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Released in 1973, The Exorcist was acclaimed as a masterpiece, the scariest movie of all time and one of the most controversial films ever made.

It was adapted from the novel ‘The Exorcist’ written by William Peter Blatty in 1971. The inspiration for Blatty’s novel came from a class he was attending in 1950. A priest was a guest speaker, and he told of an exorcism he had performed the year before.

Blatty was working as a public relations director at the Loyola University, when he made an appearance on the Groucho Marx quiz show ‘You Bet Your Life’. Blatty won the $10,000, which was enough for him to quit his job and focus on a career as an author.

Several publications, including The Exorcist, were the direct result.

The Exorcist was a New York Times best seller, remaining on the list for well over a year, and soon Blatty, along with film director William Friedkin, would translate the work into a screen play.

(note, there are a few spoilers ahead)

The film (and book) concern the story of young twelve year old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a successful actress who lives in Washington DC. All is well in the small family until strange noises are heard in the attic and within the walls.

At first the suspicion is rats, but when Regan begins to develop unusual behaviour, her mother Chris begins to get concerned. Soon Regan starts to lash out physically, and other strange events take place in the house.

After seeking help from physiological and psychological specialists, Regans behaviour and health continues to decline. As a act of desperation, Chris MacNeil seeks out the help of a priest, Father Karras. Karras soon makes the conclusion that he believes Regan to be possessed by an evil entity, and is given permission to seek out a priest who is experienced at performing exorcism, a binding by oath that the demon be removed from Regans physical and spiritual self.

The filming of The Exorcist was quite an uncomfortable affair for most of the cast. Long sessions in make-up for child actress Linda Blair (Regan MacNeil) and Max Von Sydow (Father Merrin) were not easy. During much of the filming of the Exorcism scenes, the set was refrigerated to the point where perspiration would freeze on the actors and crew, and more than once moisture would condense to a snow like precipitation.

However, such discomfort was nothing compared to the many tragedies, injuries and deaths that would occur during the filming and post production. These caused many setbacks during filming, almost tripling the amount of production days and the final cost.

Actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan’s Mother has been quoted as saying “there was an enormous amount of deaths connected with the film” and has stated that there were nine deaths connected to the movie in all.

One of these deaths was actor Jack MacGowren, who played Burke Dennings and died at the age 55, a short time before the film was released. His character also died in The Exorcist, and it was the last role MacGowren played.

Two other actors also died shortly after filming, as did several of the crew.

Ellen Burstyn herself was seriously injured during the shooting of the scene where she is thrown from the bed by Regan. As she was thrown back, she landed on her coccyx, causing severe and permanent injury to her spine. The resulting scream from that take was used in the final film.

The actor who played Father Karras, Jason Miller had a strange experience during the films production. Early into production, Jason Miller was eating his lunch and reading some lines for the days scenes, when he was approached by a Jesuit Priest. The priest handed him a medallion of the Blessed Virgin and told Miller “reveal the devil for the trickster that he is, he will seek retribution against you or he will even try to stop what you are trying to do to unmask him.”

Several of the crew, Blatty included, recall seeing objects move about on their own accord on occasion, notably the telephone that was used to communicate between the set and the production house. The receiver would rise off the hook on its own, before falling to the floor. On one of these occasions Blatty was sitting right next to it.

Eerie feelings were felt by all during the filming of the movie. With so many odd events taking place, the films religious technical advisor, Thomas Bermingham (also religious supervisor on The Amityville Horror and Amityville 2) was approached to perform an exorcism on the set.

Bermingham said no, as it would only increase anxiety and add to the continued speculation of the Exorcist Curse. However, the following day, the set burned to the ground and Birmingham relented blessing the set, cast and crew. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The final movie went into post production and editing at 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. However, funnily enough, no incidences took place at that address. Maybe the evil of the film felt comfortable and content there?

