Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scare Tactics

You might be surprised to learn that there weren't a lot of pranks played on the set of Ghosts Don't Exist. Probably because we were all so focused throughout the production. In the months leading up to filming, however, we did have a few opportunities to provide a friendly scare or two. Well, I did, anyway. Fittingly, they came during actual ghost hunts.

The first was at the Brentsville Courthouse, where we met the guys from DCMAG for the very first time. We were about to join them for our very first investigation—of the historic Brentsville Jail—when I seized the opportunity. Standing just outside the courthouse, I noticed someone passing by the upstairs window. It may have actually been Nancy Yee or Kirsten Cooley—both of whom were there touring the site with us. So I snapped a photo. Hold that thought for a moment.

A few seconds later, I noticed Donnie Conty in the Courthouse foyer. As Donnie will tell you himself, (and as you'll eventually see in a particularly priceless behind-the-scenes clip) he's always the most likely to pull a "Dude, run!" in any scary situation. But knowing that he takes everything in stride, I proceeded to call Donnie outside. Feigning a concerned but quizzical look, I suggested that I'd just photographed something... well, unusual. I pointed to the window above us, which was now empty:

I then showed Donnie my camera, containing what seemed to be a photograph I'd taken just seconds prior:

He scrutinized the image in the camera, then looked back up at the empty window in disbelief. He was able to utter a startled "WTF?!" before his jaw dropped completely.

Unable to hold in the laughter, I let him off the hook. He had several choice words for me, but I know he appreciated the simple creativity that lead to such a convincing scare. ;) It's an amazingly easy concept that just happened to come to me on the spot.

Fortunately, it came to me again—the week before we began filming GDE.

19th + Wilson asked DCMAG to give our lead actors a crash course in ghost hunting (something else you'll definitely see in our behind-the-scenes features). Before the investigation at Historic Jordan Springs, we were given a tour of the amazing site. There happened to be a few folks still there that evening, as part of an event that was wrapping up; and noticing a dapper older gentleman in one of the libraries, I snapped a photo. Hold that thought for a moment.

In pranking people, I've learned that it can often be just as effective to show someone parts of a photo out of context—especially if they're not expecting certain elements to be there.

With that in mind, I approached Sarina Espejo with my camera. Knowing that she'd also seen these same rooms eariler, I showed her the "unusual image" that had turned up in my viewfinder. While scrolling through a zoomed image, I explained how I'd taken some photos in the library. "It pretty much speaks for itself," I said, heightening the suspense. As I continued to scroll across the image, Sarina saw closeups of books and stuff, like this:

and this:

And then, out of nowhere, this appeared:

It's amazing how—in the context of an intense paranormal investigation—a well-dressed, harmless senior citizen takes on the more ominous visage of a long-dead mortician, quietly observing our activities from beyond the grave... for all eternity. Or something like that. The effect is even more startling if you simulate dramatic music and/or scream when revealing the image.

Sarina slapped my arm. Hard.

All joking aside, we did experience a number of unexplainable events at both Brentsville and Jordan Springs—some of which we'll be sharing here very soon. They definitely helped set the tone for cast and crew alike. ;)

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