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Weird U.S.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
Yep thats right the whole goddamn country. For the individual states see the Local Fortean thread:


Saturday, October 16, 2004

This expanding New Jersey empire is really weird

Associated Press Writer

October 16, 2004, 9:22 AM EDT

WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- Professional weirdoes Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman pulled into Lincoln Park Cemetery and wound their way around the conventional headstones before arriving at the tomb of Raymond Tse.

At first, it looked like so many other mausoleums, nothing much out of the ordinary with its marble pillars and two stone lions.

But then there it was: a full-sized Mercedes-Benz sedan carved from a single block of granite parked right next the tomb, its personalized license plates reading "Ray Tse."

The two Marks grinned with satisfaction seeing their guests are clearly weirded out. After all, that's what they do.

Moran and Sceurman are the publishers of "Weird N.J." a 60,000-circulation magazine, and authors of last year's best-selling book of the same name, and Tse's tomb is one of their all-time favorite entries, and maybe the best in the cemetery category.

"And then there's the tragic story behind it," Moran noted enthusiastically, "of the kid dying before he got his driver's license, and his brother making good on the offer to get him a car."

Still taken by the sight of the stony 240 Diesel, Sceurman recalled his first reaction to it.

"This will sell an issue," he said.

And so it did, in spring 1996.

Now, the two Marks are taking their weirdness national, with publication this month of "Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets."

"Weird U.S.," published by Barnes & Noble Books, is 352 pages of color photos and bathroom-length blurbs, with chapters headed "Local Legends," "Ancient Mysteries" and "Bizarre Beasts."

There is Connecticut's "Damned Village of Dudleytown,"; the ax-wielding Bunnyman of Fairfax County, Va.; "America's Stonehenge," in North Salem, N.H.; and the Fountain of Youth Burial Ground in St. Augustine, Fla.

The Green Fireballs of New Mexico, and the Marvelous Marfa Lights in Texas. There are the Lizard Man of Bishopville, S.C., Massachusetts' Dover Demon, and the Bear Lake Monster of the Utah-Idaho border region. There are shuttered insane asylums and more fanciful gateways to hell. Ghosts are everywhere.

But New Jersey, where midget albino cannibals are said to stalk Boonton, still reigns supremely weird.

Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio said the first book was "an astounding success," having sold 100,000 copies in less than a year, mostly within New Jersey. Riggio said "Weird U.S." got off to an equally fast start, selling 6,500 copies nationwide in its first week. Each book sells for .95.

"We plan on publishing many more books in the coming years," Riggio said.

Moran, 43, of West Orange, and Sceurman, 47, of Bloomfield, are former musicians who, despite having families and running an expanding media empire, still wear Vans and Doc Martens, and sport goatees. The two met after Moran, a graphic artist by trade, heard Sceurman, a former magazine editor, talking about his newsletter in a 1992 interview on WFMU, New Jersey's quirky freeform radio station.

Since February, the epicenter of their weird media empire has been Building 135 at the West Orange research and development facility built by Thomas A. Edison, the famously weird inventor.

"He thought that life was a collection of tiny beings that were like a colony that escaped when you died," Moran said.

New Jersey has been likened to one huge suburb, which the authors said may help explain why the state has generated so much weirdness. As kids, they both liked exploring the woods and old houses around their neighborhoods, letting their imaginations free them from what Moran called "the boredom of suburbia."

"It makes sense," Sceurman added, "that if you're living in a very mundane environment, if somebody brings something that suggests your environment is not as mundane as you think, you'll naturally gravitate to it."

Fans include Rutgers University professor Michael Aaron Rockland, who co-wrote "Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike," (Rutgers University Press, 1993) and will teach a course this spring titled "Jerseyana."

"There's a great deal of pride in New Jersey culture in recent years," Rockland said. "Suddenly it's hip and chic to be from New Jersey. Bruce had a lot to do with that, 'The Sopranos' has a lot to do with that. And 'Weird N.J.' is part of the same thing."

But for New Jerseyans proud of their weirdness, its proliferation could have a downside.

"If all of America is weird, then New Jersey isn't especially weird," Rockland said. "I enjoy the 'Weird N.J.' concept, and I would be sorry to see it fade because of 'Weird U.S."'

On the Web: http://www.weirdnj.com


And you can get the book (out at the end of October) signed from them:

or through Amazon: