Around a year ago I still dabbled in modeling. By far the scariest experience I have ever had was this shoot. It wasn’t an incident so much as the environment and feelings it generated. Thought it would make an interesting short read. I’ve posted few pics from the shoot. The goal of this session was to produce some dark and rather creepy imagery. I hope to squeeze more pics from Dan eventually. 😉
Chilly winter rain pelted the ground as Dan and Lauren scurried across the street, headed for a door in a shadowy underground parking garage. Dan knew exactly where he was going, and Lauren followed him to the door not more than a few yards ahead. He sighed in relief to see a sliver of an opening. He had his photography equipment bundled under one arm and a hefty backpack on his shoulders. A black mini flashlight beamed from his free hand. Lauren carried a huge canvas bag over one shoulder and a Wendy’s coffee in the other. They squeezed through the door at 4:15pm, and Dan motioned for her to descend the cement stairs which appeared before them. Lauren juggled her coffee and bag and yanked a blue flashlight out of the top of the bag, clicking it on. Their flashlights exposed wire cables that snaked over the ground, debris, dust, and other unknown particles. They clodded down the stairs, turned on the landing and went down the last few steps before heading into another passageway, which would lead them directly into an abandoned hospital in Kansas City, Kansas.
Now completely pitch dark except for the weak glow their flashlights cast, Dan commented about how a miner’s helmet would have been helpful. Lauren groaned under the weight of her bag. It held 3 pairs of shoes, and a huge assortment of clothes and props. The temperature felt nicer on the inside, but it was still uncomfortable in here. The giant room they were in held many ancient-looking shelves and carts, old hospital bed frames, wires, and equipment. Shattered glass littered the cement floor. They crunched over the mess and headed for the hallway ahead, stepping over a large pole with rusty nails protruding from it. The air held a dank, moldy stench. Dan wanted to stop and tie a handkerchief over his face in order to block as many toxic particles and dust from entering his lungs as he could. Lauren stretched a thin, feeble nurse’s mask over her face and pretended like that would help.
Dan brought a thick, black sharpie marker with him so they could mark the walls as they explored the hospital. He had been in the hospital previously with some photographer friends and they nearly got lost. Now he was ready, Hansel and Gretel style. Still, uneasiness had taken over Lauren as reality hit her: they were in a closed off abandoned hospital with barely any light and biohazardous material floating around. Homeless people could be hiding anywhere with weapons, used drug needles…and rotten teeth. They listened carefully for any odd noises. The only sound was the distant pattering of rain outside the building – otherwise the hospital remained deadly silent. At this point the struggle to hold everything overcame Lauren and she made the executive decision to leave her coffee on a ledge nearby. They moved on down the hall, Dan squiggling arrows on the wall to mark their way. “Here’s the morgue,” he pointed across the hall. Stepping in, he let out an angry gasp and cried, “No! They took the autopsy table! Those bastards! It was here last time.” He shook his head angrily. They would come back to the morgue later. Lauren grimaced as she noted the rusty old body bins and blood stains on the floor. “That’s fake blood from a previous shoot,” Dan reassured her. A warning sign nearby reminded them that they were in a biohazardous zone.
Up ahead there was a fork in the hallway. They veered to the right, balancing over old wooden boards, chunky ceiling debris and old computer equipment on a cart. Broken glass crunched under their feet. Another long hallway loomed ahead. Windows that lined the upper part of the hallway cast a dim, eerie light. They were boarded up so flashlights were still necessary. They crossed into some rooms in the middle of the hall, seeing old X-ray equipment and other medical machinery. They found a room with some stainless steel cabinets with see-through doors. They knew they had found their first place. Lauren told Dan to go away and she peed in the corner, marking her territory. That coffee had made her bladder sensitive. Always a prepared girl scout, she had brought a roll of toilet paper with her for occasions such as this. She pulled on her boots and tutu and told Dan to come back in. He had been exploring other rooms. He nearly hit his head on a metal contraption that hung from the ceiling. Lauren hung her coat on it. He set up his stand which held an umbrella-like contraption. Lauren didn’t know what any of the equipment was called, but she knew one thing: Dan knew what he was doing and did his job well. Her heart was beating fast as she took off her mask. If you held the flashlight still, you could see dust and debris floating around in the air. A feeling of claustrophobia settled over her and she could feel pressure on her chest. They were stuck down here in the dark. To take her mind off of that scary thought, she began thinking of poses inside the steel cabinets. They were spotless on the inside. She scrunched up, stuffing her tutu and boots inside the cabinet. Dan took some test shots, and soon they were on their way, her moving around, and him suggesting various poses and angles. 15 minutes and the first “look” was done. She bid him go away again and she changed into a sleek, black catsuit-esque outfit. She packed up her things and told him she was ready to move on. He folded up the various equipment and they left the room, their footprints in the dust.
They trudged through more crap on the floor and Dan kept saying they needed to find a staircase that led upstairs. He couldn’t remember where it was from last time. They seemed to wander endlessly, around and around…looking for the staircase. The uneasiness began to gnaw at Lauren’s stomach again. You will never escape this filthy, pitch black pit of hospital hell, it said. You will suffocate from the dust, rotting walls and cancerous asbestos. “Are you sure it was here?” Lauren whimpered.
