Under the Weather

Standing at the base of the school in the shadows of the towering ruins, the vegetation took on the feeling of a tropical jungle as I gazed up at the beautiful Victorian Queen Anne construction. A set of ominous clouds were settling in overhead, darkening the sky and unleashing claw-like shadows from the branches which slithered across the sculpted stone. Powerful thunder shook the ground beneath my feet and I stumbled in surprise as the sky opened up and delivered a heavy rain of torrential proportions. Within seconds I was drenched and as the wind kicked up I turned my attention back to the jungle before me and took off running in search of a way in. I followed the wall along the front of the building and as I rounded the corner I swept the drenched hair from my face as I spotted a small hole that resembled an entrance to a cave. Very dark and somewhat creepy, I blinked the rain from my eyes as I looked further down for another way in but the next round of thunder brought intense lightning and I dove inside.

Assembly (2)

Soaking wet and disoriented, I pulled the flashlight from my backpack and scanned my surroundings. I was in the basement, standing in front of two elevator shafts holding the mangled remnants of birdcage style cars which had crashed to the bottom long ago. I moved quickly toward a glimmer of light off in the distance and as I pulled open a heavy steel door, I was relieved to find a stairwell which offered bright light at the top. Ascending from the depths of darkness, I emerged behind the stage in the auditorium. The rain was pouring in through the rotting roof and I was careful to avoid the disinigrating wood as I made my way to the front of the platform. Balancing on the remaining beams I looked out over all the seats and thought of the students that had once occupied them as they pursued their studies in such areas as music, dance and drama.

I hopped down and sloshed through the puddles as I made my way up the right isle and through a set of rusted doors as the next round of thunder shook the building. I followed the darkened hallways as they twisted and turned until the low ceilings opened up into the main hall. Upon its opening in 1890, the boarding school attracted many prominent families whose daughters left home to obtain a high end education on these once gorgeous grounds. The master staircase which escorted these ladies stood in all its tired glory within the streams of light showcasing it as they cast down from above. Its solid oak banisters and exquisite craftsmanship were covered under forty years of dust and debris and I stepped onto the bottom step to test its strength. The wood cried out beneath my feet as if acknowledging the presence of the long departed students and as it held my weight I cautiously began my ascent.

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With each step the light became brighter until I was flooded with it as I came to a stop on the top floor. I stood in awe at the view in front me as it was not simply windows which let the light in, but the absence of the roof overhead. It had caved in, taking this floor with it to the one below. Curiosity fueled my actions and adrenaline coursed through my viens as I grasped the nearest doorframe and inched my toes to the end of the splintered wood to have a look. Holding on tightly, I leaned over the edge and followed the path of destruction which had become a wasteland of fractured doors, crumbled drywall and shattered glass below.  As I stretched just a bit more I felt my fingers slip ever so slightly and my heart stopped. Taking one swift step backwards, I swung back into the safety of the doorway and took a deep breath as I waited for the pounding in my chest to subside before heading in the opposite direction.

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As I made my way through the halls I found the rooms empty, left to Mother Nature as she laid claim to them with the Ivy imploding from the windows. I quickly moved to the end of the hall and took the stairs to the floor below where I discovered yet more empty rooms. The sound of my steps echoed throughout the halls as I kept my pace until something caught my eye halfway down. Just inside the door a teacher’s desk stood solemnly with its chair slightly pulled back as if waiting eternally for her to return. But she never came as the school closed its doors in the mid ’70s after losing the struggle to compete with the gaining popularity of co-education.  As I stood in the doorway I watched as the room began to brighten and I looked to the windows to see the storm had died down and the clouds were dispersing, moving on just as the students had done. It was time for me to do the same. Turning on my heel, I left the room and took the last set of steps back to the ground floor where I came upon a broken window and took the opportunity to reenter the outside world.

