France has over 30,000 castles, and sadly a large number of them are abandoned or at risk. But let’s meet the peculiar ghost on a quest to haunt them through his lens…
French photographer and explorer, Jim Carroll, who also goes by the pseudonym “A Peculiar Ghost”, is one of our favourite follows on Instagram. There’s no shortage of urban exploration accounts and profiles on the internet, but there’s something particularly intriguing about Carroll’s work. Perhaps it’s his choice of rarely documented locations – their history always meticulously and respectfully researched, but their co-ordinates never disclosed. (The photographer, like any responsible explorer, is very protective of the sites he visits, which all too often, are also frequently found by callous vandals). Perhaps it’s his alter-ego, the peculiar ghostly figure under a white sheet, haunting a dark and dusty hallway, an overgrown greenhouse, or the crumbling front steps of a once majestic household, full of forgotten stories and memories, both beautiful and tragic.
“These are this kind of forgotten, timeless places that leave a strange feeling of joy and sadness. Many questions jostle in our head … I contemplate every little detail,” writes Jim, who explores Europe’s ruins with his long-time companion Ludivine (aka MySpiritisTorn), taking turns to photograph each other in their staged ghostly set-ups.
If records of the previous inhabitants of the location are lost, Carroll accompanies his photographs with his own stories evoked by the powerful emotions that take over when exploring such poignant places.
In a recently-visited stunning 19th century greenhouse left to the elements, which Jim says he’d dreamed of staging for more than a year, he pictures the scene from another time…
“A small bench is on the left, also overgrown. No one has been sitting on it for a long time, and then I imagine a man sitting on it, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. The song of birds all around rocks him as the sun slowly rises. Life here was supposed to be relaxing and magical, but it ended tragically.”
The question is always the same: What could have led to the abandonment of this beautiful place? And while the answers may vary slightly for each sleeping beauty he encounters, “We know that abandoned places do not have much to do with their potential beauty but rather money problems,” says Jim.
On the rare occasion, the sites Carroll visits (like the property pictured above) have a more promising future and signs of renovation projects are underway. “Vigilance is therefore essential, since the risk of meeting workers or a new owner is real.”
While, for obvious reasons, he can’t disclose his methods for finding the sites, we do know that a day’s work documenting them is arduous work; crossing rivers, forests and thick fencing. After a day of exploring, “we are cold and soaked”, but for Carroll, it’s a passion he can’t quite ignore.