These Photos Attempt to Capture Paranormal Activity
Elizabeth Moran uses photography and paranormal investigators to reckon with her family's haunted history.
This story appears in VICE Magazine's Truth and Lies Issue.
I grew up hearing about the myths that surround my family’s home, what used to be a Civil War–era farmhouse on an old plantation in Memphis, Tennessee. I was told of the sounds of footsteps on the stairs each night, but was it real? Or did my family will this spirit into an imaginary existence through the telling and retelling of ghost stories?
With the help of my aunt and uncle, both paranormal investigators, I sought evidence of something that’s seemingly unprovable. We used techniques invented by Spiritualists more than a century ago alongside contemporary research tools: audio recording devices, EMF meters that measure electromagnetic fields, and laser grids that project a 532nm wavelength of light, believed by some investigators to detect visual disturbances. The tools were set up around the house, and then we waited—sometimes observing for hours at a time. After each visit, we would review the collected evidence and process photographic images of sites of activity.
The works shown here are the result of our investigations. The project’s title, Record of Cherry Road, pays homage to the original “Record of Cherry Road,” an undertaking my mother, Cary, began in the 1960s as a child seeking to document the unexplainable events occurring around her.
Through these documents, I explore my family’s own haunting as the dead continue to live through the recurrence of names through multiple generations. Cary is the name of my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, as well as my second first name. I was particularly drawn to the idea of showing vintage photographs, maps of footsteps, and written accounts of events from the 60s alongside new photographic evidence and measurements of visual and aural disturbances. Seen together, they conflate history and myth.
Record of Cherry Road’s aim, then, is to question our continued reliance on photography to prove a belief. Do we simply see what we believe, or do we believe what we see?
By creating images within the nexus of fact and faith, I confront my lack of a sixth sense in contrast to my family’s apparent sensitivity to unseen presences. Like paranormal investigators, I rely on a lifeless machine to create and validate the intangible spirit of the lived. But the resulting images, like ghost stories, are both real and imaginary.