JustJimAZ

Portraits from the Uncanny Valley

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Watching a video the other day, I saw some pictures from the Butcher of Provincetown haunt in Scarborough, CN. On one of the walls was an old black and white portrait the face scratched out. I thought, "what a great way to tell a story"!

I know we've all seen the lenticular photos for sale everywhere from Dollar Tree to Spirit Halloween.
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These pictures tell a story too, but I find a photo with the face scratched out more unsettling. More...uncanny. Why is the photo still up if the ONLY person in it has been literally defaced? Was this done by a spirit or a living resident? It's interesting and suggests depth of backstory to me.

I started thinking about what else might be done to photographs to suggest a dark and twisted past.
Her's an interesting one:
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Was this someone's wife? Mother in Law? Sister? Mother? SOMEONE felt a need to shut her up! It may not have been because she talked too much - it might be because of the kinds of things she said. It might have been something she said only once. Here's a thought - maybe the person who scratched out the mouth is the woman in the photo herself! Maybe she cannot forgive something she said that changed her life in horrible ways. It could have been something relatively prosaic, like criticizing a child who left, never to return. Maybe it was supernatural - she cast a spell or summoned an evil? This photo definitely tells a story, but it's up to the haunter to fill in the details!

This one is interesting. The eyes alone have been burned. I think that on actual photographs - especially Polaroids - this effect could be caused by a candle or lighter. Maybe it could also be caused by water? I'm not sure about that one.
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To me, burning the eyes suggests pure hatred for the subject. Maybe even more than scratching out the mouth or even the whole face. If the vandal is also the subject, perhaps she saw something she wishes she had not. "...if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee".

Here's a variation on that theme:
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I would guess the effect itself is achieved with a hotknife, because the edges are clearly melted, yet the cuts are precise.
How they did it is not the point of this entry though. What story does this tell? The smoke damage (?) has obscured the nose, making the whole face inhuman. The story is affected by where you find this, don't you think? If it's hanging on a wall in a room that has fire damage, it has a different effect than if it's a photograph lying on a table or workbench, don't you think? Her's a thought - what if it's hanging on a wall in a room where the only other smoke and fire damage is on the wall behind the picture? Like a halo of crackled paint and blackened plaster around the frame of the portrait. THAT seems to tell a very different story, don't you think?

This one reverses the theme. The eyes are all that remains of each subject:
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In this particular photograph, I think the effect is slightly more comical than creepy, but the creep is there. What was the vandal trying to accomplish? I think it would be a bit creepier if it wasn't all straight Sharpie lines. Maybe if it was more haphazard, more frenzied, it would be creepier.

Here's the last photo I want to mention today:
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I love how the black ichor not only runs from his mouth, ears, and eyes, it also drips UP, against gravity. This photo would definitely fit in a house with a supernatural theme. This one also suggests an animated prop to me.
Now, it would take more skill than I have to figure out how to make fluid drip up. That said, there are so many cheap tablets and led screens around that one could make a video of paint and ink flowing and play it on a loop. Then the tablet could be mounted in a frame on the wall. Bonus points if the top of the frame is painted to look like the stuff has oozed out of the photograph. Double bonus points if you planed this far enough in advance that you actually painted the wall by flipping it upside down and dripping the paint, as if it had been dripping up for a long time.

Of course, you can do all those paint effects with a static photo too, suggesting this happened in the past, it is just not happening at this moment.

Looking at this photo, I started wondering about making a similar effect happen in real time. Again, making fluid drip up is beyond me, but if I'm OK with it dripping down, it could be done. I'm thinking the photograph could be coated front and back with a hydrophobic solution. Then, it would be a simple matter to have a small aquarium or fountain pump push black water out of pinholes in the photo. The water would have to run down into a hidden reservoir to be pumped back up, of course.
The hydrophobic solution should protect the photograph at least long enough to get through a single night. One would need to experiment with that. It would ALSO allow the photo to seem untouched until the pump was triggered.

My thought is it would work like this:
The guests are walking down a hall. There are some creepy portraits on the wall. Maybe one of them is hanging upside down? At some point, they trip a switch and black gunk starts running from the eyes and mouth of the photo. A really dedicated haunter would make it light up and make choking noises too. That's not a bad scare! It seems like a really great distraction for the actor in the drop panel or whatever, too.

Could this be built so the portrait looks completely normal, then when triggered, it lights up, rotates upside down and gurgles as the fluid begins to pump out? After a few seconds, it rotates back like nothing happened. Any engineer types out there up to making this work?

What are your thoughts for using creepified photos? What would bother YOU the most? What ideas do you have for making them horrifying? Please share!

Happy Haunting!
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