Spookyweird is a working title to a project I started back in 2009 where I photograph places or objects where something, well spooky or weird happened. But there is more to it than that. I’m currently working on an artist statement and a proper title to explain it all.
I traveled to Southern Illinois to visit my family and to photograph “The Sink” and “The Cave”. The Sink is an area where water fills up a valley and forms a small lake. The Sink is not made by flooding or is fed by a stream. The Ohio River is close by though The Sink is not made or affected by the water level of the river. Only bullhead catfish live in The Sink and they are cannibalistic, feeding only on themselves. Locals in the area will wait for the water level of The Sink to lower to the point where they can go out with buckets and pick up the fish with their hands. Densel, my 94 year old guide, showed me the way to the vantage point where I took this image. He said he knew the owners of the property but when we pulled up no one was home. The whole time I worked with my 4x5 I feared I would be gunned down. Lucky for me The Sink was full and Densel said that sometimes it would be dry for years and he hadn’t been up there in a while to see it. It was amazing to finally see this place that my grandmother so often spoke of.
The Cave is located in Cave-In-Rock along the Ohio River. I have visited The Cave before when I was little but this visit was definitely like seeing it for the first time. The Cave has been used in different ways throughout the years. It has served as a church, general store, brothel, and a hide out for pirates. Its blackness is haunting; alone inside I herd sounds and my mind played tricks on me so I didn’t stay long.
On the drive from the airport heading north through Kentucky I told my mom about my plan to photograph The Sink and The Cave. Detecting I was interested in capturing the oddities of where my grandparents live, she told me of Olivia. My great grandmother was a collector of everything. She always had a particular fancy for an old skeleton that the town doctor had in his office, so much so that when he retired he gave the skeleton to my grandmother. I first imagined that the skeleton was of the ordinary plastic variety found in any regular doctor’s office. My mother corrected me and told me matter of factly that in the old days they used real human bones, this skeleton was very old, and was definitely of the real bones type. She continued to tell me that skeletons used for medical purposes came from India during this time. My family first thought the skeleton was a man but later learned it was a woman changing its original name from Orville to more appropriately feminine name Olivia. Olivia was originally stored in a barn. A tornado hit the town and destroyed the barn but Olivia was lifted up and set back down unharmed. She is now stored in the kitchen of my great grandmother’s old house and sleeps in a pink velvet casket. My great aunts dress her up and take care of her and sometimes bring her out on the porch for Halloween which one year resulted in having the police called. I had never heard of Olivia until this trip to Illinois and was laughing like a nut as I drove my rental car on to the ferry smiling at the idea of the treasures that lie on the other side of this beautiful river.