While passing through New Mexico, we spent the night in Albuquerque and the next day drove up to Santa Fe. We asked around for a while and found out about this chapel in a small town called Chimayo. The legend says that a man was digging a hole there and found a cross, and that the earth there was holy and held miraculous powers, being able to cure the sick. The man built a church there, that stands to this day and has a hole on the ground where people can take the dirt to bless their loved ones. It has been said that some people arrived in wheelchairs or with crutches and walked out with their own legs. Along the walls inside we can see pictures of many of those who left their blessings for cure, or to remember loved ones.
Unfortunately, they didn’t let us take pictures or record inside. And they didn’t want to talk to us on camera. But that’s all good because outside I met this sad and introspective person called Michael J. Trujillo, known as Stoney in the area. Kid call him Papa Smurf, because of the beard. Michael told me his story as if he wanted to get this off his chest. He admits to doing wrong in his life, but feels he has overcome it. He has lost everyone his loves and now lives alone in a trailer with no electricity, bathroom or water. According to him, the dirt saved him and made him see the light. He’s proud of raising skunks to set them free in the wild, and every day he checks the dumpsters to see if there are any raccoons stuck.
At the end of our chat, Michael so kindly gave me a green pepper he grew himself in the back of the chapel and proceeded to teach me how to cook it before heading back to collecting his cans.
So, as you might have noticed, we have been away for a while, but no one was forgotten. A lot stuff happened. I travelled across the globe and moved to a different country, which made things a little difficult. But now everything is back on track and the posts I owe you will be online soon.
Also, the book is on it’s way. I’ll be contacting whoever bought it to get updated addresses and I hope to have them printed out in the next couple of months.
The good news is that you guys will also be getting an interactive Newsstand Magazine for the iPad. It’s basically the same as the book, but with videos and other media. My new project envolves this media, so I will also be giving whoever contributed with any amount a free subscription of the new stuff that is to come.
Sorry for the delay guys.
George Smiley was the subject of the only official hanging that took place in the Holbrook Courthouse, AZ, on the year of 1900. Smiley became a town legend. Specially after strange things started to happen at the site he was killed. Many stories have been told. Some included beautiful blonde women that disappeared, others native american visitors that walked through doors, but surely the ghost of the only legally executed man in Holbrook tops the list of strange apparitions.
Steve Gray, a former employee of the now historical site and museum the courthouse was transformed into, recounted one of his experiences with what he believes is the ghost of the hung man. To this day, any unusual event that happens in the town Holbrook is commonly blamed on the disembodied spirit of good old George Smiley.
On the border of Missourri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma there is a mystery that amazes the people for over 100 years: The Spook Light. Many legends surround the strange light, most of them of a ghost of person holding a lantern searching for a lost loved one. Some claim to have seen the light close by, others even say that it scratched the painting of their car, but most have seen it at a distance, including me.
The E50 road, just over the state line in Oklahoma (to technically we were in OK), is known for decades as “the spook light road”. We heard of the story and decided to head there early, before sunset. We found the road and parked on the side and waited. It got dark and we waited more. Nothing except crickets and the beautiful noise of the mid-western nature.
Around 8 a car passes and stops right next to us. I thought for sure he was going to come over and ask if we needed help. “Have you seen it yet?” – says the man in the car. “Nothing yet, is this the best spot to see it?” – I reply. “Sure is. I’ve seen it up there. Good luck!” – he says pointing ahead of us and continues up the road. A few minutes later a pickup full of people in the back parks a few yards ahead of our car and waits. I could hear them laughing and having a good time. Soon, the road was full of cars parked and everyone came out and started to chat about their experiences.
In a red pickup, Matthew Worton, brought his 4 year-old-son son to see the legendary light. Worton has seen the light before and wants to share this experience with his boy. In another car Dawn Harman, who saw the light 20 years earlier, returns with her kids to show them the Spook Light. A woman, whose name she didn’t want published, told me that she doesn’t even care what it is. She just likes to go there on the weekends. Lloyd Norris has been to this road to see the light a few times in the last 50 years and came with his wife and granddaughter. He already had brought his son 20 years earlier. They all gather and share what they have seen in a communal experience that seems to be so much stronger than the legend itself. The Spook Light is a tradition passed down from generation to generation that brings fond memories of the trip to small town Seneca, Missourri.
Suddenly someone comes down the road alerting everyone: “I SAW IT! It’s up the hill that way!”. The whole group goes back to their vehicles and heads to the spot. I start to wonder what is it we will see. A ghost? A hovering light?
