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

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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 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.

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

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* 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

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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

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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.

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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.