Pamela Voorhees: The Dark Legacy of Friday the 13th's Original Killer

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"Who was the killer in the original Friday the 13th?" That infamous question was asked in the opening minutes of Scream, which led to countless people, including Drew Barrymore's unfortunate character, to shout "Jason!" But as many people forget, Jason was barely in the original Friday the 13th.

While the famous movie monster's name is mentioned, we see him drown and he's part of an iconic jump scare at the end of the film, but the original villain that started the slashing film franchise wasn't Jason. It was his mother: Pamela Voorhees.

Pamela Voorhees as a character remains one of the most original, interesting villains in slasher movie history. In many ways, she is a reverse Norman Bates: a mother driven by the memory of her son to murder. But she remains one of the most unique and interesting horror movie villains for another reason: despite dying (and staying dead) in her first appearance, her ghost lingers over the entire franchise.

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Pamela Voorhees's early life is mostly unexplored. She wears her class ring on her finger, which is never explored behind actress Betsy Palmer's speculation and had a relationship that led to the birth of her son Jason. Jason's father never makes an appearance, which implies that he's absent for one reason or another. Beyond that, everything before her taking a position as a cook at Camp Crystal Lake remains a mystery.

It is clear that Pamela was very protective of her son. Jason, having visible deformities, was often mocked by the other boys. While Pamela served as a cook, she demanded the counselors watch her son at every moment. One night, Jason, sick of being mocked by his peers, tries to prove himself by going for a swim in the lake while the counselors are too busy to notice.

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Unfortunately, Jason apparently drowns in the lake. Even though Jason managed to swim to the other side of the lake, everyone -- especially his mother -- concludes the boy is dead.

The trauma of her son's death triggered Pamela Voorhees's latent hallucinations. She started to hear her son speak to her, reminding her of the "death" of her boy. A year after the drowning incident, she murdered two counselors in cold blood. The counselors were in the middle of making out, which seems to also imply Pamela had a particular vendetta against counselors indulging in what she perceived to be the vices that led to her son's death. Camp Crystal Lake, now nicknamed Camp Blood, was closed down for good.


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Every attempt to reopen Camp Crystal Lake led to more disasters, since Pamela poisoned the water, burned the cabins down to keep the camp from reopening. Despite living near the camp's property and being known to all the counselors, Pamela was never suspected as being involved in any of the disasters, and the camp was essentially abandoned in 1963.

In 1980, Camp Crystal Lake reopened in Friday the 13th, and Pamela went on a  murder rampage to keep the camp closed. She used a variety of weapons -- mainly knives, axes, and arrows -- to cleave her way through fresh counselors at a renewed rate. She caught every victim by surprise, either hiding until she could strike or using her familiar, welcoming demeanor to lull victims into a false sense of security.

She killed everyone but one girl named Alice, who managed to outmaneuver Pamela. Alice cleaved Pamela's head off with her own machete, and ended the reign of terror.

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Despite all appearances, Jason never drowned. He lived in the woods for years, confused and alone. When he managed to wander over to Camp Crystal Lake, he saw Alice kill his mother. While Jason had fully grown into a powerful man who could live off the land, he was still a boy at heart. Seeing his mother die drove him into insanity and led him to take up his mother's murderous crusade.

He collected his mother's decapitated head, putting it in a shrine in his makeshift cabin in the woods, along with his mother's sweater. In a way, it seems he attempted to bring his mother to life in some way. The head would remain in the shrine for the rest of the film series, except for when Jason brought the head to Alice's house so his mother could watch Jason avenge her.

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Despite all evidence to the contrary, Jason seemed to convince himself his mother was alive. He forgot his mother was dead when, in Friday the 13th Part II, one of the camp counselors wears the sweater in an attempt to convince Jason his mother has returned to dissuade him from killing anymore. However, that plan doesn't really work.

In Friday the 13th Part III, the ending featured Pamela emerging from Crystal Lake to drag down the final girl, similar to how Jason leaps from the lake in the first film. However, like in that, it turns out to just be a hallucination. Freddy Krueger used a similar tactic years later in Freddy vs. Jason, when he  impersonated Pamela in order to manipulate Jason into killing the children of Springwood.


While Pamela Voorhees remained a figurative fixture in the franchise, several plot points almost brought Pamela back into the franchise. Plans existed to bring Pamela's severed head into Friday the 13th Part VII in one of the psychic protagonist Tina's hallucinations.

Additionally, the sci-fi sequel Jason X would've featured Jason encountering a hologram of Pamela. However, Jason, now at previously-unseen levels of evil, to cut his mother dead. Regardless, as it stands, these unused ideas still reflect one truth about Pamela Voorhees: without her, Jason would've never taken up his iconic hockey mask and machete.

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