“There it is”, says Billy Black at the top of the hill. “Is that it?” – someone in the back asks. “Right beside the tower?” “Yeah, that’s it”. A little light on the top of a hill was that night’s Spook Light. The interesting fact was that people try to pinpoint exactly where the source of the light is and fail to do so. With cell phones and radios many people – even police officers and investigators – have tried to find the light with no success. From a distance, the light can be seen. When you get close to it, it disappears and reappears behind you. So you can see it at a certain distance and then it is gone. I don’t know if I believe it is a ghost or something beyond we can understand, but it is there. I saw it. I’d say that if this was 130 years ago, it was very spooky. Today we have so many lights to throw us off.
If you are ever in the area, stop by for a few hours and I’m sure you’ll see it.
As we were driving through Arizona, we went past the city of Holbrook. We decided to stop by the tourist information center and were surprised to see it was in the old jailhouse, now deactivated and turned into a museum (same as in Marion, IL, where I shot my other ghost story). There we found out about Steve, an old employee of the place that says he has experienced all sorts of strange things in his years at the museum. Unfortunately, we had very short time and couldn’t hang out more and check out the place at night or anything. We shot the b-roll before the interview, so we lacked so many nice explanatory shots… but I guess that’s just the way this kind of improvised documentary rolls.
Many times during our trip we passed by the historical Route 66. Times have changed and what used the be the Mother Road of America is now an almost forgotten road, full of nostalgia and bits of the past. Some restaurants still hang on to the glorious times and survive with the tourism of the people that decide to leave Interstate 40 to have a glimpse of what used to be one of the most travelled roads in the US.
Steve Gray has seen objects fly around the room, felt cold spots and seen several ghosts in the old courthouse in the small town of Holbrook, AZ. Gray told us all about what he has experienced. At this moment we are editing the footage and will post as soon as it’s ready.
The moon rises as the sun sets just outside of Chimayo. It is very difficult to get this shot right, the moon is so bright in relation to the rest.
Chimayo is a small town in New Mexico, north of Albuquerque, and home to the “Holy Dirt”. The city’s Santuario is a little church built on sand that is said to be sacred and miraculous. Michael Trujillo is one of the people that considers himself blessed by the sand and god. A man with a rough life, the can collector says he destroyed his life with drugs, lost his family and murdered a man, but now is a new person, because of the Holy Dirt.
I was hoping to post full stories as I travelled, but that has shown to be impossible. Unfortunately, I end up getting too tired and am exhausted the next day. I have slept in my clothes and on the computer for the last two days. I will concentrate now on gathering the stories and publishing them as soon as I can, maybe soon after the trip. I will keep the blog updated, though.
I also had some cell phone issues and all the photos and tweets I wanted to do from the road got compromised too. I have fixed that.
Another issue I have been dealing with – and I knew this would be a challenge from the start – is the difficulty in finding stories, contacting the subject and shooting the piece in such a short period of time. I am very glad we found a story today, I will post a preview of it.
We got totally rained out while driving through Oklahoma. We had a day of editing in the car. And it’s taking a little longer than I hoped to get the storied edited. There is a lot of audio. I think we might have to post some stuff after the trip, don’t want to waste precious time editing in a hotel room.
We started our day in Joplin MO by driving around town, using the little go-pro camera attached to our front shield, we made pictures of parts of the town that were devastated by the tornado that hit the city last May. There is still a lot of debris from whatever remained of houses, schools, churches, factories, etc. Very few reconstructions are happening at this point. We’ve seen just a couple of houses being rebuilt.
Based on some books we read and research we did online, we found out about an abandoned cemetery called Peace Church Cemetery. This place is said to be haunted by the ghost of Billy Cook, a serial killer who was supposedly buried at the grounds after his execution (information about this is conflicting). As his grave had been vandalized, the body was exhumed and transferred to an undisclosed location on the cemetery, where there is no identification headstone. No one currently takes care of the cemetery, the grass is overgrown and many of the gravestones are falling apart. We ran across a lady also taking pictures, and she told us she was a local amateur photographer and she wanted to register the place before Halloween, when people vandalize the location.
Seneca is a very small town, only two thousand people live there. We walked around and started asking the locals about the Spook Light. Because of Bruno’s urgent need to have clean clothes, we headed to the local laundry mat, where we met Valery Nator, a 3rd grade teacher, who not only knew about the story, but also claimed to have seen it many times.
After interviewing her we decided to go check the place out. It was still early in the afternoon, around 3pm, when we found the road E 50, which is also known as the Spook Light Road. There is nothing too impressive about the road, besides the fact that it crosses the State Line, so officially we had left Missouri and were in Oklahoma.
