Betsy Palmer, Who Played Mrs. Voorhees in ‘Friday the 13th,’ Dies at 88

Betsy Palmer, Who Played Mrs. Voorhees
Ron Galella/WireImage

Betsy Palmer, who is best known for playing Jason Voorhees’ mother in “Friday the 13th” and appeared in dozens of other films, plays and TV shows, died Friday in Connecticut of natural causes. She was 88.

The character actress had a six decade career, but her most indelible role was as Mrs. Voorhees, the murderous camp cook whose deformed son Jason drowned in the waters of Crystal Lake. Palmer carved her way into horror film history in the 1980 classic, and appeared in flashbacks throughout the next few entries in the slasher series.

Born Pamela Betsy Hrunek in East Chicago, Ind., she started out in classic TV shows of the 1950s such as “Playhouse 90” and “Studio One.” She went on to appear in numerous TV shows including “As the World Turns,” “The Love Boat,” “Knot’s Landing,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Newhart,” “Columbo” and “CHiPs.”

On the bigscreen, she had character roles in Joan Crawford starrer “Queen Bee,” “The Tin Star” with Henry Fonda and Anthony Perkins, “The Long Gray Line” and “Mr. Roberts,” also with Fonda.

She often appeared on gameshows such as “I’ve Got a Secret” and “To Tell the Truth.” While she originally said she took the Mrs. Voorhees role just to pay for a car, she came to embrace her fame and was seen in numerous documentaries about “Friday the 13th” and appeared at horror conventions.

On Broadway, she appeared in plays including “Cactus Flower” and “Same Time, Next Year.”

She is survived by her daughter, Melissa Merendino.

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  1. Like many of you Betty scared the hell out of me-ok maybe not Betyy Palmer the actress but the charractor mrs.voohees [ as i write this i wonder whatever happen to mr.voohees after all jasom cared his gene} For me i was living in west orange N.j at age 16 and i swear{google it there was a lake called crystal lake {google it} as it was a swim club which closed after the summer of 1973.the movie was filmed actually at a boyscout camp in southern n.j ,When i saw the film with my sister paula she and others went crying out the theathre{thanks sean cunningham -director} years latter i told khane hodder who s most fammous of the several actors to play jason vahooes who cracked up{ thank god khane 6″ 5 and a professional stuntman and actor as i hate to get him mad forget his jason charractor.Betty took the part only to buy a new car 10:000 same as her salary { lucky for sean she didnt want more-nasty negioations just ask mr.vorhooees.By the way katherine turner based her charractor in her movie seriel killer as a tribute to betty palmerr.Thanks betty but i”ll still have 1 eye open when i”m sleeping under the covers..jching ching augh augh-haa.joe oneill viewers choice

  2. Like many of you Betty scared the hell out of me-ok maybe not Betyy Palmer the actress but the charractor mrs.voohees [ as i write this i wonder whatever happen to mr.voohees after all jasom cared his gene} For me i was living in west orange N.j at age 16 and i swear{google it there was a lake called crystal lake {google it} as it was a swim club which closed after the summer of 1973.the movie was filmed actually at a boyscout camp in southern n.j ,When i saw the film with my sister paula she and others went crying out the theathre{thanks sean cunningham -director} years latter i told khane hodder who s most fammous of the several actors to play jason vahooes who cracked up{ thank god khane 6″ 5 and a professional stuntman and actor as i hate to get him mad forget his jason charractor.Betty took the part only to buy a new car 10:000 same as her salary { lucky for sean she didnt want more-nasty negioations just ask mr.vorhooees.By the way katherine turner based her charractor in her movie seriel killer as a tribute to betty palmerr.Thanks betty but i”ll still have 1 eye open when i”m sleeping under the covers.

  3. “The Tin Star” was one of the best westerns of the 1950’s, terrific cast. After “Ox-Bow Incident”, it was Henry Fonda’s best. Totally worth the rental.

    • Dave J. says:

      I quite enjoyed “The Tin Star” as well with Anthony Perkins, which the ironic thing about that movie is that it has the exact same name of the story of what “High Noon” was based on!

  4. Brian Hillier says:

    RIP Ms. Palmer.
    You contributions in life were greatly appreciated.

  5. Ida May Right says:

    Friday the 13th started the 80’s slasher films and it is the ultimate 80’s horror film but the rest of them
    were horrible. The first one at least had a good plot and it was creepy and pretty gory for it’s time.
    I can only stand so much blood and gore in a horror movie and now it’s just absurd and gross. I do
    remember her in other things before that movie and it was a surprise but she did a great job as the
    crazy killer. But she was a great actress like you don’t find many if any today in Hollyweird.

  6. Leon says:

    She will be missed

  7. susiesquillions says:

    “Most indelible role?” Woe is me. Let’s just forget that what made her famous was her work on Broadway. She was Nellie Forbush, fercryinoutloud! Perhaps for younger generations, she was just Mrs. Voorhees, but to people who know about her career, or who care at all about classic films, she was so much more. A beautiful, wonderful woman.

    • Jim Burrell says:

      @susiesquillions. Yes, she did have a career spanning nearly three decades before FRIDAY THE 13TH, but it was with that particular film that she gained MILLIONS of new fans. FRIDAY THE 13TH was one of the biggest box office hits of 1980 and brought her – whether you like it or not – greater fame than any of her previous work combined.

      By the way, it is not just “younger generations” that know her from this film. My mother was/is a huge fan of the film when she first saw it back in 1981, as am I (I am in my mid-40s and am a huge fan of classic horror films produced from the 1930s – ’60s like Universal, Hammer, AIP, etc.). And don’t forget that this film is now 35 year old — hardly a recent release. Yes, there are many younger people who only know her from this film, but I can guarantee you that a great many more people in their 40s, 50s and even their 60s will recognize (and appreciate) her work in FRIDAY THE 13TH.

  8. Lex says:

    I rented the first Friday the 13th not knowing who the killer was. It surprised me.

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