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Jason Voorhees' Entire Backstory Explained

In 1980, the world lost the ability to look at wholesome, scenic summer camps and feel anything but terror. The culprit?  Friday the 13th, a brilliant, bloody blockbuster that tore beautiful Camp Crystal Lake to pieces. 

It would be another year before Jason Voorhees, the Friday the 13th series' iconic killer, took the reins of the franchise in Friday the 13th Part 2. But in the years since, there's no denying that he's become the summertime boogeyman. Few who have seen the Friday the 13th movies are able to go camping without looking over their shoulder once or twice for a maniac in a hockey mask. His relentlessness, brutality, stealth, and supernatural powers make him the scourge of skittish viewers' nightmares and a cornerstone of the slasher genre.

What began as a classic morality tale wrapped in some good old-fashioned Hollywood violence has blossomed into one of the most complicated and lore-heavy horror franchises in history. Whether he's inexplicably surviving drowning or being literally dragged to (and subsequently returned from) Hell, Jason's storyline can be hard to pin down. To help you better understand the masked figure haunting your nightmares, we're here to explain Jason's backstory from its brutal beginning to the eerie end.

Mommy issues

Jason Voorhees' story actually begins with his "death" as a child and the murder spree it sent his dutiful mother on in Friday the 13th.

In 1957, Jason accompanies his mother, Pamela, to the camp where she works as a cook. The deformed, mentally disabled young boy is picked on by the other campers and tossed into the lake. Because he is not a strong swimmer, Jason drowns. Counselors on duty could have rescued the boy, but teenage hormones had gotten the better of them — they'd slipped away to have sex in the woods as the boy struggled to survive.

This does not sit well with Pamela.

She returns a year later and takes revenge on two counselors. Decades later, Pamela returns to the camp upon hearing it will be reopened, despite all the work she'd done to scare locals into shuttering her son's final resting place. She stalks and kills the group of young teens who arrive ahead of the campers. After racking up a body count, Pamela struggles to finish off a counselor named Alice.

She eventually chases her with a machete to the shoreline where they fight. Alice manages to get the machete and decapitates Pamela. Exhausted, she collapses into a canoe and has a nightmare in which a young, decomposing boy vengefully drags her to the bottom of the lake. Is Jason still out there? Fans would have to wait to find out.

A vengeful woodsman

It is revealed in Friday the 13th Part 2 that Jason somehow survived being tossed into the lake as a boy, and has been living in a crude cabin in the woods. After her encounter with Alice, Jason discovers his mother's body and falls into a murderous, vengeful rage.

Months after the events of the first movie, he tracks Alice down to her home and murders her with an ice pick, marking Jason Voorhees' first on-screen kill. He decides to further Pamela's legacy by killing anyone that dares to try and make Camp Crystal Lake a fun place.

Across the water from where Jason "died," a counselor training group meets at Camp Packanack. Jason proves even more deadly than his dear old mom and kills all of them, except a woman named Ginny Field and a man named Paul. After finding her friends dead, Ginny flees into the woods and discovers Jason's shack. Inside, she sees that he's created a horrific shrine to Pamela, complete with her sweater and severed head.

When Jason finds her, Ginny dons Pamela's sweater and briefly convinces him that she's his mom. Ginny seizes the opportunity to bury his machete deep into his shoulder. Somehow, Jason survives, and attacks Ginny and Paul back at the camp before help can arrive.

Ginny manages to survive the bloody affair, but Paul and Jason's fates are left ambiguous.

A long day

Jason manages to survive and recover from his injury, and Friday the 13th Part 3 picks up the day after Jason's killing spree at Camp Packanack. He makes his way to a general store and kills the two owners before stealing himself some new, less bloody clothes.

He then wanders the Crystal Lake area, finding yet another gathering of teens at a family-owned home called Higgins Haven. The owner, Chris Higgins, suffers from PTSD from a mysterious encounter she had with Jason years earlier in which she was attacked, only to wake up in her own room with no idea of how she got there.

Jason murders one of the group and steals his hockey mask, the accessory that has become his signature. Using the mask to hide his facial deformities, Jason proceeds to kill everyone but Chris. He chases her into a barn, where she manages to get a noose around his neck and hang him from the barn.

In order to free himself, Jason removes his mask, briefly revealing that he was the man who attacked Chris years ago. She battles her boogeyman, eventually burying an axe directly into his forehead, splitting his brand new mask in the process.

After a few hallucinations, the movie ends with police surrounding Jason's "dead" body the next morning. Unlike the machete to the shoulder, this wound was harder to shake off. However, despite it being fatal to any human being, Jason lives on.

Not dead yet

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter opens with a bang: Jason wakes up at the local morgue and kills two people there before making his way back to Crystal Lake. There, to no viewer's surprise, he encounters yet another group of partying teens.

After getting his hockey mask back on, he slaughters them all. Trish, a neighbor who lives with her kid brother Tommy and their mother, is informed of the situation thanks to a man named Rob, who is in the area to investigate the death of his sister from the second movie — an event that took place roughly three days prior.

When Trish and Rob enter the party house and discover the carnage, Jason kills Rob and chases Trish back to her family home. As she's escaping, Tommy discovers some of Rob's newspaper clippings about Jason's rampage at Camp Packanack. He reads about the trick Ginny pulled with Pamela's sweater and hatches a scheme of his own.

Meanwhile, Trish manages to injure Jason, but he is still able to overpower her. Just as he's about to deliver a killing blow, Tommy comes downstairs, having shaved his head in order to look like a young Jason. Transfixed, Jason drops his guard, allowing Trish to knock his mask off. Tommy picks up the machete and jams it into the maniac's skull before hacking him to pieces. Jason is finally dead enough to bury.

Supernaturally scary

Although Jason's multiple returns from death were improbable, it wasn't until the sixth movie that the story of Jason Voorhees took a turn for the totally supernatural. That's right: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter wasn't actually the final chapter.

After being murdered by Tommy, Jason is buried for years. Tommy struggles with PTSD and hallucinations, leading to numerous stints in psychiatric hospitals and halfway houses. By 1986, Tommy is ready to finally put Jason behind him by traveling back to Crystal Lake and burning the killer's body. He and a friend from his last institution exhume Jason's corpse, only for Tommy to lose control and start stabbing the body with an iron fence piece. At that moment, lightning strikes the rod as it's embedded in Jason's chest, reviving him through electricity. Just like that, Jason becomes his old, unstoppable self.

He goes on yet another rampage around Crystal Lake, which has been renamed Forest Green due to bad publicity. However, Tommy manages to best his nemesis once again by luring Jason out into the middle of the lake and chaining him to a boulder. The movie ends with Jason very much alive, but trapped at the bottom of the lake. 

Psycho vs. Psychic

After spending years at the bottom of Crystal Lake, a teenager named Tina Shepard arrives on its shores. Tina has telekinetic powers that manifested in her accidental murder of her own father, an event that scars her. The telekinetic powers were reportedly a quickie rewrite after the studio failed to secure the rights to have Jason's antagonist be Freddy Krueger, according to GQ.

When her therapy sessions become overwhelming, Tina races to the docks and reflects upon her father. In doing this, she accidentally uses her powers and frees Jason of his shackles, allowing him to inflict yet another round of murders upon the Crystal Lake community.

Forced into a showdown, Tina unleashes her powers in full. However, Jason's raw strength proves a match for her telekinesis — he's not even stopped by being fully engulfed in flames. It takes some help from beyond the grave to finally subdue Voorhees: When the battle makes its way back to the docks, Tina unknowingly summons the spirit of her father, who drags Jason back underwater and shackles him there once again.

From the lake to the sewer

Jason lies dormant at the bottom of Crystal Lake until another pair of oversexed teenagers sail by, not realizing their anchor is dragging a power line. The electricity hits Jason, reviving him instantly. He boards their ship and murders them both.