Coming out at the back of the property into a small overgrown courtyard, I followed the cracked asphalt back to the main road, tossed my stuff in the car and drove along the border of the property. As I approached the front I noticed a car had stopped on the side of the road and I pulled off behind it. I got out and joined a young woman who also had the notion to take pictures of the place and I brought out my camera and did the same. “It certainly is beautiful, isn’t it?” She asked as I snapped a few shots. “Yes it is.” I agreed as I looked up at her. “I’ve come here for years to capture this place before it completely falls in on itself.” She looked dreamily through her lens as she spoke to me. “If it’s this stunning from the outside, can you imagine what the inside is like?” I smiled over the top of my camera as she happily clicked away. “I can imagine it would be amazing.”

The End Of The Line

Railway

It was only mid morning but the summer heat had already consumed the day. My skin glistened with sweat and the hair that had escaped my ponytail stuck to my shoulders as I slowly balanced my way along the tracks. I was thankful for the short reprieve from the scorching sun as I passed under a railroad bridge and I slowed my pace almost to a halt to lengthen my stay beneath its cover. The cement structure created a short tunnel and my eyes were drawn to the brightly colored graffiti crawling up the walls, coming together at the top of the twenty foot dome. As I wondered just how the artists accomplished this feat I came out the other side and as my view opened up once again I caught a glimpse of something in the distance. I squinted to see better and saw the shimmering metal of the train dancing like a mirage in the desert.  A smile crossed my lips and I kept an eye on the cars as I came off the railing and picked up my pace. The gravel crunched below my feet, kicking up as I ran, richocheting off the rails with a tinking sound as I closed the distance between me and the train. I had been told there were some cars left on the tracks, but I had no idea what was waiting for me and I stood in awe as I came to a stop and gazed upon my find.

Together Forever

Standing before me were two trains stretching as far as the eye could see, looking sad but not lonely while in the company of the other. I gave my best effort in an attempt to see where the cars ended but only investigating would satisfy my curiosity so I slipped into the shade they provided and began my quest to find the answer. Though these titans had been decommissioned I could still feel the power emanating from their impressive undercarriages as I moved passed them, the faint smell of axel grease hanging in the air as I looked upon the rusted metal and faded logos. Walking in and out of the heat I wondered where these cars had been before this fateful stop and what they had been carrying so I came to stop at the back end of one of the cars and, by instinct, I looked over my shoulder before reaching up to take hold of the corroded ladder in front of me. Hoisting myself up I brought my foot to the bottom rung and climbed up the side of the train, out of the shadows and into the sun again.

Westbound

As expected, when I swung my leg over the top and peered in, the car was empty. The only thing left behind was the coal residue that was now all over my hands and I wiped it on my jeans as I looked around from my bird’s eye view. Looking back I could only faintly see the entrance where I had come in and the tracks ahead showed that I had about the same distance to cover before reaching the end. As I sat on top of the car I could feel the sizzling heat of the metal through my jeans and squirmed from its sting. Way too hot to stay where I was, I swung my leg back over the side and descended the ladder, dropping the last few feet to the ground. Turning to the path ahead of me I wiped at my sticky skin and debated whether I should go the rest of the way or just head back since all the cars looked the same. Reentering the airconditioning sounded amazing right then but I knew better; there was no leaving without satisfying my curiosity as to just what lay at the end so I took a drink from the water in my bag and started walking.

All Aboard

It was another 150 yards before I finally emerged back onto the empty tracks and I could see imediately that my decision to continue on had been a good one. Up ahead roughly fifty yards, the track split off to the right and I could see another train. How long was this one? I couldn’t quite tell, but I could see that these cars had something in them so despite the heat I fell into a light jog. Getting a better view as I approached, I could see that the train disappeared around a bend but my attention went upwards at the sight of its contents. Curiosity brought my hands to the metal and once again I scaled my way to the top, stopping mid-climb in awe as my eyes came over the ridge. A slight breeze stirred among the trees, bringing forth the smell of freshly cut wood as it swept past, and I blinked my eyes against the saw dust being kicked up as it went. Piled haphazardly before me were car after car full of brand new railroad ties and I climbed inside and balanced myself on two of them as I took in the sight before me.

