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Alberta Book: Photographs by George Webber

As an urban explorer who holds a love for urbex photography, I am continually on the lookout for works published by professional photographers. My wife and I often find ourselves at the nearby Indigo/Chapters store as she is an avid bookworm who easily manages to read at least 3-4 novels a month. While she browses I always end up gravitating towards the photography/fine arts section to see what’s new. I then quickly glance through the local interest section which generally has few titles that peak my interest. However, on one of our recent “book dates”, I came across a photography book by George Webber simply called Alberta Book. I must admit that I’ve never heard of Mr Webber but the cover photo certainly caught my attention.

The book contains over 200 color photographs of Webber’s work compiled over 40 years of photographing and exploring the many forgotten Alberta towns that dot the Canadian prairies. An abundance of pictures depicting deteriorating signs, abandoned buildings, an…

Rural Exploration: Haunted homes and bugaboos

Exploring abandoned homes always tends to be creepy. Especially old rural homesteads found in the isolation of the countryside. They are generally dark, regardless if it sunny or not, covered in cobwebs that hang from floor to ceiling and are home to several creatures that scurry about. We’ve all seen enough horror movies to know that the abandoned farmhouse we’re eyeing way off in the field, just might be our last explore. Is it haunted by its victims like Rustin Parr’s house in the “Blair Witch”? Is it a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” house, where cannibals are waiting to turn unsuspecting explorers into jerky? Perhaps it is infested by demonic creatures who live in the basement like in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark? Admit it, the thought has crossed your mind if you’ve ever explored any abandoned rural home!
Do abandoned homes still hold the energy of its former occupants, whether it be good energy or bad? I believe they do. Not every home I’ve explored gave off a “weird feeling” but some certainly did. Sometimes a home, regardless of how it looks, just feels happy. I’ve also stood in front of homes that have the “classic” haunted house look to them and felt nothing. Yet I’ve stood in front of simple plain homes that just resonate with “bad vibes”. Does this mean it’s haunted? Possibly, but I generally believe it’s not. Perhaps the home itself has absorbed copious amounts of negative energy from the people who once lived within its walls. I’m sure allot of the homesteads I’ve explored over the years have seen their fair share of tragedy over the last 100 years or so. “Prairie Madness” afflicted many who settled the Canadian prairies. Depression, withdrawal, violence and suicide sometimes occurred. Despair would take hold as farming families had to deal with drought conditions and bone chilling winters. Maternal and infant mortality rates were high as women had to contend with childbirth in the isolation of the prairies. A feeling that a home is haunted is often simply a home that is brimming with unpleasant energy, which is generally harmless to the rural explorer.

I rarely explore basements. Don’t like them, they creep me out, and that’s where the bugaboos live. I’ve photographed a few basements in the past but I can’t stand the feeling that there is always something down there with me. I spend more time looking over my shoulder than I do setting up my shots. So what are the bugaboos? The word “bugaboo” has its origins in the term “bugbear”, from “bug”, meaning “goblin or scarecrow”, and “bear”, which gave form to an evil spirit that would appear as a “bear that eats small children”. This is what would became “bogey”, you know, the bogeyman who lived under your bed as a child. Bugaboos are spirits, evil fey folk, which live in abandoned homes preferring those out in the country side far away from human interference. Once a building has been empty and abandoned for a while they will move in. During the day they generally inhabit basements, dark closets, barns or any other area that generally sees no sunlight. At night, however, the home is their playground. They are sometimes responsible for paranormal phenomena that occurs in a home but are not ghosts. Footsteps, thumps, feelings of being watched and shadows that are often seen out of the corner of your eye are signs of bugaboos. They can become aggressive and will often grab, push or bite. Perhaps even attaching themselves to you in order to follow you home.

So, what is a superstitious rural explorer to do when entering a malcontent home or a home that inevitably has bugaboos? There’s not much you can do when entering a home that is loaded with negative energy, your either going to enter it or not. However, a few kind words and a statement of your intentions can go a long way with a house that may have other plans for you. I’ve caught myself once entering a home and declaring out loud that I was only there to take pictures, not do anything wrong and asking the home to “be nice” while I explore. Sounds weird doesn’t it! I started to do this every time I entered a home that just didn’t “feel right” and now it’s a strange habit. I already have to worry about rotted floors and iffy staircases, so why not, it can’t hurt! The best way to deal with bugaboos is to generally avoid them. That’s why I “don’t do” basements (also because they're just plain creepy). Iron is generally lethal to them. A few old iron nails in a pocket or iron skeleton key around your neck should do to keep them away. This is a common form of protection that many people still use today. They hang horseshoes in their homes for good luck, not realizing the origin of the practice was that the iron in them was meant to drive away evil spirits.

The creepy feelings, loud bangs and other strange occurrences is part of what makes rural exploration fun. Brave basements if you dare, but be warned the shadow out of the corner of your eye may not just be a figment of your imagination. Beware the bugaboos!

Further reading "Is It a Ghost or a Fairy?"