SOME PLACES SHOULD STAY LOCKED FOREVER.
Sinister Seven: Dead Crossroads’ Fabien Delage
By April Snellings on July 26, 2012
Fabien Delage is a man of many talents. When he isn’t laboring in the Rue Morgue salt mines as a contributor to the magazine and the voice of Rue Morgue France, Fabien puts in countless hours as a graphic designer, photographer, videographer, and world-class horror nerd.
His latest project is the first of its kind in France. Dead Crossroads is a ten-episode mini-series that follows Fabien and French survival guide Julien Mazzitelli as they visit some of France’s spookiest places. It’s a ghost show with a distinctly artistic slant; Fabien has a keen eye for cinematic ambiance that sets Dead Crossroads apart from other shows of its kind.
Fabien recently made himself available for that exercise in fear we like to call the Sinister Seven.
Shows like Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State are very popular in North America right now. How popular are they with French audiences?
The “ghost show” concept is quite unknown in France. Once in a while we see French versions of well known North American series, though none on French national channels and none on Region 2 DVD. The French people are therefore not very familiar with this type of program. It is a type of entertainment that is unknown in France, but with the success of films such as Paranormal Activity and “found footage” movies, French people are ready to appreciate these types of documentaries. It was the perfect time to create the first French paranormal show.
Why do you think these shows hold so much appeal?
I think these programs are so successful because they take on the theme of spirits without frightening the audience too much. They are less frightening than horror movies, they are easy to follow, they are part of reality and they make you tremble slightly. The situations and staging try to rationalize death, to create phantoms through science and to involve the viewer in a case punctuated with paranormal phenomena. People like to frighten themselves with crime stories, so television series about ghost-hunting satisfy their morbid curiosity and add a supernatural element. It is a scenario that is bound to work.
How do you set yourselves apart from other paranormal reality shows?
Dead Crossroads is the first French ghost show. Due to this, it did not benefit from any financial backing from French television channels or French regions. No French cinematographic enterprise or company helped. Investors and producers are much too hesitant to participate in this type of project. Therefore, [Dead Crossroads] is a low budget, independent series, free [of outside influence] and therefore more authentic.
We are only two: I film and document with handheld HD cameras while Julien Mazzitelli begins the tour of the property. Julien specializes in trekking; he is used to hostile and wild environments and also is a life-saving survival host! And we are very often confronted with extreme situations where one has to remain calm. Each episode lasts approximately fifteen minutes; unlike other shows, we have decided to get right to the essentials. Interviews, testimonies and reconstructions do not interest me; I prefer to concentrate on the exploration, the experience, the sensory aspect of the voyage.
The houses and castles that we visit are very different from those we can visit in America. Each residence has its own character, its own personal architecture and atmosphere. We tell stories based on real events and we illustrate them with images of haunted places where we are on our own, miles away from civilization. We have no thermal vision or audio equipment to record EVP [electronic voice phenomena] and we don’t have EMF meters or computers – we’re just two explorers with sleeping bags and head lamps, confronted by a very terrifying reality. A ghost show is meant to terrify and entertain, and this is exactly what we do by playing with the codes of documenting through a morbid diary and visuals punctuated by very troubling supernatural moments.
What’s the most disturbing thing you’ve experienced on one of your ghost expeditions?
To be honest, we’ve [been frightened] several times, each time in different situations. We managed to capture many strange phenomena on video – a few that we were witness to and others that we discovered while viewing the rushes. We experienced a lot of troubling events – falling objects, visual and audio manifestations. We were exposed to terrifying situations, but for each, the most terrifying was the ambience and atmosphere, which was heavy and oppressive. For instance, Julien and I visited a manor that dates to the 20th century. [Ownership has changed many times], always in tragic circumstances. When we spent the night there, we were awakened by strange, terrifying and indescribable sounds, impossible to define. We saw a human form between two doors; the sound became more insistent and we ran away into the corridors. It was one of our most terrifying ordeals.
