Remembering that time ‘Friday the 13th’ took a slice of your hometown — photo essay
Friday the 13th rarely falls in October.
The superstitious day — considered a day of bad luck by many cultures — appears only every six to 11 years that month. Since 2000, Friday the 13th has only appeared in October four times — 2023, 2017, 2006 and ringing in the millennium in 2000. (See more bad omens at the bottom.)
Many people associate the day with the classic horror film franchise "Friday the 13th" — and its Connecticut and New York City locales from the big screen are recognizable.
The 12-part slasher film series depicted the vengeful, hockey-mask-wearing revenant Jason Voorhees killing any and all visitors who would dare venture into the fictional Camp Crystal Lake, especially on Friday the 13th. The series, first debuting with the 1980 film "Friday the 13th," would go on to garner hundreds of millions of dollars for its parent company Paramount Pictures — until the slasher was sold to New Line Cinemas in the 1990s after poor box office profit from "Friday the 13th: Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan." Entries in the series would stagnate in the 1990s and 2000s before disappearing completely amid ownership disputes between series creator Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller.
Save for the occasional trip to Ohio, as seen in 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason," and space as seen in 2001's "Jason X," the series is primarily set in the fictional Camp Crystal Lake in New Jersey. The first film was shot primarily in the Garden State — however, local fans might not have known that a couple of entries were filmed in Connecticut and New York.
Home sweet home?
Starting in October 1980, production for "Friday the 13th: Part 2" would begin a mere five months after the release of the original film. Principal photography was primarily shot in Kent and New Preston — featuring Kent’s North Spectacle Pond playing the role of Crystal Lake itself, and New Preston playing the role of the town of Crystal Lake.
“One of the biggest reasons I think that they filmed Part 2 [in Connecticut] is because director Steve Miner is from Connecticut and actually lives in Connecticut,” explained R. G. Henning, author of "Sackhead: The Definitive Retrospective on Friday the 13th Part 2." “Secondly, they wanted to keep the Northeastern location.”
“I believe Camp NoBeBoSco, which filled in for Camp Crystal Lake in Part 1, after the uproar that came with that move in 1980, I think the Boy Scouts were probably trying to distance themselves a little bit … and I think it was just cost effective,” Henning said.
Henning is a pastor — and an occasional theology and fiction writer. He decided to write a book about "Part 2" after growing up as a longtime fan of the film since watching it on paid cable in 1982. In 2019, Henning created the Facebook group Packanack Lodge, named after the film's primary setting, to celebrate the film and it eventually led him to working with former cast members at conventions. He published all of his findings on "Part 2" in "Sackhead" earlier this year.
“In 2023, I just decided I would put all of the research that I had done, probably, arguably more than any other person, particularly as it relates to having direct access to the cast, the surviving cast,” Henning said. “I decided I would put it on paper because I do like to write and I am very project-oriented and I was looking for a project to work on. It was a labor of love.”
The beginning of "Part 2" was shot mostly in Waterbury, Torrington and New Preston. In fact, the film’s first shot of "Part 1" final girl Alice Hardy’s (Adrienne King) apartment was filmed at a neighborhood in the center of Waterbury. This area was only used to portray the exterior of the apartment while a separate building in Torrington was used to film the apartment’s interior where Jason would perform his first kill (Jason’s mother Pamela was the villain in the first "Friday the 13th" movie).
In 2018, the Waterbury building was razed and turned into a parking lot. The Torrington building would become a behavioral health center.
The rest of the scenes in "Part 2"’s introduction were filmed in the town of New Preston. Here, camp counselors Sandra Dier (Marta Kober) and Jeff Dunsberry (Bill Randolph) would park their truck in front of a general store before getting out to contact their friends in a phone booth.
Today, that building is home to a Japanese antique, home and garden store called Pergola. While it may have been more than 40 years since "Part 2" was shot in New Preston, most of the village architecture shown in the film remains the same — and residents are still pleasantly haunted by the memories of Jason.
“I lifeguarded for four years up at this lake and that was always the big joke when I lifeguarded there. They’re like, ‘At night, he emerges from the water!’” Pergola manager Chad Dutcher said.
Dutcher lifeguarded at the nearby Lake Waramaug during high school in the 1980s and would use Jason as a way to manage kids.
“I did not have any desire to want to hang out there in the evening — it was kind of a freak-out moment,” he said. “The way I could get them in line was to tell them, ‘Listen, if you don’t get out of the water now, Jason’s gonna get you!’ It did help, actually. Of course, the mothers didn’t appreciate it, especially if I said it to the littlest ones.”
The presence of Jason Voorhees would haunt this area of Litchfield County years after the movie wrapped filming. Dutcher said, “My brother would scare me to death all the time with it. He would do the whole sound thing.”
“One year — my brother was six years older than me — and he would have to take me trick-or-treating. When we would walk he would do the whole ki ki ki ma ma ma. He did the whole sound thing, scared me to death, so what a lovely older brother he was.”
New Preston residents would walk around the old filming locations each Halloween, recreating scenes with many trick-or-treaters dressing up in the iconic hockey mask.
“We would come here and there was, in town, sort of a heightened sort of level of embracing what it was, and you saw many Jason masks that were around that night,” Dutcher recollected. “A lot of the kids would dress up in that 80s-70s [getup]. You know, they have the tube socks on and somebody was the cheerleader, the jock and we would see a few of them with their heads severed, showing parts of their body.”