Upon release, many theatres had paramedics at the standby, such was the films reputation. People were said to have fainted out of sheer terror, others becoming physically ill. More than one person was injured during the first screenings, including one man who managed to sue Warner Brothers (settling out of court) who injured his jaw after fainting and smashing his head against the seat in front of him.

At one of the early screenings in Rome, when people were entering the theatre, lightning struck and toppled a 400 year old cross that adorned a nearby church.

Such was the religious fervour and hatred of the movie, that Linda Blair (Regan MacNeil) was escorted by a bodyguard for the first six months after screenings. She had received a string of death threats due to her portrayal of the possessed, and many felt that she herself was harbouring the devil.

As did the film reels, according to Evangelist Billy Graham…

On a final note The Exorcist was close to not being called The Exorcist at all. Before release, a survey was sent out asking people if they knew what an Exorcist was. No one asked had any idea, and the name was nearly changed. Today if you ask someone if they know what an exorcist is they will likely say yes and cite the movie.

So the curse… something strange happening, something supernatural, paranormal and evil lurking on the set?
Or a series of coincidences?

Ashley Hall 2012

Photo: The iconic shot of Father Merrin, The Exorcist, in front of the Macneil residence.
Inset: Regan MacNeil under control of Pazuzu, the demon.

Staff and customers alike at the Sunnyvale, California, Toys’R’Us store have experienced what they believe is a haunting. It is not just one or two staff members, but many.

Some of the more common, strange events that occur involve staff hearing their names whispered to them, cold breezes and objects moving of their own accord. Taps would turn on by themselves in the women’s bathroom, and many of the stores female employees had experienced something unseen playing with their hair.

It is never anything violent and it does not seem to target anyone in particular (besides mainly women). Staff who have come to terms with the idea that their store is haunted regard it as a friendly, if a little mischievous, presence.

But when the phenomena was first beginning to be experienced back in the 70’s, it did take the staff unawares. As you would expect, the staff were a little freaked out by the strange poltergeist like happenings, so some outside help was sought.

As word got around, local newspapers started covering the story and in 1978 they brought in (then) renowned and respected psychic/medium Sylvia Browne to make contact, and try to work out what was going on and who the spirit may be.

Sylvia Browne was able to make contact, and the identity of the spirit was found to be Johnny Johnson, a Scandinavian Immigrant, who used to work the farm/plantation that used to be located on the land where the store now stands.

Luckily plenty of research has been done on the plantation itself, and some facts can be confirmed about this story.

In 1844 a man named Martin Murphy travelled to California via covered wagon, pulled by oxen (his party was the first to cross the Sierras in such a fashion), and settled in what is now Sunnyvale.

Murphy set up a ranch/plantation, and when he needed a few employees to work the land and its resources, he hired Johan Johnson (Johnny Johnson). Johnny fell in love with Murphy’s daughter Elizabeth, but she rejected him.

Johnny’s bad luck was not complete until he was infected with encephalitis, and was left slightly brain damaged as a result. Luckily he was still capable of working on the ranch. However, he was given the nickname ‘Crazy Johnny’ thereafter.

It was in 1884, while he was chopping wood, that Johnny accidentally smashed himself with the axe and bled to death alone, near the orchard.

The Murphy ranch continued to be occupied by several generations of the family until 1950, when it was given to the city of Sunnyvale.

In 1961 the building was gutted by a fire and was soon demolished. In 1970, a 60,000 square foot Toys’R’Us store was built on the location, and then the hauntings began.

It was during a séance held by Sylvia Browne, and attended by a large number of the stores employees, that she was able to give much of this information, but mainly that concerning Johnny (or Johy as Sylvia put it) and his demise and love for ‘Beth’ (Elizabeth).

Also attending the séance were several photographers / experts. The store was darkened, as the gathering settled down in one of the more active aisles of the store. A few lights were left on at the end of the aisle to provide some light for one of the cameras using high speed film. Another camera was using infrared film. Both were pointing in the same direction.

As the séance progressed, the others gathered stated that they could hear and/or feel a high pitched buzzing in their heads, as Sylvia talked with Johnny.

