Hidden Lessons

Welcome Center

Deteriorating structures are all around us, their ragged exteriors and the filthy ground they rest upon have been cast off by society, seen as nothing more than a distasteful blemish, an intruder among the pristine landscapes in which we reside. But as I gaze upon these remnants, my eyes percieve something different amidst the decay. History runs deep within the tired walls, crying out through the falling brick and splintered wood, their stories waiting to be told to those who will listen. It is this knowledge that beckons to me, calling me off my well paved path, and as I crawl through the shattered frame of a window I find myself entering another world. Being inside is like walking through a history book, only these lessons offer things that can’t be found within their pages. Here I’m given an up close and personal look into the past as I wander the halls, captivated by the things which have been left behind.

Lost Possessions

There’s a darkness that exists within the corridors of an asylum as the overgrown vegetation works its way inside. But something else lingers in the shadows. Stories of mistreatment and poor medical care cloud my mind as I pass disheveled wheel chairs and filthy medical equipment. As I reach the Confinement Ward, the cell doors stand slightly ajar as if their occupants have all escaped their tiny prisons and the deserted nurses’ stations confirm that help had long since gone. A door at the end of the hall remains closed and the corroded hinges painfully screech to life as I push it inward. The sun follows me inside, casting its beams on a room full of discarded suitcases, their tattered labels giving names to the personal belongings strewn all over the floor. There is still much pain and sadness which has been buried over time, and it’s here that I am faced with a glimpse of those who were consumed by it.


The factories and textile mills where our Grandfathers and Great-Grandfathers worked hard every day now lie in ruin. The massive machinery tower together as collective giants in a dormant state and dusty work stations still covered with tools of the trade wait eternally for the next shift change. Books reveal through words that these men worked hard but just how hard only becomes real when I reach out and feel the cold rusted metal of the tools on my fingertips or try to shake the heavy soot from my clothes. Standing within the filth that doesn’t completely belong to the passage of time, I’m given a clear picture of callused hands and the dirt-covered faces that labored tirelessly during a time when wages did poorly to compensate their efforts.


In a resort that has been closed for over a decade, intrigue draws me behind the decaying Administration Desk. Room keys still wait in their assigned cubbies for the next guests that will never be arriving. Wasting away in their stations, rotary phones and outdated computer systems sit in silence as they are slowly buried beneath the falling plaster. Debris-covered journals offer hand written entries disclosing the menial tasks of the day. As I get lost within the pages I am able to envision the whirlwind of activity that once took place around me and for a moment, ever so briefly, the destruction is lifted and the brilliance returns to the common area as it appears as it once had in another life.


Quickly shunned and forgotten, we turn our eyes from these places to concentrate on the ever growing world around us and it becomes easy to dismiss the history that lies beyond their fractured doors. Some stories are happy, some sad and some are even a bit disturbing but it’s within these very places where I am content to wander. I will always take the chance to venture off the beaten path for as I stand in the shadows of these decaying foundations, I look upon their ominous exteriors eager to learn from the knowledge that they hold. And because lessons don’t always come from ink on paper, I disappear inside reminded that the most important lesson to be learned is that something is lost when you decide to judge a book by its cover.


When Life Throws Snowballs Instead Of Lemons


© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2013

Writing comes from somewhere deep within and I would love nothing more than to be able to escape each day into my world of creating. Most every day this wish is granted but sometimes life happens, my mind is drawn away from my projects and I must put off my deadlines until another day. The snow has returned to our sleepy little town, bringing with it subzero temperatures which reached as low as ten degrees below zero throughout the night. With the promise to get even colder, school has been cancelled, unleashing the excitement and limitless energy of my kids as they run through the house chasing zombies, blast the stereo as the dance party continues and argue over whether it will be Build-a-Bear or Minecraft which will grace the computer screen.

It was my original plan for today to get them off to school, finish my latest story and hit the publish button, but that’s just not possible. As I sit here ducking from incoming Nerf Bullets, I do my best to block out the blaring sounds of One Direction along with the lovestruck cries they are causing but all concentration is lost in the process as my interest turns to discovering who will win the fight for the screen between bears and imaginary worlds. As I look around me I am assured that there will be no writing today, nothing will get accomplished. Some might say that life has thrown me lemons but with today’s forecast it’s more like snowballs which, unlike lemons, sound a lot more fun.

