The Crawling Ear column: Spook City, USA

James sets off in search of the Misfits, but finds little evidence of the creepy 80s punks in their hometown of Lodi, New Jersey...

Yesterday around three o’ clock, I realized I had half a tank of gas and no discernable plans for the evening. Thus, I decided to hop in my Toyota Camry, cross the George Washington Bridge into the Garden State, and have myself a ghouls night out with the astrozombies where eagles dare.

I decided to go to Lodi, New Jersey, birthplace of horror rock pioneers the Misfits.

Now, I wasn’t expecting this tiny borough of roughly 24,000 to bear statues and plaques commemorating an early eighties punk band who penned songs such as “Death Comes Ripping” and “Bloodfeast,” but I imagined I could rustle up some evidence of their existence in said town. A stray crimson ghost spray painted on the side of a drug store, an old tattered flyer lying in a gutter somewhere… I was even holding out hope I could somehow stumble upon Glenn Danzig’s parents’ house, which last I heard still boasted the hearse Glenn bought when he was seventeen in the backyard (up on blocks, of course; Danzig was too evil to ever get a driver’s license).

A number of former Misfits still live in Lodi, apparently, including guitarist Franché Coma. It would be a real scream to bump into one of them somewhere at the end of a barren New Jersey street. That would be right up there with a Bigfoot sighting.

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I am saddened to report I came across no Misfits nor evidence of any Misfits while hanging out in Lodi last night. I saw not one crimson ghost, nary a devilock, not even one single hellhound. Bonfires burning bright? Nope. Maggots in an iron lung refusing to copulate? Try again. None of the nightmarish visions Danzig predicted came to pass, I’m afraid, as I cruised through the town that’s prouder of its high school football team (the L.H. Rams, State Champs!) than the famous spook rockers what sprung from their loins.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a few strange experiences while farting around Lodi. For starters, the BP on Route 17 was eerily quiet when I entered. You know how normally you go into one of those super gas stations and the speakers inside are blaring “Pac-Man Fever” or some other equally banal shit? Not at the Lodi BP. It was all quiet on the petrol front. I also saw some kind of Spanish apple soda in there that looked totally unreal. Clearly this place was haunted. I made my purchases and exited hastily.

Also, the Lodi Kmart is just that – a Kmart. These days, most every Kmart in America has been converted to a “Big K” (read: they knocked out a few walls and added groceries). Apparently the people of Lodi were just fine with the regular Kmart and demanded their gross, sub-Target retail outlet remain the same. That or the Kmart people forgot they have a store there. At any rate, it’s very striking to drive down Main Street and see that old-timey Kmart sign, harkening back to a simpler, cozier time (back when the Internet really was just a series of interconnected tubes!).

The creepiest thing that happened to me while visiting Lodi, though, occurred just as the sun was going down. I found myself driving slowly through an intersection when all of a sudden, without warning, a large group of pint-sized bicyclists came flying around a corner. There must have been thirty of them, all under fourteen, all with dirt and crazed looks smeared on their faces. The leader popped a wheelie as he whizzed by my car. The rest followed in blind allegiance, paying me no mind.

You know what that was? Children in heat. You can’t control them. They’re always gonna run away.

James Greene Jr will be back again next Wednesday; you can read his last column here

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