Last weekend I attended the first Wags ‘n’ Whiskers Dance Party, an event benefiting A Voice for Paws, an organization that helps animals in Gloucester County.
One of my favorite horror movies is the original My Bloody Valentine. This is not to knock the 2009 remake, I love that version just as much. I appreciate the originality of this film, the unique setting and killer. I didn’t realize that there was a similar movie, released nine months later, shot close to home that I had to investigate.
My Bloody Valentine was released on February 11, 1981. The Prowler was released on November 6, 1981. While one film has a creepy miner, the other has a creepy soldier. No part of either killer can be seen, they are completely covered in mining gear or World War II garb. Both villains have something against dances, and with good reason. While the miner taunts authorities by sending them hearts ripped from his victims in candy boxes, the soldier sometimes leaves a single rose with his victims. While the miner dispatches people with a pickax, the soldier prefers a pitchfork to do his dirty work. Both prey on young people and appear unstoppable.
It’s interesting to note that The Prowler’s blood and guts were provided by none other than special effects master, Tom Savini. Savini’s work can also be found in such horror classics as Friday the 13th, Creepshow, and Dawn of the Dead, to name but a few. Savini can be seen in the bonus material included on The Prowler DVD.
My Bloody Valentine is a Canadian film, but The Prowler was shot in nearby Cape May, New Jersey, a small shore town known for its beautiful Victorian buildings. Of course, I had to check out the filming locations I was able to find thanks to this blog I found during a Google search.
In The Prowler, Cape May transforms into the town of Avalon Bay. The real town of Avalon, New Jersey, is about a half hour away from Cape May. The Inn of Cape May serves as the location of the dance, and the grand exterior porch can be seen being decorated for the occasion in the film.
The Emlen Physick Estate serves as Major Chatham’s house in the movie. It is a museum, and rumored to be haunted.
The infamous shower scene was filmed inside the Southern Mansion. That location is a bed and breakfast. As with any old building rich in history, it is believed to be occupied by otherworldly guests as well.
It was worth spending an afternoon checking out these movie locations, clad in a Prowler shirt I found at a horror convention, clutching the DVD in a few photos. Some of the locations can be seen in the trailer.
If you haven’t seen The Prowler, give it a watch. It’s a solid entry in the 80’s horror genre.
“Have they found out what is in the walls yet? In time they will.”
“Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better.”
“My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming.”
“Who am I? I am the Watcher.”
These are just some menacing words in letters received by the owners of a dream home in New Jersey. As a result of these missives, a young couple and their three children have been too afraid to move into their new home, and it is again for sale. This story has made local news, as well as international news, and since it was so close, I had to see the house in person.
The current owners are involved in a lawsuit against the sellers, claiming they were aware of the Watcher but did not divulge the fact that they had also received letters from the house stalker prior to their purchase of the property. As I understand it, New Jersey is a non-disclosure state, which means sellers are under no obligation to disclose to a buyer if a murder or suicide had taken place in the residence. (Please see a real estate attorney for clarification).
So, who is the Watcher? Does he or she exist? Maybe it’s a disgruntled neighbor who, for reasons known only to them, want the house to remain vacant. One theory I heard was that the house was built by the Watcher’s family, but perhaps they could no longer afford to live in it due to its exorbitant price tag and high taxes. It may be an “if I can’t live in it, no one can” scenario.
What if the Watcher has a buyer in mind and is trying to sabotage the property in order to lower the asking price? Maybe someone was outbid for the house and is seeking revenge against the family.
What if this is just a case of buyer’s remorse? Perhaps this is an elaborate hoax on the part of the homeowner to unload a property that was more than they bargained for. If this is the case, I give them props for creativity. It’s a cool variant on the haunted house story.
The current owners bought the house in 2014, never moved into it, but did $150,000.00 worth of renovations. Why would you sink all that money into a house you were too afraid to move into? It does seem odd.
Assuming there is a Watcher, I don’t blame this family for not moving in. They have three young children, and the Watcher’s references to “young bloods,” among other things, is unnerving. One thing’s for sure, if I could afford a million dollar home, I could afford another one without the baggage.
The saga continues. There is a for sale sign on the property. While I was standing for a photo, I couldn’t help but wonder, was the Watcher watching me?
You have to love some of the things that come across your screen when you’re trolling the internet. When I saw a link to former prisons that had been converted to hotels, I had to see if there was one in my area.
Since I have no plans to travel abroad, the closest prison-turned-hotel is The Liberty Hotel, formerly Charles Street Jail, located in Boston, Massachusetts. When we took our Halloween trip to Salem in 2015, I planned a side adventure to check out the location.
Let’s just say that driving in Boston makes Philadelphia traffic look tame in comparison. There is no logic to how the streets are designed, and I was quite happy to be a backseat driver. Getting there was not half the fun in this case. We pulled into the hotel and parking immediately was a problem. We explained to a very accommodating valet that we weren’t guests, but we only wanted to explore the building and take a few pictures, hoping he could direct us to suitable parking. We weren’t planning to be long. He told us to take our time, and backed our car into a close spot for safekeeping until we were finished visiting.
The façade of The Liberty is imposing. It looks like a stone fortress with its tall windows still covered with metal bars. I noted that construction on the original jail commenced on my birthday, way back in 1848.
The interior of the hotel is just as impressive as the exterior. To enter The Liberty Hotel, visitors must take a small escalator to the lobby floor. The lobby is huge, one glance toward the ceiling shows the enormity of the structure. The atrium is 90 feet from the floor to the ceiling. The former catwalks are still visible and quite striking.
In a corner, just past the concierge, is a brief history of the property. A companion DVD that can be purchased plays above the display. The Liberty Hotel has no real gift shop which was disappointing, but the DVD came home with me, along with a teddy bear in a striped convict outfit.
We ventured inside Clink, a restaurant on The Liberty’s lobby floor. We took photos even though we weren’t able to dine there due to time constraints.
At the time of our visit, Alibi, The Liberty’s lounge, was not open. As it is separately managed from the hotel, we were unable to access it for photos. We tried to take pictures from the entrance through glass. Throughout the lounge, on original jail walls, hang celebrity mugshots.
Scampo’s is an Italian restaurant inside the hotel, and Catwalk is a bar. There is also the Liberty Bar and The Yard. We did not see any of these while we were there. Our visit was brief because we didn’t want to take advantage of the parking attendant’s kindness in watching our car for free.
After a quick trip through the common areas, we left. I would love to stay there someday, not in the new section, but in one of the rooms that still has parts of a jail wall remaining. The hotel has undergone some renovations since our visit, and if you’re ever in the Boston area, be sure to take an informal tour of The Liberty Hotel.