Despite most of New Preston’s filming location remaining relatively intact over the years, many other sites would be destroyed or converted. Much of North Spectacle Pond’s filming sites have disappeared due to construction of new, real campsites. The Packanack Lodge was demolished in 2009 and a new house was built in its place along the coast of the pond. Lake Waramaug’s Casino, featured briefly in the film with “The Smokey Boys Band," was burnt down in 1982 and is now home to a mansion built on the property.
“The Smokey Boys Band is a local Connecticut band. They still exist today,” Henning added. “Their one and only song in 'Friday the 13th: Part 2' is their claim to fame, although that’s actually not their music that’s being played, as irony would have it. It’s overdubbed.”
Dutcher recalled his favorite aspect of "Part 2" being filmed in New Preston.
"We’re a small town that’s made up of the ‘Everyday Joe,’ but then you have the movie star who lives here. You have the famous designer that lives around the corner, and you may not even know it.
“There’s layers of connections. I think of what makes our area fun and unique and I think ["Friday the 13th: Part 2"] is just a fun layer to a part of the season that is meant to be genuine, scary fun,” Dutch said. “And so, why not have that be part of something that’s just cool and connected?”
Dutcher is the face of Pergola to the customers while the owners are away curating authentic Japanese antiques. The store opened 18 years ago, but Dutcher has been working there for three years.
The Big Apple
A few years and many films after "Part 2" debuted in theaters in 1981, director Rob Hedden aimed to end the "Friday the 13th" series with a bang by sending Jason to the Big Apple with "Friday the 13th: Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" in 1989. However, poor sales in prior films led to Paramount limiting the series’ budget, leaving "Part VIII" to be shot primarily in Canada and take place on a boat for the majority of the film.
“The rest of the film is mainly [shot in Vancouver],” said Larry Dwyer, founder and programmer at Connecticut Cult Classics. “Other than the scene in Times Square and maybe the scene in the diner with Ken Kirzinger (Jason), I think the rest of it is in [Vancouver].”
Connecticut Cult Classics is a program of the Horror News Network in association with the Strand Theater in Seymour owned by the Knights of Columbus. Through the program, Dwyer shows double features of classic films for locals to enjoy in a 1940s, single-screen theater. Beginning in 2016, the program has shown a wide variety of classic films in double features, including "The Lost Boys" (1987), and "Fright Night" (1985). Connecticut Cult Classics is also used to promote the Horror News Network’s annual horror convention CT HorrorFest.
Only two scenes in "Part VIII" were actually shot in Times Square, with the rest of “New York” portrayed in Vancouver, Canada. Originally, the film would have seen Jason fight through Broadway, Madison Square Garden, the Brooklyn Bridge and end with the slasher jumping off the Statue of Liberty, but these concepts would never come to be.
Undeterred by financial restrictions, the cast and crew still had fun letting Jason bring chaos to New York City, Dwyer said.
"The man himself, Kane Hodder, says that that’s his favorite scene that he’s ever filmed as Jason because he said that the crowds around Manhattan watching it be filmed were intense and they were cheering for Jason, and he just really had a great time playing Jason in the middle of Manhattan,” he explained.
“Kane Hodder is on record as saying that he was treated like a rockstar," Henning added.
Kane Hodder is the only actor to portray Jason Voorhees in multiple films, having appeared in "Friday the 13th: Part 7: The New Blood" (1988), "Jason Takes Manhattan," "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday" (1993), and "Jason X" in addition to having performed motion capture for Jason in "Friday the 13th: The Game" (2017). Hodder visited Connecticut in September as a celebrity guest for this year’s CT HorrorFest at Hartford’s XL Center.
While the films are violent, many fans still look back fondly at representations of Camp Crystal Lake across Connecticut.
“I think it’s more in the good spirit of the fun of it,” Dutcher exclaimed. “I mean, I know it's based on gore and all that, but I think at the end of the day it's a nostalgic time, whether you relate to it, you were scared to death of it, or you disliked it or you loved it. I think it just brings it back to small-town quirkiness in a way that you can’t deny but to embrace it.”
Henning credits the "Friday the 13th" series as a nostalgic snapshot of 1980s America.
“My favorite aspect, especially as it relates to New Preston, and also some of the highways that are captured in the film — my favorite part is that it’s a time capsule. And when I went back there in 2018, I was dumbstruck about how little things have changed and it just took me back to 1981 when I was 11 years old again.”
Dwyer hopes remaining filming locations will one day embrace their connection to "Friday the 13th" and set up official tours or themed events. “It’s super cool. I just wish they would make [the sites] available to fans. 'Friday the 13th' has such a rabid fanbase.
“Horror fans aren’t dangerous people. We're basically just nerds with tattoos. So, they should embrace it and make it available,” he laughed.
"Friday the 13th Part 2" and "Part VIII" can both be streamed on Max, Hulu and Amazon.
Looking for more bad juju?
Here are some coincidences to consider:
- The day Friday and the number 13 are often considered to be omens of bad luck.
- Christian and Norse cultures believe the number of 13 guests lead to the deaths of Jesus Christ after the Last Supper and Baldur in Norse mythology, which heralded the apocalyptic Ragnarok. Both Judas and the trickster god Loki were the thirteenth guests at these dinners.
- Friday’s unluckiness can be traced back to some believing that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden Apple of Eden on that day.
- The superstition of “Friday the 13th” can be traced back to multiple historical events, including the execution of hundreds of Templars in the 14th century and the bombing of Buckingham Palace by the Nazis in 1940.
- Many Millennials and Gen Xers know the day coincides with the death of rapper Tupac in 1996.