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Being a summer camp counselor is a lot of fun: You get to chill somewhere nice, hang out with mostly tolerable kids, potentially flirt with other counselors, and get paid to do it, in most cases. (I was a big hit one summer with the tween bros because I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Dragon Ball Z, a timeless piece of art.) Really, the worst things you’d have to worry about at a summer camp are bland food, humid weather, and ticks—not ideal, but certainly nothing life-threatening.
But there is one big exception to the rule: Camp Crystal Lake, maybe the single deadliest area in the United States. That’s because, in the Friday the 13th franchise, the grounds have been terrorized for decades by two prolific serial killers: Pamela and Jason Voorhees. Pamela was a cook at Camp Crystal Lake, who suffered a horrible tragedy when her deformed son Jason was bullied by the other kids and ultimately drowned in the lake. Pamela then made multiple attempts to sabotage the camp’s reopenings, leading to several deaths before she was killed by one brave counselor. That’s when Jason stepped in. In his second life, he is an unstoppable supernatural force with a hockey mask and a penchant for machetes; the last thing you want to see in the middle of the night. It’s a tough beat, if we’re being honest. Camp Crystal Lake is so messed up, it’s only natural that the grounds are in New Jersey.
Why on earth would anyone want to work at Camp Crystal Lake? Don’t worry, I get it. Good summer camp counseling jobs can be hard to come by—plus, I’m sure working at Camp Crystal Lake comes with some good perks and a very solid life insurance policy. And as futile as it may seem to be to attempt to survive the wrath of Jason and his mother, we’re here to help. Here are nine guidelines to ensure your experience at Camp Crystal Lake—and any other areas where Jason might pursue you—is as safe and machete-free as possible.
1. Don’t hitchhike to the camp.
Things will start getting weird the minute you enter Cunningham County, the home of Camp Crystal Lake. All the locals will either pretend you don’t exist or treat you with complete disdain—it’s like they don’t want to expend any energy interacting with a walking corpse. The vibes, in other words, are bad. And just because you aren’t on camp grounds quite yet doesn’t mean you aren’t in serious danger.
To make sure you’re able to get to the camp safely, it’s best if you have a vehicle—or at least, someone to give you a ride. (Preferably, another camp counselor.) In the event driving to the grounds isn’t possible, once you get off the bus, I strongly recommend not hitchhiking. Even though hitchhiking isn’t as dangerous as many believe, that’s really not the case when one of the townsfolk willing to give you a lift is none other than Pamela Voorhees.
She might seem like a sweet old lady, but as poor Annie Phillips of the original Friday the 13th can attest, hitching a ride with Mrs. Voorhees is the last thing you’re ever going to do.
For your own safety, carpool with other counselors—or just treat yourself with a hike to the camp.
2. Don’t have sex.
At Camp Crystal Lake, abstinence is your best friend. This point is hammered home so much that the opening sequence of the original Friday the 13th centers on two counselors who are about to get it on being killed by an unseen Mrs. Voorhees. Good ol’ Pam holds a grudge against horny counselors, because if her son’s supervisors had spent less time getting in each other’s pants and more time watching the kids, they could have prevented his death. (This grieving mother’s anger, of course, now extends to all Crystal Lake counselors.)
While abstaining from sex isn’t the only thing that will keep you safe from Jason and his mom, the killers do adhere to this moral code. To bump uglies—or even just get excited at the prospect of boning—is the equivalent of putting a giant neon sign above your cabin that says “STAB ME.” In Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason has the decency to wait until a couple are lying in a post-coital bliss before stabbing them with a spear—but like, is giving in to your carnal desires really worth it?
If this is difficult to accept, just pretend a counselor stint at Camp Crystal Lake is like being on the Netflix reality series Too Hot to Handle—except instead of losing money every time a peer hooks up, you lose a body part.
3. Don’t drink and/or smoke weed.
Just as important as abstinence is laying off the kush. These killers appear to believe that smoking weed and having sex are equally abhorrent activities, and the punishment for lighting a joint is also death. Just ask a very young, unsuspecting Kevin Bacon from the first Friday the 13th.
Low-key the wildest part of this scene is that it implies Mrs. Voorhees was waiting under his mattress for a really long time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Bacon’s character also just had sex—so aside from how messed up it is that she was just chilling underneath the bed while … all that happened, he was just asking for trouble/an arrow to the neck.
4. Don’t steal Jason’s weed?!
Is Jason Voorhees a total hypocrite? I think there’s strong evidence that our guy is, canonically, a pothead—at least for one of the movies in the franchise. Let me lay out the evidence.
The 2009 remake of Friday the 13th is essentially two movies packed into one. A large chunk of the film focuses on a bunch of college friends partying at a nearby lake house before Jason inevitably begins to butcher them, but before we get to that, we watch 20 minutes dedicated to another group with a different agenda. They head to the surrounding area of Camp Crystal Lake because they think there’s a ton of marijuana being grown in the woods. Spoiler: there is, and one of the characters stumbles upon the weed farm. He is stoked, and that’s when Jason strikes.
The series of gruesome events in the Friday the 13th remake genuinely begins when a guy finds a lot of weed in the woods. Why would Jason choose this moment to strike, especially if there are fancy lake houses not even a few miles away that have gone unharmed for years? The answer is simple: Jason doesn’t want anyone going near his weed. Those idiots broke the rules, and thus threatened the fragile peace between the townsfolk and the infamous serial killer.
It’s just a theory, but I think there’s a lot of solid evidence for this hypothesis: One of the scariest villains in the slasher genre is a pothead. For your own sake, if you see a weed farm near Camp Crystal Lake, run for the hills. The stuff is legal in several states, anyway, and New Jersey might be next.
