The Most Haunted Place I’ve Photographed So Far
One comment I hear often about the images from my Lost Americana documentary is that they are “hauntingly beautiful.” So given that today is Halloween I thought I might as well tell the story of what could be the most haunting place I have photographed while traveling across the country. And that would be the grain elevators from Edwards County, Kansas.
Chances are, unless this is your first time seeing images from Lost Americana, you have come across the above photo once, or twice. It has become the icon, or profile image for much of the documentary. What most people don’t know is that there are actually two grain elevators at this location and there have also been two deaths at the site.
One of the great things about shooting with a large format camera, 4×5 in my case, is that I typically spend a lot of time at one location setting up a shot. Rarely do I just jump out take a photo and drive off. Besides being in an area for a log time, the size of the 4×5 camera attracts a lot of attention. (read more about the camera in the about section of Lost America.com) Which in turn means strangers have pulled over to talk to me.
At the old grain elevators a woman who lived down the road pulled over and started chatting with me about the camera and the buildings. Her cousins owned the property that the buildings were sitting on and she knew a bit about them. According to her, two people, drifters, were passing through the area. One had tried to live in the elevator, but froze to death over the winter. The other, as she put it, must have decided that Ardell was the end of the road for him and committed suicide.
I can’t say that I felt anything supernatural while I was there, but I do find it ironic that this photo often gets referred to as “hauntingly beautiful.”
Vincent David Johnson
UPDATE: A few years after I wrote this blog post I revisited the topic of the scary abandoned places I visit and wrote an extended piece for The American Conservative Magazine, called The Haunted Facades of Rural America.