Halloween Week Ghost Stories: The Sandy Lady


I am a huge lover of scary stories so every Halloween I celebrate it with themed photoshoots. I’ve done collaborations with writers telling a creepy romantic story, a H.P. Lovecraft inspired film noir, and a collection of portraits of Walking Dead fans. This year I asked people to share with me their personal scary or ghost stories. Each story is from the person’s own experience along with their portrait.

After posting on social media that I was looking for ghost stories Julia contacted me through Facebook to share her story from her childhood;

When I was a little girl my mother, brother and I went to visit a friend in South Florida. He was a handyman from Maine who had moved down to the area to take care of his ailing mother in a big, dusty old house. After dinner, mom put me and my brother to bed in the large guest bedroom at the top of the stairs. The room had lots of windows with dusty, rough wooden floors. I dazed in and out of sleep and awoke to an old, haggard looking woman standing at the foot of my bed pouring sand on my sheets. I asked her what she was doing, “I’m cursing you to forever have sand in your bed!” She cackled, her wizened lips dry against rotten teeth. “I’m not afraid of you” I retorted, pulling myself up from the bed. I stood in front of her unafraid with my hands on my hips. She looked at me very confused. I stood there a while longer and I gradually became frightened. She looked like an old witch from a scary story. All gusto left me and I screamed for my mom and in a blur I was at the foot of her bed. She hushed me and I was put back to sleep after being reassured about witches and monsters and the fact neither existed. I remember thinking, before I settled into an uneasy sleep, that there was a lot of sand on my sheets.

How I Shot This Image

This was shot about midday under a few large trees. The sunlight created the pattern on the wall of the old condemned building. To light Julia I used a strobe with a twenty degree grid which I focused on her eyes. Behind this I placed a second strobe firing through a shoot through umbrella at about two stops below my main light. I wanted to concentrate the light hitting her eyes while giving her face an overall fill.

My first few frames were at eye level with Julia using a 35mm lens but it did not give me the feeling I was looking for. I switched the lens to a 18mm and got below her looking up at the building. This gave me more of the light streaks on the wall and allowed me to include the window. It still wasn’t giving me the feel I wanted until Julia suggested she blow out some cigarette smoke has I exposed for the frame. While I don’t support or advocate smoking a healthy lifestyle it did give me the whisk smoke to help set the eerie tone. In post all I had to do was adjust the contrast and desaturate the colors slightly.


Be sure to check back tomorrow for another Halloween story, this time something is lurking in the woods….