It's not very often you stand in an old country house, staring past plasterboard bowing out from the wall, through windows looking onto a gloomy southerly aspect, and feel a tingling knot of primal fear in your stomach.
But after the owner of the house put her hand to her chest and said emphactically 'this is the bad room. This is where the bad man is", I found myself working hard to keep that prickling sensation at bay. And it wasn't because I'm easily sucked in by stories of ghosts. I'm not.
Leaving the foreboding home minutes later, my details exchanged, I was grateful. The alien sense of unease was lifting and I was filing the whole experience away in my catalogue of notable otherworldly experiences, comfortable with the thought that at least we didn't have to use it for a location.
Of course, we did.
I had been hunting for locations for the new music video for the Bamboos called I Got Burned — a swaggering Memphis-inspired rock and roll tune featuring an Australian rock icon — and finding very little.
The clip demanded a low built, timber country home, the sort two couple might have made were they very much in love. 60 odd years ago.
Speeding around in my black, dust covered Celica with absolutely no air conditioning, I was at the end of my 2nd day with very little to show but sweat patches and a renewed appreciation of climate control.
Somewhere north of Epping, west of Whittlesea and south of Sydney, I happened to spy, atop a hill in the middle of gently rolling farmland, a cluster of trees and the hunched bulk of a country home. Driving down a long, tree lined gravel drive, I found myself parked outside what looked to be the perfect place. Weatherboard, white, it didn't have the front porch with steps leading down to a drive that the script required, but it had exactly what all the other potential locations didn't: character.
When I stepped onto the front porch, I could hear distant voices.
'Hello?', I offered into the gloom of the front entrance. "Hello ..?"
Silence greeted me. Perhaps I heard the distant hissing intake of a disapproving breath. Perhaps it was the wind in the trees.
On the back porch sat the owners Rebecca & Joe — sipping a GnT and VB respectively — and Bosley, their rotund labrador, who at that moment was sporting a very fashionable pair of fire-engine-red doggy shoes.
After Bosley and I caught up (he appeared to have missed me greatly since the non-time we'd last not-met), I was greeted warmly by the owners who were all too happy to show me their place in aid of my Bamboos project.
"Of course, our place is totally haunted," said Bec over her sundowner.
"That's fine," I said, brushing it off, "so's mine."
"Mate," said Joe, "I moved into 2 years ago. Didn't believe in ghosts or anything."
Joe had the soft features of a man of friendly character, but who carried a no nonsense tradey's sensibilities. I could see the harrowed look uncomfortably in his houndog eyes.
"I woke up one night, felt this presence standing above me, you know?" his face drawn down at the memory of it. "I didn't see it, but I could feel her watching. Now, I don't sleep with the door open, nothin'."
"Yeah, she loves me, but she really doesn't like you, does she Joe?" Bec said with something akin to relish.
"Jesus, you guys," I finally let out, standing there and feeling the oppression weigh down, whether imagined or no, "how can you keep living here?"
"Oh, you just get used to it, don't you?" said Bec, turning to her husband for confirmation, "besides, she really loves me."
Of course, everyone I mentioned this to said we had to film in the house.
And as we neared the shoot date and no other options arose, it looked like we did. When, the day before we were set to shoot and desperate for the house, Bec came back to us asking for a location fee that basically overwrote any renumeration I was going to walk away with, the decision was simple: ghosts or no, payment or no, we needed that house.
With a modicum of reluctance and a dash of perverse anticipation, I had to admit: we were heading to the Overlook hotel, and there wasn't nothin' I could do about it.
To the spirits of the house," I whispered from inside the cabinet of a bathroom the Prince had ordered built.
"I ask for your ... forgiveness. And permission. I promise you we come with the upmost respect and ... good will ... and ..."
Snatching a moment to myself I was finally, for the first time in my adult life, behaving as though the spectoral otherworld existed. Perched in the tiny bathroom of this house, asking ghosts to let us film while the crew moved purposefully through the hallways, it was a strange, new experience.
"Do not be afraid ... we come to honour your home and do it ... justice."
Then, for no other words came mind: "thank you."
And for good measure: "thank you."
After all that, I stepped in to the headspace of a shoot and put all notions of a haunting out of mind.
Although standing in the living room again, I admit I felt my hackles raise. And at another point I noticed one of the paintings in the hall at an odd kilter. I quietly righted it.
But when you're shooting the likes of Lance Ferguson and his secret guest rock 'n' roll royalty vocalist, you do find yourself with other things to focus on. Especially when you're shooting everything in one take, at magic hour (that moment after sun down) on steadicam, from exterior to interior, with a signficant light change that needed to be set up in 15 seconds ...
At one point too I almost drenched the RED Epic we were shooting on with a voluminous jet from an unhitched gardent spout. Which was another of those moments fate could have diverged us on an entirely different path.
Suffice to say, for several hours we had more than enough to think about beyond possible retribution from the other side.
Everyone sat in disbelief, riveted, roast chicken half forgotten, several spines chilled.
Bec, Joe and their cousin had all regaled us with their frightening stories. Juddering beds, games of cat and mouse in empty hallways, sudden grabs from behind, feet pounding across floorboards, even a posession.
As pulp paper back as it sounds, it was enough to unsettle the whole synergy of a shoot, and I was glad it all got delivered to us afterwards, over a reassuring roast and cold beers.
"I'll know tonight or tomorrow if she's upset," said Bec to me later as I thanked her in person.
"Don't worry," she said to my noise of foreboding, "she'll only hate you, not me."
"I saw her for the first time a couple of months ago," Bec said from the Bad Man's room.
"I was getting ready to leave, in the car, and I looked up at this window—" she indcates the bedroom panes "—and out of the corner of my eye, I saw her at the curtain, like this:" Bec mimes retreating from the window, closing the curtain. "And I thought to myself, I have got to get out of here!"
Seems even if Rebecca knows she's liked, the terror still holds sway.
Which is kind of neat, considering the nature of this clip, the nature of this song, with a theme that explores blame, the notion of two sides to a coin. 'He that makes his bed ill, lies there' was the quote I opened the clip's treatment with. And finding ourselves in a house apperently dogged by the lingering presences of people who have refused to move on, a woman who alledgedly loves one owner of the house, but struggles with the other, we found ourselves with a whole other incarnation of the theme.
Even in death, it seemed, blame lingers on, to make grateful heroes and unwilling scapegoats of the living. Rather apt, that.
And how about you? What stories have you got of encounters from beyond the grave? Favourite films on the subject? Or classic stories you always thought would make the perfect transition to the screen?
IF YOU FANCY, FOLLOW FROM ON HIGH & STAY TUNED FOR THE RELEASE OF I GOT BURNED IN THE COMING WEEKS ...
Coo-ee is a section I dedicate to moving you on to somewhere or someone in the world doing work I reckon you ought to check out. So this post I cup my hands to my mouth and shrilly cry out: PAUUUUUUUUUL PHILLLLLLLLLIPSOOOOOOOOOOON!
All the photographs you've looked at today come from the roving eye of Paul Philipson. Gleefully sardonic, entertainingly cock sure and possessing a sensibility that captures the perfect mix of style and humanity, he is a rock and roll photographer in the greatest sense. You can view his work at paulphilipson.com.au or email him direct at email@example.com