The Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day 28: Real Horror Part 2 – Ghost Pics, Victorian Death Photography and “The Amityville Horror”


The "little ghost boy" photo from "The Amityville Horror." (Note the face peeking through the door at the far left.)

One more day of true-life-inspired thrills and chills. Yesterday was for spooky audio, and today I offer freaky phantasmic photography.

Is there anything creepier than the long-dormant tradition of Victorian death photography? Probably not. It’s a phenomenon I first remember learning about via one of my favorite Hollywood haunted house movies: The Others. If you’ve not seen The Others — why the hell not? There are very few effective haunted house movies out there (Poltergeist, (the original) The Haunting, and Burnt Offerings are the only ones that readily come to mind. I’ll save discussion of ultra-hyped now-playing Paranormal Activity for another time).

Without delving into a full on review, suffice to say that The Others is a bloodless, atmospheric, classic haunted house movie in the grand tradition of the best of Hammer horror (but without the cleavage and orange blood). One particular spooky scene revolves around the discovery of a locked room full of antique photography. Closer examination of the photography reveals that it’s a collection of photos of…dead people.

Watch the trailer for The Others:

1307747863_c05af81423_oAt the turn of the century, death photography was all the rage and while it’s considered wildly morbid  today, back then, it was viewed as a fitting way to honor dead loved ones. Some collectors have made it their job to track down and compile a photographic history of this tradition and what they’ve found walks the line between poignant and hard to look at. Wanna give yourself a guaranteed case of the heebeejeebees? Browse through these two collections I dug up. For compounded spookiness, flip through these pictures while playing some of yesterday’s number station recordings in the background. It’s guaranteed to make you at least consider leaving the lights on when you go to bed tonight.
Victorian Death Photography on Flickr
A web collection dedicated  to Victorian Death Photography at

Less legitimate, but always good for a few generic scares, is spirit photography. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to be creeped out by some of the examples of crude manufactured ghost pics from the earliest years of commercial photography. Many a charlatan medium made it their business to offer spirit portraiture for those in mourning; “magic” photography, in which your dead loved one reveals themselves in photos taken of the bereaved living. Even though they’re obviously fake, there’s something about antiquated photography that is just inherently frightening. I’ve compiled a gallery of some of my favorite examples and included a handful of “modern” ghost pictures from a variety of sources. Any kid that scoured their local public library’s shelves for anything related to the paranormal, will probably see a few familiar images here.  Some are silly, some are artistic, some are just odd — but all feature their own brand of unnerving morbidity.2780177093_90000c86d2_o


Ghost stories don’t scare me much anymore, mostly because I just don’t believe in ghosts or any grand afterlife options other than your basic “ashes to ashes” endgame. But OH BOY was I ever a believer as a kid. And any kid that grew up a child of the 80s probably has at least ONE repressed memory related to The Amityville Horror. Whether you snuck a read of Mom’s dog-eared paperback, caught it on the (let’s be honest: REALLY bad) movie adaptation, or just had enough peripheral exposure to activate your easily kindertraumatized imagination, The Amityville Horror forced you to wonder how you’d react if say, you noticed that your happy home’s walls had begun to bleed or there were disembodied pig heads floating outside your window. For me, one episode of the early 80’s, primetime TV magazine That’s Incredible! was enough to stir my young noggin’s toxic cauldron of nightmares.

Convinced, once again, that if it exists at all, it can be found online, I was able to dig up the actual That’s Incredible! segment that scarred my youth with images of red rooms, demonic voices, unexplained fly swarms and James Brolin’s unkempt facial hair. Imagine my surprise to find that the segment’s premise was to debunk the whole hoaxy Amityville affair with interviews of the (then current) residents of the haunted house in question. If anything, it should have helped me sleep BETTER at night. But perhaps I was too preoccupied with the tenor of the report; the eerie background music, the short clips from the film shown, and the entire “but what if they’re wrong!?” possibilities. John Davidson and Cathy Lee Crosby weren’t exactly crack investigative journalists, after all.

Watch the TI! segment that scared a young Gill Man silly, and then, for contrast, watch the far more naive, and therefore, far more frightening segment from Leonard Nimoy’s In Search of… TV show which aired at the height of The Amityville Horror‘s popularity, before rumors of a hoax had begun to gain traction in the press.

The That’s Incredible! gang investigate The Amityville Horror:

In Search of…The Amityville Horror, narrated by Leonard Nimoy:

~ by Number5ive on October 28, 2009.

2 Responses to “The Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day 28: Real Horror Part 2 – Ghost Pics, Victorian Death Photography and “The Amityville Horror””

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