Angela stepped into the darkness of the basement. The floor creaked, and she could feel it bend under her weight as if it would snap under the pressure. The next step was equally as perilous. The darkness closed in around her as she went further and further down. She thought about her media arts instructor. He was an older man with wild Einstein-like hair. He always wore a tweed suit like he was a stuffy professor at an aging institution that was relic of the past. Instead, Mr. Harrison, was a media arts teacher at a local high school that hired him because he decided to retire from his thirty year career at the local television news station to pursue a “nobler” profession.
He would stand at the front of the class with an ancient slide projector. Her high school was probably the only one left in America that used physical slides. After the school installed a state of the art computer and projection system into every classroom, Mr. Harrison would still dust off the slide projector and use that instead. The new machine had a layer of dust on the keyboard. Her teacher would click between slides, mostly from his personal collection and explain some aging media concept. That’s when Angela realized that he probably didn’t retire from TV but was probably forced out when the television stations were required to upgrade to HD. He never adapted to the future.
Earlier that day, she was falling asleep to the cha-chink noise that emitted from the machine in between slides when an interesting image appeared on the screen. It was a picture of the stairs she was walking down this very moment. At the bottom where the concrete basement floor gave way to darkness, there was a ghostly figure staring at the photographer. It was huddled on the floor with its neck craned to stare at the intruder at the top of the steps. It was an eerie sight.
“You’ll notice,” Mr. Harrison said in his nasal, dry tone. “The image here displays a pretty convincing picture of the supposedly haunted Wellington house down on east end. This photograph was submitted to the station as proof of the haunting.”
The students all knew the stories. Most of the class road past the house on bikes when they were kids. They would peddle faster until the house was a safe distance behind them when they got near. A few people here and there claimed to have entered the house and had all sorts of tales of bleeding walls and unearthly spirits. However, it was also well known bullshit.
Cha-chink. The next slide was a close up on the ghost itself. A decaying man appeared to be crying out in pain.
“You’ll see the ghostly image is clearly a picture of a real person, perhaps a leper, that was made ‘transparent’ by lightening the…”
And Mr. Harrison then began to describe a long, labor-intensive process that could be done in seconds with photoshop and a laptop. Two objects that Mr. Harrison probably made a point never to own. The class tuned out and fell asleep while he described dark room and film techniques that had a place in a museum more than a classroom. But there was something that interested Angela about the photo. It was something that drew her focus almost immediately. It was so interesting that she had to make up a bullshit excuse after class to see the ghost photo again.
Her eyes had not deceived her. There was a mark on the beam of the basement ceiling above the creature. It was a crisscross of scratches that the paranormal community had called “witch marks.” Those who believed in the legitimacy of the photo explained that the marks were designed to keep the evil trapped in the basement. For those who claimed the photo was a fraud, they explained carvings were designed to make the situation more spooky.
Angela knew that any theory about the origin of the marks was wrong. She knew exactly who carved them. It was her brother, and he had disappeared three years ago.