every camera i own: pingo

This post is not brought to you by Mr. Popper’s Penguins, coincidentally in theaters now.

I don’t remember how I found Pingo, only that I got him on eBay. He’s your basic point-and-shoot 35mm plastic camera, with a little lever on his belly that slides a protective shield over the lens when not in use. I don’t know why you’d need to protect the lens, but whatever.

I recently took a picture of a friend who asked me why I was taking his picture with a blackface jockey. I’d never made the connection before but Pingo has a cap and everything. Who knew?

As a photographic instrument, Pingo has no distinctive characteristics. But, he’s a penguin.  And he’s also the first camera with which I captured something that in some circles can be interpreted as ghost like:

I wrote about the incident on my ghost blog. I’ve long neglected my ghost blog, but it’s not for lack of stories. My niece has been asking for more ghost stories so I’ll try to come up with something soon. Anyway, because of the streaks of what resemble classic “ghost” images of ectoplasm, I’ve brough Pingo to reportedly haunted places to see if he can conjure up spirits. He hasn’t yet. Before dusting him off for this project, I’d last used him in another haunted spot in Florida, the old Spring Hill Cemetery, which I wrote about here.


Pingo was having frame advance issues on this occasion, but the fresh roll of film I loaded him with last week came off without a hitch. Even though I took it to a supposedly haunted building.


My niece – the one who asked for more ghost stories – is trying to overcome her fear of ghosts. She has been known to shudder at the very mention of the g-word, but I’ve also known seen her watching one of the Harry Potter movies, and, when the soul-sucking dementors appear, I caught her cracking a smile.

The first haunted place I could think of that would be open on a Sunday was the Old Stone House in Georgetown, but that wasn’t very convenient for our plans. My sister-in-law suggested the National Building Museum, formerly the Pension Building, which I’d forgotten about – I’d even taken a ghost tour, hosted by a fictionalized Mary Surratt. The former Surratt  boarding house is a few blocks away, and its former proprietor reportedly haunts the sushi place that currently occupies the space.

Anyway, there are stories of spectral faces appearing between the former Pension Building’s majestic columns, and even a  haunting by Buffalo Bill Cody. But we didn’t see anything, and my niece, who took pictures hoping to capture something spooky, was sorely disappointed.


Then we found ourselves in an office area that I’d remembered from the tour. The suite once housed the offices of the Pension Commissioner, one of whom, James Tanner, reportedly haunts the building.

The space felt strange to me – I kept feeling like somebody was behind me. But my pictures didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary.