‘Friday the 13th’ at 40: Jason’s Strangest Experiences

Eric Goldman
Movies Horror
Movies Horror

On May 9th, 1980, a low budget horror film called Friday the 13th opened in theaters and one of the most famous and beloved horror villains ever, Jason Voorhees, made his big screen debut. Of course, those watching the film at the time couldn’t have known that – after all, Jason was barely a part of the story, appearing in a quick flashback to his drowning as a child and then in a shocking dream sequence (?!) that closed out the movie. But while Pamela Voorhees was the one responsible for all the initial deaths at Camp Crystal Lake, her baby boy would go on to outpace her and then some.

With 12 films in the franchise and the belief that one day — once various legal battles over the rights to the series are solved — more is to come, Jason has had some very notable experiences at this point, going from a backwoods killer clad in overalls and a sack with one eye-hole over his head, to the iconic hockey mask-wearing behemoth who would journey to Manhattan, Springwood, OH, and even to the stars, as both Jason and the world around him grew increasingly odder.

As Friday the 13th celebrates its 40th anniversary, with a new Blu-ray Steelbook of the original film set for release on June 16, Fandom is taking a look back at 13 of the strangest things Jason has experienced so far…

Mysteriously Survived a Drowning  

Jason, famously, is barely in the first Friday the 13th movie. His mother, Pamela Voorhees, is the killer, seeking misguided revenge, decades later, for her son drowning in 1957. And yes, a child version of Jason jumps out of the lake at the end and attacks the only survivor of Pamela’s murder spree, Alice Hardy, but Alice waking up in the hospital afterward indicates Jason’s appearance was likely all a dream… or was it?

Well, as it turns out, it must have been, because no, Jason isn’t some ghostly or zombie-like incarnation of a kid who drowned – he’s actually a fully grown adult, who then begins his own never-ending, brutal and bloody crusade to stop any and all summer camp activities around Crystal Lake. No specific explanations are ever really given for how Jason survived what was believed to have been a fatal drowning, nor for why he wasn’t ever discovered in the aftermath, or in the years following. But if he didn’t survive, there wouldn’t be a Friday the 13th franchise, so let’s just be thankful about this one!

Walked Off Would-Be Fatal Injuries

After Jason makes his presence known as an adult, it’s reinforced that there’s nothing supernatural about him. He is a human, and as such, is vulnerable. And that is underlined soon after, as he begins to sustain a number of notable injuries from various intended victims who fight back. But still, what stands out here is how extreme some of Jason’s injuries are. A machete is sliced down into his flesh, near his neck, by the clever Ginny Field… and yet moments later, he just gets up and seems fine. Soon after, Chris Higgins fends off Jason by splitting his forehead open with an axe, leaving it embedded in his head. And Jason falls over, sure, but as it turns out, he’s not dead, he’s just building his strength back up, and within hours, he’s back on his feet and looking for more victims. It’s not clear how he’s able to not only survive these injuries but somehow not be hindered by their severity or the pain they should cause, but Jason sure is impressive for how he powers through.

But lest anyone assume there has to be something inhuman about him that simply won’t let him die, it is finally definitively proven that yes, eventually, even Jason Voorhees will succumb to injuries – like say a machete slowly slicing completely through his head and eye – when young Tommy Jarvis is able finish him off. Jason’s life comes to an end and he is buried.

And that would be it, until…

Resurrected by Lightning

Where some might speculate on the limits of Jason’s physical prowess beforehand, there is nothing ambiguous about what he becomes after his first encounter with Tommy, as he is literally resurrected from the dead. After his body is dug up, many years after his death, the rotted corpse of Jason is reanimated via an ill-timed bolt of lightning (or perfectly-timed from his perspective), and henceforth, Jason is officially a member of the undead community.

Killing him the first time around was hard enough, but now, the likes of gunshots or stabbings are absolutely ineffective against him – and he’s now strong enough to effortlessly tear a man’s heart out of his chest.

Fought a Telekinetic Girl

For an isolated guy out in the woods, Jason manages to encounter quite a lot of people through the years, though that is almost always bad news for those others, of course. But after his resurrection, he’s the one and only supernatural being at Crystal Lake, until Tina Shepard shows up. A teenage girl with burgeoning telekinetic powers, Tina accidentally frees Jason from the chains he’s held down in the lake by when she actually meant to bring back her father, who drowned there himself (more on him in a moment).

Jason’s latest murder spree, which includes Tina’s own mother, Amanda, eventually leads to Tina standing up to the hockey-masked killer, as she goes all out against him, using her powers. Jason’s never experienced anything like this, as Tina pulls a deck down on him, strangles him with power cords, electrocutes him and – in an inspired move – sends a potted plant holding the decapitated head of one of Jason’s own victims flying at Jason himself. Oh, and then she causes an entire house to first burn and then blow up with Jason inside. (He’s fine though. He’s Jason!)

Defeated by a Dead Dad

As if fighting a telekinetic girl wasn’t weird enough, things get REALLY bizarre when Tina and Jason’s confrontation moves to the dock by the lake. Remember Tina’s dead dad, John Shepard? Well, amazingly, he comes out of the lake and grabs Jason. It’s been years since he drowned and no, he’s not supposed to have pulled a Jason and somehow survived and been out in the woods. He was in the lake the entire time. Yet he’s not all rotted. It’s just her dad, as she remembers him. And no, it’s not clear how he came back. Are her powers such that she can not only move things with her mind, she can bring back the dead? Unclear. But what is clear is Tina’s dead dad just burst out of the water, grabbed Jason, and pulled him back under with him. Thanks, Tina’s dead dad!

