Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Creepy House

A very commonly asked question is, "How do you find your locations? Do you just drive around looking for them?" The answer to this is yes, that's exactly what I do. A couple years ago I was driving clear out towards the middle of nowhere and came across a long dirt road so I decided to see where it led to. As I pulled around the bend into a large patch of trees I was absolutely blown away. Spread before us was a small patch of wild grass surrounded by old, abandoned buildings including a beautiful Victorian era house. Inside the garages were covered wagons (seriously) old iron wrought beds, antique bathtubs and other treasure littered the grounds. It was like we stumbled on a house whose owners left and simply never came back twenty-years earlier. It wasn't called the creepy house yet, but after my first shoot there the name would stick. Two years later this is still one of my favorite locations to shoot and I still haven't used up all my ideas... but this is the story of how the creepy house became the CREEPY house.

Our first shoot there was with a beautiful model who was just as in awe as I was, we explored the grounds and I called her over to look inside a broken out window into one of the bedrooms of the house. Inside was a wicker chair, balanced on top of a small book case with the ancient wicker unraveled and pouring down the sides like a wooden waterfall. The site was eerie and beautiful. We sat in front of the window and chatted about who would make such a modern day sculpture inside a forgotten bedroom. Then we continued the shoot, I sat inside the front doorway but the door, off its' hinges and propped against the door jam kept getting in the way of my "shooting" arm. I complained out loud about the stupid door and shortly after an old light above the garage TURNED ON! It's hard to emphasize how strange this was based on the state of the house and on the obvious length of time it had been abandoned. Why was there a working bulb with a working timer LET ALONE electricity to this place? It was at least 300 yards from any other house that I could see. I stopped shooting and told the model to turn and look at the light, and at that exact moment the light went out. A tiny chill ran up my spine. I pegged it as a coincidence but it still was very strange.

The next day, less than 12 hours later, I returned with my girlfriend (now my wife) to show her my discovery, I called her over to the window to look inside and to my surprise the room was completely re-arranged. Though odd, this didn't strike me as impossible since anybody could have come and moved it, but it really hadn't been all that long since I was last there. I glanced towards the front door and my heart jumped. The door which I complained about was now standing straight up blocking the entrance to the front door. Everything I had talked about out loud (including the light) had been rearranged from the night before. Still a coincidence? Quite possibly but the incidents were adding up. The weirdest thing of all was yet to come, sitting in the exact spot where the model was standing for our very first shot the night before was an old Polaroid picture of a young man laying on the couch, the picture was dated 1971. I have no idea how it got there, I went home and checked the shoot just to make sure it wasn't there the night before and sure enough... it wasn't.

Later on I found out the house is widely believed to be haunted by the family that used to live there... that was only my first experience with the creepy house, there are many more experiences that have been very difficult to explain.

Monday, June 25, 2007


My general rule is this - no "No Trespassing" sign in the vicinity then it's free game. I'm not sure this strategy will hold up in court, hopefully I never get a chance to test it, but as we were shooting at the top floor of this beautiful abandoned house a voice yelled from downstairs, "WHO'S HERE?"

Obviously this gentleman was upset, we were intruding on the house his grandfather had purchased in 1918, five short years after it was first built. But when he turned the corner and saw what it was that we were up to he suddenly became our best friend, after a brief history he left us with an admonition to be careful, and we were.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Broken Sunglasses

The beautiful Shay. The first shoot I did with her my flash bulb broke, the second time I shot with her I lost a lens cap. I didn't dare imagine what would happen for the third shoot, and sure enough my sunglasses (purchased less than three weeks before) did not last through the shoot in working order. Though I'll admit it was me that smashed my head into the low hanging beam in the run-down barn, it was definitely Shay's presence that influenced the outcome. She denies it, but there is an undeniable trend.

Sure I had a pretty major headache for an hour or so, but it was the destruction of my glasses that made me the most sad, they weren't cheap... not at all. Two things worth spending money on if you ask me - a good pair of shoes, and a nice pair of sunglasses. The store I bought them from had a 6 month replacement discount, basically if you break them in the first six months you can buy the same pair at half price. It still hurt to pay half price but at least it was better than paying the full thing. Driving home I did what anybody would do, I called random people and complained about my bad luck (Shay's bad luck actually) and since my own mother was the first to be around to answer the phone she heard my sob story. But wait! She reminded me about the American Express guarantee, and since I did buy the original glasses with my Blue Amex card she suggested I call them and see if my glasses were covered. And HOLY CRAP, after an eleven minute and twelve second phone call to Amex (including hold time) I was given a claim number and told that the full purchase price would be credited BACK to my card within 48 hours!!!

