Connecticut is often considered the most haunted state in the country and for good reason—over the course of its 300-odd-year history, there have been countless ghastly tales and local legends passed down through generations. In our modern era, we have even seen many of these paranormal locations become the subject of popular Hollywood entertainment—some probably not too far from your hometown.
Declared “the most haunted place in Connecticut” by the famous ghost-hunting couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, Dudleytown in Cornwall, Connecticut was once a quaint village founded by English settlers in the mid-17th century. However, the land they once called home may be eternally damned. The Dudley family ventured across the Atlantic in exile after Edmund Dudley, a nobleman and relative, was beheaded for acts of treason during the reign of King Henry VII. Initially things looked promising for the budding settlement; homes were built, land was farmed and the town grew. But things didn’t stay this way for long; members began dying strange and untimely deaths, crops failed to grow and soon the demise of Dudleytown became inevitable.
In “The Apparitionists,” Peter Manseau takes us on an expedition through the beginnings of photography and its deceptions. No sooner had people invented a way of creating photographic images (whether it was a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or a hallotype) than people found ways of altering the images — and, even more relevantly, of lying about their contents and how they were obtained. A photograph, as we well know, can’t talk back. It’s like a piece of taxidermy. It can’t say to us, “No, I’m not a picture of Abraham Lincoln.” And often the provenance of a photograph, its causal connection to the world, is hidden. All we’re left with is an image that, for all intents and purposes, could have been given to us by aliens. This is where Manseau comes in. In a world overcome with death and the horrible losses of the Civil War, people turned to photography hoping to be united with deceased loved ones in perpetuity. It’s that strange combination of desire, hope and the presence of an image that seems almost alive that makes us think we’re in contact with a timeless realm that transcends death.