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abandonedplaces

Lost Places and Missing Memories: Discovering Abandoned Places

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Apr. 9th, 2007 | 04:48 pm
location: Los Angeles County
mood: geekygeeky
music: Theme from Scooby Doo
posted by: jj_maccrimmon in abandonedplaces

Moderator Commentary
Over the past few years, the common lament I've heard from many people has been, "how do you find abandoned sites?" People have asked for point-outs, websites and so forth. As I thought about it, I started considering not just the where’s, but the how’s and the why’s. There is a trick to searching for these places, and most of it involves how you approach the search and the planning for an exploration. It also involves the reasons in which you choose to explore these places. Is it because of the history, the thrill, the "what’s that" factor or the chance to capture that moment in time?


Finding and researching potential sites are frequently misunderstood for the same thing. Although they compliment each other, they are not the same. Finding the cool new location to photograph and explore comes in various levels of simplicity and involvement. Sometimes you will pass by them everyday and never notice them in plain sight. Sometimes, a friend or associate might mention a place they recall seeing. More often than not, they will be somewhere off the beaten path and may require a bit of creativity, caution and innocent curiosity to verify that they are indeed abandoned.

Seeing an abandoned place and maybe looking around it is the easy part. Once you run through the sites you know and you want find more, or you decide that you want to know more about a place you’ve visited, the real fun begins. Researching abandoned places and the history involved in them is a game of detective work. Many times, the pieces of the puzzle aren’t all there and I have to use best guess information to fill in the blanks erased by time. Every place has a story, a reason for being, or a history. Sometimes that history leads to more sites and more opportunities to explore. It also can increase the level of safety when poking around a site.

How do you find them when you don’t have easy info?
Research, Research, Research..


I’ll try to find historical maps and references to locate towns, routes, and individual sites not found on current maps. This also includes topographic and small scale aviation charts. For example, roads that show up on modern maps and lead to dead ends, or side roads bypassed by interstates/freeways, tend to lead to something (they weren’t bypassed without reason).

I use many websites to research potential locations and their pasts. Most locales and regions have historical societies, interest groups and clubs. Check their websites or call them. The local libraries tend to keep historical maps of the areas. These can be compared to existing maps to make plans. Aerial maps, satellite surveys and topographic maps are incredible when trying to pin down a location, a route or sometimes the activity level at a given site. Nothing is more frustrating than driving an hour to a location only to discover that your site isn’t there anymore or it is actively in use.

Search engines can be your best friend and your absolute worst nightmare. Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo Search, Lycos and others are text based. They look based on what you put in or how you vary it. I’m surprised at how many people complain that they get 1.5 million possible answers on a Google Search and then fail to narrow their search parameters or use "quotes" around parts of search subject. Specialty websites on specific interest areas can be very useful. There’s a score or more of websites on Route 66, abandoned military locations, ghost towns, lost amusement parks and old theaters. Use these as a starting point to find more detailed info. Speaking of ghosts and such, even ghost and haunting sites can offer good info, though it must be taken with a grain of salt (due to second hand descriptions, misidentified locations and questionable authenticity). In the internet age, anyone can post info about anything and be a self proclaimed expert. Always try to find a second or third source unless you know the original source of info is the gospel truth.

Part 2 to follow tomorrow

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Comments {16}

(no subject)

from: holdingmybreath
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
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does it really require wikipedia to find a bunch of cement?

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
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Ah the short sight of youth...

Any goob with a camera can post mere photographs. The great essays here come with stories, history and background. You can also use reference source to 'find' new locations.. Unless you live in East St Louis or Detroit you will run out of easy to find local site. Think.. snide comments (and that's how it was taken) win you no respect.

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(no subject)

from: wrenchmonkey
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
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I'll second that that was pretty fucking rude, and unnecessary. `Scuse me for butting in.

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(no subject)

from: thallium
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
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Firstly, your comment was unnecessarily patronising. If you browse through holdingmybreath's journal, you will find some truly amazing examples of urban exploration and photography, and in my opinion I think he contributes some of the best content in this community.

Yeah any goob with a camera can post photographs, however not every goob with a camera has a sense of adventure or an eye for photography. I love exploring because it exercises full potential of my imagination, and I think knowing about a place beforehand spoils the element of mystery for me. For example, "oh, this looks like an abandoned mad scientist's lab!" -> Google search result -> condemned pet shop from 1985.

Personally, I find discovering something by accident to be far more satisfying than researching the building/site, planning my day then typing up an essay about it.

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
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Actually I have browsed extensively through his work and I have been impress long before this. The point of the original post is for people who are not accomplished or experienced urbex or abandoned sites folks. Hell it's for folks in general so that the next time I get the question, "I live in Podunk, Wyoming or Rat's Tail, Arkansas- are there any cool sites around?" - I can refer to this post (in the Memories section of the community. "Any Goob" was not refering to him in specific and was directed as a generality.

Further, I sincerely enjoy going out and finding sights completely at random. I've even posted that to that effect. I've driven less than an hour (usually a half hour or less) in any random direction and found places. My challenge is to find out either in advance or afterward about what the site is or was.

As for Patronizing comments, I'll refer you back to his original reply. It was rude and written with a snarky manner that I don't tolerate very well, especially when the post is subtitled "Moderator Commentary." If you really want to find the simplest way to piss off your usually easy going and live and let live Moderator - appear to be snarky and I WILL reply in kind.

