The Photographer and the Sheldon Ghost

Posted By Jason Barnette on Friday, March 6, 2015

South Carolina, Stories From the Road

The photographer in me comes first wherever I travel. After spending a three day weekend in Beaufort and the Sea Islands of South Carolina, I had one final stop to make. I wanted an amazing photo of the Old Sheldon Church Ruins in Yemassee. I was surrounded by pitch blackness and a chorus of tree frogs filled the chilly night air with sound. But as I captured my first photo, I discovered I may have been the only person there, but I was not alone.

The ruins are located on Old Sheldon Church Road, a two-lane road just off Highway 17 about twenty miles from Beaufort. I arrived about thirty minutes before sunset, just enough time to see the ruins in the fading daylight and orient myself before it got dark. I used the remaining daylight to unpack my equipment from the car and get ready for my little photo shoot.

I attached my camera to a tripod, set the focus and framing for the photos, and dialed in all the camera settings. I unpacked a single flash, attached a remote, and dialed in those settings. My plan was to hold the flash in one hand, pointing toward a small section of the ruins, while triggering the camera with a remote in the other hand.

By the time I finished this preparation work I realized I was surrounded by pitch blackness. The sun had set nearly thirty minutes earlier, and the sky was just bright enough to make out thin clouds moving quickly. A chorus of tree frogs echoed in the stillness of the night. With a remote in my right hand, the flash in my left, standing ten feet in front of the camera, I was ready for the first photo.

I pressed the button on the remote. Simultaneously the flash in my hand pulsed and the camera made a loud, resounding “Click” as the mirror flipped up, the shutter opened and closed, and then the mirror flipped back down. In all, the action took just a fraction of a second.

But a moment later I heard a second, much softer “click”. My head snapped around toward the camera. I stared at the camera for the longest moment, not moving an inch, straining my ears but only hearing the chorus of the tree frogs.

After a couple of minutes I decided to capture the next photo from the same position. I pressed the button on the remote. Simultaneously the flash pulsed and the camera made a loud, resounding “Click”.

And again, just a moment later, I heard a second, much softer “click”.

At this point I erupted into laughter. My job as a travel photographer is a lonely job, often spent alone. I have developed a habit of talking out loud to myself because on some days I don’t talk to anyone else. As my laughter died down, I looked up at the sky and said, “It’s a bit chilly tonight. I bet the air is just thin so the camera echoes every time I trigger it.” I nodded to myself, satisfied with my own explanation, and decided to continue with the rest of the photos.

I stepped a few feet to the left, pointed the flash toward a different part of the ruins, and prepared for the next photo. But this time I decided to have some fun with myself and the silly echo in the chilly, very dark night air.

I looked at the camera and counted down out loud. “Three, two, one,” and then I pressed the button on the remote. Simultaneously the flash pulsed and the camera made a loud, resounding “Click”.

With a big smile on my face I waited a moment for the echo I knew was coming. I waited. And I waited. Slowly the smile faded from my face, the hairs on my arms and neck stood up, and everything around me seemed utterly and profoundly quiet. I counted the seconds. Five. Ten. Fifteen. No echo. No other sound. Even the tree frogs had stopped their chorus.

Then, almost a minute after I pressed the button on the remote, I heard a second, much softer “click”.

Chills ran down my spine. I immediately fumbled in my pocket for the flashlight, whipping it out and flipping it on in one clumsy motion that resulted in me dropping the flashlight to the ground. I quickly picked it up, turned in a full circle, eyes wide open and ears alert. Nothing. Nothing but my camera, my bags, and myself.

It was several more minutes before I could bring myself to capture another photo. I pressed the button on the remote. Simultaneously the flash pulsed and the camera made a loud, resounding “Click”.

But there was no echo. I stood there, ears alert, eyes wide open, waiting for seconds and minutes. There were no more echoes. For the rest of the night every time I pressed the button on the remote I looked toward the camera, heard the loud, resounding “Click”, but no second, much softer “click” ever followed again.

Right about now you could be asking yourself: is this a true story about a photographer encountering a ghost during a photo shoot, or is this just a fake story in an attempt to get more people to view this photo?

Perhaps the more important question you should be asking yourself is: if you think this is a fake story, why do you have goosebumps right now?

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  • Christopher Zorn

    When I was younger I used to live nearby this church. I would frequent it just to hang out. There were a few times where I had a similar experience. The most significant time was with a group of friends and we heard the echos of someone walking around while we were in the middle of the church. It spooked us so bad we ran off. There were also many more times where nothing happened at all.

    • I love experiences like these. On a factual, logical basis you know there are a hundred explanations for whispers, echoes, and voices in the dark of night. But at the back of your mind somewhere deep down you know that anything is possible, and just because we can’t explain it doesn’t mean it’s not real. But I didn’t have the option to run; I couldn’t leave my camera behind!

  • Dona Males Becchelli

    If there is a next time, try talking to whom ever is there.