Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Static Movement Special Print issue #2

The Static Movement Special Print issue #2 is available now, and it includes stories by both Flo and yours truly, along with three of my images. You can pick up a copy here:

Download an MP3 of the appearance of publishers Chris Bartholomew and John 'JAM' Arthur Miller on blogtalkradio’s House of Horror-The Lounge, discussing this issue:

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zazzle Tip – Wear A Cup

One piece I’ve held back because I thought it would someday make a great book cover, is entitled “Identity Crisis.” A digitally sliced, diced and morphed composite of about a dozen photos I’ve taken of one of my skulls, it’s one of my better attempts at surrealism. A few days ago, Zazzle offered its photographic postage on discount for four hours, starting at midnight. Since I decided to debut “Identity Crisis” in Parallax, it seemed like a good idea to promote the book with some custom postage, so I ordered a couple of books. About a day and a half later, I received the following excerpt in an email from “Zazzle Content Management”: “We’re having trouble approving your ZazzleStamps design titled “identity crisis b.” In order to assist us, would you please reply to this email with honest responses to the following question(s): 1. What is the source of this image? Where did you find it? 2. Do you have permission to use this image?” Now, I realize that there is an entire laundry-list of restrictions and exceptions regarding content, and I didn’t really worry that my stylized disintegrating skull would pose a serious threat to mental health, but I certainly did not anticipate this kind of treatment. If Zazzle had asked nicely, I would have been delighted to certify that “Identity Crisis” is indeed my original work, and reassure the company that I own all rights to the image. “Where did you find it?” Zazzle apparently doesn’t bother with the throat – it goes directly for the ‘nads. I personally do not see any reason to do business with a company that-even by implication-calls me a liar and a thief. Caveat emptor. Point of irony: posters and T-shirts of book-cover art I’ve licensed to sell for charity are still for sale on Zazzle. You can see one of them here:

By the way, Zazzle, my original photography has been published since 1969; I have work in and/or on more than 40 books and over 100 magazine editions.

Finally found a home for this one:


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Balloon Synchronicity

Looking back, I suppose I was a strange, nerdy teenager. One lonely summer, I took some of my photographs, wrote some of my poetry on the backsides, affixed the photos to the strings of helium balloons, and launched them into the sky. I wondered if they would ever be found.

On our first date, I bought a helium balloon, and Flo and I wrote something on a card and sent it up. It became a small hobby, an occasional indulgence for us to fly off a balloon with a note, a photograph or even a postcard attached. Once, a balloon made it all the way to the East side of the city, and drifted down onto some fellow' s driveway; he was kind enough to return the card with a comment.

One spring day, at the Broad Ripple Art Fair, we bought a helium balloon along with some other treasures, and returned home. Normally a small helium balloon would not last the night, drifting down to the floor before sunup. This time, the balloon was still pressed firmly against the ceiling when we rose the next day, so we took it with us to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and launched it from the grounds with a self-addressed postcard attached. I certainly did not expect it to go far, thinking it had at best an hour or two of flight left.

The summer passed by quickly, and we did not expect the postcard to return. One day though, the card arrived at our P.O. Box, with a short note and several thumbtack holes to suggest it had been on display for a while. The card was postmarked at Point Pleasant, West Virginia. It had drifted down at the Ohio and West Virginia border, and crossed over to West Virginia after it was mailed. Of all the places it could have ended up, it was a bit odd to me that it had traversed the replacement for the Silver Bridge, at the very site where The Mothman Prophecies took place.

Over the years, we occasionally sent balloons aloft with postcards or notes, and our son enjoyed joining in on our hobbies and adventures. One day, while we all were headed to the grocery store, I noticed something drifting down from the sky toward the parking lot. A small helium balloon with a postcard attached floated down to a height I could reach up and snatch it. The activities director of an Illinois Senior Center had provided balloons and postcards for the residents as entertainment one day. I returned the postcard with a note, and the message I sent was eventually published in an article in a local newspaper serving the area of the Senior Center.

