During a walking ghost tour, a photo taken of a barbershop has consequences for a young couple.

I zipped up my hoodie to shield myself from the chilly October night breeze. The tour group moved along the downtown sidewalk and stopped in front of a barbershop. My Tinder date, who I will refer to as Rebecca, recommended the ghost tour walk. After reading one of the host’s many books about ghost stories and urban legends in Oklahoma, she learned about his guided tours. I have to admit, I was enjoying the tales from Jeff Provine about Norman.

Jeff told us that sometimes when people take a photo of the barbershop, a man in a brown overcoat and hat would appear starring back at them. Just about everyone-my date included-proceeded to pull out their phones and snap their cameras. The group inspected their photos only to have captured nothing.

The group moved forward while my date pulled me back for a moment.

“You should try with your camera with no one around,” she suggested.

When we met up for our date, Rebecca thought bringing my Polaroid camera was a fun idea. She also mentioned that she hadn’t been out with anyone with such a hobby. I was about to tell her that nothing would happen, but she put on an irresistible smirk that I could not deny. I smiled at her and pulled up my camera. I enjoyed the thoughtful, selective nature of the limited printed photos in a world of unlimited takes. While the tour host talked about the restaurant next door, I snapped a picture of the barbershop.

We rejoined the group, letting the photograph develop in my hoodie’s pocket. After a few stops, Rebecca asked to see if the barbershop photo had finished developing. I pulled out the picture, and she inspected the image like a person searching for treasure.

“I think you got something here,” Rebecca whispered with excitement as she showed me the photo.

“That looks like a brown smudge to me,” I told her with honesty. 

“Well, maybe it needs to develop more,” she said.

I didn’t say anything back. She was too cute, and I was enjoying the night. The tour was more informative than scary. We didn’t actually go hunting for ghosts, and no one jumped out to scare us. I think the best way to describe the experience was like a walking history tour involving ghosts and murders. I don’t want to spoil the tour for anyone, but I wanted to give some backstory on my cursed barbershop photo.

After the tour, Rebecca and I went our separate ways. When I got back to my apartment, my roommate was still gone. He was out of town for the weekend visiting family. He was a relatively chill roommate who kept to himself. He let me decorate the dining area, which I did by hanging my Polaroid prints with clothespins and strings all over the room. He thought they added much life to the bland beige walls of the apartment.

As I dumped out my belongings on the dining table, I got a text from my date asking me to send her a photo of all of the Polaroid pictures from the night. I laid them all out on the rustic white table my parents handed down to me when they bought a new one for themselves. Using my phone, I took a picture of the dozen prints. In the process, I took a closer look at the one in front of the barbershop. Where I thought I saw a blemish at first resembled more of the person Jeff described. I sent Rebecca a closeup and a copy to the tour guide too. Rebecca immediately FaceTimed me.

“I told you!” was the first thing she blurted out to me. “I told you so!”

“Okay, okay,” I admitted. Then I thought of a line. “Maybe you should come over and make sure this man in brown doesn’t try to kill me.”

Rebecca laughed. “Maybe I should. You know, to make sure you don’t die. Text me your address.”

I texted her my address, and she said she would be there in about 15 minutes. I proceeded to tidy up the apartment. I cleaned the place before leaving, but I didn’t expect her to come here as this was our third date. I started with the kitchen since I was already there. After emptying the dishwasher, I rounded up the prints on the table. As I was picking them up, I noticed the man in brown was in all of the photos. He stood in the exact same position compared to the one in the barbershop.

I assured myself, “This was to be some exposure glitch.”

I stacked the photos face down on the coffee table. I decided to worry about them later. I scrambled around the apartment, throwing out trash and cleaning dirty surfaces. I was straightening my bedsheets when I heard the doorbell rang.

I rushed to the door. However, when I answered, no one was there. I called out hello, but no one but the wind answered. I questioned my hearing. Did the doorbell ring? I closed the door and checked my phone. There were no new messages from Rebecca, and only 10 minutes had passed since her last text. As I was about to put away my phone, I received a text from Jeff.

“Thank you, but I should warn you that those who were able to capture a photo of the man in brown said they were haunted by him until they got rid of the picture,” Jeff’s message read with a winky face emoji at the end. 

I chuckled. He was clearly joking around, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. On my way back, I realized all of tonight’s prints had been scattered all over the living room. I proceeded to pick them up, which I figured got blown around from the wind when I opened the door. As I collected the final one, the doorbell rang. There was no mistaking the ring was mine.

I put the prints in my back jean pocket and answered the door. The man in brown stood before me with an old straight razor to Rebecca’s throat and a hand covering her mouth. Dirt covered his three-piece suit like someone dragged his outfit out of the ground.

“I want the photos,” the man demanded in a low grumble. His voice sounded rough like he hadn’t spoken in ages.

Without hesitation, I handed them over, and he pushed Rebecca onto me during the exchange, causing us to fall backward. As we stood up to shut the door, the man was gone.

Rebecca and I ended up staying up all night – not in the way I had hoped.

The Cursed Photo from the Barbershop - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

After the love for my previous short story, I’ll Never Walk Sutton Wilderness in the Dark Again, I was inspired to write another semi-realistic horror piece. This one was inspired by a story by Jeff Provine where people on his ghost tour would capture a photo of a man in a brown suit at the barbershop in downtown Norman, Oklahoma. So, yes, that part is true! I thought having the man come to life to reclaim the pictures would be a spooky tale for the season.

Thanks to Janine De Guzman for bringing the photographic moment to life.

Thank you for reading and Happy Halloween!