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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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.

Best Moments Award

Best-Moment-Award[1]

Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time.

To receive an award of any kind is always a blessing, but to be presented with one under such a title means so very much to me. You see, I believe that our lives are made up of special moments, strung together over time offering us a unique and exciting journey. These moments do not only present themselves in extraordinary places but, rather, surround us as we move along in our day to day lives waiting for us to recognize them, seize them and recieve the gifts that each one reveals. My moments have created laughter, memories, experiences and a passion for life that can never be stifled and I thank you for presenting me with one more moment I will never forget.

RULES:

Winners re-post this completely with their acceptance speech. This could be written or video recorded.

Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees! The re-post should include a NEW set of people/blogs worthy of the award; and winners notify them the great news.

RESOURCES:

  • What makes a good acceptance speech?
    • Gratitude. Thank the people who helped you along the way
    • Humor. Keep us entertained and smiling
    • Inspiration. Make your story touch our lives
  • Get an idea from the great acceptance speeches, compiled in MomentMatters.com/Speech
  • Display the award’s badge on your blog/website, downloadable in MomentMatters.com/Award

Those who I wish to Acknowledge:

1. The Bookshelf of Emily J.

2. Sun and Glory

3. The Heart of Art

4. Sugar and Cloth

5. A Year of Reading the World

6. California Pixie

7. The Image Maker

8. Belopotosky

9. Amaryllis Log

10. Roam About Mike

11. Pinky Binks

12. A Big Life

13. Bridget Ehemann

14. nomadruss in words and photos

15. Picturette


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 Versatile Blogger Award

I was thrilled to discover that I have been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award by one of my favorite bloggers: Dressed to Quill. To know that others enjoy my writing and the time and effort I put in to this blog means more to mean than any of you will ever know.

versatile-blogger-award[1]

There a few things one must do when accepting this award:

****

* Display the Award Certificate on your website

* Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award

* Present 15  awards to deserving bloggers

* Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post

* Post 7  interesting things about yourself

****

I have come across so many great blogs that this was a tough task to narrow it down to just 15. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. John Henry Beck

2. Dressed To Quill

3. Screwiness-o-rama

4. Harry Alston

5. Lucewriter

6. Gabriel Lucatero

7. GeoTopoi

8. Edith Levy Photography

9. Life With The Top Down

10. Indigo on Papyrus

11. weaklyshortstories

12. The Spirited Quill

13. Chaos and Words

14. Jenna Scribbles

15. I’m not quite here, nor there

***

7 Interesting things about me:

1. I have a severe phobia of clowns

2. I always have a sucker with me

3. My second love next to writing is Photography

4. My exercise consists of Interval Training and Pilates

5. I have six tattoos

6. Smiling is my favorite

7. I love off roading and mudding

Thank you so much, Dressed To Quill, for including me among your chosen 15. And to everyone who tunes in to read my latest story of adventure into the places I love to get lost in. It’s the support and encouragement of everyone that makes all my hard work worth it. Much love to you all.

~ O

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.

9-5

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.

CheckIn

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.

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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.