A night at the museum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Several years ago, the Salisbury Post published an article on a group of paranormal investigators who spent the night looking for evidence of ghosts in the Bob Julian Roundhouse at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer. The duty of illustrating that article fell into my eager hands.
As with most assignments, the images conjured up in my imagination far exceeded the ability of my camera work.
Believe me, there was plenty of what some photographers referred to as “ghosting,” or camera shake, in most of my images. Before long, out came the flash and out went all those wonderful images that filled my imagination. Instead of coming away with a series of haunting images that told the grand story of the evening, the readers were forced to see frightfully run-of-the-mill photographs of clearly alive humans standing around in a dark room. In modern terms: Fail.
The Transportation Museum receives requests from paranormal groups on occasion, but has reserved after-hours use of the Roundhouse and other buildings for the apparitions.
Rowan County is favored to have such a wonderful place as the Spencer Shops. The Bob Julian Roundhouse, which was built in 1924, is one of the few remaining ones in the country. It deserved to be represented by a better, or at least sharper, series of photographs. And just like that night years ago, the shadows around the iron locomotives were deep and dark, absorbing the light like a sponge. They charmed me in some way.
Armed with a camera, a tripod, an audio recorder and Mark Brown, the project was under way. Brown, who works at the museum dealing with media types like me, helped with alarms and kept me from being arrested by the ever-patrolling Spencer Police Department. With a little arm twisting, Brown played a bluesy progression on his guitar to add some sound to a slideshow of these photos posted on the Salisbury Post website.
Black-and-white photos seemed like a no-brainer. Colors are muted in low light and those terrible sodium vapor security lights put out an orange glow that turns to mud in the printed edition of the newspaper. Besides, I think those lights were created to repel ghosts.
The tripod kept the camera rock steady for the long exposures. Some exposures were as long as 30 seconds and others as short as 5 seconds. I was amazed at how it almost seemed too bright in some places. In one image in particular, the sky in the background was so bright the photo appeared to have been taken during daylight hours. It seem to be beyond the scope of normal understanding, almost paranormal.
Nah, that’s just the sodium vapor lights in downtown Salisbury keeping the ghosts away.

Click here to view the Night at the Museum slideshow.