Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Tell Me They're Not Zombies...."

Somewhere in 2009, my friend Frank, who works for Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, invited me to do some night shooting with him. Now, I would never pass up an opportunity to be in a cemetery at night--as long as I wasn't alone!

I met Frank on the appointed day at the solemn hour of 10 pm at the cemetery. He unlocked the gate and I entered. We'd planned on Harvest-moon lighting, but there were some drifting clouds which occasionally plunged us into near-darkness. Even by moonlight, its kind of dangerous to step off the roads or paths for a number of reasons--you could fall into a sunken grave or trip over a knee-high tombstone. I've experienced the latter and I must say, its neither good for one's knees nor one's camera equipment.

The celestial light was amazingly eerie, and Frank took great advantage of it with his new Nikon DSLR (which seems to respond to color in a much livlier fashion that my Canon DSLR). The image you see here of the monuments silouetted against the night sky is one of the few useable ones I made. While composing the scene, Frank ambled off to find other scenes to photograph, leaving me alone. I'm a big boy, I can do this. So what if the cemetery exit is a quarter mile away. Just concentrate on my work....nothing to be afraid of--except maybe the five silhouettes of people walking slowly, very slowly, in single-file across the cemetery ridge about a hundred yards away. Gulp.

Frank had locked the main gate behind me after I'd arrived--no one else could've gotten in. I called Frank on his cell phone and asked where he was; he said "Off to your right down by the mausoleums." I told him to come back. He came up alongside me a few minutes later, and with the slowly moving figures outlined against the moonlight, I said to him, "Just tell me they're not zombies."

This photo must have been what I looked like when I saw them! Frank laughed and said "They're ghost hunters, people from the South Jersey Paranormal Research group! They've been here a few hours." He never mentioned there was anyone else on the grounds--I could've killed him. After I got over this business of having the bejesus scared out of me, it occurred to me that we should  scare the bejesus out of the ghosthunters! I mean, their sophisticated video and audio recording devices are not tuned to detect live people, right? Not being cruel, we decided just to go and meet up with them.

The South Jersey Paranormal Research group amounted to about five members, all of whom had devices of some sort to sense and document paranormal activity. They told us about the energy they measured in various areas of the cemetery and the audio recordings of "human" voices they made. A very serious group of people, who have made their findings available to anyone with an open mind about such things. They had visited Laurel Hill prior to us meeting them that night, and you can go to their site and see what they found in 2007. Apparently, this particular cemetery is rife with spiritual activity:

So we never came upon any actual zombies, but we did learn a bit about a different kind of fascination some people have with cemeteries. If you're afraid of going into a cemetery at night, the whole 'scarey ghost' thing can handily be put in perspective with a comment a friend of mine once made. She worked for a cemetery and believed that if a person died under some horrible circumstance, the unruly spirit must hang around the particular site of demise--not the cemetery in which the person's body was laid to rest. Someday maybe I'll believe that, but my imagination still paints too vivid a picture of werewolves with chainsaws for me to venture into any cemetery alone at night!

Cemetery Book Recommendation!