Roll #11: Ghosts on Film

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

The paranormal has always interested me. To be more specific, ghosts, ghost stories…basically all things ghost (especially TV shows) has always interested me. Think “Ghost Hunters” not the psychic circus that is “Hollywood Medium” and “Crossing Over.” Ghosts are mysterious. Do they exist? Are they benevolent or malevolent? I can’t say I know the answer to these questions, but in college, I engaged in activities that would hopefully bring me closer to the answer. How so? By hunting ghosts of course.

The year is 2007. As the cool winds of fall blew through Logan, Utah, I found myself grasping for something, anything that would allow me to put off studying for my Organic Chemistry test. As I was sitting on the couch running out of ideas, something brilliant popped into my head: GO HUNT GHOSTS. After calling together the roommates, I found they too were looking for an opportunity to procrastinate and leave their studies behind. It was an easy sell. We had a video camera equipped with night vision; weapons: bats, dull kitchen knives, and a hooked saw (I don’t know where this came from), and gas in the car. The decision for our first adventure was obvious. We would go to epicenter of one of Utah’s most haunted spots: St. Anne’s Nunnery in Logan Canyon.

The nunnery carries many stories, most of which unconfirmed. Rumor has it the Catholic Church would send nuns to this isolated lodge if they became pregnant. After birth, the babies would be put up for adoption as a way to chastise the promiscuous nuns. In one instance however (c. 1940), a nun chose to run away with her child in the middle of the night. All hope was lost when the nun was caught by the Mother Superior, who, to teach other residents a lesson, killed the baby and disposed of the body on the property. In anguish, the mother drowned herself. On nights of a new moon, her ghost can be heard crying, searching for the corpse of her murdered child.

Heavy, I know. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a haunting, it’s hard to find a better place. So, we headed up the canyon. It was a new moon. As we worked our way deeper into the canyon, we found ourselves in near-total darkness. By the time we pulled off the road near the nunnery, we could a hand in front of our face. Minutes went by and we expected our eyes to adjust to the low light, but improvements were modest. This was as good as it was going to get, so we marched our way toward the barrier which blocked the entrance to the nunnery. We high-stepped over the barrier, turned on the camera, lifted our weapons for potential attack from the undead, and continued up the winding road to the nunnery. We first arrived at a pool, filled with about 4 inches of pitch-black water. After a brief debate around the water (Was it water...or blood?!), we continued towards the living quarters, pausing occasionally to listen for the wails of the distraught nun. An occasional cool breeze crossed us. Was it a passing ghost? Eventually we began to hear something. But what was it? Was it the branches of a tree scraping against the decaying edifice? Or maybe it was the child, now fully grown, shuffling its feed on the branch-littered ground?

I’d like to say we continued our investigation in greater depth, but the spookiness of the whole situation had gotten to us. We ran back to the car and hauled butt out of the canyon. Over the following months, we would work up the courage to go out to creepy locations and document our excursions on camera. It was something to do.

By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, and to be honest I don't know. Maybe it’s a way for me to set the scene for some images which were not taken in 2007, nor in Utah, nor at a dark, creepy location, but rather, broad daylight in a quaint city in Maryland. Still uncertain where this is going? Me too, but I think it has to do with the haunting nature of the images taken as a result of my half-frame Olympus PEN EES not having a functional light meter and me having to shoot at a fixed 1/40 sec shutter speed and guestimate aperture.

Not ideal conditions, I know, and the images show. The results can be labeled as lacking, but that's on me. I really wanted to get this camera working but it looks like it just isn’t in the cards. While most images are blown out (we’ll term this “haunted aesthetic”) because I can’t judge lighting for the life of me, those where the guestimates are dead-on, are pretty darn pleasing (i.e. last image in the set). I’d love to see what a functional version of this camera can do, but for now, I’ll have to live with the headache of my extremely limited (not in a good way) edition.

Camera: Olympus PEN EES

Film: Kentmere 100

When: February 2019

Where: Ellicott City, Maryland

Water in motion; Patapsco River, Maryland

Under the bridge; Ellicott City, Maryland

Vans on my feet

Flood damage in Ellicott City, Maryland

Vans on Larissa's feet

Just take the stairs; Ellicott City, Maryland

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