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Book Review: Haunted Houses by Corinne May Botz

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Halloween approaches, and this seems like an appropriate time to talk about Haunted Houses by Corrine May Botz. Take a photographic journey with Botz through haunted spaces, and hear the houses’ ghostly stories through the words of the people who live in them. Her pictures capture the “everyday spaces with secretive, invisible histories.”

Botz traveled across the country for seven years taking pictures, and collecting oral histories. She visited famous haunted sites such as inns, taverns, and museums. However, she also found stories in private residences. She captured personal lives and dreams through words and photographs.

Her pictures show regular homes, old homes, and dilapidated dwellings. Through the photos and related narrative you gain an understanding of the homes” secrets. As Botz says in her narrative, houses are structures, but homes contain the collective memories of everyone who has lived there.

Botz used a large-format camera, and in some cases a prolonged exposure, to grasp the essence of the spaces. Some of the frames show what look like happy residences, but most look abandoned and forgotten. You have to wonder, does someone actually still live in this home?

Haunted Houses contains friendly ghosts — no evil spooks or demons looking to scare people away. These haunts want to retain their connection to their homes and lives. The stories tell of protective spirits that like the families that have moved in.

One of the famous ghostly houses Botz visited sits in Manhattan, and is now the Merchant’s House Museum. Friendly ghost Gertrude Tredwell died in 1933 at the age of 93. She lived in the house her entire life. The house was turned into a museum in 1936, but some say she watches over the place. Did Botz capture an orb on the stairs or is it just a stain on the carpet?

Many of her stops occurred in rural areas such as Harlan County, Kentucky. At a historic inn, she happened on a local maintenance man who talked freely about his ghostly encounters. The ghost helped this man on the job, and saved his life a couple of times. Botz includes a digital recording of his tale and several others on her website.

Botz’s other book, Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, contains photographs of recreated crime scenes in miniature. The pictures depict actual murders recreated in a dollhouse. These recreations give you goose bumps.

Corinne May Botz teaches at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City. She has an MFA in photography. Botz will discuss her book at a lecture at ICP on October 27th. The lecture will also be on the web. In late November, she will give a lecture at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Botz cameo photo: Alexander
Private Residence, Harlan County Kentucky: Corinne May Botz

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.