What are the odds?

It's been years now, since we last floated off a message attached to a helium balloon, but I'm sure that someday we will do it again.


Elsie and daughter Helen

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Thanks for the Meteor Shit!"

It was the summer before I started college. I remember listening to the radio one night, during a thunderstorm. Callers to the station reported seeing a meteor streaking down, somewhere on the southwest side of Indianapolis.

The next day, my father returned from a fishing trip, excited by something he’d found. He had pulled off of the road to check a noise under the hood, and noticed the top sheared off of a tree, then a trench where something had hit the ground and shattered. He picked up a piece, and came back home to have me take a look at it.

He drove me back to the scene, and I took a few photos. We gathered up all the pieces we could find, and put them in the trunk.

It was obviously a meteor, but there was something unusual about it. Shiny and metallic, it didn’t look like the burnt rock most meteors appear to be.

At home, we devised a number of tests we could try out on it. The meteor was porous and brittle; a good smack with a hammer broke off shards easily. Apparently molten when it hit, the part that had hit the ground was more compressed than the upper portion. The meteor had shattered, so there was no way we could fit the pieces together or determine the original shape. A propane torch got it good and hot, but we couldn’t get it to melt. Nothing from my chem. lab – nitric, hydrochloric or sulfuric acids - had any effect on samples.

Since it looked metallic, we decided to test it – it was non-magnetic, but when we tested for conductivity with some copper wire, a battery and a flashlight bulb, we were surprised – expecting little or no conductivity, we found that the bulb shone just as bright when a chunk of the meteor was in the circuit, as it was when directly connected with wire only.

We tried it again, this time with two good-sized chunks touching – then three – each time, the bulb was just as bright – an exceptional conductor, whatever it was.

When school started, I took a piece to the geology department. A crotchety professor gave it a momentary glance and dismissed me, telling me it was “crap.”

My father, an IPD police officer, took a sample to the crime lab, and was told that it had tested as close to titanium in specific gravity and hardness, but no known acids had any effect on it, and a sample could not be burnt – attempts at spectrophotometer analysis failed – it could not be identified.

Over the years, I sent off samples several times for analysis. In one case, I was told: “The sample consists of 60 percent silicon, 36 percent iron, between 2 and 4 percent aluminum, and has traces of calcium chromium and manganese in it. It is my belief that it is meteoric in origin, and is not anything unusual. Silicon meteors are common. Usually the iron and the silicon are not mixed, but the shape of the sample and so forth indicate that it has been mixed and perhaps homogenized by the process of coming through the atmosphere.”

Fine, but that still begged some questions. Friction with the atmosphere would burn a meteorite from the outside in, but how could one explain the uniform homogenization of the iron and silicon? There were no veins or chunks of non-homogenized silicon or iron anywhere in our samples. I am not familiar with the technology, but if one desired to make this mixture industrially – the temperature, pressure and mixing necessary to produce a uniform batch would be quite different from the conditions of a meteor burning through the atmosphere.

Plus, iron is a poor conductor of electricity. Place the same gauge of iron wire in a circuit with copper –  the light bulb will dim considerably, and the iron wire will get hot, because of its greater resistance than copper. Glass, on the other hand, is an insulator – it does not conduct electricity. Laboratory pure silicon is used in computer technology – but again, no such purity would be found in a meteor. So – just how does the uniform homogenization of iron and silicon take place in a meteor? How does the mixture of quartz and iron – insulator and poor conductor – produce a superior conductor? Could this hybrid have any use in semiconductor technology?

None of the samples I’ve sent off for analysis have ever been sent back to me, even though I’ve always requested the return.

One analysis reported that the meteor was Martian in origin. Fanciful bullshit, but entertaining.

My father and I both gave away numerous samples over the next decade; most of the haul we brought home has just simply vanished.

A “psychic” once stated emphatically that it came from a comet. A possible, but functionally irrelevant response.

