Kyle was frightened. Was that the ghost of Old Man Punderson disturbing his slumber at 4:00 am?
Nope, it was just me coming back from the toilet.
Let me start over. My long-time photo pal J. Kyle Keener asked if I’d assist him on an assignment down in Ohio this past week. I’ve always been an admirer of his, even more so when I got to be his editor for a short time. The guy’s a master class photographer; he’s given lighting seminars from coast to coast.
I thought I could learn a thing or two and when he told me he treats his assistants very well, I was definitely in.
After a few great meals and a quick trip to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, how else could the assignment get any better. Oh, I don’t know, how about a stay in a haunted manor?
In 1806 Lemuel Punderson — or as Kyle and I called him instantly, Old Man Punderson — settled the property around one of Ohio’s largest and deepest glacial lakes. We were hoping that there was some insane tale of desperation or heartbreak that led to the so-called haunting of the manor. But the hotel and restaurant, situated incongruously in a state park, had no grisly or shameful past to speak of.
Nevertheless, people claim all sorts of spirits haunt the renovated manor home. It’s mentioned in any number of guide books (on sale, of course, in the hotel gift shop). And the staff likes to share stories of things that go bump in the night (or dump, in my case).
Kyle and I took a quick walk/drive around the grounds. We didn’t see or feel any weird presence.
There is even a regularly scheduled Punderson Haunted History tour where you might hear tell of a ghostly maiden climbing the spiral staircase, a lumberjack swaying in the rafters or even the bizarre story of Old Man Punderson himself paddling out into the lake in his golden bathtub, only to pull the plug and drown peacefully.
So you can imagine neither of us slept too peacefully that night (the fact that we both stuffed ourselves silly at the local Italian eatery, Mangia Mangia, had NOTHING to do with it). When daybreak rolled around, there were no tubs in the lake, nor ghosts clocking off duty. We were a bit disappointed, but thankful in no small measure.
The photo assignment went off pretty much without a hitch. I fumbled my way through my assistantship, Kyle all the while explaining what I should and shouldn’t be doing (Note to any new photo assistants out there: it is definitely not okay to let the photographer’s lighting kit fall off a chair.)
We drove home amidst thunderstorms and Burger Kings. All was well. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
But then something fascinating happened. As I was looking at my snapshots from the trip, in among pictures of Kyle balancing a mini flash on a Diet Coke bottle and quick pics from the classic car rally we stumbled across I found a few unexplainable photos.
To say the very least, they were odd and out of the ordinary. I don’t want to prejudice you or interpret the images for you. So let me just present them without comment and let you make up your mind about what you’re seeing. Our reputation as working class journalists is on the line here, so please don’t think I’m espousing one line of reasoning or another.
Like the surprise stuffed raccoon that greeted us as we walked into the room. These bottom two pictures showed up in my photo editing software upon my return.