Last weekend, Alison and I headed out to a favorite spot for day trips and quick overnighters: the quaint town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, located about an hour and a half outside our home in the Philadelphia suburbs. As longtime readers are aware, I've written about the place before.
Anyway, it being fall and close to Halloween, there was a cool outdoor festival going on, with pumpkins all over the place, other fall-themed decorations, and lots of Halloween stuff for sale. There were also a number of Halloween-themed activities going on, including one of those walking tours of supposed haunted houses, and a ghost tour of the local historic prison, which was in operation from 1870 to 1996.
Well, after a nice dinner, we decided to get in the spirit of Halloween and sign up for the ghost tour of the prison. The prison's claim to fame is that, in its early days, it imprisoned many members of the Molly Maguires, a secret society of Irish miners who worked the Pennsylvania coal mines of Lehigh and Carbon Counties. Depending on what historical account you read, the Molly Maguires were either rabble-rousing thugs who engaged in kidnapping and murder, or innocent miners who were framed for crimes by the rich mine owners when they protested too vigorously for better wages and working conditions, and- even worse- tried to form a labor union. No matter which story is true, one thing is certain: many of the Molly Maguires were eventually tried, convicted, and hanged, with several of them being executed right there in the prison at Jim Thorpe.
Of course, the guides for the ghost tour made good use of the Molly Maquires during their narration, telling us how their restless ghosts still wandered the prison, lamenting their unjust deaths at the hands of their rich, corrupt employers. We were told to take a photo of a particular second-floor jail cell, because "a ghostly image often shows up on digital camera images, hovering near the cell door". Below is my murky photo of that cell door, shot looking up from the first floor of the prison. The gallows structure employed for the executions is visible on the right. Anyway, I don't see a ghostly image in the photo. Do you?
However, when grabbing a drink with my wife after the tour was over, I idly scrolled through the several other camera phone pictures I had taken during the tour, and stopped at the very first picture I took at the prison that evening. It's another murky photo, I'm afraid, but viewable, showing the prison's entrance as we stood outside waiting for our group's turn to enter. The bottom of the photo shows the heads of the people in line in front of us, facing the stone and brick archlike entrance that beckoned everyone inside. But when I looked above the heads in the photo, something caught my attention: the sight of something else perhaps beckoning everyone inside?
Specifically, is it just me, or does there seem to be the upper body of a figure hovering between the two strings of dangling lights, arms spread, looking down at everyone? The figure even seems to be wearing old-style suspenders, like a miner would, though that last descriptive flourish is probably attributable to two of the many outward-facing ridges spaced a foot or so apart in the stone surrounding the opening. But the head, shoulders, arms, and chest of the figure seem to be just, well... there, above the doorway. Anyway, here's the photo, so you can take a look for yourself:
Okay, enough creepy Halloween stuff. I make no claims about the photo. I'm sure it's just a trick of the light and shadows, coincidentally creating the rough shape of a male figure seemingly hovering over the prison door. But I did think it would be fun to show it to you. Ghostly images in photographs capture our imagination, even though none of us believe they're actually real. Right?