Haunted Negatives

Found negatives in a house on Yinhe Road
Found negatives in a house on Yinhe Road.

I regularly find photographic negatives while exploring old buildings in Taiwan. Negatives interest me as they record something of the lives of those who have vanished. Sometimes I will pick up a set of negatives and hold them up to the light in a vain attempt to peer through a tiny window into the past. I seldom see much more than the glowing silhouettes of people standing in the sun.

Last February I chanced upon a box of negatives in an abandoned home on a mountain road in Xīndiàn 新店. This time I did more than just look at a set of negatives—I captured a photograph of my own. Today, when I went to go process my photos from that day, it occurred to me that I might be able to digitally restore some of those negatives.

Processing found negatives from an abandoned home on Yinhe Road

I pulled my original capture into Photoshop, inverted the image, and did my best to clean things up1. As you can see there wasn’t much I could do for the negative in the middle of the set, though the results are interesting enough to share. I had much better luck with the negative on the end of the strip. After processing it reveals a young woman with what looks to be a merry-go-round in the back. An amusement park?

Another ghostly photograph found on Yinhe Road
A ghostly photograph found on Yinhe Road

Seeing this I immediately thought of Xingfu Amusement Park 幸福樂園 in Bìtán 碧潭, just down the road from where I found the negatives in Xīndiàn 新店. Xingfu was a popular place to go in the 1980s but was abandoned in the 1990s and has long been demolished. Nothing remains of the amusement park rides, though there are traces to be found if you explore the top of the hill. Naturally, Taiwanese people consider it haunted, though that comes as no surprise2. I went to explore the site of Xingfu Amusement Park back in November 2013. It was an eerie place alright, but hardly any trace of the original amusement park remains. If no one told me I might not have guessed what had been there decades ago.

The site of the old Xingfu amusement park
The site of the old Xingfu Amusement Park. Not much to see anymore.
A creepy cherub at the site of the old Xingfu amusement park
A legless cherub stoically watches over a fountain filled with vibrant pondscum at the site of the former Xingfu Amusement Park.

Luckily, there are some photographs of the amusement park in its heyday, courtesy of Poagao. It does not appear that this is the same merry-go-round in the background of the ghostly image above. Even so, the site was quite extensive, so there’s a chance there were others around, or perhaps it was shot at some other amusement park, of which there are many in Taiwan. What an intriguing mystery. Such are the rewards of exploring the ghostly realms of Taiwan.

  1. I didn’t do anything fancy. You can accomplish a lot with levels, curves, and contrast. 
  2. One of the reasons Taiwan is such a wonderful place to engage in urban exploration is that fear of ghosts is enough to keep most people out. As such, security is typically lax to non-existent and few ruins are vandalized.