A Ghost Is Born
This past Spring I had the good fortune to, by chance, visit Fort Burnside in Jamestown, Rhode Island. I had not made an excursion to there since the infamous day 3 years before when my camera was smashed at Fort Wetherill by a gust of wind. On past missions I have felt at times there was some sense of a premonition about exploring a particular location and this was the case in this instance. I was rewarded for my curiosity when I discovered Battery 213 - formerly a Series 200 6 inch gun battery - was open and accessible. This was especially a thrill for a bunker enthusiast like myself as it represented the first such emplacement I had gained entry to in all my years of "bunker diving" as I call it. (I can hear the gasps of envy from here.) These were World War II era designs that were the smaller caliber brothers to the massive Series 100 16" inch gun battery casemates of the renowned 1940 Modernisation Program of Harbor Defenses. Once inside I quickly discovered that the town had been using the bunker for some sort of fire training. The walls were blackened by smoke and had been drenched by fire hoses which caused the black soot to drip down the fading yellow concrete walls. The hoses were strewn across the floors and some shell rooms were packed with hay and wooden palettes in preparation for the next conflagration. The interior rooms which comprised the former command center for the battery had been arranged like an apartment with musty, waterlogged old furniture, I suppose to train firemen on navigating a smoky environment in a fire. The dampness and years of fires made the bunker smell rancid, charred and dank. Altogether there was feeling of the place being haunted by some distant tragedy, an odd sensation as the battery was never remotely in combat. But like all the World War II era emplacements I've visited there is an aura of that colossal tragedy that pervades them. I've never encountered a ghost in my travels and because of that I don't put much stock in such things, but this place certainly felt like it was somewhere one could.
I had recently acquired a Sony Handycam video camera that had the added feature of possessing a very nice projector that could project either videos or images on the camera with great clarity. While preparing for this particular mission I had, as it would turn out, ironically chosen the general theme of children in war. The command center turned apartment offered me the opportunity to project an image into total darkness from a doorway in the entrance corridor. I chose an image of a young cabin boy aboard the ill fated German liner, Wilhelm Gustloff as my first experiment. What occurred was extraordinary and was almost like bringing a ghost to life. The image did not distort against the irregular background of decrepit furnishings, but instead hung in the midst of the room like a spectre. It was as though the vague imaginings I had of a haunted, tragic place were given a plaintive face beckoning from another time.
In the photograph shown above I added some very basic flash (keeping it raw) that I bounced off the overhead thus illuminating the details of the "apartment" while preserving the ethereal quality of the projected image.
I was able to make three separate forays to the location in the Spring, but in case one were inclined to make a trip down to see Battery 213 it is currently resealed by the forces of oppression and the Town of Jamestown. On my final visit in September of last year the iron grates over the entrances had been returned to their hinges once again securing the ghosts of Battery 213 from public view.