Photo by Tracey Consolo
Holiday Displays from Days of Yore – Gone But Not Forgotten
A Creepy Claus in God’s Country
Dear Weird NJ:
Recently, while traveling along the White Horse Pike in Atco, I passed this odd looking outdoor market that looked like a haphazard arrangement of trailers, religious statuary and crosses, American flags, and signs proclaiming “GOD IS HERE.” As I slowly drove past, my attention was drawn to a weird display located right at edge of the road. I had to stop at a line of traffic at a red light right beneath the figure, so I had a chance to quickly jump out of my car and take a couple of photos of it on my cell phone.
It was a skinny corpse-like female mannequin in faded and threadbare Santa suit, filthy red fuzzy cap and a ragged white beard. The severely weathered figure leaned to one side and appeared as if it might topple to the roadway if a good wind blew. One of “Santa’s” detached hands rested by his/her feet, which were clad in a pair of black high heal pumps. The figure sat on a deteriorated cane chair perched on small, elevated metal platform, which was suspended from a flagpole.
I was stopped right at the end of the driveway that was the entrance to the compound where a street sign was posted that read “God’s Way.” I was perplexed by the sight, to say the least, but fortunately snapped out of my confusion just as the light change and I was able to catch the name of the complex as I rolled on past a sign that said “James Lombardo’s Business Center.”
I was curious about the place, so when I got home I did a little research on it and discovered that it’s a 13-acre facility that has been operated by a man named James Lombardo for the past 47 years. Billing itself as “God’s Co-Op,” the property seems to be an amalgamation of a used car lot, flea market, and outdoor rummage sale for bicycles, children’s toys and all sort of other stuff.
According to Lombardo’s Facebook page, “God’s Co-op is a non-denominational, honorable workforce for GOD, Country and Humankind. We are a merchandise exchange coalition who buy, sell, trade and take donations for the promotion of God will among GOD’s people. We are all in this together – come.”
There is another post on the page that says, “NEW JERSEY POWER BROKERS HAVE USED LOCAL GOV. SUPER0IR COURT & FEDERAL COURT AND EMINENT DOMAIN! I AM LIVING ONLY BY GOD’S WILL! ALL MY BUSINESS INCOME GOT BLOCKED BY HEATHEN CODES! I AM BLESSED WITH GOD…” I’m not really sure what this is in reference to, but I would have to assume that Mr. Lombardo has perhaps run afoul of local zoning laws at some point. But you can ask Mr. Lombardo about this yourself if you’d like, because according to their web site God’s Co-Op invites people to book the facility for events! –Ann Onymous
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Jefferson Christmas Tree Says “I’ve Fallen!”
An age-old question poses the philosophical quandary: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer in Jefferson Township, near Oak Ridge, NJ is apparently yes, due in large part to social media. This old hollow stump in the woods off Berkshire Valley Road has been gaining quite a following on Facebook this holiday season, thanks to some locals who have taken to decorating the toppled totem in the Christmas spirit.
Gail O’Keefe (who shared these photos with us along with Lisa Winters) tells us how it all started, “I first notice eyes on it in September. I was heart broken the next time I was on the road they were gone. The next time I went by I noticed new eyes were added. I added ribbons and a woman added a hat and from there it grew. I went back and added hair. I hope people will continue to decorate each holiday. It really helps make people smile on their commute. Thank you to the person who first added the eyes. Stop and have your picture taken with him.”
Michelle Bakay remembers, “The first time my husband and I passed this, when it was just googly eyes, we cracked up! We haven’t laughed like that in a while!” Thank you whoever did this!” Leslie A. Chilenski has even given the fallen foliage a nickname, saying, “I’ve secretly named him Buddy, cuz he’s everyone’s friend.”
You can find more photos and comments on the tree’s very own Facebook page HERE.
100,000 Points of Light in Clifton
Our house is covered literally…leaving an opening for the door with over 100,000 lights and life-sized animated display figures! Most people think it is pretty darn weird! Please stop by and check it out! –Mark Carfora, 76 Arthur Street, Clifton
Pitman Billboard Says “Keep the Saturn in Saturnalia”
WNJ reader DWS reports that, “In Pitman, a rivalry has been going on since 2011 between religious people who want to “Keep Christ in Christmas” and the Freedom From Religion Foundation who reminds people to ‘Keep Saturn in Saturnalia’. Where lats year the FFRF simply hung a banner at the ‘Welcome to Pitman’ sign, this year they escalated matters by purchasing a billboard at West Holly Avenue and Lambs Road.” Read the FULL STORY…
Sat·ur·na·li·a [sat-er-ney-lee-uh, -neyl-yuh]