Sylvia made contact almost immediately and told the group that Johnny was presently manifested to some degree, however no one could see him.

Fortunately Johnny could not hide from the cameras, and thus we have this photograph. This is the image as captured by the camera running with infrared film. You can clearly see a slightly transparent human form leaning against one of the shelves, watching the group in front.

The bright flaring of light gives the pants he (I’ll call it a ‘he’ from here on in) is wearing a strange shape. He also appears to be holding an object in his hands, possibly a hat or cap of some form.

No one in the group saw anyone standing during the séance that night, and only the one camera captured the image, although other cameras where running at the same time, pointing at the same spot.

When Sylvia told Johnny that he could go, and that he does not need to wait any longer, he replied stating that he would continue waiting for Beth, and in the meantime he enjoys the company in the store and playing with the children.

The haunting has continued.

What do you think?
Could this really be the image of Johnny Johnson?
Or just someone accidentally in frame that no one noticed at the time?

Ashley Hall 2012

Photo: The image of Johnny Johnson.
Inset: Upper, An outside shot of the Toys’R’Us store. Lower, the Murphy ranch house.

Here are three video stills, from an IR surveilance/monitoring camera, located in a hospital. Two of the three images show what looks to be a misty, child-like, human figure standing to the side of a hospital bed.

One of these video stills shows the figure almost perched on the railings, looking down at the patient. The other looks as though it is making contact with the person’s forehead.

These images proved quite popular a few years ago, when they started making the rounds through social media and although it is great that people show an interest, what it has done is caused a bit of a mix up with the story relating to the photos.

In a good example of ‘social media chinese whispers’, with each posting of the image the story has been changed, so that now, when trying to find information, you will stumble across quite a few variants.

However, there are three main variants that are talked about the most:

The first does not give a place for the hospital/medical center, but tells us it was part of a sleep analysis experiment. The man in the bed had been suffering from waking dreams, that involved people coming through his bedroom walls in an attempt to get to him.

These terrors were so bad that his waking life was suffering, as he was being severely sleep deprived due to an anxiety of going to bed. It was during the experiments to monitor him and determine what was happening in his brain during these waking nightmares, that the cameras picked up the images.

Was the ‘ghost’ one of the people who would attack him in his ‘waking dreams’?

The second places the hospital in Osaka, Japan. The person in the bed is an elderly person who was soon to pass away. No explanation is given as for why there was a monitoring camera set up.

It was at a time just before death that the image was captured. Many speculated that maybe it was one of their close relatives coming to help them make the crossing to the other side, or maybe it was their own spirit taking one last look at their body before leaving it behind.

The final story places the location as a children’s hospital. The person in the bed is a young boy who was terminally ill. He had been battling with illness for a long time, and the night the footage was taken was the first night of many he would spend in the hospital under care, before he finally lost his fight.

Although this image was captured a long time before he died, many believe that it is perhaps a guardian angel, a friendly spirit who would look over the sick children in the hospital.

Then of course maybe it was not a spirit at all but something else… dust or an insect etc on the lens?

What do you think?
Have you heard other stories about this picture?
If so please share

Ashley Hall 2012

Photos: All are stills from the surveilance/monitoring video. The total time of video these stills were taken from is only a few seconds.

The Hello Kitty Murder in Hong Kong refers to the case of a night club hostess, Fan Man-yee who was kidnapped and tortured in an apartment in 1999. She was decapitated and her head was put in a Hello Kitty doll, hence the name of the case

After a month of imprisonment and torture, she was killed, dismembered and her skull was stuffed into a giant Hello Kitty mermaid doll. They discarded most of the other body parts. Only the woman’s skull, one tooth and some internal organs were recovered

The killing was exposed after the 14-year-old girlfriend of one of the three perpetrators reported having continual dreams of being haunted by Fan’s ghost.

The court debated whether she died from drug overdose or torture, nevertheless the court sentenced the 3 men to life in prison.