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Beautiful pieces of wood almost glowed in the sun and I climbed from car to car, wobbling precariously near the edge as I balanced on the beams watching my shadow mimic me as it followed on the tracks below. I could hear other trains, active trains, off in the distance but I was alone here in the woods, free to feel the rush as I teetered my way to the front of the train. When I could go no further I found my footing, looking back at the cars behind me and to the amazing view before me. The engine was gone. Detached, it had left its load here to wait for its return and I wondered how so much material could just be abandoned, vulnerable to the elements that would prove distructive over the passage of time. As I stood contemplating their fate another breeze came through the trees, a humid wind that only accentuated the heat of the day, leaving my skin ignited in the summer heat. Though I didn’t want to leave my perch, the sun had become too intense to stay and I knew it was time to head back. Tired from my workout I chose not to head back over the pilings and instead descended the train from where I was. Back on solid ground, I took refuge in its shade and kept my hand on the cool metal until I made it back to the main tracks. Though I was not quite ready to go home, I was satisfied with my discovery and gave one last look over my shoulder before setting off towards home.

What Do I Do When I’m Not Exploring?

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Well to be honest, although the opportunity to explore only presents itself every few months, my mind spends most of its time inside an abandonment somewhere. It’s a darkened wasteland of deserted corridors, twisting and turning in a confusing maze with slithering shadows and eerie sounds which resonate through the walls. It’s a cold and frightening place and the setting for the novel which I am currently working on. Writing within the Horror Genre suits me well and I have to admit, my never-ending supply of visual prompts have caused more than one or two sleepless nights as I work my way through. I just wanted to take the time to say hello to you all and thank you for supporting the blog. I’m happy to know that you love my stories, and I’m excited at the thought that one day I will have something more to offer you.

Thank you once again for all your support,

~ Olivia

Beyond The Corridors

This article appeared in Issue 1 of UEmagazine
© ~ Olivia Wolfe 2012

The Long Walk

Beyond the intrigue of the corridors and empty rooms lie another aspect to your explore. The very buildings and ground you sneak around in hold a story filled with history from an era long since passed and most are accompanied by a darker, more sinister side to the tale with mysterious urban legands which have formed throughout time. Both lie in eternal wait for those inclined to listen.

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Built in 1934, this collective group of 23 buildings were constructed in the Colonial Revival Style, offering beautiful woodwork detailing both the columned porches with their elaborate doors and the sunrooms extending the length of the buildings for a relaxed experience reminiscent of the period during the Revolutionary War. Resting on 216 acres, the now crumbling bricks and dilapidated buildings were introduced as a Tuberculosis Sanatorium and although nearly all remnants of furnishings and equipment have been stricken from the premises, one can easily slip back in time imagining the halls alive with the daily hustle and bustle of the nurses in their starch white uniforms as they made their way through the patients and orderlies who occupied these once active vestibules and work stations.

Nuses' Station

With Tuberculosis being a highly contagious disease which few were fortunate enough to recover from, the men and women who cared for the infected were kept away from society as well, residing in Nurses and Doctors cottages which are scattered throughout the grounds, returning to work every day in one of two monstrous hospitals seperating the children from the adults. Although these buildings sit almost 100 yards apart, they all remained accessible through a spiderweb of underground tunnels invisible to those topside. These tunnels were used for many things including maintanance, storage, fallout shelters and the transfer of patients. It is this last use that has stirred one of many urban legands surrounding this location.

