The House of Blood

I like scary things. Scary movies. Scary books. Scary movies about scary books. As a kid, I had all the monster movie models. Frankenstein’s monster. The Wolfman. The Mummy. Dracula. But let’s move on.

Living within the farm belt that runs throughout central Ontario, you see a lot of decrepit barns and farmhouses. Most of the ones that catch my eye look interesting at first glance, but often leave me wishing I’d just passed by after closer inspection. This place was quite different.

The first time I saw this house was on a cold October day. It was occupied. I have no idea who lived there, but there were three modest cars lining the long gravel driveway that led up to it like a snake. Tall, sprawling trees surrounded the place, with scraggly arms that looked like something out of a horror film. The grass was unkempt, and thick weeds grew wild almost everywhere you looked. The sun had just set, but despite the gloom, I stopped for a better look. Knowing there were people there, I stood at the side of the road and took a quick look around. Dark, rolling clouds hovered over the home. There were no lights on. The place was creepy by any stretch, and almost immediately a gust of wind swept by me. The trees made an unsettling groan. I kid you not. I remember the goosebumps.

I also remember the feeling that someone was watching me. Hey, I’m the first one to admit it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I get the very same case of the willies when I watch shows like Celebrity Ghost Stories. (The paranormal freaks me out, and don’t get me started on Ouija boards, seances, or clowns. Yes, clowns are paranormal—science can’t hope to explain these vile demons.)

It took me over two years to make this image. No, not because I was scared, but because of the tenants. I didn’t feel comfortable going up to the door and saying, “Hey, your house scares the hell out of me. Mind if I poke around and take a pic?”

So I waited. Photographers wait. It’s what we do.

About a year after I first saw it, I drove by one afternoon and saw no cars in the driveway. I didn’t think much of it, but then something struck me. I stopped, backed up, and took another look. No cars. That didn’t mean it was vacant, of course, but the yard was certainly a tell. The grass was easily two or three feet tall in places. The weeds were as thick as … well, weeds. The place was abandoned. The problem was, I didn’t have my camera, and even if I had, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The light wasn’t right. Not even close.

So I waited. Photographers wait. It’s what we do.

I waited another year. Finally, on a brilliant Sunday morning, I grabbed my gear and drove out to the house. It was early summer, and the grass and the weeds did not disappoint. The driveway itself was nearly overrun by the growth, and the trees, another year older, seemed as menacing as ever. I walked up the driveway, and as I did, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was. How dead it was. And yes, I couldn’t shake that same feeling I’d had two years prior. Someone was watching me.

I walked about for a while, soaking up the details of the place; I like to do that. I need to get a feel for my subjects, get a sense of what it is that makes them so special to me. I do this without the camera. I spend a good deal of mental time envisioning how the image is going to look before I click that shutter. I find that frees my mind to create rather than inhibit.

I finally settled on the fact that the failing structure reminded me of something out of an old vampire movie, like Nosferatu (one of my favorite films). I could take several shots of the peculiar details that were part of the home, but that didn’t give me the true sense of the place. The house was what took me. It was abandoned, lonely, and disturbing. I could easily imagine some nasty business going on in there. A dead body. Blood. Lots and lots of blood.

I never went in. Never even tried the door. The reason? Fear. I thought that if I went inside, I might find something I didn’t want to. Sounds crazy, I know. (Of course, I was obviously trespassing and had no right to go in—or even be there, I suppose. But that’s another issue.)

I set up my tripod and used a wide-angle lens, down low. The place loomed over me, and I wanted to impart that in the image. The hulking trees and the starkly hideous weeds only enhanced the creepiness of the place. The starkness. The sense of abandonment.

Did I say it was abandoned?

To this day I can’t be sure. It was as if a pair of eyes were right behind me. I didn’t like it, and that dead quiet was truly unnerving. For all the trees that were there, I neither heard nor saw so much as a single bird. Not a squirrel. And as the sky was basically cloudless where I was, I had to endure a seemingly endless wait for some clouds to move in. They were the last piece of the puzzle I’d assembled in my mind for so long.

So I waited. Photographers wait. It’s what we do.

I waited for two hours. Finally, some thick clouds took up the spot exactly where I needed them. I still had that creeping feeling of being watched the entire time. I took the shot, packed up my gear and headed home. When I processed the image, I was really pleased with it. But when I looked close at the upstairs window on the right-hand side of the place, I literally had a chill run the nape of my neck.

Some who have seen this see nothing. Others see a skull-like face with dark eyes and a long, crooked nose; the face seems to be staring directly out the window. Others see a creepy little man leaning against the glass, his oddly shaped head looking straight down at the camera. At me.










A trick of the light? Logically, one has to say yes. But when I printed this on a large canvas wrap, the effect was even more pronounced … and so was the chill. For those of you who have actually seen Nosferatu, the character in the window—no matter how you see it—looks eerily familiar.

There’s another interesting tidbit about this image. As I mentioned, I waited over two years to capture it. The week after I did, the owners (or new ones, I’m guessing), cut down all the trees, trimmed the grass and the weeds, and boarded every window. Unknowingly, I had immortalized the place just in time. As for the man in the window, who knows? Maybe he’s still there, watching.

Have you ever captured something on film (or digital) you can’t explain? What do you see in the window?