Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Freaky Tale

I can't go without posting this on Halloween. It's not political, but it is incredibly cool.

Check out this site, DRKRM, a site by John Matkowsky. Anyone who watched the show sightings should know that name. He was the owner of a house outside of LA that came across the most unusual pictures. Here's the (true) story...

John Matkowsky moved into his dream house in 1985. Almost from the beginning he remembers hearing strange sounds, but the house was old and John figured that the sounds were just the normal creaking and groaning of aging floorboards and lath walls. Sometimes, late at night, he would feel a strange tingling sensation along his arms and neck, but the house was drafty. It was easy to dismiss the feeling as part of the price you pay for living in a house built in 1906.

Then, in 1990, the sounds and sensations intensified. John began to feel a presence. He would catch the barest glimpse of a shadow out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned his head, the shadow would be gone. There were loud bangs coming from a back room, but when John went to investigate, there was never anything there. "I felt sort of a sunburn on my arms. It was tingly, like a sunburn. That's how I would know there was some kind of presence here," John recalls.

Friends felt the presence, too. The Mt. Washington cabin was a favorite spot for weekend barbecues, and on one lazy summer afternoon, the presence crashed the party. John felt the now-familiar sensation of a sunburn and then, for no apparent reason, a blue porcelain salad bowl exploded nearby. John contacted the bowl's manufacturer, but the company could offer no explanation for how the bowl could have shattered into a million pieces.

Soon after that barbecue, John Matkowsky rented out part of his house to his friend John Huckert. Almost immediately, Huckert began to hear the strange noises. He saw the free-floating shadows moving across the floor, his desk, and the living room wall. Then, he felt the presence reach out of its world and into his.

"I was reading something at the desk, and I felt someone come up and place a hand on my shoulder. Of course, I turned around to see who it was and nobody was there. I got a sort of jolt of adrenaline. It made me nervous. I wasn't exactly sure what it was, but when I tried to mask out all the possibilities for what could be causing it, there was nothing causing it."

...John Huckert was the first to see the ghost in its human form. "I've seen this older man standing over near the couch," he says. "I see him for hardly a tangible instant, and then when I blink, he's not there anymore."

These fleeting glances, strange sensations, and odd sounds were the only evidence of the ghost's presence until John Huckert received a Christmas present in 1991 that would change everything. His father gave him a Polaroid instant camera. That camera would produce some of the best evidence of a ghost ever photographed.

..."I suddenly felt a sense of anxiety," he remembers. "I'm not sure how to describe it, but I just felt this strange feeling and I got up and I took a picture of the room. Nothing happened, so I thought, that was really stupid. Then, the bathroom door opened by itself. I took a picture of the bathroom door and got this really strange-looking thing that was either scary or comical. John came home and he took one, then I took a couple more and we got four photos that day."

It seemed unlikely that the same camera that had taken pictures of the Huckert family's Christmas was now chronicling the appearance of a ghost. The two Johns suspected the film was defective. They bought a fresh cartridge of film and tried it, but the ghostly images continued to appear. It happened over and over, at all hours of the day and night, but only when the ghost wanted to appear.

...John Matkowsky showed several of the pictures to his friends at a professional photo lab in Los Angeles. They could not explain how the images had gotten on the film. They made negatives from the instant prints and examined them closely. It did not appear to be a malfunction within the camera. Still, many of the friends who visited the Mt. Washington house remained skeptical about the authenticity of the photographs.

When Ross Harpold came to the house for a party, he looked at the photos but remained unconvinced. Laughingly, Ross asked Huckert if the ghost was with them now. Huckert answered honestly that he did not know. Ross picked up the camera, asked "Are you here?" and snapped a picture. As the picture developed, the faint outlines of a word began to appear in the photograph. The word was "Yes."

John Matkowsky asked, "What is your name?" and snapped his own picture. Clearly and boldly across the face of the photograph the word "Wright" appeared. "He told us his name was Wright, but we still didn't believe it. We continued asking questions to the middle of the air in the living room. We asked him if he was a good ghost or a bad ghost, just really inane questions to begin with. Then he answered, 'Friend.'"

In the months that followed, John Matkowsky and John Huckert took nearly a hundred photographs on which ghost writing appeared. Usually, the response was in English, sometimes it appeared in Latin, but it was always a direct answer to a direct question. In response to the question "Where do you go when you're not here?" the answer was "Flux." When they asked who Wright was, he replied in Latin, "Et alia corpus delicti," meaning "Among other things, a murder victim."

In September of 1992, John Matkowsky wrote Sightings a letter describing the bizarre photographs. He asked for help in determining what was causing the inexplicable phenomena. Sightings assembled an investigative team led by Kerry Gaynor, the noted UCLA parapsychologist, and Edson Williams, a photo analyst from the prestigious Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California. Both researchers examined the photographs, interviewed Matkowsky and Huckert, and determined that the best way to study the Ghost Writer was to conduct a series of controlled experiments inside the Mt. Washington house.

The Sightings team brought four Polaroid instant cameras and several sealed film cartridges shipped directly from Polaroid to the house. Each camera and each cartridge was logged and monitored to try to eliminate the possibility that someone was perpetrating a hoax. John Matkowsky was concerned that the Ghost Writer would not appear in this kind of crowded, expectant atmosphere.

Several test shots were taken and no writing appeared. Kerry Gaynor was openly skeptical. After more than four hundred ghost investigations, Kerry was no stranger to wild-goose chases. "In my line of work we spend a great deal of time waiting and watching and wondering and hoping. We don't experience phenomena very often, but when something happens, it's exciting. It's a moment of connectedness with the unknown," says Gaynor.

That "moment of connectedness" came several hours into the investigation. Marty Elcan, a friend of John Matkowsky's who had had several successful communications with the Ghost Writer, posed a question. "Are most spirits good spirits or bad spirits?" Marty asked.

As the film developed in the presence of the entire Sightings team, a cryptic message appeared. "There are numerous remedial lemurs." A lemur is a long-tailed monkey found mostly in Madagascar. Was the Ghost Writer playing a practical joke? John Huckert found the answer in a Latin dictionary. In Roman mythology lemurs are the night-walking spirits of the dead.

The excitement in the room was palpable. Nervous laughter masked the tension. Kerry Gaynor was impressed, but wanted further controls. "You have to establish a chain of evidence. You have to be able to observe the phenomenon from the beginning to the end. So, we have to load the film from a sealed pack, show that it's our camera. We have to fire it. We have to control the film as it comes out."

Following Kerry's suggestions, Sightings trained one of its video cameras on a new Polaroid brought to the house by photographic expert Edson Williams. A sealed film package was opened and a new cartridge was inserted directly into the Polaroid. A member of the Sightings team posed the question "Are you here for John or for the house ?"

A picture was taken. It was placed on a table in full view. After thirty seconds, a message appeared. "Genius loci." Kerry Gaynor looked up the word in the Latin dictionary. The exact translation of genius loci is "the guardian spirit of a man or a place." More pictures were taken in the same manner. The messages alternated between English ("Time travel," "Anything is possible," "John relax and learn") and Latin ("Ad litteram").

Edson Williams had never seen anything like it in his twenty years as a photo analyst. "I actually watched them eject out of the Polaroid. There was a moment where I thought, Oh, my God, and I was in one of the Polaroids, which made it even spookier. It made me feel that there could be something in the house."

Near the conclusion of the night-long investigation, Marty Elcan asked, "Wright, will you be with them for a long time?" The Ghost Writer replied, "Sed haec prius fuere." Translated, the phrase means "All this is over now." It was the last message the Ghost Writer would send.

Now, I need to stress these two points;
1) The cameras were brought in BY the Sightings crew, and the film was factory sealed and had delivered DIRECTLY from Polaroid.
2) I saw that Sightings special and they showed a SINGLE TAKE of them opening a factory sealed box, then tearing open the factory sealed wrapping, placing the new cartridge into the empty camera, asking the question, then about a second later taking the picture. 30 seconds longer into the single take, the image appeared with the writing on it. There were no breaks in the filming, and it showed the entire process from start to finish.

Matkowsky has an exhibition going on right now in LA about the encounter entitled Seeing Things, and be sure to check out the videos.