By Elizabeth Bingham
Imagine you’re standing in a dark corridor. You were told to only move forward and to never turn back. The lights are flickering. It’s silent except for the sound of your own breath. You feel a chill like tiny needles creeping up your spine. You feel the beat of your own heart rapidly increasing and the sensation of warm blood pumping quickly through your veins. You want to shut your eyes and close them tight, as if you could blink the terror away, but you don’t dare. The lights shut off. You are surrounded in complete darkness. You stop breathing as a wave of panic overwhelms your body. Your palms are sweaty. You want to wipe them of your slacks but can’t move a finger. You wait. You still hear nothing. You inhale deeply thinking it’s all over. Just when you open your mouth to breathe, you hear bam, bam, bam! Metal bins are opening and closing on either side of you, constricting your path ahead. Lights flash on and off. You look down for a moment to check your footing and when you raise your head, two eyes are staring right back at you. You feel panic bubbling up your esophagus and try to hold it back. You look away and another pair of eyes catches yours, with red dripping down the sides. You cannot shake their gaze. They come closer. The bubbling rises into the back of your throat. They come another step closer. You look at one, then at the other. You suck in air. They’re both coming closer. You can’t hold it in. You can’t go back. There’s no one to save you, so you scream!
This is the kind of terror experienced by The Voice-Tribune’s fashion team when they were given an inside look at Louisville’s legendary Baxter Avenue Morgue during their Halloween photo shoot. Rated as one the top haunts in the Ohio River Valley area, any visitor to the site is sure to feel the eeriness that lurks inside. Once called the Vanderdark Morgue during the buildings operation in the 1900s, it was a profitable family business that was shut down suddenly in 1940 after a series of strange events and Vanderdark family turmoil. It was not until 2001 that the basement of the original building was converted into its present day haunt attraction, with the twisted history of the Vanderdark family serving as the background premise for the haunt.
When the Voice-Tribune team arrived on location, they were first given a tour of the haunted attraction, including a verbal history of the building and the Vanderdark family. The team was also repeatedly warned before and during the tour of the possibility of both seeing and feeling spirits once inside. There have been reports of several shadowy figures wandering through the basement corridors, most frequently a woman in all black. As the team crept through the haunt in single file fashion, something intended to evoke fear was around every bend. Trap doors, peep holes, windows and curtains all provide the actors of the haunt with secret ways to scare the visitors on the tour. Although the actors were not present the day of the shoot, the dangling bloody limbs and fear stricken manikins strategically placed in the darkness of the rooms were scary enough.
As the shoot began, the vibrantly colored Halloween costumes against the dark, dingy, and morbid backdrop of the morgue were an incredibly striking visual aesthetic. There was a mermaid with a bright green sequined tail, clinging to a wire fence and restrained by chains, to a 1960’s couple fully adorned with an afro wig and platforms. Two of the outfits, however, did conform to the character of the morgue and were pulled from the actual wardrobe closet used by the actors of the haunt. The male model’s outfit was even created on-site by the morgue’s wardrobe director herself, intended to make him fit the role of an insane doctor shocking his deceased patient back to life. After hours of shooting and a persistent dull uneasiness in the pit of their stomachs, luckily the shoot concluded without a single spirit sighting by a member of the team. However, as a warning to future visitors, don’t be fooled by the plastic and fake blood, because as they will warn you, what you see may not actually be fake at all!
Category: Life & Style Cover Stories