Home Sweet Home

It’s said that the dead were transferred underground so as not to upset the residents with the sight of death passing them in the halls and with this knowledge a trip through the pitch black tunnel system warrants an occassional look back over your shoulder as you try to cast off the chill brought on by a cool breeze and dismissing the echoes from behind becomes impossible as you move just a little quicker to get to the other end where it feels safe to enter the light once again. But if you’ve done your research, your brightly lit safe haven of medical stations and isolation rooms dissolves into another feeling of tension as more to the legand surfaces in your mind. The clouded history on the care of the residents has allowed suspicion to form in just what went on behind closed doors. Rumors can be heard pertaining to the mistreatment of the facility’s patients and even go as far to speculate on the validity of the claims at medical staff performing human experiments on those vulnerable to their hidden agendas.

Echoes

Years later when it sought to make renovations on the aging buildings, the hospital was sited for countless fire hazards and the presence of asbestos which forced the doors closed in 1981. The legand goes on to state that near the end of its days of operation, the hospital was used to house the criminally insane. With no family and nowhere else to go, it is said that the patients were simply released from the grounds when the hospital locked its doors, and that the insane made their way back inside the eerie walls to live out their days in abandoned solitude, hiding in the shadows and wandering the decay. Are these stories true accounts, or are they just…stories? That’s for you to decide. So the next time you’re feeling adventurous and find yourself on the outskirts of any abandonment, remember that there’s more to a place than just its sweeping views and deteriorating passageways. These places are saturted with history, both real and conjured up and the other side to the physical explore is when one takes the time to explore its past.

The Cottage In The Woods

FML Moment

As the jaggers pierced my clothes and scratched my face, I winced from the pain but pushed on, keeping my eyes on the clearing that was just out of my reach. The beautiful patch void of things that attack me. I struggled the last few steps and as I brought my foot out of the jungle, it seemed as if the vegetation came alive in one last effort to pull me into its depths as I twisted and pulled and yanked myself free, spinning out of its clutches with a victorious smile. But as I straightened my clothes and picked some leaves from my hair, something caught my eye and I looked to my left. I wasn’t standing in a clearing at all, but rather a stretch of a beautifully manicured path that wound through the woods and disappeared off in the distance. Seriously?? That’s just awesome. But my irritation was only short lived as my attention turned to the battered building on the opposite side of the path.

Nature Wins

Nestled among the lush green trees stood the withering remains of a cottage and although the sun was shining brightly, dark shadows danced across the brick, causing me to hesitate as I peered up at it. Built in 1886, these cottages were once part of a reform school for boys and served as the living quarters for its students. But this one, standing seperate from the others, had been reserved for the school’s worst offenders and research had revealed a most disturbing fact. I was about to enter the very place in which Albert DeSalvo, Known better as The Boston Strangler, had spent his youth. The thought brought a slight chill despite the horridly hot weather as I looked to the blackened windows but I shrugged it off, gave the path one last irritated look, and set out in search of a way in. The windows and doors on the ground level were boarded up but as I walked the perimeter I came upon a busted window which revealed a slight drop into the basement. I took hold of the rotted window frame, stepped onto the sill, spun around and sank into the lowermost part of the building. Taking one last look at the outside world, I turned around to take in my new surroundings.

Solo

Before me stood a makeshift cubby and in it were what was left of the boys’ shoes, laying dusty and filled with cobwebs scattered among the shelves. As I looked at them the musty smell of the basement crept up on me and I wrinkled my nose in disgust. Deciding it was time to head upstairs I looked for an exit but only found a doorway which disappeared into an endless darkness. I dismissed an eerie feeling as I reached for my flashlight and walked to the doorway, stopping just before my shoes disappeared into the abyss. Peering inside, I spotted a faint light on the opposite end of the room and knew if I wanted to continue on I had to pass through the blackened pit. Stepping into the void, I kept my mind on the light as my flashlight washed over broken dressers with their drawers littering the floor and discarded metal bed frames huddling in the corner. Hearing the scurrying of animals that I’m sure weren’t thrilled with my intrusion, I picked up my pace and quickly made my way to the stairs, climbing my way back into the light.

