I was setting up my lights in the middle of a - ahem - haunted house today, when a light bulb suddenly blew. As it did, the paranormal investigator behind me dropped to a low crouch and looked at the ceiling, chuckling in awe at the poltergeist’s latest prank. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that light blows a bulb every other week. Instead, I smiled and dropped the matter of lights altogether. It was Monday morning after all; I just wasn’t up for illuminating the underworld. So I switched filters, repositioned my guest and peppered him with questions on benign spirits and deceptive specters. As the man launched into his polysyllabic response, I looked around at the room’s plush leather furniture and tried to decide whether I was truly standing in the middle of a haunted house or just a bed and breakfast with a heckuva marketing plan.
But then metaphysics gave way to basic mechanics. With a light kit feeling vexed and my tripod still wobbly from some weekend excursion, I was all alone there in the master suite of the Twin Lakes Lodge. Sure, the ghostbuster before me had some interesting things to say, but the hard evidence of a haunting he spoke of was mysteriously absent and I found myself wondering how I was going to tell this ghost story without a single bleeding wall to speak of. Unwilling to wait for a trembling lamp of swarm of locusts, I shouldered my axe and followed the innkeeper and the excitable scientist into one truly creepy basement. No dank chill passed through my body but my shoulder did ache as I slung my lens this way and that. Scanning the stone walls for any trace of ectoplasm, I sighed, realizing for not the first time that ‘I Hate Mondays’ is more than a reasonably good Boomtown Rats song.
But a funny thing happened on the way back from purgatory. The owner of the bed and breakfast mentioned how ironic it was that things were indeed going bump in the night, considering who used to live here. Back upstairs, she pointed to a small end table and a dusty volume took me back in time. ‘The Devil’s Tramping Ground’ by John Harden -- a book I and every other middle school kid growing up in North Carolina read at one time or another. I remembered it vividly from the fourth grade when a saint of a woman named Mrs. King encouraged my insatiable reading. Little did I know back then that a grown up me would one day stand in the bedroom of that very book’s author and scoff at the possibility of anything truly hinky coming to pass. For a moment I was ashamed for the cynic I’d become and I vowed to look at (the after)life with the same sense of wonder I possessed back in the fall of 1976.
But then I snapped out of it, shot a few exteriors and met Satellite Dan for lunch. Lunch ... that’s something the fourth grade me would have appreciated.