Through the chaos I see something else, something much better than any day of work can offer: I have been given the opportunity to spend more time with my kids. That thought is one that always brings a smile to my face, so my story will be put off another day for I have zombies to chase, a dance party to attend and a yummy distraction from electronics with a baking session to help keep the house warm. Have a fantastic day, everyone. I’m going to enjoy my Snowballs :’)

~ O

Behind The Lens

Urbex baby

Just who are the people behind the photographs you see of Beautiful Decay? Shrouded in mystery, many think we must have extraordinary attributes to be doing what we do but when we remove our masks, set aside our backpacks and put down our cameras, we are just everyday people brought together by the common bond of curiosity and the drive to explore the unseen places around us. A lot of people tend to get the wrong idea of who we are, thinking that because we find ourselves in the very places society tells us we shouldn’t be, that we are problematic and reckless in our adventures. Instantly, we are put in the catagory of delinquents and are often looked down upon. But this is not so and if you were to spend just a few moments’ time with us you would see we are just like you.


Photo credit ~ Rodney Desolatestates Fotography

Coming from all walks of life, we are Office Managers, Nurses and Fulltime Moms. We are both young and seasoned in our years, working among you as bartenders, receptionists and railway operators. The only difference is that we choose to spend our down time a bit differently than most. Instead of camping, hiking, gardening or fishing, we choose to lose ourselves in the abandoned side of life. Rather than a day on the hot sandy beaches, we prefer to crawl through dirt and grime and will forgo the time spent in a dark crowded movie theater for the chance to scale fences and precarious staircases. But why do we do this? There are many different reasons.


Photo Credit ~ Peter Arnemann

For some, it’s about the photographic oppotunities which lie behind locked doors and capturing them before the location is reduced to a pile of rubble. For others it’s the fascination for what used to be and the history which draws us in. But what all of us carry is a deep rooted stint of curiosity and the insatiable need to explore uncharted territory. Whether we were introduced to exploring through the coaxing of a friend or had a fascination with the sight of crumbling buildings since we were children, we do what we do out of the need to discover, bringing us to the disremembered resorts, dissolving factories and disregarded chapels which dot our skylines.


Photo Credit ~ Cecily McGuckin

A day spent Climbing the machinery of industrial sites, walking among the medical equipment of asylums or in the midst of faded chalk boards and forgotten books of deserted schools is where we are content. Are we wrong for what we do? Does our chosen past time make us peculiar? No, it just makes us who we are. Through my travels I have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing people and I look forward to meeting many more as I continue on my ventures, for never will you meet a better band of people than you will find among the explorers of the world. Carry on, my friends, and stay safe as we gear up and head into the realm of the unknown. Never stop exploring.


Photo Credit ~ Joe Cozzi

Concrete Giants


The snow crunched under my feet as I crested yet another ridge and paused for a break. The frigid temps made my lungs feel as though they were on fire and as I bent at the waist to catch my breath I looked back over what we had conquered. Before me stood an endless sea of peaks, each plummeting 500 ft. into icy valleys and I had silently cursed each one as we made our way through the dark and eerie forest. We had to be getting close to the location, and when I stood up straight to exhale one last chilling breath as my heart settled back in my chest, my partner looked enthusiastic as he pointed to the next ridge. “It’s close. Once we make it across, we follow the trees until they thin out and we should be right on it.” His report sounded good in theory but as I followed the path with my eyes I realized the task would require something close to olympic talent to achieve. Something I could accomplish on a regular day, but it was 20 degrees and after hiking almost two miles, the winter cold had seized my muscles’ ability to run at full capacity, making it hard to climb and take hold of things for leverage. But with the winter sun slowly fading, the thought of losing time on our explore was enough to get me moving and I fell in line behind my partner as he began to move.

