To sum up The Addams Family in a snap, or two, they are creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, altogether ooky – and from New Jersey. In the new animated film, Morticia and Gomez Addams relocate their quirky clan to the Garden State where hijinks ensue.
The Addams Family originated in Westfield, New Jersey – or rather their creator Charles “Chas” Addams did. The artist was born in Westfield January 7, 1912, and became famous for his New Yorker cartoons, the first of which appeared in 1932. The first Addams Family cartoon – about a vacuum cleaner salesman visiting the “well-appointed” home of cobwebs, and bats – appeared August 6, 1938 issue of the magazine.
The family looked a little different (Lurch looked like Boris Karloff’s butler character from 1932’s “The Old Dark House,” rather than as his Frankenstein Monster), but they were indeed the Addams’ and possessed a playfully dark sense of humor – although Charles didn’t give them names until the 1964 television series. And of course, that short-lived series starring John Astin went on to inspire an animated movie, feature films, and a Broadway show, as well as the new film that harkens back to Addams’ illustrations.
Westfield also became a character in Addams’ work. Not a mecca of macabre, nor a town of Assimilation (as in the latest movie), Westfield is a welcoming ‘burb with a thriving art scene, and active downtown about an hour’s drive outside New York City. But it also features an old cemetery, and Victorian houses. And it is also host to AddamsFest, the October celebration of its famous family, which will feature a masquerade ball, beer garden, pumpkin carvings, costume contests, lecture series, and even a paranormal investigation.
If you fancy a trip to the weird side of Westfield to get in the mood for the movie, or simply for a spooky (or creepy/kooky/mysterious/ooky) getaway, hop in the car – might I suggest a 1933 Packard V-12 limo? – and check out these Charles Addams landmarks.
Despite his humor having a slightly twisted edge, Addams wasn’t an especially dark figure. Quite the opposite; to quote one of his one comics – referencing Pugsley – he simply had a “morbid ingenuity.” He was an eccentric who enjoyed cars and crossbows, and was a bit of a player (and was connected to Jacqueline Kennedy, and Greta Garbo). However, the man did enjoy his cemeteries, which made multiple appearances in his work, Addams Family, and beyond.
Addams would enjoy the Presbyterian Cemetery on Mountain Avenue in Westfield as a child, where – according to author, and Addams expert Ron MacCloskey – he would wonder what it was like to be dead. In the cartoons, his ghoulish creations lived on Cemetery Ridge with a dreadful view.
The Addams Family House
In the show, The Addams Family lived on 001 Cemetery Lane, adjacent to a swamp and graveyard. But one of Charles Addams’ inspirations for the Addams house is located near the intersection of Dudley Avenue and Elm Street in Westfield. Addams had multiple versions of the house in his work, and this one is not particularly gloomy, nor is it a looming gothic manse.
It is actually rather charming. But young Chas lived nearby, and would likely pass by this home every day, and eventually began to see its potential as a setting for ghoulish guffaws. Visitors cannot enter the private property, but are able to check it out from the street, and on the Charles Addams Walking Tour during AddamsFest.
Dudley and The James Ward Mansion
One of the more notable Addams and Addams Family history is “Dudley,” the 90-100-year-old life-size chalk and pencil skeleton drawing discovered on the wall of a barn adjacent to Charles’ childhood home. The East Dudley Avenue barn was a popular spot for graffiti by local kids, and curiously, the skeleton left unmarked in all its time there – until it was excavated in 2018, and preserved by the town. The style of the art has led to speculation that it was created by a 10-year-old Addams.
During AddamsFest, Dudley will be on display at the James Ward Mansion along with a showcase of Charles Addams work, never before seen in Westfield, “in a boutique exhibit generously on loan from the Tee & Charles Addams Foundation,” according to the festival press release.
The Addams Impact on Westfield
In recent years, Westfield has fully embraced Addams and The Addams Familylegacy within the town. As a result, homages to Chas can be seen all over the place. Unfortunately, the historic Rialto Theater (the setting for a memorable Uncle Fester cartoon) closed suddenly in August due to a tenant/landlord dispute. However, the Addams Tavern is home to a large mixed media Addams mural, and themed Addams Family cocktails (Morticia’s Goblet Martini; Gomez Manhattan; Uncle Fester’s Bermuda Triangle Punch).
Outta Hand Pizza has a Thing creeping along on a pizza in a window painting, and other displays are emblazoned with paintings and quips from Gomez, Morticia, and more Addams. Even the Westfield Police Department gets into the Addams act with Halloween themed vehicles.
Additionally, it is worth visiting artist Ricardo Roig’s Roig Collection Gallery on South Ave West. Known for his hand-cut prints, Roig has a Westfield art series, and has applied his talent to the AddamsFest poster that cleverly marries the town, Chas, and his iconically creepy creations.