1. The festival of Saturn, celebrated in December in ancient Rome as a time of unrestrained merrymaking.
2. Unrestrained revelry; orgy.
Holiday Horrors in Kendall Park
Check out New Road in South Brunswick between Rt. 27 and Rt.1. You already know about the Rocking Horse House at New and Sturgis Rd, but if you pass it going towards Rt. 1 there is something even stranger. The second house past the fire station on the right is 141 New Rd. They have a sick Christmas display – skeletons and other grotesque figures dressed in Santa costumes! I caught sight of a sign but only read the word “Haunted” before I passed. It is definitely a Christmas display, not Halloween. –Lisa Burns
Tom and Carolyn Dardani sure know how to dress up the home for the holidays. And why not? Their home in Monmouth Junction is known affectionately as “The Halloween House.” The Dardanis run the annual Dardani Haunted Trail in nearby Woodlot Park. The event is run by over 200 volunteers during the Halloween season. This is a picture of a display the Dardanis did a few years ago. Who knows what will be lurking on their lawn this holiday!
Away in a Manger in Belleville
This holiday season don’t forget to stop by Charlie Auriemma’s Christmas display on Mt. Prospect St. in Belleville. Charlie, an electrical contractor by trade, decorates his side yard each year with a manger scene complete with live sheep, calves, and even a camel. There is also a Santa’s workshop where robotic elves toil away powered by an electrical on/off switch that you control!
Still Dreaming of a Pink Christmas in Metuchen
Gracie Knox, the “Pink Lady of Metuchen” has been enjoying her pink paradise for over 70 years. Weird NJ visited Ms. Knox Gracie she invited us into her century-old home, where we sat ensconced in pink pile carpet and pink plastic-covered furniture. On that day she was preparing her outfit and convertible Cadillac El Dorado (one of her two luxury pink and white rides) for the town’s annual Memorial Day parade. Christmas is the time when Gracie’s Sheridan Road estate really shines though—shiny pink, of course! Gracie died in 2009 and her house was torn down a few years ago.
Mahwah, Where You’ll Never Have a Blue Christmas
This is one site everyone will have to check out. A fellow in Mahwah who makes his living as an Elvis impersonator puts on an of a Christmas House. It is rumored that so much energy is used for his Christmas lights (which cover every square inch of available horizontal and vertical space) that he has worked out a special deal with PSE&G.
The seasonal light display has become so popular that local cops are now posted in the area to direct traffic in and out of the complex where he lives, which is modeled after Graceland. Needless to say, the light display is orchestrated by recordings of elvis singing Christmas carols.
Neighbors attempting to keep up with him have tried their own garish displays but have not managed to outshine him. His display is unmistakably the loudest, in every respect. –Jennifer Watts
Very close to Franklin Lakes, this house is on Victoria Lane off Campgaw Road in Mahwah. We’ve been going there for at least ten years. I understand his bill is over $2000. On some nights the Mahwah Fire Department collects donations simply by holding their helmets out to the line of slow passing cars. –RL Dean
There is a house in Mahwah, on the corner of Victoria Lane and Garden Court (off of Campgaw Road), that goes all out every Christmas. The house and property is covered in lights and there are also several lifesize figures on the roof––including Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. There is a constant caravan of cars driving through the neighborhood between Christmas and New Years…. stopping to snap pictures and catch a glimpse of this weird winter wonderland. –John Arehart
Elvis Has Left the Lights Off
The “Elvis” house has not been lit up for the last 2 years. I drove down Victoria Lane in Mahwah last Friday and the entire street had no decorated houses. I guess the recession has hit hard on that neighborhood too. –Teepag
The Robot Elves & Giant Claus of the Fountains of Wayne
Dear Weird NJ: I’ve been visiting Totowa on business about once a month since August. While there last week I saw something that was really weird to me. I stopped at the Fountains of Wayne aka Christmas Emporium on Route 46 for something to do on my lunch hour. As I was shopping, I saw that they had a Christmas Animitronics Display upstairs. Of course, I had to go up and take a peek.
They have various vignettes set up such as Santa’s Pizzeria, Santa at the Jersey Shore, Santa in the Rain Forest, etc. The display looks like it was set up in the 50’s and has never been changed. Each vignette is full of the animated dolls that are all moving in the same hypnotic way. They look like they are possessed and were truly creepy. You really need to see it. Then when I told someone about it, they told me to go up 46 to Fairfield Gardens and see the Ice Caverns. Off I went. This one was a bit newer, but there was one Santa that looked like a blow up sex doll. –Vivaletta
READ MORE WEIRD NJ CHRISTMAS STORIES HERE.
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The preceding article is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.
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