Having spoken to a few kids who were raised in and around New Jersey, New York, and other big cities on the east coast of the United States, I can definitely say that there is an unbreakable divide between camp kids and non-camp kids. Those who went to summer camp on the east coast, especially those who would return year after year throughout their youths, often describe it an intimate, emotionally intense phenomenon in their lives. It’s where they would develop their first crushes, make their closest friends, discover how good it feels to work outdoors, and experience the magic of what it means to gather around a campfire. Oh sure, many kids might also hate summer camp, but that doesn’t detract from its place as a rite of passage. Souls are born at summer camp.
This is an important thing to remember when watching Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 slasher cornerstone FRIDAY THE 13th. Camp Crystal Lake is a camp where children would gather to bond. These days, horror audiences tend to take the setting for granted, and summer campgrounds have become equal to, say, cabins in the woods. It might take a moment of contemplation to recall that FRIDAY THE 13th is more than just an angry murder movie about horny teens. It’s also a frightening juxtaposition of violence set within a beloved childhood institution. The urban equivalent might be murders at an amusement park.
Jason Voorhees was a camp kid. According to the admittedly dubious chronology of the film series, Jason Voorhees was born on June 13th, 1946 in New Jersey. The details of Pamela Voorhees are offered only in fits over the course of the series, but the generally accepted myth is that she was 16 when she gave birth to Jason. She was a teen mother who gave birth to a deformed child and raised him in the camp. Jason likely spent every summer at Camp Crystal Lake and was an experienced – if mentally challenged – woodsman by the time he “died” (for the first time) in 1957.
There is no canonical record of Jason’s father. Over the years, including Jason’s father in the FRIDAY THE 13th mythos has been constantly toyed with, but never defined in any official capacity. The closest we have ever come to meeting Jason’s “real” father is an abandoned concept proposed for FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES. There was to be a scene at the film’s end where Jason’s father, named Elias, was to visit his grave and was to be enraged at his death. The implication is that Elias Voorhees was to continue the revenge. The scene, however, was never shot and was only included in the novelization of JASON LIVES. Whether or not this “counts” as Jason’s actual father is up to the reader.
There is a more interesting theory as to who Jason’s actual biological father might be. I would propose that Jason’s biological father is none other than Charles Lee Ray, a.k.a. Chucky, the killer doll from the CHILD’S PLAY movies. Hear me out.
Let’s try to piece together Jason’s lineage, and Pamela’s life before the events of Jason’s birth. Pamela was living in New Jersey when she was a teen. We know this. We also know that she worked as a cook at Camp Crystal Lake. She likely had friends who regularly returned to that camp and even had crushes on boys. She was sexually active by 16, so it’s even likely that she had had a few physical romances along the way. This is all par for the course for a typical teenager.
You know who else is from New Jersey? Charles Lee Ray. Ray was from an abusive household and was raised buried in, Hackensack, NJ, which is a few hours drive from where Crystal Lake is assumed to be. The young Ray, perhaps to get him out of the house, was likely sent to overnight camp as a kid back in the 1940s. If we are to accept that Charles Lee Ray was in his 50s at the time of his “death” in 1988, then the chronology works out. Sure, actor Brad Dourif, who played Ray in the CHILD’S PLAY movies was only 38 at the time of filming, but I could buy, with only a squint, that he was a young-looking man in his 50s.
Is it possible, then, that Charles Lee Ray, a young buck of 12 or 13, was sent to Camp Crystal Lake in the summer of 1945? Is it possible that, at the end of that summer, in September, he and Pamela Voorhees, perhaps then only 15, had a teen fling one magical night under the New Jersey stars? I find a romance between a rejected teen camp counselor and a disturbed pubescent boy to be entirely plausible. Pamela Voorhees and Charles Lee Ray may have even had feelings for one another, but were unable to stay in contact because of abusive parents and the ineffable distance one feels when one is away from camp.
Charles Lee Ray would eventually come to be known as The Lakeshore Strangler. Strangely enough, Charles Lee Ray strangles very few people over the course of the CHILD’S PLAY movies, and he is never seen by a lakeshore. Perhaps the appellation was self-applied. Perhaps, remembering his long-ago romance with Pamela Voorhees, he wanted to be known as a man who lives on the shores of Crystal Lake. His nickname had less to do with where he committed his murders and more to do with the one time in his life when he was happy.
Is this just a wild fan theory? Of course. But, given the evidence, it’s hard to ignore.