So in effect, breaking my sunglasses allowed me to buy them for half price, maybe I had Shay pegged wrong from the beginning... could she possibly be GOOD luck?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Assistantless, due to my assistant being a slacker, Carli and I set off on our own to shoot at some of my favorite locations, one of which recently burned to the ground. After shooting in the ashes we moved on to the white barn, only to notice that poor Carli was literally covered in black charcoal smears! Ooops. I guess that's what happens when you make someone stand in a giant pile of ash for close to 20 minutes! So, I told her to do her best to wipe off the little amount on her face and oops again, I forgot to tell her to first clean off her hands... now it was much, much worse. I ran to the car for a water bottle and a towel and came back to help her get cleaned up, but by the time we took care of it the sun was practically set. So the remainder of the shoot (everything in a white tank-top) was literally shot in very dark to pitch dark conditions. Of all the days to not have an assistant... but I think we pulled it off wonderfully

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Night Time Dugouts and Old Bath tubs.

Shay is beautiful, but Shay is also very bad luck. By "very bad luck" I don't mean in the real world sense of very bad, but in the sense that my otherwise insulated life only very rarely faces bad luck of any sort - except for flushes on the river when I have a set of aces - but that's another post.

The last time I shot Shay was the last time my favorite flash worked, the Lumedyne 800watt battery powered strobe. My assistant is also mysteriously unavailable for any shoot I do with Shay. Which is weird. So, tonight we had to shoot assistant-less, and favorite flash-less. Which meant I had to be creative. All of the shots were lighted with a single Canon 580EX - mounted to the camera with a bracket. As you can probably understand by looking at the images, I am quite impressed with the results. Sure, I've had and used the flash for years but for some reason it just worked better than usual. Maybe Shay is better luck than I originally thought, maybe I owe her an apology. But on second thought - I think she owes ME a new flash-tube.

We went to my newly discovered abandoned house, my favorite old church, and a new location for me - a little league dug-out. Bad luck or not, I think you'll see more of Shay in the future, she is a blast to shoot! Even though the cop seemed to keep driving around the park, watching us. Stealth-like and creepy. But I can't say I blame him, if I saw Shay in a dugout at night I'd watch too... just not creepily and stealth-like... I make way to much noise to be stealthy. :P

Friday, June 1, 2007

Misdemeanors and Photoshoots

My assistant Chris Tittle and I were driving around looking for a new location when we stumbled on two old houses in the middle of old downtown Layton, I've probably driven by them hundreds of times in my life but I never bothered to pay attention. They both looked like they may be abandoned so we stopped to investigate.

Our deductive reasoning skills slipped into high gear as we started the arduous task of determining if someone still lived there, sure we could probably just look into a window but we're just not rated high enough of the creep-factory scale to go start looking into windows of unknown houses. Chris pointed out that there was a full garbage can by the garage, nearly overflowing. Once again, not obsessive enough to actually sort through garbage but I couldn't help but notice the box on top was extremely faded, like it had been sitting out there for weeks, a very good sign! A trip to the front door and the pile of weather worn phone books resting there was another good sign, good enough to warrant a quick peek in one of the windows at least.

One glance inside and I knew we had to shoot there, vintage appliances, vintage cabinets and vintage wallpaper - absolutely perfect! A quick visit to the neighbors told us that the owners had rented the house out for years but it was vacated months ago, nobody knew who the actual owner was though... not good. We started considering our options, we could go down to the County Registrar and locate the owner that way and ask them permission to shoot there... but Chris (who rates higher on the creep scale than I do) notice one of the windows was not locked. Now we had a moral dilemma on our hands, do we respectfully trespass and sneak some photos doing absolutely no damage - OR - do we spend a few hours tracking down and contacting the owner and risk getting turned down? Well, just as luck would have it a car pulled up as we were contemplating our next step. Her family had owned the houses for decades and she was getting ready to demolish them... and sure, we could take photos there, but she mentioned we'd better hurry! No problem there, we returned with a model less than an hour later!