You’re from Jersey? If so, you most likely have a weird story to share with this beloved website.
Two Marks have made their mark: Mark Moran and Mark Sceuman are co-founders and co-editors of the iconic Weird NJ magazine and website.
The goal: to find the very weirdest people, places and things in The Garden State. And guess what: it’s actually not that hard to do. In fact, the fellas only have so much space and time to cover it all.
The Marks have been basking in weirdness for two decades, this year being their twentieth anniversary. In that time, tall tales, strange sights (and sightings), and the architecture that makes you uneasy have made Weird NJ the place to be. And let’s not forget the man who decorates his lawn with bowling balls.
What started out as a fanzine is now a national institution, and our boys continue to travel down that weird turnpike without an exit.
Here, we talk to Mark Moran about what puts the new in Jersey.
Why New Jersey?
New Jersey is a bottomless well. We can continually mine the unusual aspects of this state. I don’t think you can do that with most states.
Is every New Jersey story you accept required to be weird?
It’s not all ghosts and UFOs. There are interesting characters in the state and they all gravitate to us, for some reason. We have a very good following for the magazine.
The Weird NJ website is considered an Internet pioneer, correct?
We got onto the Internet really early on. I think that really helped us. I think our first website went up in ’95. There weren’t a hell of a lot of people on the Internet then. People were looking for interesting things.
We gained a tremendous following from that, and ever since then. We also started audio CDs, music, our first endeavor into television, and a VHS cassette we produced ourselves.
We also shot video for an MTV show. Then we had our own TV show on The History Channel. So we’ve been multimedia, across the board, the whole time, just to keep it interesting for us.
Why does New Jersey get such a disrespectful rep, and do you feel you are contributing to that?
All New Jersey jokes come from people who don’t live in Jersey. Most of the people I know in New Jersey love the state.
New Jersey gets a negative rap from [outsiders] because they pass through it, through the tunnels and the bridges, and they see a very ugly side to the state, from the oil refinery fields or The Meadowlands.
They never stop and get to know it the way we do. Because of that, it makes us stronger, solidarity wise. We definitely have a ‘well, if you don’t like us, then fuck you’ attitude.
The Jersey Devil is probably the most famous and oldest of New Jersey folklore. Are there still reported sightings of this mysterious, evasive monster?
We don’t like to rehash the old folklore, yet The Jersey Devil is probably our oldest folklore in the state. People are still contacting us with very reliable eyewitness descriptions that really can’t be discounted. They are incredible people and they tell extremely detailed stories and there is no reason to doubt them. You can’t pull the wool over our eyes.
You often get criticized for favoring North Jersey over South Jersey. Defend yourselves.
People do seem to think there is a dividing line. We get a lot of comments from people from South Jersey, saying, ‘you don’t represent South Jersey enough.’ It’s not true. It’s a small state. That’s what gives us a continuous wealth of material. It’s a microcosm of the whole country.
You try to cover everything from aged myths to see-for-yourself reality. What’s the criteria?
We try to run the gamut of everything from enormous abandoned mental hospitals to a crazy person who put bowling balls on his lawn. It’s everything across the board that make you scratch your head or make you fearful. Anything that gives you that uneasy feeling.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen?
One of the questions we always get asked is ‘what is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen?’ as if we are holding back something from the readers. That’s one question we can never answer. Your idea of weird may not be my idea of weird.
Do you ever feel like you are going to run out of weird?
No. Not ever. Not in New Jersey. [The magazine is published] every six months, and in six months, a lot of weird shit goes down in New Jersey.
I’m hopeful that I’m going to see the weirdest thing ever. I’m still going to look for it.
Check out the Weird NJ site here.
Like them on Facebook here.
Buy the beloved book here