photographs & a story | birthe piontek

when i was about eleven or twelve, my brothers and i decided that now was the time to investigate the abandoned cottage across the lake from our own. every time we pulled into the bay, lessoning the engine and drifting towards our dock, our eyes would follow that dark cottage with the growing ivy and the collapsed boathouse. in our heads we would invent stories as to why the cottage had been left in such disrepair. had the owners died? was there an inheritance battle that was yet unresolved?

so one day we walked through the forest around the bay to see what we could find. getting to the front door of the cottage was a roundabout obstacle course that involved dodging poison ivy and running beneath a rotting deck. there was a thrilling sense of fear and excitement - for it seemed the deck - and in fact the whole cottage itself - could come crashing down at any moment. we would pry open the screen door and step quietly inside the kitchen - listening attentively for ambitious raccoons. the walls were scratched, the ceiling ripped apart and belongings scattered everywhere. had it been night time, it would have had all the makings of a horror movie. but perhaps the most perturbing detail was the tea set on the kitchen table. arranged in such a way that it seemed the owners had been enjoying a nice cuppa, in the midst of which they were suddenly called away.

the front room, nearest to the deck, was off limits (a sincere word of warning from our parents). we had schemes that involved tying a rope around one or the other and sending them into this forbidden area - but they never came to fruition. the bedrooms were filled with endless mid century treasures. furniture from the eighties, colourful sundresses from the seventies and puzzling papers of shorthand from the sixties (i sat for hours back in my own room, trying to work out those penciled hieroglyphics). and it was here that i found the naughtiest surprise of all, a book entitled "the happy hooker," a force of non-fiction that encouraged me to mentally mature well before my time.

i was reminded of that place this week, when i came across photographs by birthe piontek. originating in germany, but currently settled in vancouver, canada, piontek takes us on an exploration of the individual. the photos show no people, but the inhabitants seem to be there all the same - personified in the form of a forgotten locket, bedraggled linens, cracked china and broken birdhouses.


  1. Wow, these are gorgeous, and I love your story. I've never been lucky enough to find anywhere like this and I've always wanted to!

  2. Anonymous21.1.12

    I remember some nights we would see a light illuminating sporadically from within the cottage faintly visible across the bay but no sign of people, boats or any othe noticeable movement. This went on for ages and in the end upon investigation months and months later, the source was finally revealed. No it was not the racoons and other wildlife having that tea party - it seemed the hydro was left on to the old vacant building and an old 60's wall clock with a back light would flicker when it chose to work running on its own time line. Was it perhaps a sign from the deceased owner coming back to visit or simply just a place where time stood still and would simply try to catch up but always falling behind the times? Perhaps, but a more probable answer was that it was a place where time did stand still and for those that were brave enough to venture within those walls, we welcome you to the Twilight Zone! Oh Darlin'!! Love Dad

  3. This is a wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading that! I hate scary things and ghost stories, when darkness falls I find myself lying in bed, eyes wide open, jumping at any sound I hear, be it Lucky, my boyfriend, the neighbours - anything - and yet I still managed to read about 200 pages of different haunting stories in England on http://www.paranormaldatabase.com/ Inever believed them...but at night time things seem so real.

    And if I had walked into that cottage and seen that tea set, I think I would have turned tail VERY fast and ran away. It is such a disturbing sight in my head that I wonder if I'll even sleep tonight! I have a very vivid imagination when it comes to scary things...

  4. What a cool story !
    And those photo's are beautiful :)

    xxx, Mri


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