Not one analysis – scientific or otherwise – of this meteor has agreed significantly with another.

In fact, only one proclamation regarding the meteor’s origin or composition has ever been of any value to me.

Some years ago, Flo wrote a couple of pieces for Stephen King’s newsletter, “Castle Rock,” including a review of Tabitha’s novel, “The Trap.” We found out that King collected paperweights sent him by his fans, so we sent him a chunk of meteor, to add to his collection, and made reference to Jordy Verrill’s exclamation in “Creepshow.”

A few weeks later, we received a post card with “Thanks for the Meteor Shit!” and Stephen King’s signature.

Now, how cool is that?

Infrared Macro 1/21/2018

Friday, July 24, 2009

Phone Booth Psych

I’m not a psychic. I can’t tell your future, give you winning lottery numbers or read your mind. If I could have seen my future, there’s a hell of a lot I would have changed.

It doesn’t work like that, anyway.

We “read” people and situations, relationships, transactions, all of the time. We observe, catalog and track patterns. First and foremost, we learn social survival. How a cry brings mother, a coo produces a smile, a caress, perhaps a little more food. We observe, analyze and produce these strategies before we learn the words and syntax it takes to articulate them.

We learn these transactions first, and far in front of anything else. Have you ever gone out of your way to impress a stranger, only later to wonder why you even bothered trying? This tracks back to our earliest, most primal survival strategies.

Most of what we would label as “psychic” is nothing more than observation and processing.

Still, occasionally, something else is in play – something that appears beyond the five recognized senses.

For example, when Flo and I were first married, we lived in a tiny third-floor apartment with no phone. We would call friends and family from a pay phone on the corner, a couple of blocks away.

One evening, I was looking forward to a chat with my father. I dressed appropriately for the early fall weather, and on my way to the door, a wave of apprehension and anxiety overwhelmed me. I simply could not make myself go out the door.

This was not something commonplace for me. My relationship with Dad was fine, and I was eager to talk to him. Nor did I feel something was wrong with him. I talked about what was happening, with Flo, and experimented with it for the better part of an hour.

If I stated “I’m not going,” I felt immediately relieved. If I tried to leave, the apprehension hit me again. I could not come up with a plausible “why” – just that my visceral response was strong enough to stop me in my tracks. It was all terribly odd, senseless, silly.

Then, as suddenly as it had come over me, the feeling was gone. Not a trace of it left. I shrugged it off, and left to call my father.

Not far from home, I saw the flashing lights of a police car. A little closer, and I saw a car up on the sidewalk, where the outline of the phone booth should have been.

I asked the cop when this had happened, and he told me, about five minutes before, a drunk driver had hopped the curb and plowed through the phone booth. The driver was in the back of the police cruiser, and while I was there, a tow truck arrived to haul the wrecked car off to the impound lot.

I ran home, loaded my camera, and returned just in time to see the car disappear into the horizon. I snapped the photos below, of the smashed phone booth.

Typically, I stood in the phone booth with my back to traffic, phone pressed against one ear and my finger in the other, to block out the city noise. Also typically, Dad and I would have a lively conversation that often lasted more than an hour. The weather was pleasant, I had been in a great mood, and I definitely would have been in the booth when the driver hammered it.

I can’t explain this away by saying I “heard” the crash or the police car unconsciously and somehow processed the data correctly. The crash occurred at the approximate time I felt that wave of relief.

And, to be honest, I probably would not have believed that this sequence played out exactly in the order told above, had it not happened to me.

To run it back, slow it down and try and make it more clear – what I experienced was an intense physical balking, much like a mule that sits down and refuses to budge. The apprehension, the anxiety, were more of a result of that balking than the cause of it.

Events such as this do pique my curiosity – as to just what we are capable of knowing and doing, outside the constraints of ordinary experience and social convention.

It sure would be handy if I could turn this on when I need it. Whatever “it” is, it certainly doesn’t seem to work that way. “It” seems to assert itself before or during a disaster, but not point the way to things happy or positive, indicative of it being a primal survival mechanism. “It” happens to me mostly in dreams, and when it does, events generally play out according to the dream, without any efforts on my part having any effect. Providing, of course, that the obtuse dream symbolism is decipherable at all to my conscious mind – more often than not, the meaning becomes crystal clear ex post facto. And that can be explained by the tendency to morph the ambiguous to fit the specific.

If there is a point here, it is this: the gypsy with the crystal ball, the dude in a turban with intense eyes, the gifts and curses of gods and demons – the way society has stylized the phenomena and trained us to respond to the strange and the unknown – is functionally pointless, and serves generally to set us up for the astute predator.

Still, we are remarkable creatures who have only recently become aware… adrift in a universe of possibility beyond the best efforts of our imagination.

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”


If I’m lucky, if I’m aware, I might occasionally snag an insight that will be useful to me or someone I care for. You might, too.

* April 9, 2021 - a few days ago, I came across a letter that dated this as Friday, September 21, 1973.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Letter from Charles Fort

I found the above letter, in the envelope below, glued to the inside back cover of a third-printing (Feb. 1931) of “The Book of the Damned,” at a used book store, for $4. (That was in 1979)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Avon, IN Haunted Bridge

(Click on photos for larger versions)

If you live in Indiana, this is THE Haunted Bridge. The triple-arch railroad trestle spans a rural road and White Lick Creek in Avon, a short distance west of Indianapolis.

A crumbling, weathered antiquity from 1907, this brooding expanse would inspire gloom and legend even if no true stories were attributed to it. A number of reputable publications have claimed that a worker was entombed in the concrete while it was being built – an urban legend, sure – but it is supposed to have happened here. There is another story of a young woman and her infant who plunged to their deaths – versions range from accident to suicide; visitors claim to hear the screams of the worker at sundown, and see the mother looking for her child atop the bridge late at night.

On a short trip one night with my folks, we stopped by the bridge for a look. My mother stayed in the car, not the least interested in such creepy nonsense, while my father, Flo and I strolled up for a closer view. Upon our return, mom was irate; how could we have let Flo climb up and walk across the tracks? She blanched when we told her Flo had stayed at ground level with us, and we saw no one at all atop the bridge. Mom had never heard of the legends of the bridge – yet she saw a woman walking across the railroad tracks, pausing to look down as if looking for something – as the ghost story goes.

Previously, I had taken infrared shots of the bridge after midnight – and in one, a misty form appeared where the ghost is supposedly seen.

I’ve never heard the screams, nor seen the apparition, but I understand the fascination and the foreboding this bridge inspires. Many of the most common urban legends have been falsely attributed to it – the first version I ever heard of “The Hook” was set here. Once, when I was a guest on a radio talk show, a caller insisted he saw a three-eyed hellhound guarding the bridge. It might have been a tad bit more convincing if he wasn’t piss-drunk when he told his story.

Isolated for generations, only recently has the area been developed. Avon holds an annual “Haunted Bridge Festival,” and an image of it is featured on the Avon city web site. Its macabre appeal, and recent restoration efforts, has prevented the bridge from being demolished and replaced.

One legend of the Haunted Bridge I believe without reservation is that, over the decades, young couples have conceived countless children while parked hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost.

Rusty iron plates now prevent access to the inner workings of the bridge – the tunnels cut through all of the arches. I’ve been through those tunnels, and in its guts, the bridge subtly undulates and shudders as if alive. Haunted, whether by tragedy and death or the focused imagination of generations, it is still one of the most eerie experiences you could hope for.

(This shot was an infrared time exposure, later tinted sepia)

There are a couple of 3D stereo pairs of the bridge, over at my Flickr gallery:

And another shot of the bridge, this time for the cover of Indiana Horror Review 2014.

The iron door mentioned above:

Beneath the Haunted Bridge:

Finally, the infrared shot from 1973, one that barely survived a fire:

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Cornettsville Dust Devil

View Larger Map

The last time I visited the Cornettsville Cemetery, I was a teenager. This time, my mother had decided to catalog the entire cemetery for her genealogical research. A long, lazy summer drive from Indianapolis south to Daviess County, Indiana; the cemetery is only slightly smaller than downtown Cornettsville itself.

A winding access road though the middle of farmland took us to a parking place next to an old fence. There, we drank from an artesian well, the distinctive “rotten egg water” that supposedly has health benefits.

My folks, my sister and I took an orderly approach this time, working a grid to document all the graves, including that of an ancestor, William R. Baker. In chapter 7 of The History of Daviess County,
it states “Among the business men of the place are William R. Baker, general store and post office; John N. Killion, blacksmith, and Dr. J. M. Achor. The handsomest public school building in the county, outside of Washington, is located at Cornettsville.”

Baker was a Civil War veteran, and I’ve restored several photos of him. One in particular, I remember from my childhood, because it hung for years on the wall by our front door, in a flaming pink frame. Baker, posed proud and stiff, in full Union Army regalia; the photo caught sunlight and had faded significantly before I had a chance to bring it back digitally. No matter how many times my father teased my mother about relegating the poor fellow to the pink frame, she never relented.

I remember this as an enjoyable excursion, though it took most of our day to catalog the cemetery. Shortly before we were planning to leave, I was standing at the northeast corner of the cemetery, looking out over the patchwork quilt rectangles of crops neatly laid out among the southern Indiana hills; it reminded me of photos I’d seen of the British countryside, arranged in peace, grace and order.

It was a sunny summer day, not too hot, perfect for this kind of outing. As I looked out over the farmland, I saw something odd stir a couple of rectangles over to my right – at the ground, something began to churn the dust and detritus up from the cornfield, and spin it up into the sky in a tight spiral; a dust devil formed in front of me. It seemed completely out of place – there had been a light breeze, but no wind, and there were only a few wispy clouds far up in the sky that day. It seemed as if the dust devil had started from the ground and moved up.

I watched with fascination as it began to move, and then hop towards me like a miniature tornado. It bounced up the hill and paused right over me – I was in the center, and watched the leaves and dust just spin around me. It was eerie – in the eye of this “storm” it was peaceful, and yet there was this energy completely surrounding me. No noise, no wind except for the rustle of the spinning leaves. Just to describe my feelings – I was suddenly cold, as if from the inside out, and I felt as if I were being touched, scrutinized perhaps, by something intelligent. Just a subjective description, yet…

It moved off from me, and then stopped with my sister at its center. Then it hopped again, visiting my parents exactly the same way. As it left them, we all started to follow it, as it approached our car.

On the hood of the Chevy was one of the notepads, filled with details transcribed from the tombstones. As all of us watched, one by one, the top three sheets were torn from the pad, left to right, as if an invisible hand were ripping them off methodically; the pad itself stayed stationary on the hood.

From there, the dust devil made one more hop, about 20 yards past the car. We stood there utterly amazed as we watched those three pages circle around and around, up and up, until they were out of sight. Then just as suddenly as it had begun, it simply stopped. The heavier leaves and dust just dropped straight to the ground, while that which had been spinning ever upward, fluttered down in random trajectories.

We split up and ran in different directions, 20 or 30 yards out from the epicenter, trying to catch a glimpse of the missing pages, in order to retrieve them.

Except, they didn’t come down.

When it made the last hop past the tree line, the dust devil spun the pages up, out of reach, but we could see them for a while. There was nothing but open ground, and the pages did not reappear. We walked another grid, and never found a trace.

By now, all of us were spooked, and it was a long drive home.

Other people have since cataloged the names at the Cornettsville Cemetery, but it seemed at the time, that something didn’t want us to have that information. Yes, it is an irrational, even superstitious, emotional reaction; one that made its own kind of sense to us, in the moment.

From the above Google satellite map, not much has changed there in all these years. And somehow, that’s a comforting thought.

A more recent view of the cemetery, by Steven C. Guy.

Below: Mary Jane and William Riley Baker.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dumpsite Diving UFO

(Photo Copyright John Stanton 2006)

Over the past six months, while culling through approximately 40,000 photos for my first photography book, I’ve scrutinized both mutts and gems. Shots I’ve overlooked while working on a deadline, as well as favorites I’ve simply not been able to find a home for, are making the cut for “Parallax,” scheduled for release this summer.

Some photos possess their own unique points of interest, such as IMG_3185, which was shot the day before Thanksgiving, 2006, at an undisclosed industrial dumpsite.

According to the EXIF info, 3184 was shot at precisely 3:27:00 P.M.; the subject in question was photographed at 3:27:06, and the next frame at 3:27: 22. Frames 3184 and 3185 were both landscape orientation - 3185 was zoomed-in a bit more than the previous shot. 3186 was a zoomed portrait shot of the vaguely humanoid form of concrete and rebar.

There is an object in frame 3185 that does not appear in the adjacent frames. The insets in the photo above depict the object at 400% and 2000% magnification.

It appears to be a solid, ovoid or disc shaped object, of unknown configuration, composition and purpose. It doesn’t appear to be motion-blurred, as best I can tell, and seems to be too detailed, solid, stable and high-up to be merely a passing insect. The photo was taken at 1/1000th of a second.

The previous frame, 3184, was shot at a wider angle, from the same position I took 3185. There appear to be no wings, fins or aeronautical stabilizers on the object. Since only 6 seconds elapsed between exposures, I think it is fair to rule out balloons, clouds and blimps as possible explanations. Frame 3186 captured less of the sky than the previous two shots, but still, there is no such anomaly present.

What it isn’t seems to be apparent: what it is, is not. Hence the term “Unidentified.” Make of it what you will.

April 5, 2015

Experimenting with an HDR-simulation filter brought this one out a bit brighter; from a different shoot. You can click on this one for a larger version.

Both were shot in the pre-drone era :-)

Another odd whatchamacallit in the sky, Oct. 20, 2017, while out on an infrared shoot. Not a clue what that could be. This seems to be turning into a running theme.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


After an evening of unseasonably warm rain, storm squalls and high winds, the skies quieted around midnight, the morning of February 12. At 3:50 A.M., I was at my computer and online when the power went out. I fumbled around for about a minute, lit a candle and located a flashlight. Flo came in, and we checked out front – some lights were on, but the street light was out, as well as a row of homes to the south. I looked out back: the power line to our house was still intact, and the security lights were on at the school. I went to the phone to call in our outage – DOA. Since the phone company generates its own electricity, it seemed reasonable that a downed pole took out both power and communications, somewhere near where underground phone lines become airborne.

Six hours later, power company trucks and cherry pickers circled our block, and the power came back on. Still no phone – might have to call that one in. This being the sixth phone outage since last June, I knew the drill, and I took a phone and a screwdriver out back to our terminal box. When I plugged the phone in, I got a nice clear dial tone – so the only possibility – the wiring between the box and our house decided to fail at the precise time that the power went out. It only took about ten minutes to rig a temporary line, but the odds of the simultaneous failures struck me as yet another anomaly to add to my ever growing list.

Here we are, now, on Oscar night, Feb. 22. Watching the last few minutes before William Holden gets shot and stumbles into the pool in “Sunset Boulevard,” when we hear a strange scraping sound, almost as if somebody is shoveling snow right outside our front door. No, the sound is wafting its way up from the basement. The paper shredder has turned itself on, lurching and gagging on nothing. It has never misbehaved before, and it has been a month or so since I last used it. I’m back up stairs in time to see Holden get plugged.

Once again, electrical anomalies appear to be the Motif du Mois.