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.”

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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.

Concrete Giants

Horizon

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.

SlowandSteady

“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

Writer Interupted

So, I’m bummed to announce that I have a bad case of Writer’s Block. I shouldn’t complain, as I have not been inflicted with it for a very long time. I’m not sure how it works for others, but it always seems to appear when there is a lot going on in my life. And it always seems to happen when I am at a good pace with my writing. When I am on track and in line to meeting goals I have set for myself. Writing is not just a hobby for me. It is a part of who I am so for me not to be able to create anything is a struggle in and of itself. I’m happiest when I am creating, which is the reason for this post. It may not be a story, but I wanted to release something since it’s been a while. I have been working hard on my next story. Writing, deleting, rewiting, staring at my screen for hours…until finally I decided to scratch it and start over, hoping that was the problem, but it wasn’t. No matter how hard I try I simply can’t form sentances. Nothing sounds right to me. Nothing makes sense. It’s been a while since I have released a story and I was excited to bring you my next adventure, but now that Writer’s Block has set in, all I can do is walk away from my projects and wait it out. I’d like to say Thank you to all those who have followed my Blog and once I find my way back to creativity I will release my next adventure. Until then, cross you fingers and wish me luck it doesn’t last too long.

~O

~Glory Daze~

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A light rain fell on the windshield as I approached my destination. As I spotted the tops of the coasters my adrenaline kicked in and I followed the road parallel with the fence, keeping a look out for a point of entry. It was soon clear that this decaying fortress was guarded by a ten-foot barbed wire fence without a single break in it anywhere. A tough challenge, but one I was not about to back away from. My tires left the road and I pulled into the woods, inching farther in until I was well hidden. Grabbing my bag, I snuck through the tall grass back to the road and assessed the situation. There wasn’t too much traffic so all I had to do was wait for a break and then make a mad dash to the fence, scale the chain link, hop over the barbed wire and land inside the grounds. I laughed at the thought. All I had to do?? Ah, the things we face all in the name of adventure. I chose a section of fence resting behind a rather large tree, making mental notes of key points to use as stepping stones to help me over. I crouched low in the grass as I spotted a car making its way toward me, waiting for my chance. Once the tail lights disappeared around a bend I took off running. The road was slick and I fumbled my way across to the big shady tree. The bark was soaked and I fought to hang on as I jumped to grab the lowest branch and threw my left foot up on an available notch. The wet rubber on the sole of my right boot worked against my efforts at climbing the chain link and when I had made it almost to the top my foot slipped free and I found myself dangling from the tree.

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Suddenly, I heard the splash of water as a tire interupted a puddle somewhere down the road and I knew I didn’t have much time. If I was seen it would be over so it was now or never. Forgetting the disadvantages the rain offered, I shimmied my way up again. Once high enough, I leaned over the barbed wire and took hold of a decent sized branch, pulled my legs in, did my best olympic moves and swung over the fence, cringing at the thought of the pain I would feel if I didn’t clear the wire. To my delight the pain never surfaced and I let go of the branch and soared into a patch of neglected shrubbery just before the unsuspecting car sloshed past. When I was in the clear I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared my camera before making my way into the park. I soon came upon the back entrance of one of the park’s last remaining coasters and I stopped in mid stride to look up at the wooden relic. I watched as 3,506 feet of track unraveled before me, strategically twisting and turning to provide its passengers the ultimate thrill. As my eyes came back to ground level I spotted the machanic’s shed and began in my chosen direction. Walking closer to the coaster I stepped over wooden planks, broken bulbs and scattered cups from the concession stands. Reaching the door I was surprised when it pushed easily open and I found myself still in the outdoors.

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The walls had been ripped away and discarded close by at the foot of a rickety looking staircase where passengers had once ascended to take their place in line to load the cars. I stumbled through the debris, making my way to the bottom step where I teetered on top of the wood pile as I debated whether I should trust the rotting wood. Inching my way up the stairs as they swayed slightly I thought to myself that maybe I should turn back, but imagining the view from the top was irresistible. Emerging onto the coaster’s platform I stood in the midst of sad destruction. There was no room for exploring the area as the center of the platform had given way, crashing to the ground below. The metal track sagged desperately without its support and from my safe postion I followed it with my eyes, taking in the damage. The initial incline which once proudly brought its passengers to the brink of excitement now towered spiritlessly beneath the ashen skies, its support beams forsaking their critical posts as they dangled in the wind before joining their counterparts in the rubble below. Further down, huge portions of the track disappeared in an implosion of eraticated wood and peeling paint. As I stood in awe something else caught my attention, something moving in the far off distance. As I squinted to see a few acres away the quick moving flash of metal came with the delayed sound of a truck door and a small group of men. From my perch high above the park, the realization that I wasn’t alone brought questions of my visibility and I quickly back stepped and took the stairs two at a time back to ground level.

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The rain had begun to pick up and I wiped at the hair that clung to my face as I made a decision. Turn back now, after getting just a small taste of what lay ahead or continue on and take my chances? I wasn’t about to leave now so I took in my options. One of two ways were available, take the main boardwalk which would put me out in open or use the attractions themselves for hiding. With the sound of the workers drifting through the air and my insatiable curiosity, I left my hiding place and bolted toward a four-foot cement wall. Easy enough to catapult over into hiding once again, or so I thought until I discovered mid leap that the wall provided safety from a fifteen-foot drop off into a canal. My feet hit the slanted sides and I fell backwards as I watched my camera hit the cement next to me and begin tumbling toward a collective puddle of rain water on the floor of the channel. I did a running version of the crab walk in a race to beat it to the bottom but my ridiculous position paid off as I jumped in front of it and pulled it into my jacket just as I landed in the water and splashed exccessively as I waded through to the other side. The world ceased to exist as I gave my camera a once-over, looking passed the gouges and concerning myself with its ability to still turn on.

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Luck was on my side as I listened to it come to life and in that moment I realized my clamorous efforts had left me soaking wet and quite possibly under suspicion. It was time to move. I looked around and found myself standing in the basin for what once was a log ride with nothing much to see. I spotted a ladder at the opposite end and thought to myself how nice that would have been, had there been one available a moment ago. I quickly closed the gap and climbed out of the trench, back into another patch of bushes. I was now standing in the picnic area as I scanned the dismantled pavilions and small concession stands. I knew I didn’t have much time so I set my sights on the main gate with its elegant architecture and long row of ticket booths. Staying under cover, I got as close to the front as I could before I was met with a wide open space again. I could hear the workers’ voices closer now but I took my chances and made a run for it. Landing inside the office buildings I looked around at the downfall brought on local party goers. Broken bottles and food wrappers littered the floor, along with plaster torn from the walls and decimated furniture. I found the front window with the perfect view of the ticket booths and crouched to get some shots. As I marveled at my camera’s stability after its fall, I heard the rumble of truck engines as they came up the drive right next to me. I pulled myself from view and hid under the counter, hoping they weren’t planning a search party. Not wanting to risk getting caught I stayed in position and listened as they discussed plans for which ride to dismantle next. When the makeshift meeting was over and the trucks drove off, I knew it was time for me to leave too. One close call too many had brought the adventure back to this Park long after its days of entertaining had passed. Soaking wet and exhausted, it was time to go home and count my welll earned bruises among my collection of memories. I may not have seen it all on this trip, but I will be heading back.

© Olivia Wolfe~2012