currently advertises a liquor store along Route 35 in Middletown.
Additionally, Weird NJ has also been responsible for saving the historical copper dome in the town center of Fair Lawn, which was scheduled to be torn down after a fire destroyed the building it sat upon.
Weird NJ has influenced similar groups in New Jersey and around the United States. These include "The Midnight Society" (now defunct), "PsychoNJ," and "LostDestinations".
The growth of the magazine has led to the creation of a community of sorts for fans of Moran and Sceurman's work. These avid readers often travel to sites listed within the pages of the periodical themselves, which is frequently considered a dangerous practice and is sometimes illegal. In an attempt to dissuade readers - or at the least, remove legal liability from the editors and publishers of Weird NJ - a disclaimer has been posted on the inside cover of each issue.
The most popular locations to explore are usually abandoned or dilapidated structures, such as psychiatric hospitals, prisons and old homes. Haunted locales are given extra attention. Explorers are known to take pictures and upload them to various websites and online groups for others with the interest to see.  
In some areas, small groups -mostly composed of teens or twentysomethings- take weekends of "WNJ Runs" and try to visit the current issue's featured locations.
This is considered by most to be related to urban exploration and is very popular, especially given New Jersey's small size and the accessibility of major roads and arteries, such as the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Atlantic City Expressway.
Most of the sites are remnants of a time when New Jersey was far more rural than it is now.
Nightshade on the Passaic
From 2006 to 2008, writer Wheeler Antabanez traveled the Passaic River and its shores, chronicling his adventures in a special issue of Weird NJ magazine. Nightshade on the Passaic was released as a special issue of the magazine and quickly became its best-selling issue, confirming readers' interest in stories involving the Passaic River. Antabanez intentionally did not want the special issue to be a history lesson of New Jersey or the river, but instead wanted it to be a Huck Finn-style adventure story.
In his canoe, Nightshade, Antabanez visits the most dangerous parts of the Passaic, along with several of the abandoned buildings and factories that relied on the Passaic years ago. In addition to the river and the decaying structures that surround it, he also researched murders that involved the Passaic River, including the horrific case of Jonathan Zarate who attempted to dump the mutilated body of his 16 year-old neighbor in the river, but was thwarted by a police officer who happened to pass by at the time.
- Moran, Mark and Mark Sceurman (2004). Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0-7607-3979-X.
- Moran, Mark and Mark Sceurman (2006). Weird N.J., Vol. 2: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-4027-3941-9.