On File

On the first floor, the rooms looked as though they had exploded with paperwork, quickly suggesting this floor had belonged to those who were in charge of the boys. Among the mess stood a disheveld pile of file boxes extending at least five feet high. Some were opened, most were closed and although my curiosity wanted to read the contents, they were covered in a thick layer of white, dusty mold from years of neglect. As my flashlight’s beam washed over them I couldn’t help but wonder which files belonged to Mr. DeSalvo. Though he was brought to the reform school when he was only 12, his offenses already spanned robbery, assault and battery. As he went on to fullfill a lifetime of crime sprees, I wondered what kind of behavior made it into the repremand sheets within these offices and just how miserable he made his classmates who stayed here with him. My eyes lifted to beyond the files where a once-brilliant and beautiful wooden staircase led to the living quarters and I carefully climbed the discintergrating stairs to the second floor.

Wash Up

The first room I guessed to be where the boys had slept. At either end of the massive room stood two small bathrooms looking tattered but somehow still graceful with their claw foot tubs and artful radiators shining in the light of the day as it streamed through the broken windows. Although the main room had been stricken of all the beds, I could envision them lined up and positioned perfectly for optimal capacity. As I scanned the room my eyes fell on the walls and a closer look revealed the faded paintings of children’s murals just high enough to have been above the boys’ heads. As I stood before them, waiting for the shapes to take on a recognizable form, a shiver went down my spine. I wondered what it must have been like when nightfall crept its way inside the windows, swallowing the light and taking with it the comfort that it held. To spend hours under the darkness of night with the likes of a troubled soul such as DeSalvo. My guess was that the nights spent here weren’t as fun and care free as the fading murals depicted.

Game Time

The next room offered the same vast emptiness, only here there was a door on the opposite end with discolored writing on its wood. The floorboards let out faint snapping sounds and echoed throughout the room as I made my way over to investigate. As I got closer the words became clear and I stopped in front of what had been The Game Room. Standing slightly ajar I could see in, my shadow disappearing into the dakness as I looked around. There were no games here. The only thing left was peeling paint. Suddenly the walls took on a saddened feel to them as my thoughts returned to the boys once again. No parents. No one to care about them. Abandoned for such menial crimes as being truant or strong willed, left to stare longingly out the dirty windows at the lives they once knew. I couldn’t help but wonder if these boys, deemed the worst offenders, were just that or had they been meerely acting out due to the way they were treated. It was a sad thought, one I wanted to escape from so I gladly backed out of the room and slipped through a doorway leading to the top floor.

Today's Lesson

I climbed the tight stairwell, following its sharp turns until it stopped in front of a closed door. As I pulled it open the hydraulics hissed above my head and as the room opened up I found myself in front of a set of perfectly positioned desks, forgotten and frozen in time, as if the boys had just left class. The sun shone down upon them through failing parts of the roof, and after a moment of contemplation I stepped into the first row. I walked slowly, taking in the names of both students and past explorers which were carved into the wood and when I got to the back I couldn’t help but take a seat. I envisioned the boys gathered for their daily lessons, passing notes, whispering when the teacher had her back turned, ultimately wishing they were any place but here. As I reflected on the students I gazed out the window entertaining the thought that, unlike them, I was free to go, to leave this place and return to life.  A priviledge not granted to most and one which ended horribly with DeSalvo as he went on to begin his streak of terror on his unsuspecting victims. Suddenly my seat took on an ominous feel as the idea of him sitting in my chosen desk brought terror to my mind and I quickly stood up to escape the evil. It was time to leave this place and as I made my way back to the warmth of the summer sun, I did so with a quickened pace, anxious to leave his memory behind.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2013

The Great Debate

This article appeared in Issue 1 of UEmagazine
© ~ Olivia Wolfe 2012

Ask any fellow Explorer about their preference for the best season to explore and you’ll recieve a wide spectrum of answers, each coming with their own lists of Pros and Cons to venturing out in the Summer vs. Winter.