How difficult is it to get legal access to the places you’re scouting?
It was a very difficult task to get [access to] all the places. Localizing or finding a contact was nothing short of a miracle. Thanks to our research, we managed to get the authorization of some owners and municipalities. No person wants to purchase these lands and the places are left to ruin, away from the villages. Some houses have not even been visited since they were closed by police decades ago. Often we had authorization to stay the night, though in some cases, when it was impossible to [reach] the landowner, we went without anyone knowing. Unfortunately, we will probably not be allowed to broadcast the episodes that we recorded in this manner.
How have your experiences with Dead Crossroads affected your own attitude toward paranormal phenomena?
Like all ghost shows, Dead Crossroads could be considered a docu-soap and, even though the stories and the places are real, we personally take full responsibility for the staging of certain episodes. We wanted to spice up the cases and the explorations with sequences borrowed from horror films – shots that are really terrifying. For some scenes, we used special effects, but the most troubling is that it is filmed without any rigging on our part. The spectator will be allowed to judge what is real or not. Appearances are deceptive, and what we see on screen, as crazy as it seems, is very often real. I thought I would return with boring footage; it was anything but. What I saw, to this day, I cannot explain, and it still bothers me. I am more open-minded, without a doubt!
So do you consider yourself a skeptic or a believer?
Even though I am passionate about horror entertainment, I was never really interested in spirits. I assisted at certain events that could be qualified as paranormal when I was younger, but I have always remained a skeptic. For me there is always an explanation. I was never interested in ghost shows either, though since I have visited abandoned houses for fun, I have found them to be very magical – so I decided to submerge myself into the myth of haunted houses. We therefore searched for real haunted houses in France with the idea to create a television series. As in all ghost shows that I have seen, I wanted to show unbelievable things, with improbable sequences. I wanted to take the piss out of the spectators’ beliefs, make them believe anything whilst still having fun. It turns out that with all that we have experienced, it was something else entirely.
I was convinced that nothing would happen, and that for the series to be interesting, I would have to lie and fabricate fear. During our first evening expedition, though, we saw terrifying things and I told myself that there was no need to invent any staging. The paranormal phenomena came to us more easily than we thought they would. We even were obliged to leave a castle in the middle of the night due to the place having a very hostile environment. We were confronted with incessant fear and terrifying events – things that neither science nor reason could explain. To this day, I know what I saw. These expeditions changed my life.
It is more reassuring to be a skeptic, but when you see such incredible things with your own eyes, you cannot but admit that something is not right in these houses. And you hope these entities will not follow you home. I sleep much less since we have come home.
To learn more about Dead Crossroads, go here.
Awarded Graphic Designer Fabien Delage known as The Wondermaker is a French urban artist, photographer and font creator. He designs well-known typefaces and uses his logos and symbols on canvas, boards and toys. His works have been growing with involving pop art, graffiti art, street fashion and photography. Part of the Top 100 of the most downloaded Font Artists on the internet, his creations are everywhere : in movies, video games, websites, even in Second Life ! He works today as a freelance designer for world-famous magazines, TV channels and advertising agencies. In summer 2011, he released his first erotic photography project in NYC. His first solo photo exhibition - The Drift - took place in Paris in April 2012 at Urban Gallery Paris and in Los Angeles at Very Venice in June 2012.
What Fabien loves the most is to scare and entertain… He loves Horror. Not surprising that he worked on dozens of Horror movies covers and ads (from Stir of Echoes to Tucker & Dale VS Evil), his designs even appear in movies such as Piranha 3D or Shark Swarm. Even his band Bleeding Freaks is about Horror… After writing and co-directing several awarded French short movies, Fabien is working on a new ghost show, the first of the kind in France. Dead Crossroads will be released in 2012 on DVD and is already announced as the most innovative paranormal series ever !
LISTEN. WATCH. FEEL. FEAR.