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Seeing Things : Ghost Polaroids

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I spent last Halloween on a sort of ad hoc art crawl. Our first stop was John Matkowsky's dkrm Gallery, located in the Capitol Studios Building in Glassell Park. This cool old building is also home to Another year in LA and Shotgun Spaceso you can hit more than one opening at a time. We mostly hung out in the gallery, chatting with other people there. It was a nice place, and could probably handle some pretty big parties.

The exhibit was a collection of Polaroids taken of ghostly forms and messages that appeared only on film in a Los Angeles home. I naturally expected the photographs to be a hoax. I believe in ghosts, monsters in my closet, Buddha and God at 4am when I hear a bump in the night. But otherwise, I'm a natural-born skeptic.

I spent the entire time in the gallery rolling my eyes and loudly debunking the "ghostly" writing on some of the Polaroids. The writing was just too clear. It is so easy to manipulate a wet Polaroid. You can write on them while you wait for them to develop. The ones that were a little creepier were the photos with smoky, ectoplasmic blobs. I was impressed by the sheer dedication of the work as an art project. Even if they were fakes, they were interesting, and my friend found some of the ghostly responses beautiful and profound. Q: What does the universe want from me? Ghostly Response: Just Listen.

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(Full ghost story and more after the jump)

The dkroom gallery

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Another spooky ghost pic.

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The ghost story:

Two residents of an old house in the hills of Los Angeles began receiving ghostly messages in Polaroid photographs. The pair started taking photos inside the house in the hope of obtaining a picture of the entity they believed haunted the house. After first capturing a ghostly image on film, the men discovered that if they asked questions about the entity and why it was inhabiting their house, words and messages appeared in response on their film. So far, more than 1000 photos have captured messages. The ghost or spirit calls himself WRIGHT. He shows signs of erudition and intelligence, writing many of his messages in Latin. The ghost first appeared on film in March 1992 after one of the residents kept hearing unexplained noises throughout the house. A Polaroid Corp. representative, Howard Wurtzel, examined the photographs and could not find physical evidence of tampering. Many of the photographs on display were taken before Photoshop, digital imaging and cell phone cameras changed photography. Each Polaroid is original and unique. They show familiar rooms with wispy, feathery tendrils and misty tufts of white substances and, amazingly, cloud-like writing. Even more extraordinary is the relevance of the words to whatever questions had been asked. Usually a response came in English, but sometimes it appeared in Latin. For example, after questioning the identity of the answering spirit, a response came in Latin: Et alla Corpus delicti (among other things, a murder victim). The words floating in midair were invisible when the photo was taken. (From the dkrm literature)


After checking out the photos, we were just kind of drinking and playing around. I had covered myself with glow-in-the-dark stars for Halloween. We were taking pictures in the dark bathroom, trying to get a photo of the stars glowing by cracking the door a little at a time. Here is a picture my friend took of me in silhouette. I was standing still. There was no smoking in the gallery and no smoke machine. My friend who was standing behind me was dressed all in black and standing perfectly still. So why are there wispy, feathery tendrils above my left shoulder?
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Certain photography and photoshop "experts" here at LAist have this explanation: The shutter opened for a long time because it was so dark, causing everything to blur. That's what most photos look like in a dark environment. I don't see smoke at all, I see image distortion. Pieces of things being duplicated over and over because the camera had moved slightly. (Bobby S)

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Hmm, maybe so. Maybe so. Or maybe WRIGHT was pissed at me for mocking him.

On Friday, February 5, 1993, the Fox TV reality show SIGHTINGS examined what may be a landmark discovery in parapsychology. They were skeptical at first, suspecting a bizarre prank by the film's manufacturer or local distributor or some other technological trickery, such as projected holograms or shaving cream sprayed on cellophone. The paranormal research teams, similarly skeptical, used their own cameras and their own film to take photos in the house. Their photos also yielded answers to specific psychics, visiting independently of each other (dkrm literature):

Drkrm. is located at 2121 N. San Fernando Road, Suite 3
323.223.6867