The following day, Jason manages to swap from the sailboat to a cruise liner taking a group of high schoolers to New York City for a field trip. He systematically murders most of them before the vessel finally reaches its destination. Jason Voorhees finds himself in Manhattan, a place utterly unlike Crystal Lake — but his bloodlust is unchanged.

The Big Apple's back alleys allow him to successfully stalk the survivors of the ship. After a brief jaunt through Times Square leads him to the sewers, he's foiled by Rennie, niece of the high schoolers' chaperone, who splashes toxic waste in his face and exposes his grotesque visage once more. Jason gives chase, but is seemingly washed out to sea by a flood of toxic waste.

Although he was stopped, the fact remains that countless New Yorkers saw a monster in a hockey mask traipse through the city, committing multiple murders. Jason Voorhees would never be just an urban legend ever again.

WANTED: Jason Voorhees

Although Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is by far the wackiest installment of the Friday the 13th series, it starts out pretty realistically. After his rampage through the streets of Manhattan, the FBI is now wise to Jason's existence. It is revealed that he somehow made it back to Crystal Lake, with his mask now fused to his face. He stalks a young woman who turns out to be an FBI agent. Springing an elaborate trap, the feds obliterate him with explosives.

Jason's spirit, however, has become able to possess others. He takes control of a coroner in Ohio, uses his body to travel back to Crystal Lake, then leaves the coroner's body for a police officer's. To no one's surprise, Crystal Lake has a gaggle of partying teens enjoying its shores, whom Jason slaughters.

Meanwhile, a bounty hunter named Creighton Duke is all over the news claiming new knowledge of Jason's powers. According to Duke, only a member of Jason's bloodline can truly kill him. It just so happens that he's got a half-sister, who lives in the area with her daughter and granddaughter. 

With the help of a man named Steve, they all travel to Jason's childhood home for a final showdown. Eventually, Jason is stabbed by his niece with a mystical dagger. Demonic hands emerge from the ground and literally drag Jason to hell.

Freddy vs. Jason

In Hell, Jason meets fellow horror movie monster Freddy Kruger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame. Freddy needs people to fear him — this allows him to attack people in their dreams. However, the people of Elm Street he so terrorized have taken steps to erase him from the town's memories.

He pulls some strings in Hell and tricks Jason into going to Elm Street to put fear back into their hearts. Once the job is done, though, Freddy realizes that he doesn't have a plan to turn Jason off. Unlike Freddy, he will slaughter indiscriminately — depriving the Elm Street baddie of the victims he craves.

The teens of Elm Street decide to retrieve Freddy from the dream world, in order to pit him against Jason. the two titans of murder clash in an epic battle at Crystal Lake. The battle ends with an exhausted Jason stabbing Freddy through the chest with Freddy's own severed arm. The next day, Jason emerges from Crystal Lake holding Freddy's head, which winks and laughs to the camera.

The final frontier

Jason somehow lives until 2008, when he is captured by the United States government and held captive at a facility built at Crystal Lake for two years. After numerous attempts to execute the killer for his crimes, the government decides to cryogenically freeze him. However, someone gets greedy and tries to stop the freezing process to study how Jason regenerates. The ensuing battle sees Jason and government scientist Rowan LaFontaine both frozen within the sealed facility.

They're discovered in the year 2455, after Earth has become a polluted wasteland, by a group of students and their professor. The group takes the frozen pair to their ship, where they reanimate Rowan and pronounce Jason dead. Sent to the morgue, Jason eventually thaws and goes on a shipwide killing spree, murdering most of the students as well as a team of soldiers.

It takes an android named KM-14, armed with upgraded weaponry, to subdue Jason. Unfortunately, KM-14 blows Jason to pieces within a nanite-equipped medical station that not only heals Jason's wounds, but upgrades them: Jason becomes an even more powerful cyborg.

The ensuing rampage blows up the ship just as its shuttle makes its way to humanity's new planet, Earth Two, with the last survivors. Jason Voorhees is last seen hurling toward a new lake on this new planet, poised to murder a new generation of camping teens.