We waited for many hours, which were of expectation and curiosity to see the light. For our delight, around 9pm many cars started to show up and park to wait for the light as well. Many people there reported to have already seen the light, that no one knows what it is, and that this story has been going on for many years. As a matter of fact, they informed us that the legend has been passed from generation to generation, and that their parents and grandparents had also seen the mysterious light. A little past 10pm we were finally able to see the light. Around 20 people gathered there, fascinated by this blinking yellow light in the far distance, which moved a little, and sometimes seemed to be two spots of lights instead of one. They told us no one had seen the light up close, because if you drive towards it, you simply lose sight of it. One by one, people left, and so did we, wondering where that light came from, but mostly, why are people so fascinated by a small spot of light that can only be seen from a long distance.
PS.: As a personal note, I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the Spook Light. My imagination made me believe I would be able to see it up close and almost touch it, but I guess imagination is always more interesting than reality.
This morning we left Joplin, MO, towards Oklahoma. Right on the border is a little town called Seneca. We heard yesterday about this legend in the area about a floating ball of light that everyone has seen and that has been around for over 100 years. And it seemed like a nice town to do my laundry.
As I take out my underwear and socks from the dryer, I start a conversation with a woman that was folding her clothes. Valerie Nader is a school teacher and was born and raised in Seneca. And, of course, she has seen the famous Spook Light. She gave us a wonderful interview, that will be posted soon (I hope), and told us we should check the place out today. We did.
So, we left Carbondale early in the day and headed towards Cape Girardeau, MO. We drove through Anna and saw the signs for the “Trail of Tears”, which I read about during our research period of the trip. This Historical route refers to the relocation of the Native American tribes following the Indian Removal Act from 1830. Unfortunately, we could not stop to do some more research, as we have a tight schedule. In Cape Girardeau we visited and made images of the historical Fort D, which was built in 1861 in the beginning of the Civil War. Later we ran into a worker of the railroad who talked to us about things to do and see in the region. As a curious fact: when people realize you have a camera in your hand, they come talk to you and many want to have their picture taken. Something to think about!
We then headed to Springfield, MO, around lunch time and arrived there around 5pm. It is funny how we look for one thing and end up finding another. We went to the oldest part of town in search of theaters, buildings, old constructions where we could find stories for our project, but instead, the new was the surprise in Springfield. Every first Friday of the month, local musicians gather in this part of town to play their songs and make some money. The place gets very lively and active, and as we walked from block to block we heard a little bit of everything: high-schoolers creating songs on the spot with words their audience requested, classical music being played by a string trio, a metallophone played with spoons, etc. When we asked the locals about the ghost stories of the town, they seemed uninterested in the subject and commented that it is more of a touristy thing.
We told people of the nature of our project and that we were driving all the way to California, many people encouraged us to go to the Grand Canyon, so we are giving the idea some thought. It is not exactly on our way, but maybe a small detour would be worth it.
We decided to spend the night in Joplin, MO, where we arrived around midnight very tired but looking forward to the remaining of the trip. Let’s see what we find out of interesting today to tell you.
If you made it to the end of this long post, thank you!
The title kind of resumes the life of what we found in southern Missouri. I have made a selection of photos of today and put them in a gallery. We started our day in Cape Girardeau, right on the Mississippi river, then went through Elsinore and ended up in Springfield.
In Elsinore we took a break for lunch in an interesting place. It had all these tables with phones and bibles on them. I wonder if it’s for talking to god. Either way, “only credit cards are accepted”.
Springfield is a college town, full of kids from everywhere around the midwest and the States. Their folklore is modern. Old tales don’t seem to apply anymore. I stand corrected, on a street corner, a group of christian protesters held signs saying “True christians fight sin, not war” and beside them a student wore a sign that read “obnoxious signs are the devil”. Some things don’t change.
Street music was everywhere in this town. While I still searched for folklore, Elisa pointed out that these street musicians would be a interesting tale. For centuries stories have been told through music and street musicians where the barer of these lores. A young high-schooler by the name of Nate Crim had that role today in Springfield. As classmate Connor Coch – dressed in a movie-like blue suit, head to toe – gathered people willing to donate a dollar, Crim would improvise and make songs about whoever added to their can.
I have also over estimated my capacity of not sleeping and working. I will publish today’s story as soon as possible, but what I need now is rest.
P.S.: I haven’t figured out how to put the pictures in the gallery in order, sorry.
Not much luck in finding good stories yet. We will probably spend the night in Springfield and head to Joplin before sunrise.
Some photos should be up later tonight or tomorrow. Had some phone problems that delayed our departure.
We’re ready to roll!
