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Field Trip: Abandoned House #1

My friend Amy has two abandoned houses that abut her property. We've been wanting to explore them for years. Eight years ago we almost went in and then we chickened out. (Why we thought they'd be any safer eight years later, I have no idea.) But she wanted to try again, so I said I was game.

We believe the owners of the first house are still alive. They don't live in the area. Years ago there was a dispute among family members as to who had the rights to the house, the feuding family members reached a stalemate, which meant it was "nobody's," (at least as far as they were concerned.) The owner(s) are now elderly and don't want to deal with the house themselves. Eventually it will probably fall in. It's in an "unincorporated" area (in other words, it's not a village or township) so the municipal employees say no one has the authority to tear it down.

This house is open to the elements. The front door is open, and covered by blackberry bushes and grape vines. (Yes, we had to go through that to get in.) The back door/back porch has fallen in.


I wasn't really prepared for how scared we would be. Here, Amy has stepped over a challenging spot on the porch, and I'm trying to make my way through the grapevines. We're laughing a lot because we're terrified. Look at the woodwork on the door! This was once known as the nicest house in town. We open the front door to reveal...holy cow, can we even go in there??


Behind the front door where the wallpaper had peeled off, we found handwriting on the plaster beneath. This said 1937. We think it was recording how many rolls of paper they'd needed to do the room. (I think it also says, "Oh! Ho!" which is an understatement, because my heart is pounding out of my chest here). The living room window was broken, with vines growing in. The ceiling tiles had fallen half off. Green wallpaper hung from the walls in giant curls.

The adult potty chair pulled up to the coffee table was either scary or poignant or both. The phone was one of three we found in the house--which I guess would support the "nicest house in town" idea--and the corner shelf was affixed to the wall too firmly for us to rescue it.

We think there are dead raccoons ground into the carpet but it's hard to tell.

On to the kitchen. At this point we were so far into the house I can't even describe how scary it was. There was a fly in there with us, and the drone of its buzzing sounded like a power tool. A bunch of scarves were hanging between the living room and kitchen--here's a view of the living room from the kitchen. It's so odd what people leave behind as opposed to what they take.

That dark, blurry shot was a hole in the floor that led to the basement. Municipal workers said it was a sharp dropoff and water beneath, so we steered very clear of it.

The back porch, laundry room or whatever it was is mostly overtaken by the elements. That's a washing machine fallen on its side. And then, the stairs. There's ashy raccoon poop about 4" deep on the landing. We're beyond scared, but at this point we just have to see.

If I keep going, scary. If I go back, still scary. The floor is surprisingly solid. If it creaked even once, I would've been out of there. The adrenaline rush at this point is so intense, it makes everything crystalline.

I think of this as the "bad boy" bedroom, because of that single, metal-framed, TB-ward-looking bed in the corner. It's a big bedroom, too. I just noticed now in looking at the photos that the dresser has a totally empty mirror frame.

Straight ahead...the pink room! Something you can't get from the photos is how hot it was, and how wet. It's been in the 80's and raining, and that bed is completely saturated. We couldn't stop looking at the pink phone on the wall behind it. Amy tried to get to it, but she couldn't make it beyond the rubble of the fallen ceiling tiles. I spotted the hand-embroidery on the pillowcase. I can't wrap my head around abandoning a house with the beds made.

Time to go, we're about ready to vomit with adrenaline rush. Amy is wondering if it's worth trying to rewire that lamp, but she decides to leave it where she found it. On our way out we find an office next to the front door, by the writing on the wall. There's a viewmaster and a bunch of disks on the floor, so we take that. It still works!

So the funny thing about these field trips...I'm taking them to refill the writer-well, so I continue to have life experiences beyond get up, feed the cats, check my email, write, go to bed. I thought I'd be able to observe what time did to buildings, but also how it smelled, how it sounded, how it felt. And yes, I did experience all these things (oh boy, did I ever.)

What I didn't expect was what I'd learn about myself. I've never felt fear like I did on that stairwell. I had no idea that the fear would be so intense it would leave us both with headaches afterward. It was also strange that once we had conquered the upstairs, the first floor felt like nothing, and we couldn't believe we had been so scared in there just a few minutes before. I'm so thankful Amy came with me, because talking about it helped to process the intensity of the experience. We've always been great friends, but I feel so bonded with her for having shared this thing, and I guess that's another thing I didn't expect, the bonding that would come out of going through something terrifying with another person.

We were so wiped out we would have called it a day, but after we'd visited and consumed a bunch of lemonade, as I was heading toward my car to go back home, we looked at the other abandoned house and I said, "You wanna just go take a quick peek?" (continued tomorrow...)



( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
What a cool experience! And a great way to refill the well. I hope to recharge my batteries on my trip in September.
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC)
Definitely journal a bit if you can find time. Usually epiphanies stick with me, but smaller observations can be forgotten pretty easily.
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:30 am (UTC)
I plan on taking my netbook with me so I can just down my adventures at the end of the day. And I will be bringing my camera so I can hopefully take lots of pictures.
I definitely want to take lots of pictures when I go on The Whore Tour - my cousin is already scouting for tickets.
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
It does look scary. Even though, deep down, you just know there's nothing in there that's going to hurt you. Apart from spiders. If it were here, the place would be crawling with them. And mice.

It doesn't look safe at all, though. I think you're very brave. Not sure I'd go anywhere near it.
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:26 am (UTC)
The main fears were raccoons, rats, and falling through the floor. I suppose there could have been snakes too, but don't tell Andy.
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:31 am (UTC)
And that is why I won't go any closer to places like that than my zoom lens allows ;o)
Jul. 9th, 2010 09:38 am (UTC)
...but don't tell Andy.

I was going to warn you that she can read... :D
Jul. 9th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
Wow, creepy. I think I would've been too scared of falling through the floor (or the ceiling falling in on me) to go in.

The made bed in the pink room really struck me as sad. Why leave such pretty bedding, all nicely made? Did they think they were coming back? Why leave the whole house, for that matter?

Anytime I see an abandoned house I start thinking about why it could have been abandoned. I've always been pretty morbid so I always think of horrible or depressing reasons...Too much Poe as a child I guess. :)
Jul. 9th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about the made bed. I read into it, too. The adult potty chair, also. I know the current owner(s) were too busy fighting to own the place, but what about whoever's death resulted in the place falling into their hands?

I spotted a THIRD abandoned-looking place across the way. It belonged to a guy who used to use it as a summer home on the weekends, but is now bedridden. (I don't know when they classify these things as officially abandoned, but he hasn't been around in a long time.)
Jul. 9th, 2010 10:46 am (UTC)
I hope you had a rescue party on stand-by, just in case!
Jul. 9th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
My friend's husband had instructions to come find us if we didn't return.
Jul. 9th, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Wow! An amazing field trip. I imagine you have a whole host of stories brewing from it. I love how you share this stuff and your thoughts about it!
Jul. 9th, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like the photos and essays. It's part of the processing for me to review and think about what I've seen by posting them.
Jul. 9th, 2010 11:21 am (UTC)
THAT LOOKS SO TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!! I love doing stuff like that. I don't think I'd be scared at all. Maybe I spent too much time as a child exploring creepy places like that to be frightened. :D

That is REALLY weird that they would abandon bed linens, though. O___O How bizarre.
Jul. 9th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
I don't think I was prepared for how scared we were. A bird started tweeting when we were on the second floor and I heard it as the squeal of collapsing floorboards. That was probably the worst moment.
Jul. 9th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
HAHAHA Yeah, I think I would definitely be nervous about the place falling down around my head.

Jul. 9th, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC)
Looks like something out of Supernatural! I noticed you didn't go in there after dark! :)
Jul. 9th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
Nope, we didn't even think to bring a flashlight.
Jul. 9th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
As a heritage conservation nerd, I am deeply saddened that such a beautiful house is in such bad shape. :(
Jul. 9th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
We were, too. Especially when we noticed details on the woodwork, or the panel doors. Someone willing to gut it and restore it might be able to save it, but I think it's too far away from everything to be of interest to someone with that kind of money. The floors felt surprisingly sturdy, while the ceilings were just a mess. It was especially eerie looking through the attic to the sunlight piercing the slats.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
The fully made, abandoned bed makes me feel sad, too. Either nobody thought enough of who it belonged to to want to take it, or it was too painful to touch and had to be left as it was. Heartbreaking either way.
Jul. 13th, 2010 09:12 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought of that second scenario, because the squabbling that followed the owner's death was really in the forefront of my mind. It IS sad.
Jul. 11th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
Another adventure that seems like it would give you plenty of inspiration, but sad to see a house like that. My brother lived in downtown Baltimore for a while, in an area they were trying to re-gentrify. He and his girlfriend lived in what had been a hotel, and was very nicely restored and adapted. Nearby there was a house with a tree growing through the roof. It looked like it would be a long, slow process to gentrify the rest of the neighborhood.
Jul. 13th, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)
Plants are more destructive than people realize. My mom had a tree growing ON her roof that needed to be pulled. Where the heck do these things germinate? The second house is being consumed by plant life more conspicuously.
Jul. 15th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Wow. Just... WOW. That's the kind of place I LOVE, so I quite envy you for that experience. :D
Jul. 15th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It will be hard to top it on subsequent field trips, that's for sure. It was so intense.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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