As I have been cleaning up my drives, I found this one from the archive of the old haunt, Ellerbe Road School. I’m not sure why I never processed it as it really showcases the decay, with it taking on a post-apocalyptic look. This was a long exposure @ f22 in a pitch black hallway that I refrained from venturing into by I think obvious reasons. This is also the same exact spot where I had one of the most heart-clutching, pant-soiling experiences in my life, something I commented on David’s blog about. I don’t think I ever shared that experience here.
The school has been abandoned for over forty years. As you can imagine, this school has countless legends, lores and hauntings passed around. Located about fifteen miles into the country and off the road in a farm pasture, overgrowth from the woods has swallowed most of it up and you really have to be looking for it in order to find the school. The most uniform spook story is that a janitor went berserk one day, disappearing along with several children, leaving behind blood trails and never to be found again. The school was eventually shut down over the incident (none of that is true, whatsoever). But local legends persisted, and people said that if you visited the school you could hear the laughter of children, followed by maniacal screaming. On this day, I had stopped by as I wanted to shoot this hallway and a few other spots. I had been there before, but ran out of time. I was by myself. There are only really two places you can park and both are easily visible. I walked down an old covered walkway and located the entrance to the hallway. As I’m setting up my tripod, clear as day, I hear laughter. It seems to be coming from the pitch black end of the hallway. I momentarily freeze, and then stand up and back out the hallway. It is then dead quiet all around, as it was before that moment. I hear it again, but it seems to be coming from an entirely different direction. At that point, I have backed out into the old bus loading zone, and I start looking for other cars, thinking someone may have pulled up to explore after I did or that I had overlooked another vehicle. Nope. Nothing here, nothing there. Then I hear screaming!
This next part I was not thinking at the time, but thought of later when trying to describe the fear at that moment, and why it was so different. Freud points out that terror and horror are two different emotions and not many really experience horror. Terror, he says can be explained away, fought against or most commonly, fled from. Terror conforms to the rules of this world: snakes, another person, bears, fires, etc. These are known threats that have rules. But horror comes from the uncanny, the things that can’t be explained, where the natural world gives way to the supernatural world. How do you run from a ghost made of vapor? The uncanny paralyzes. Again, I wasn’t having this philosophical musing at the time, but it explains what I was experiencing. I don’t believe in spooks, ghosts, preternatural beings, etc. For me, that’s not how the world works. And that belief had been solid rock…until that moment. So in that moment, you suddenly don’t know the world or what can contain.
Then…the bubble popped. Three kids popped out of a doorway and froze. They weren’t expecting me either. With my backpack on and tripod somewhat brandished, they were likely in terror, terror of some crazy guy about to shoot them. I called out to them that it was ok, that everything was cool. Turned out it were merely three teenagers, two boys and one girl, had cut out of school early and were exploring the grounds. It was their laughter and their screaming as they were trying to spook each other as they moved through the school. They had stashed their car a quarter mile down the road off a gravel trail. Cased closed.