It’s 6 am in Carbondale, IL, and we are about to leave. Follow us, spread the word! We should be updating with content at any moment!
Here we go!
So I should have said this by now, but I haven’t. The reason this idea all started is because I am moving all my stuff to Berkeley, CA. So we are doing the trip in a moving truck, which won’t make the trip the easiest. Anyways, yesterday I stuck all my belongings in the back of the truck and tested out the new little Go Pro camera around Carbondale, IL. Here’s how it went.
Here is a little about the equipment we will use on the road.
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Research is an important part of every documentary. We want to anticipate what is ahead of us the most we can. Part of the challenge in this trip to find stories, but the more knowledge I have of the area, the better.
Right now I’m at the SIUC library in Carbondale with a stack of book trying to find some story leads.
Now, a new adventure is about to start. On October 7th I should start a road trip from Carbondale, IL, to Berkeley, CA, taking the historic Route 66, with the help of fellow filmmaker and Brazilian Elisa Herrmann. The concept is still the same as the previous project but with a few major differences: now I have better equipment and more experience. But challenge still stands. We have 8 days to cross half the US and find stories to tell and tell them properly.
This website will be updated everyday with a photo gallery and stories that we gather. Short video documentaries will be posted as often as we are able to. Both me and Elisa will be posting our experiences in the blog section as frequent as possible, as well as on our Twitter account. Be sure to follow our RSS to keep yourself updated.
As I mentioned in a previous post, story ideas are more than welcome. I might add that places to crash at during our trip will be greatly appreciated.
A few years ago me and James Durbin, a SIUC classmate that shares similar interests, decided to continue my folklore project idea and drive around Southern Illinois to find stories. We bought a few books and took the car and drove. Went through West Frankfort, Johnston City, McLeansboro and many other small towns checking out what stories people had to tell. Every town had their own unique legends and also shared some common ones, with small differences.
While we were at the cemetery in Johnston City, we met a woman called Helen, a historian that knows a lot about Williamson County known as “Bloody Williamson” in the prohibition days. After giving us an interview about Hook’s grave (that supposedly smelled like roses when someone knocked on the crypt’s door – and it DID!), she mentioned that “oh, and I also work at the old county jail in Marion, and it’s haunted”. We knew we had found our story.
We drove to Marion to meet Helen and the ghosthunter at 12am. This is footage of the actual whole drive with some music I composed and other two time lapses I just stuck in there to make the image fit the length of the audio.
I personally, didn’t know what to expect before the ghosthunt. I am a very skeptical person when it comes to the unknown, but I also had something inside me saying “what if I actually see something?”. I didn’t. But it was scary. We made sure that there were no tricks and we had our eyes on every move. Nothing happened.
In 2007, while working as a journalist in my homestate of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), I decided I wanted to find out untold tales of the region. The RS has a long and diverse history that goes from independence war against Brazil and slavery to modern tales of ghosts hailing cabs and vanishing in mid air. And I was sure there was so much more that was untold or almost forgotten.
So one september afternoon me and my two friends Nathaniel Vanzetta and Fabrício Pontin decided to drive to Rio Pardo in search of such tales. On the way, we stopped at an abandoned mine site, whose sign we saw by chance, in Arroio dos Ratos. There over a hundred miners had died in the 1920′s. Leandro, the government employee that took care of the site told us about all the rich history was buried there and the ghost stories that surrounded the place. He also told us how the history there was dying, with little government support and almost no one to visit. This only strengthened my will to continue the project.
For an inexperienced reporter, a philosopher and an advertiser, I guess we did a pretty job. Essentially, this is how this whole idea started. This was the embryo of what I am now hope to experience crossing the USA. Below are some photos I took that day.
I have always been passionate about history, culture and folklore. When I was a little kid I loved to read Monteiro Lobato‘s tales. Lobato is a Brazilian author that wrote a set of books that mixes Brazilian indigenous folklore with european mythology and his own fiction. I was completely fascinated with these stories and the fact that they were so close to my surroundings. I noticed that people actually believed in this folklore. The human ability to create fantastic and surreal stories and take them as reality fascinated me. These tales illustrate how creative and complex the human mind is and should not be forgotten.
Fastforward 20 years and this fascination still beats in me. My interest now lies in people and what makes them who they are. Who are these people that believe in ghosts, the undead, a headless mule on fire and so many other tales told for so long? My intention is not to show if these stories are real or not, but to recount them and let others experience the strength of the lore in a community.
I see my job as a journalist in this project is to find compelling stories of people that have tales to tell. I hope I am able to show who these people are and what these stories represent in their life.
Please, feel welcome to contribute with suggestions of stories and places to visit in the commentary section.