I really don’t want to go into the brutal details, because I can’t stand gore but you can read about it here

November 2003, a group of eight middle school students decided to visit the local areas haunted location. Their plan was to stay the night, in the hopes of getting a glimpse of one of the resident spirits.

Their hopes high for a night of mystery and intrigue, in a few steps undoubtedly turned to uncertainty, as they crossed the threshold into Nam Koo Terrace. It is said a feeling of appalling loneliness that is also confusingly felt alongside the feeling of a crowded space, hits those who enter the property.

This abandoned house is also known locally as the Wan Chai Haunted House, and its legends no doubt grew to infamy as verbal recounts of what happened this night passed from neighbour to neighbour, through the students of the local schools, and child to child in the playground located close by.

That night the students set up their small camp in one of the empty rooms, and decided to attempt to contact the spirits through their version of a ouija board. It was during this session that three of the girls in the group became agitated, their minds filling with terrible images.

One of the girls then completely flipped and became psychotic.

The students fled the building, but as they made it to the gate, the girl who had been most affected took on a strange persona and would not step off the property. It was at this stage the other two girls affected during the ouija session heard a male voice calling them to the second floor.

The police were called, and when they tried to forcefully remove the girl, she snapped and attacked them. It took both police officers to remove the girl and she was sent off to a hospital for psychiatric assessment and treatment, along with two of the other students who were emotionally affected by the night’s activities.

The Oriental Daily newspaper ran the story, and soon many other papers and media outlets followed suit. The legend of Nam Koo Terrace was now fully lodged in everyone’s psyche, but the legends of ghosts and hauntings of this location go back quite a time.

The two story building was built in a period between 1915 and 1921, in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong, China. The land was purchased and leased by prominent Chinese businessman ‘To Chun-man’. The house itself was designed to mimic European style houses, while still incorporating facets of feng shui.

In the 1940’s, the Japanese invaded and occupied Hong Kong. During this period the Japanese military turned Nam Koo Terrace, along with many other buildings in the district, into a military brothel. It remained as a brothel for four years until 1945.

It was during this period that the legends began starting with tales of local women being taken to the ‘comfort house’ to be repeatedly raped by the Japanese soldiers, before being tortured and killed. Many of these women were said to have been decapitated by the soldiers, before being dumped, to be found by their friends and relatives.

Nam Koo Terrace is also known as a suicide house, a location where people come to end their own lives. As recently as 2010 bodies have been recovered from the rooms of the house, or cut down from the branches of the gardens trees. It is not known how many people have ended their lives in the house, but estimates put it at higher than 30.

Murder is also said to have taken place on the grounds several times.

Still, even with all the dark history and the hauntings, people like to venture to the overgrown building. Urban explorers love to scale the sides of the derelict home, or venture into the below ground ‘secret’ entrance.

The hauntings are made up of visions of headless or bloody women, their cries piercing the mind as blocking your ears does not lessen their impact. A man in black has been seen wandering the building, and it is thought it was his voice the girls heard on that night in 2003.

'Spectral fires' have been reported, but these at least can be chalked up to the squatters who have called the building home on and off through the years.

People who have entered the building say there is just something plain wrong with the feel of the place. What it feels like at night they are not quite sure, as not many people are brave, or stupid enough, to visit it after the sun goes down.

Nam Koo Terrace is a Grade 1 Historical Building, and as such is likely to stay around for a long time to come. Hopewell Holdings, who plan to develop the area, have stated that they aim to restore the old building and preserve its 90 years of history.

Ashley Hall 2013.
Picture: The front entrance and portico of Nam Koo Terrace
Inset Upper: A view of the left hand structure of the building.
Inset Middle: An interior shot showing the place a stairwell used to be located.
Inset Bottom: From the back porch, a view overlooking the city.

