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?