Finally, Dan realized the stairs lay beyond a door they had passed several times. They wrenched it open and an even stronger moldy stench entered their nostrils. More trash and glass lay all over the steps – old beer cans from homeless powwows, fast-food wrappers, dust, dust, and more dust. She was glad she hadn’t seen any used condoms or syringes. They were probably buried beneath the rubble, though. They climbed to the next floor and discovered the hospital’s lobby. Lauren felt slightly relieved as they were on actual ground floor now, not in the creepy basement area. Still, old wooden cabinet pieces, glass, trash and old furniture lay all over the place. They wove in and out of the rooms and Dan decided that nothing fit the image he was going for on this floor. They looked for the staircase door, and after a bit of struggle, found it once again, climbing higher into the crumbling, stinky edifice. Dan kept saying there was a bathing area with a neat, porcelain green bathtub that he was determined to find. They looked high and low for the tub on the next floor, but it wasn’t to be found. It seemed like this floor was mainly office space.
Once again they found the staircase door and climbed to the next floor. Their search was in vain – they found bathing areas, but none with the green tub that Dan longed to take photos of. They did, however, find some open windows in a room at the end of the hall. Lauren, who had put on her nurses mask again, ripped it off and inhaled the fresh, cold air. Her stomach settled down, for she felt closer to civilization as there was traffic below them, where real people lived and breathed, unlike them, who were trapped inside a hellish old building with still, dank air and the dreadful feeling of decay. She wanted to leave but knew it would take an eternity to go all the way back down to the basement, sifting through mounds of trash, hoping they could find their way out.
“Let’s go up another floor, that tub has to be up there,” Dan commanded. Lauren mumbled “okay,” and mindlessly shuffled behind Dan, the canvas bag slicing into her shoulder which burned in agony. Thankfully she had packed comfy shoes to walk around in. One floor up and they still couldn’t find that precious tub. At the end of the hall there was an expanse of open windows, some tables, chairs and an old gyno table with stirrups. They knew they had found a real treasure. Lauren unloaded her stuff on a nearby table and Dan prepared for creepy hospital shoot: phase 2. Lauren pulled on her heels and took a handmirror out of the bag. She powdered her face, which had become sweaty from all the movement. She made sure her makeup looked flawless. She poufed her hair. It was go-time. Even though it was a gyno table, she didn’t want the photos to look sick and perverted. The point of the shoot was to be creepy-beautiful. The catsuit was tight on her 5’2 frame, but it made for some nice curves. She worked the gyno table, posing in various ways until Dan suggested they get some head-shots.
Lauren wasn’t necessarily a fan of headshots – it was a weakness of hers – she desperately wished for some nice headshots but usually up-close shots were hard to pull off, since she made so many goofy expressions and didn’t possess much of a jawline. But they made it work, and she tried to get a little crazy looking. At this point in time the wind was picking up and blowing through the windows, creating a chilly, shadowy atmosphere. They finished up phase 2 and he went exploring while she changed into her nurse outfit, which consisted of white pumps, red fishnet tights, a white shirt dress splattered in blood with a medical cross on the chest, a face mask, a hat-piece, and latex gloves, all blood-splattered. With fake blood of course. Before donning the heels she pulled on her comfy shoes and Dan said they were going up more stairs, still on the quest for the green tub. A few flights of stairs later and more exploration and they never found the tub. A puzzled and disappointed Dan suggested they go all the way back down to the basement to look for hospital beds and hit the morgue before leaving. Lauren was only too glad to go back down, closer to the exit. She might survive this trip yet!
Nearly out of breath, they reached the basement and its putrid stench. Wandering in circles, they looked for a certain room with hospital beds they had spied earlier. After meandering around the ground floor for another 20 minutes they finally gave up and headed over to the morgue. Lauren shivered in anticipation. They were almost done. Once in the room, Dan set up his equipment and she began practicing poses. He took some test shots, the standard procedure, and then phase 3 began. Eventually Dan told her to pull out the body tables from the slots and Lauren was thankful she had brought latex gloves. The tables were filthy and rusty. She kept doing creepy, broken down poses. “Ok, I think we’re good,” Dan said. Lauren breathed (or tried to breathe) a sigh of relief. He went around the corner while she changed into sweatpants and comfy shoes again. Then she followed him down the hall, past his drawn-on chubby marker arrows, and they trekked back to the sliver in the door they had originally entered.
Lauren grinned as they walked through the inside parking lot, and out the original door (but not before Dan cautiously peeked out for cops) and into the fresh air. They were alive! They got some awesome photos! And lung cancer in 10 years, that nasty voice in Lauren’s head told her. Shut your mouth! she told it as they walked back to their vehicles up the street. She thanked Dan before parting ways and realized that she could still smell that building, even inside her Jeep. When she got home she threw away most of the contents of the canvas bag, including the filthy bag itself.