DAY 1 -[Morale] is high -We just arrived house is nice, warm, full of family. Food is good, and beds are nice, a bit rainy and windy but fun all the same. I think I’m [gonna] like it here :) -Devin

DAY 2 -That’s odd, there was no one on the beach today, it seems extra quiet. The construction workers didn’t show up today. We stayed inside today because the sky only cleared twice for us to go outside, the thanksgiving dinner was great, but now we’re almost out of food, haha my mom’s going shopping tomorrow at least. -Devin

DAY 3 This is getting really weird, on her way to the store there was no one around, the store was empty and seemed locked. Where is everyone?
-Please contact

DAY 4 -Things are bad, Dad went scouting and never came back, now we’re down to 1 car and it’s out of gas. Food and [morale] is low, tv and radios are down as well as the internet, oh God, where is everyone? -Devin

DAY 5 -Electricity went out, we’re practically starving. Please, anyone. [Coyotes] have invaded town, and they’re aggressive. Nate went out the other day and didn’t come back, now we only go outside rarely and in pairs. I think this is driving me crazy, I’m not remembering things -Devin

DAY 6 -Oh God, we’re forgetting! everyone slowly, Ned forgot his name and mom forgot she was ever married, what’s happening to us?? Why am I writing these? Nevermind that, we need food badly! I would love to eat some… some… what do I want? I need to lie down. -Div…

DAY 7 -[Where], why? How? We’re dropping like flies. Oscar woke up this morning and didn’t know how to walk. Where’s mom? Where’s Nate? Where, where, where, where, oh God I’m losing it help PLEASE -D

DAY 8 -If [you’re] reading this, it’s too late for me, I barely remember why I am writing these. Send help, I beg you, it’s only me now… Everyone else is gone or lost it. I don’t remember why… Take care… -…

A compilation of Edward Gorey and his rather gothic poems and illustrations.
Check out his dark children alaphabet illustrations

1996, Japan – Bandai releases a new product, a virtual pet. The Tamagotchi (Tamago – Egg and Uocchi – watch) is a keychain sized virtual pet, which was designed to simulate the life cycle of a creature from birth to death. The owner of a Tamagotchi would have to look after their new friend, feeding it, cleaning after it, playing with it, and all round being a good owner.

When the toy is first activated, an egg appears on screen. After a while it hatches, and the simulation begins. A good owner could keep their pet going for quite a long time indeed, where as someone who is not so careful may see an end to their pet in only a few days.

Tamagotchi’s were quite demanding on their owner’s time, needing to be fed quite frequently, or keeping the screen clear of their ‘leavings’ in order to avoid getting sick. As one can imagine, many children took their virtual pets to school which, in itself, caused a few problems.

After about a year Bandai released the Tamagotchi in the US, where it also grew quite the following. School students were taking their pets to class, and it soon became such a distraction that many schools declared a ban on them.

Although it was possible to effectively pause the pet by going into the settings for changing the time, not many children were that techno-savvy, and soon many of these virtual pets were getting sick during the day, as their owners were away.

It might seem a little strange, but many, many children formed a bond with the little pixellated critters. To children, these were like any real pet, but with some distinct advantages. Cleaning, feeding and playing with the Tamagotchi’s were as easy as the push of a button.

With the huge demand on the product, Bandai had a hard time keeping up with manufacturing the product. This lack of supply caused problems, as children were having their tamagotchi’s stolen from them. A sad fact for a child, to have their pet taken from them, virtual or not, but then things began to get decidedly dark.

Tamagotchi’s were not only in the realm of children, but many adults took up the past time of raising a happy little fellow. The product was heavily marketed to children, but there was definitely an opening for people of all ages to enjoy. It became addictive.

Once again the lack of supply came into play, but whereas one child robbing another would essentially be an act of threat, or a bit of pushing, between adults it was much more violent. It is absolutely bizarre to think on, but several adults were said to have been stabbed for their virtual pets.

However, the end of the 1990’s saw Bandai step up production massively, and supply was no longer an issue for the demand (76 million units having been sold by 2010).

Then something happened that no-one could predict. For several children and adults, their attachment to their virtual pets began to be such a large aspect of their lives, that when the pet ended up coming to the end of its life, a number of people were said to have taken their own.