~The Summer Season~

Farm Land

Pros:

The warm Summer months are, undoubtedly, the most preferrable time to explore and with so many advantages it’s easy to see why. Who can complain about the beauty the outdoors offer when needing to trek through the wooded area standing between you and your location? And it’s this lush green vegetation that works to our advantage, both in the event we need to stay undercover and its ability to add life to exterior shots left desolate and alone. Once inside our beloved subject the possibilities abound as there is no feeling of being rushed to get our shots. The days are longer, allowing the casual strolls down hallways and the stops along the way to investigate, letting us pause to acknowledge the little things. The day is complimented by the the sun’s bright rays that play off of the camera’s lens, completing the trip with exceptional photography.

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Cons:

But perfection is lost on the sudden knowledge that you are not the only one the warm weather has enticed. Summer increases the chance for run-ins with other people and security, and who among us has enjoyed the need to crouch and hide from unexpected visitors? The heat of the day slowly sets in, making you tired and the necessity of water in your backpack makes it feel as though you’re carrying a ton of bricks on your back. Wiping at the hair that has permanently affixed itself to your face with sweat, you curse your sticky bug spray-laden skin for attracting not only mosquitoes who have returned for their next meal but every bit of dust and cobwebs the place has to offer, and you’re thankful for the decision to end the journey. Hot, tired and sweaty you sneak back down to your chosen entrance. The opening which once beckoned you to come in offers a view of the wooded obstacle course you must drudge through. Tangled branches along the dirt floor trip you as you run along, jaggers and thorns tearing at your clothes, determined to pull you back as you make your way to the safety of your car. The explore may be over but time to breathe easy only comes after the need to search yourself for any ticks that may have found their way onto your skin. It’s time to go home.

It’s this side of Summer which makes us anxiously await the changing of the seasons as the temperatures cool off, the days grow shorter and the leaves fall away. Soon we are met with Winter as we venture out again.

~Winter’s Wonderland~

Dam!

Pros:

Winter is an interesting season because the cold climate offers more challenges for the adventurer. With the exception of the brave explorer, the dead of winter keeps most people indoors. This works to our advantage as it lessons the possibilities of run-ins with other people as everyone’s main focus has become to stay warm. We can take advantage of the stories that lie within the fallen snow. With a little attention one can conclude whether your location has been recently visited by any footprints that may exist or the fact that the plows have neglected the area means it is not one of high priority. The exterior shots come into perfect view as the location has broken free of the confines of vegetation, adding to the essence of desolation and abandonment. The chill in the air tends to keep you alert and you’re satisfied at the end of the pursuit by the brilliant way the sun has cast off of the snow, illuminating your photography.

Anyone for a Swim

Cons:

The lush plant life has fallen away taking with it nature’s hiding spots, causing the need to move quickly. Your second challenge lies within the forecast as snowfall means contending with the fact that you can’t escape your footprints, which can not only alert others to the presence of someone in the building, but the tracks can lead them straight to you. Your freedom to move easily around has become restricted by the need for all your layers and the bitter cold causes you to play the game of trying to keep your fingers from freezing beneath warm gloves and shedding them so you can operate your camera. By the time you’ve captured your last shot your ears are burning, your nose feels as though it might actually fall off, your feet almost refuse to move and you’d like nothing more than to hide under a mountain of blankets until you regain sensation in your extremities or face the world for the next week with a notable cold.

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So whether it’s Summer or Winter when you grab your gear and car keys, it seems our love for the chosen season only lasts as long as it does. By the time we are met with the opposing season we have had enough of what the current one has to offer, but we misss it dearly when we’re in the midst of the other. We carry a Love/Hate relationship for both Summer and Winter but we will forever dawn our cameras and face them eagerly as adventure always awaits.