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(no subject)

from: thallium
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)
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Oh, my mistake, I thought you were directing the "goob" comment @ him. Sorry.

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
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No, I can promise you this as a moderator, I will never intentionally insult someone over the forum. As a moderator it would imply two things.. one is a lack of ability to see another person's point. Second it would show that I've lost control and had to resort to name calling.

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(no subject)

from: holdingmybreath
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)
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I apologize if you took this as a snide comment, for that was not my intention.

Let me elaborate:
You speak of great essays of stories, history and background, which i completely agree about on all accounts.
My problem with your explorations is that your locations tend to be long since deserted, there is nothing there except cement and spray paint, regardless of the stories and history of that location... it is what it is. an empty cement room. it seems like going to abandoned places is the new fad, and many people go in and have no respect for the place or it's history. They simply enter because some friend told them about it and it sounded cool.

My take on this ‘new fad’ is all about the history actually (despite my short sight of youth). When you walk into a hospital to find an iron lung, or a morgue or a medical bed, i find it absolutely fascinating trying to think that this belonged to someone, someone spent a good deal of time in this bed, or in this device if not their entire life. Or when you walk into a room in a psych ward to find snapshots and magazine cut outs and hand written letters taped to the wall. These rooms were someone’s home, now they are nothing, but there is always a piece of that person left behind.

Take these images from a Massachusetts based hospital for example:





Yeah, right, creepy, iron lungs, great
These devices got me thinking,and I actually was able to contact and speak with a gentleman named henry who lived a great deal of his life, in the yellow iron lung, in that very room.





That lung is still there today in the same room, virtually untouched.

Now to me, that is history. Granted, Henry's story and my interaction with him did not change the world, it wasn't a part of some great military battle or anything like that. But these are the things that are really important and interesting to me.

Military bases or office buildings are all well and good, but they lack true character. These people went to work, they left and went home. Maybe some days they had a bad day but the world kept spinning. It is much different, and much more fulfilling when you are standing on the roof or a hospital like the "hospital of seven teeth" where you personally know of how terrible the conditions were, and how patients were treated and even of the murders that were committed in the very building you sit atop. I recently visited an abandoned pysch hospital that I, on a number of occasions, went to see my own mother while she was a patient there. Sitting in the very room she was in a few years earlier was something else.

So i do sincerely apologize if you took that comment the wrong way, and I am very sorry that because I am only 20 years old you think that I am some "goob with a camera" and that has no respect for history, stories and backgrounds. All I meant by my previous comment is that I feel like your locations lack meaning. Not historical meaning but a more down to earth person to person basis kind of meaning. I would suggest you crack into a hospital or some kind of rehabilitation center and sit there for a few and browse some patients records, as strange as that may sound to some, I think you will understand where I am coming from more.

Very sorry,
Jeff


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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
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Thank you Jeff for clarifying and removing my concerns. As I mentioned, you have done some really incredible work and the comment just came off really wrong. I appologize if ill was taken, but I tend to educate as well as post here, and some replies just come off in a bad vein.

We get something in the range of 50 posts per year asking for research of site selections help requests.. How do I find.. blah? type questions. In this and the second post to follow, I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone.

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(no subject)

from: holdingmybreath
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)
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Haha no, i'm a jerk and that comment didn't sound like that in my head while typing it until i read your comment back. And i can't even imagine about requests for new locations you get, I get tons and I'm just here, not running anything.

Again I apologize, that did sound terrible. I hope i was able to clarify that brief comment a little bit.

If anyone thinks I'm a pretentious ass and wants to yell at me or needs any help with anything feel free to contact me.

jeffmcmullin@gmail.com
screen name: jeffsbadyear

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prairiesong

(no subject)

from: prairiesong
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)
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What I want to know is how to get to a graveyard in a field (see my journal posts) I cannot vault fences! Ideas as to who would know who the land belongs to? (Around here, you don't go knocking on doors.)

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)
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I'd suggest going to Terraserverusa.com and plug in the nearest road address then try to narrow down the Lat/Long and location. With that, you can call the county assessor's office and ask who holds title. In other places it might be called the titles and registries office, or the magistrate cleck. From there, simply call or write. If it's on public land, there has to be a right of way to the graveyard.

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prairiesong

(no subject)

from: prairiesong
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
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Very cool, and thanks for the tip! And I find if I am in the right frame of mind, abandoned places find me.

If this one is on private property, and I really suspect it is (middle of a corn/milo field), this would be the third one I have found thatis.

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Old St. Annes

(no subject)

from: laurapalmer813
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
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Don't forget about the DeLorme map books! They're the awesomest things ever for exploring!

I found the "Back Door to Hell" using a book about strange North Dakota history (which mentioned the Weekly World News article and the name of the guy who built it), online census forms (which gave me the township), and old plat maps from the closest university library (which told me where the land was that he owned). Turns out the Back Door was across the street from where the maps said his land was, but I never would have gotten close enough to find it without all those resources! :)

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC)
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heh heh heh sometimes one finds the coolest things, other times ya gotta hunt all over creation for them. Those little resources don't always occr to folks, and that's half the reason I posted this.

Originally I was going to put this up in January, but I got way too busy and only just found my notes.

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prairiesong

(no subject)

from: prairiesong
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)
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I have one of those, I'll check it!

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