‘Afternoon Tea with a “Weird NJ” Twist’ presented

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KENILWORTH, NJ — “Afternoon Tea with a ‘Weird NJ’ Twist” was recently presented at the Kenilworth Veterans Center. The event was offered to benefit the Oswald J. Nitschke House museum and cultural arts center by helping defray operating expenses, including the cost of an elevator that makes the site fully accessible.

Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, founders and publishers of Weird NJ magazine, discussed the unique, mysterious and peculiar side of New Jersey.

Shirley Maxwell, president of the Kenilworth Historical Society, said, “Everything about our tea is a little bit off today. We’re all welcoming Weird NJ.”

That was true, as one of the desserts served was called a Dirt Cup. It had colorful gummy worms in it. Other treats served included cranberry with clotted cream sconces, Jersey deviled ham and French macaroons.

Tricky Tray items included a Vera Bradley laptop sleeve, a kitty teapot, a vintage Susan Paley vase, a gift certificate to Charlie Brown’s and a lottery board.

Moran and Sceurman started the Weird NJ magazine 30 years ago, when there was no internet or social media. They went to libraries for the information. Weird NJ evolved into the popular self-published magazine: “Weird NJ: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets.” Attendee Judy Relovsky of Kenilworth said her brother had every issue of Weird NJ.

“These things are historical,” Sceurman said. “I think we’re doing a great job.”

Moran said the original publication was typed on a Corona and pages were pasted together. People would photocopy the publication and make bootlegs.

Throughout the hour-long presentation, topics of interest included the Devil’s Tower in Alpine, the Gates of Hell in Clifton, a 32,000-ton rock in Kinnelon that is balanced on three small stones, the Jersey Devil, Jungle Habitat, UFOs in Wanaque and the No. 1 roadside attraction in America — Lucy the Elephant in Margate.

They also spoke about the unusual grave monument at the Hazel Wood Cemetery in Rahway of Bruce Perry Berman. He was a video animator who died in 1998, when the internet was just taking off. He had his website address on the gravestone.

Other topics included unexplained phenomena, such as UFOs in Wanaque that caused mass hysteria in 1966; roadside oddities, including the world’s tallest watersphere, located in Union; and local heroes such as Charles Addams, the creator of The Addams Family cartoon, who lived in Westfield.

Then there were stories of villains, such as John List of Westfield, who killed his entire family in 1971 and vanished for 20 years.

“The 1970s were a strange time around here,” said Moran, leading into the story of Gregg Sanders, from Mountainside, who killed his parents, then jumped to his death off the water tower half a mile from his home.

After the presentation, Moran and Sceurman answered questions from attendees and autographed books which were for sale. Moran and Sceurman’s first Weird NJ hardcover book was released in 2003 by Barnes & Noble. Additional books followed in a nationally successful Weird U.S. series. In 2005, Weird NJ became a weekly television series, starring “the two Marks,” on the History Channel. Moran and Sceurman are currently commentators on the program “Paranormal Caught on Camera,” which airs weekly on the Travel Channel and on Discovery+.

To learn more about the Kenilworth Historical Society, visit: https://www.kenilworthhistoricalsociety.org/.
To learn more about Weird NJ visit: https://weirdnj.com/.

Photos by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta