Dec/Jan 2011

Haunted Houses

Kolby Yarnell


A haunting is a doorway into the private history of place. Such is the idea of Corinne May Botz's compelling collection of photographs (and accompanying oral narratives) from eighty allegedly haunted houses, which includes mostly private residences, like the one above from Orange County, Virginia, as well as a few legendary sites like Edgar Allan Poe's home in Baltimore and Alice's Grave on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where people (including Botz) have seen Alice's ghost, said to be searching for her engagement ring. Nineteenth-century spiritualists employed photography as a medium to the afterlife, and in her fine and literary introduction Botz nods to this, explaining how she worked "in the Victorian tradition of female receptivity to the otherworldly." But it isn't foggy shapes that she's out to capture, but something else unseen: a house's own signs of being, and how a dwelling place merges with the worlds of its inhabitants, past and present.

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