5. Don’t go near the water.
Speaking of the Friday the 13th remake, here’s how Jason feels about wakeboarding (warning: there is nudity, because some victims need to die topless by law).
Jason and large bodies of water have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, Jason clearly has some fear of the titular lake seeing that he drowned in it as a child. But given that Jason either survived the drowning or, more likely given the increasingly supernatural behavior in the franchise, the lake somehow granted him immortality, it is something he can’t live without. (Literally?)
Hanging out by a lake is one of the big draws of being a summer camp counselor, but if you’re at Camp Crystal Lake, I strongly advise you spend your time inside a cabin doing, like, bible study or something. There is nothing more horrifying than peacefully waiting for the police on a floating canoe, only to then see the mangled visage of an undead being trying to drag you down into the depths.
There is something in the water.
6. Don’t call the cops.
The cops of the greater Cunningham County area are here to protect and serve, but summoning them to Camp Crystal Lake is like sending an animal to the slaughterhouse. The officers in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives never stood a chance.
You were just trying to save yourself, but sorry, you’re going to have to fend off Jason without any help if you wanna make it through the night. (If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on possibly being the Final Girl.) As for these victims, just think of their poor families living on the Jersey Shore, wondering why officers Sal Gabagool and Tony Pepperoncini had to answer that ill-fated distress call at Camp Crystal Lake that led to some guy destroying them with a machete.
7. Don’t behead Jason’s mother in self-defense and recover from the traumatic event in your otherwise safe apartment.
So you’ve successfully managed to not only fend off Mrs. Voorhees, but you also beheaded her for good measure. The hard part is done and you can leave Camp Crystal Lake knowing you survived the scariest weekend of your life … right?
If only that were so. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just because you leave the camp grounds doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe. The Final Girl of the original Friday the 13th, Alice Hardy, found this out the hard way in the opening sequence of the 1981 sequel. Jason, who somehow went from a mangled child-ghost thing into a swole, grown-ass man overnight—best not to think about it too much—is going to find out where you live, sneak into your apartment, and wait until you’ve discovered his mother’s head in the refrigerator before he chooses to end your life.
It’s a tough beat, I know. The best thing I can recommend is that you invest in a really solid security system, and maybe adopt a doberman? That should buy you some time.
8. Don’t go to outer space.
[Deep breath] Phew, OK. Let’s say you are reading this blog on The Ringer—a great website—several hundred years in the future. For you, space travel is as common and accessible as Amtrak. The Earth has become so polluted that mankind has moved to Earth II, and you’ve never even heard of Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees. I mean, why would you?
You would think the far reaches of space is the safest possible place to avoid getting killed by a dude in a hockey mask from the 20th century, but somehow you’d be wrong. In Jason X, the 2001 film that brushed aside any doubts that the Friday the 13th franchise had jumped the shark, scientists in the year 2455 find Jason’s frozen corpse at the Camp Crystal Lake government facility on the now-polluted Earth. They bring the character’s body aboard their ship. It is a bad idea.
Being in stasis for hundreds of years apparently gave Jason enough time to come up with new and innovative ways to kill people. One character has the dubious honor of receiving perhaps the most creative death in the whole franchise—courtesy of Jason waking up, attacking an intern named Adrienne, dipping her head in freezing liquid nitrogen, and smashing it like an ice cube. This is what we call an overkill.
For whatever it’s worth, Mythbusters assured us that having your head dipped in a vat of freezing liquid nitrogen wouldn’t actually make it possible for Jason to smash it like porcelain, but dying via head-freezing would still be an unpleasant way to go. Everyone—but especially Tom Cruise—please take note: With or without the presence of Jason Voorhees, space is a dangerous place.
9. Do … get hammered at the local dive bar?
[Morpheus voice] What if I told you there was a way to survive Camp Crystal Lake, and you didn’t even have to follow any of the other guidelines? Executing a strategy like this might sound impossible, and it basically is, unless you’re this fucking guy:
This is Ted from Friday the 13th Part 2, one of the counselors introduced for the next next Camp Crystal Lake reopening. Ted isn’t a particularly fleshed out character: He’s a bit dorky and, as far as slasher genre conventions go, is billed as one of the comic relief characters. Traditionally, guys like Ted are set up for gruesome deaths—all the more devastating because we’ve grown to love their dumb jokes.
But not Ted. No, through the power of what I can only assume is lazy writing and/or some kind of editing mishap, Ted survives the movie by simply getting shit-faced. To celebrate the final evening before the kids arrive at camp, Ted and a couple of other counselors go to a local dive bar. When the other two decide they’re going to head back to the camp—right when Jason begins his rampage—Ted decides to stay behind. The last we see of him, the bar is closing for the night and he asks a patron if there’s another place he can go to keep drinking. And considering he never returns to the camp, we have to assume he passed out and then woke up with a bad hangover to learn that nearly every other counselor was brutally murdered.
Ted’s behavior was antithetical to what we’ve come to accept from characters hoping to survive a slasher movie—let alone a villain as ruthlessly efficient as Jason. His success might not be replicated, and to survive Camp Crystal Lake like Ted, you’d have to somehow time your crazy night out on the town to align with the evening when Jason decides he’s had enough of horny counselors trying to reopen the place. (Or just have sloppy editors who forgot to add your death to the final cut.) Jason might be an unkillable force of nature who will hunt you down at your home and through the far reaches of space, but sometimes even the best slasher villains are no match for a round of shots and a few pints of beer.