A Behind-The-Scenes Look at "Darkness Falls"
By Paul Birman
I work as a grip on Paranormal State. This position makes me extremely susceptible to all of the creepy stuff that takes place during the filming of the show. We're the ones running cables in complete darkness and wrapping up equipment after Dead Time. We're usually alone when we perform these tasks and it is not uncommon for us to hear and see things that prompt the phrase, "Dude, you won't believe what just happened to me..."
Whether you believe in paranormal or not, The West Virginia Penitentiary is an intimidating place with a rich history of suffering and violence. It becomes even more intimidating at 2AM when all the lights are out.
The North Hall
The first few times I had to walk through the North Hall didn't faze me. I knew that a couple hundred feet of empty space could cause a little discomfort at night, but I didn't expect what was coming. Once the darkness fell, the place just came alive. Every time I would have to walk through the North Hall, I distinctly heard loud rattling above my head. It was almost as if the prison was telling me that I didn't belong there and I should leave. The next night, in addition to the noises, I started experiencing a strong sensation that someone or something was following me through the hall. Naturally, I picked up the pace. The sensation got stronger and stronger every time I made my trip across. By the end of the final day of shooting, I was sprinting. The penitentiary had such an enormous impact on me that when I came back home, that very sensation didn't go away for almost a week. When I would get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, I would sprint from my bedroom to the kitchen. At times, it felt like whatever was following me in the prison followed me back home to New York.
One evening, after the sun went down, PRS requested that I run a hundred feet or so of extension cord down into the basement, underneath the cell block. From what I heard at the time, an inmate got stabbed dozens of times and was left to die in the deepest corner of the basement, otherwise known as "The Hole." At first, I had no problem with the place, even though it was pretty creepy. Aside from my trusted headlamp, there was not a single glimmer of light. As I got close to my destination, I saw a chair sitting right in the corner. That was a bit jarring. At that same time, I distinctly heard footsteps behind me. When I turned around, I saw nothing but bare, decrepit walls and uneven ground. That's when it was time for me to go. My job was done and I was outta there in a flash.
I brought my trusty dSLR on pretty much every episode of this season.
During down time, I would take photos of the cast and crew and if something really caught my eye, I took advantage of the video function my camera offered. The prison was filled with endless photo and video opportunities. I ended up with a few hundred photos and about 50 videos. When I was going through all the footage, I noticed that a handful of videos contained this strange heavy breathing. At first I thought what I was hearing was my own breath. But after further review, I could make out a distinct pattern. Only the videos I took in the cellblocks contained the heavy breathing. I was not performing any physically demanding tasks prior to recording the video. By contrast, other videos were taken while I was walking around, some even after lifting equipment and the breathing was not present. I haven't heard anything like that since then, and I've taken hundreds of videos.
The Darkness Falls experience had a profound impact on me intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I hadn't truly thought about the paranormal since I was a kid. After working on the show, I am definitely more aware of what lurks in the dark and I am more engaged with the unknown.