I took a little drive to the Rolling Hills Asylum in Upstate New York, reportedly one of the most haunted places in America. I wasn't so much interested in a ghost hunting adventure (although it sounded fun) as much as I wanted the opportunity to tour and photograph the building. The Rolling Hills Asylum did not disappoint.
A quick Google search brought me to http://rollinghillsasylum.vpweb.com which perfectly matched my criteria: The Rolling Hills Asylum was reachable (only a seven hour drive from Rhode Island) with an interesting history and plenty of photographic potential. I booked the 6pm to 9pm "Psych Hold" tour for a very reasonable $30.
The first hour's guided tour covered the history of the site and the stories and sightings of the spiritual occupants of select rooms. Even if you are not a believer this first stage of the tour was a good orientation to the building itself, its various wings and floors, its history, and it certainly got the imagination racing in anticipation of the evening to follow.
The next phase of the tour was the most fun, independent exploration and investigation.
With no lights in the facility except for the occasional red glow of an exit sign, I had to provide my own light for navigation and photography. To this end I purchased a Vizeri focusing LED flashlight which came with a diffusing cap. My entire ghost hunting kit for the night was a Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon 14mm ultra wide angle lens, Viseri LED Flashlight, and a Sirui travel tripod.
I should have practiced "light painting" prior to arriving at the Rolling Hills Asylum and my pictures probably would have been better...however my trial and error while onsite occupied the part of my brain that kept trying to remind me I was standing alone, in the dark, in a place with over 1700 recorded deaths, where people have reported seeing, hearing, and feeling the touch of things they could not explain.
I eventually set the X-T1 to ISO 800, manual focus, aperture at f8, shutter on bulb. After a number of tests zooming and panning the flashlight beam, I eventually snapped on the diffuser and used its even, gentle light with an 8-12 second exposure for the remainder of the evening.
|During the day, not so scary looking.....|
|....however, at night, a little more sinister.|
|Say goodbye to daylight as the sun sets outside the window|
|So many amazing stairways...|
|I'll admit it, this corridor bothered me. I could not get the story of shadow faces in the windows of the door at the far end out of my mind and....|
|...even though I was having so much fun, my unease grew steadily as I walked to the far end. I never opened those doors.|
|....of dark and empty corridors.|
|Remember to use the portable toilet outside....|
|...because inside the facilities are less than operational.|
|A couple rooms were staged....|
|....for the filming of an American Horror Story: Asylum promotional video.|
|Some of the many artifacts reflecting the site's use as an orphanage|
This was too much fun not to do again. It would have been cool to edit my pictures afterwards and see some apparition or shadowy figure where there should not have been any shadows.
Whether it is returning to the Rolling Hills Asylum for another photo excursion, or finding similar locations closer to home in Southern New England, I am intrigued by the beauty and history of these historical places and want to see, and photograph, more.
Also another take away from my evening at Rolling Hills is the incentive to become proficient with flashlight photography. So, this night gave me a couple of photographic assignments that should keep me busy for years.