Anyone for a Swim

The sound of rushing water grew louder as we descended the slope and with our first step onto the valley floor, our bodies falterd under the fracturing ice beneath our feet. Looking around, we saw there was no embankment to the glassy stream and the only thing offering a way across was a tree laying half submerged in its watery grave. Its dead branches reached for the sky as if trying to escape its fate and as I inched my way along the water-soaked wood, I kept my eyes to the ground and thought how horrible it would be to fall into the black water below. Being gifted with clumsiness, I was thrilled to have made it to the other side but my excitement only lasted as long as it took to look up and see my next task. Of course the last climb out of the forest would have to be the worst. We were standing at the base of an almost completely vertical climb through thick soggy mud with only the occasional dead branch to grab on to. My partner went first and I watched him scale the mountainside with ease and disappear over the top. I waited for what seemed like forever before he popped his head over the edge and, instantly, I did not like the look on his face. Deciding any more bad news would make me stay put, I refused to get briefed on the situation until I made it up there so I dug my feet in the muddy terrain and scaled my way to the top.


“Well?” I asked, brushing the snow covered mud from my knees. “We’re almost there.” He said, trying to be cheerful. “Almost?” He looked toward the direction of the cement plant. “Yeah, and it will be easy getting down,” He paused in anticipation of sharing the bad news. “But there’s going to be a half mile climb back up here when we’re ready to leave.” He watched my face, waiting for a bad reaction but as I stood there pondering my situation, I decided the only thing I could do was move forward. The only other option I had was to turn around and there was no way I had just hiked through the arctic tundra for nothing. I would press on. Besides, wasn’t there a saying promising we would laugh about all this one day? I was curious as to just when that day would come. As a reward for my efforts to continue, the trees soon dispersed and offered a spectacular view of the plant as we came into the clearing. It was quickly acknowledged that we were losing light fast so we grabbed a few shots and set off down the hillside with newly found energy for what waited for us below. Hitting level ground, we crossed a gravel road and then a set of abandoned train tracks. We were finally here.

Frozen Towers

A questionable suspension bridge swayed in the wind above a rushing river as it stood between us and the plant, and as I put one foot slowly in front of the other, I pushed the thought of its broken guide wire and distorted footpath from my mind as the sound of the rapids swirling beneath me filled my ears. As the light faded and the shadows grew, we came out into the center yard of the plant. Evidence of demolition surrounded us as we passed snow-covered debris piles and mangled machinery. Not much remained of the smaller buildings and as we climbed our way through them, over fractured concrete slabs and twisted rebar, it reminded me more of a war zone than industrial ruins. Coming back out into the open, I felt so small among the giant towers as they loomed over us in the growing darkness. We veered right and entered one through a huge hole blown into the side of the building and, trading the dwindling light of the outside for complete and utter darkness within, we brought out our flashlights for a look around. The beams revealed a thick coating of dust hanging visible in the air and the sinking sensation beneath my feet to be an ankle deep sludgy mess of weather-soaked soot which reaked of chemicals. The combination of the two made it incredibly hard to breathe and we paused for a moment to weigh our options.

Debris Field

There was some machinery off in the distance and a stairwell to our left. Though the equipment looked intriguing, neither one of us wanted to breathe in the chemical laiden dust to investigate so we opted for the stairs. Well ventilated with its blown out windows, we decided to make the climb to the roof for a look down on the plant from its highest point. Stepping lightly through the residue we climbed in the pitch dark, stopping on each level to take in some fresh air through the cavernous holes where the windows once were. We followed this pattern up, story after story, until we came out on top high above the site. In the short time that we were inside, the plant was fading into the shadows as nightfall slithered in and I smiled as I stepped out to the edge. The view from over a hundred feet up was breathtaking as I looked down upon the snow as it illuminated the landscape with a soft white glow. My eyes wandered to the rising ground on the horizon and I knew all to well the challenges which awaited us on the return trip through the forest beyond but my smile never wavered. For in this moment, where we were, nothing else mattered. The sun was slipping away and the night sky was beginning to glisten with the lights from the far off city. Nothing could take away from the beauty before us and as my partner joined me on the edge we stood in silence as darkness consumed us and we took in the stunning view from a standpoint not many ever get to see.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2013