Turned Into a Child by Toxic Waste

Sure, it was notable that Jason left Crystal Lake at all, much less onboard a boat. And it’s very notable that Jason reached New York, and even took a stroll through Times Square. But what really stands out about this part of Jason’s life, death, and afterlife is what occured when he pursued Rennie Wickham and Sean Robertson into the sewer system. You see, as it turned out, the New York sewer system has toxic waste flush through it every night and on this night, Jason Voorhees would be stuck in its path. And what happens when Jason is hit by toxic waste? Well, as it turns out, he… gets turned back into a child. Yep, that’s what happens. Toxic waste covers the mutated zombie-like monstrosity and when it washes away, he’s a normal-looking little boy. Welcome to New York indeed.

Blew Up

It’s never explained how he gets back to Crystal Lake – nor how he stops being a little kid again! – but somehow, Jason accomplishes both those things. So what happens next? Well, he blows up. Sure, he had been right at the center of explosions before, but he had personally been fine. But not this time, as a team of FBI agents set a trap for Jason and then hit him with everything they’ve got and he literally explodes into pieces. Jason Voorhees is just a bunch of hunks of burnt, scarred flesh. Ever since that lightning bolt, Jason had been essentially invulnerable, but this was a whole other obstacle to overcome…

Possessed People

…but Jason was prepared to overcome that obstacle via a little human possession.

The specifics are very particular here. The coroner working on Jason’s remains is overcome with a feeling he can’t resist and consumes Jason’s oversized heart, which in turn allows Jason’s spirit to control the coroner. From there, Jason is then able to move from one host to another via a slug-like creature that enters another person via an orifice in their body. Oh, and when he leaves one body for another, the previous host body melts down into nothing but skeletal remains. It’s complicated.

Reborn From His Sister’s Corpse

On top of the whole “He can possess people if they eat his brain or a slug creature crawls inside them” thing, it also turns out Jason can be full “reborn” if he inhabits another member of his family. And that’s what happens when the slug crawls inside the dead body of Jason’s own sister, Diana Kimble, in the most unpleasant manner possible, and then transforms (or does Jason literally burst from within her? It’s not clear) back into the fully formed, adult Jason we all know, complete with his hockey mask. As it turns out, Crystal Lake truly is a magical place.

Went to Hell

Jason had already physically died and then come back over and over again. So how do you really stop him? Well, by sending him to hell. And that’s just what happens when he fights his own niece, Jessica Kimble, and, using a magical dagger of vague origin, she stabs him, which then unleashes a horde of demon hands from the dirt beneath them, which quickly grab Jason and drag him underground, pulling him into hell.

Fought a Dream Killer

As it turns out, even being sent to hell can’t stop Jason permanently. It’s just a minor setback that ends when another, equally dead killer named Freddy Krueger sets his sights on Jason after finding him in the bowels of hell. Freddy is able to bring Jason back once more, using him as his pawn in order to gain his own strength back. Eventually, though, this uneven partnership goes sour in a big way and the two titans of terror fight – first within the dream realm Freddy lords over and then back in the real world, at Camp Crystal Lake.

In the dream world, Freddy is dominant, even pulling the same trick as Jason’s prior nemesis, toxic waste, by turning Jason back into a child at one point. But in the real world, Jason’s strength is hard to overcome and he’s ultimately the one standing tall, holding his enemy’s decapitated (though still winking) head, after their epic, and oh-so bloody battle.

Cryogenically Frozen for Centuries

Until that whole “Got blown up” incident, it felt like Jason had been pretty lucky in regards to law enforcement at large mostly ignoring his actions, given the dozens of murders he was committing. But following his battle with Freddy Krueger, Jason was captured, convicted, and sentenced to death – only to survive every attempt to execute him. Jason would then be studied within the Camp Crystal Lake Research Facility by scientists like Doctor Wimmer, who wanted to know the secret to his regenerating tissue. Alas, they would never get that information, as Jason would break free and begin to kill again – only to get trapped inside a cryogenic freezing chamber within the facility, which he would then stay preserved inside for nearly 450 years until a group of students would discover him on the abandoned remnants of Earth and then take him onboard their ship.

Became a Space Cyborg

Their ship, as in a spaceship called the Grendel. It was wild enough that Jason had once left Crystal Lake for New York, but now, he was leaving Crystal Lake for outer space. Yes, Jason was now the world’s first undead, serial killer space traveler and he celebrated as you might expect, by killing anyone he came into contact with. This time, occasionally using future tech he came across!

But why just use future tech when you can become future tech? And such was the case for Jason, who found himself once more blown up (albeit a bit less severely this time out) after he fought an android named  KM-14. As it turned out, the nano ants aboard the ship would take it upon themselves to “fix” Jason to the best of their abilities, rebuilding him with cybernetic enhancements, a new metal mask included, in the process giving evil an upgrade to full cyborg status.

Jason Voorhees was now a 25th Century cyborg killer in outer space. It was truly an amazing accomplishment for a kid who had drowned in a New Jersey lake in 1957.

Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.