Stories began to circulate of people suiciding over the loss of their Tamagotchi’s (and other brand of virtual pets). One lonely man was said to have cut his wrists when his Tamagotchi family line came to an end after four generations.

A young girl hanged herself after her parents had grounded her, taking her Tamagotchi away from her, only to have it die from lack of care.

A teenage boy took his own life after being given a tamagotchi by a psychiatrist. This particular psychiatrist had used tamagotchi’s as a means to alleviating depression born from loneliness. What was meant to have been a form of therapy went the other way entirely.

There are quite a number of stories that have been told, urban legends if you will, as not too many of these deaths can be substantiated with newspaper reports.

However, having watched the devastation play out on a child’s face when their tamagotchi died, it leaves little doubt to me that maybe such things have taken place. There are numerous stories of people who have taken their own lives after a ‘flesh and blood’ pet have died, so why, with the attachment people have developed for their virtual pets, should tamagotchi’s be any different?

Not all Tamagotchi related deaths go unreported. In 1998, a French driver in Marseille, accidentally ran down and killed one cyclist, injuring another, after she took her eyes off the road to attend to her misbehaving virtual pet. The device was hanging off her car keys, and when it started to furiously beep, she bent down in order to reprimand her pet.

One cyclist went to the hospital; the other was killed immediately on impact.

Tamagotchi’s continue to be quite a popular toy, though their popularity has diminished somewhat in ‘the west’. The toy has evolved, and luckily the deaths are said to have stopped – probably due to the later integration of a proper pause feature.

Ashley Hall 2013.

Photo: Tamagotchi Death
Inset Left: Tamagotchi P1
Inset Right: A simulated newpaper headline.

About five years ago I lived downtown in a major city in the US. I've always been a night person, so I would often find myself bored after my roommate, who was decidedly not a night person, went to sleep. To pass the time, I used to go for long walks and spend the time thinking.

I spent four years like that, walking alone at night, and never once had a reason to feel afraid. I always used to joke with my roommate that even the drug dealers in the city were polite. But all of that changed in just a few minutes of one evening.

It was a Wednesday, somewhere between one and two in the morning, and I was walking near a police patrolled park quite a ways from my apartment. It was a quiet night, even for a week night, with very little traffic and almost no one on foot. The park, as it was most nights, was completely empty.

I turned down a short side street in order to loop back to my apartment when I first noticed him. At the far end of the street, on my side, was the silhouette of a man, dancing. It was a strange dance, similar to a waltz, but he finished each "box" with an odd forward stride. I guess you could say he was dance-walking, headed straight for me.

Deciding he was probably drunk, I stepped as close as I could to the road to give him the majority of the sidewalk to pass me by. The closer he got, the more I realized how gracefully he was moving. He was very tall and lanky, and wearing an old suit. He danced closer still, until I could make out his face. His eyes were open wide and wild, head tilted back slightly, looking off at the sky. His mouth was formed in a painfully wide cartoon of a smile. Between the eyes and the smile, I decided to cross the street before he danced any closer.

I took my eyes off of him to cross the empty street. As I reached the other side, I glanced back... and then stopped dead in my tracks. He had stopped dancing and was standing with one foot in the street, perfectly parallel to me. He was facing me but still looking skyward. Smile still wide on his lips.

I was completely and utterly unnerved by this. I started walking again, but kept my eyes on the man. He didn't move. Once I had put about half a block between us, I turned away from him for a moment to watch the sidewalk in front of me. The street and sidewalk ahead of me were completely empty. Still unnerved, I looked back to where he had been standing to find him gone. For the briefest of moments I felt relieved, until I noticed him. He had crossed the street, and was now slightly crouched down. I couldn't tell for sure due to the distance and the shadows, but I was certain he was facing me. I had looked away from him for no more than 10 seconds, so it was clear that he had moved fast.

I was so shocked that I stood there for some time, staring at him. And then he started moving toward me again. He took giant, exaggerated tip toed steps, as if he were a cartoon character sneaking up on someone. Except he was moving very, very quickly.

I'd like to say at this point I ran away or pulled out my pepper spray or my cellphone or anything at all, but I didn't. I just stood there, completely frozen as the smiling man crept toward me.

And then he stopped again, about a car length away from me. Still smiling his smile, still looking to the sky.

When I finally found my voice, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. What I meant to ask was, "What do you want?!" in an angry, commanding tone. What came out was a whimper: "Whaaat…?"

Regardless of whether or not humans can smell fear, they can certainly hear it. I heard it in my own voice, and that only made me more afraid. But he didn't react to it at all. He just stood there, smiling.

And then, after what felt like forever, he turned around, very slowly, and started dance-walking away. Just like that. Not wanting to turn my back to him again, I just watched him go, until he was far enough away to almost be out of sight. And then I realized something. He wasn't moving away anymore, nor was he dancing. I watched in horror as the distant shape of him grew larger and larger. He was coming back my way. And this time he was running.

I ran too.

I ran until I was off of the side road and back onto a better lit road with sparse traffic. Looking behind me then, he was nowhere to be found. The rest of the way home, I kept glancing over my shoulder, always expecting to see his stupid smile, but he was never there.

I lived in that city for six months after that night, and I never went out for another walk. There was something about his face that always haunted me. He didn't look drunk, he didn't look high. He looked completely and utterly insane. And that's a very, very scary thing to see.

This is a school photo taken in 1924, of the students of Dunrobin State School, No. 3777, near Casterton, South Western Victoria, Australia. Some 80 years earlier, the land the school stands on was a massive 153,600 acres, used for sheep. Later, in 1912, the government purchased the land and subdivided it into smaller allotments. With a burgeoning population making their homes in the new settlement a school was needed, and students originally took lessons in a old woolshed on the Dunrobin Station.

In 1913 a purpose built school building was constructed, including an outhouse, water tanks and a flagpole. With only a small population, and only about 30 children attending the school, all students were taught in the one class.

As it is now, as it was then, every year a class photograph was taken. If you look closely at this picture, you may notice something quite strange, maybe a little unsettling about it.

The students all look a little morose, upset, not a genuine smile to be seen (unlike the picture taken the year before which you can see on the bottom left). Why do the students look so unhappy in this photo, when in previous years photographs they are smiling and full of life?

The answer may shock you somewhat – one of the students in the photogaph is dead.

In the back row, the girl farthest to the right with the headscarf, wears a completely blank expression, her eyes devoid of all emotion. She had passed away the previous day. No records explain how she died… all that we know is her last name is Howlett.

There is a wooden board behind her (not the window frame, the board would be well hidden), propping her up, her headscarf, aside from being a nice accessory, is also acting to tie her head back to the post, keeping it upright.

The expressions on the children’s faces, especially those closest to her, speak of the emotion going through their minds – they are no doubt saddened by the death of one of their friends, but also possibly somewhat discomforted by having her propped up amongst them.

It was not entirely unusual for one to have photographs taken of their loved ones after they had passed back in the days of old, in order to have a keepsake of what the person looked like, especially as back in the day, photos were not anywhere near as common as they are today.

However, many people believe the story of this ‘post mortem class photo’ to be completely fraudulent, a modern day piece of folklore cobbled together by those trawling for freakish finds on the internet.

There is no proof either way for or against the facts of this story. Regardless, post mortem photography is a very real thing. Although not a common practice nowadays, the year this class photo was taken, 1924, still falls into the timeframe of which this style of photography was common (though very much towards the end of its popularity).

What do you think?
A rather interesting yet macabre example of post mortem photography?
Or overactive imaginations coming together online to create this rather fascinating story?

Ashley Hall 2013.

Photo: Dunrobin State School no.3777 1924 student photo.
Inset Left: The previous years photo, students much more happy and vibrant.
Inset Right: A close up of the girl at the center of this story.

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