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Lost Places and Missing Memories: Discovering Abandoned Places (part 2)

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Apr. 10th, 2007 | 09:30 am
location: Los Angeles County
mood: contemplativecontemplative
music: Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party
posted by: jj_maccrimmon in abandonedplaces

Moderator Commentary

Before I continue on this, I want to make two notes about the previous entry moderator commentary. First the comment of "any goob with a camera" is not meant to be derogatory (individually or as a group). It’s merely saying anyone with a cell phone camera or better can grab very basic pictures of any site. No problem - I challenge you to do more. It doesn’t take much to add to even those with a little background, description of your visit or commentary of what the pictures are. Adding a little color commentary doesn’t hurt. Even more, it offers your view of how, who, what, where, why you found it to begin with. People lived, worked and potentially died in these places.. Do them the honor of telling a little of the story you’ve found.

Second, this and the previous entry have gone into the memories section for the community as "educational material and points of record." It’s being done so that newcomers to this activity can be directed to it and read suggestions on what to do and not to do. For the past 3 years, I’ve seen at least 50 requests per year asking for info on finding sites, or on what is acceptable to get into sites. These entries were meant to offer some gentle guidance.

Equally important, it clearly states that the moderators have warned the readers of the risks of injury or criminal mischief. In posting it, it protects us and the community from lawsuits and criminal mayhem should anyone do something inherently silly and (next of kin) imply or suggest that we encouraged the dumb, dangerous or dubious behavior that landed you (injured, arrested or dead) in the situation to begin with :D.


Everything comes with risks.. also known as the careful and the dead..
Accessing and exploring abandoned places doesn’t come without some very basic and inherent risks. Broken glass, rusty nails and falling debris are the most common and least threatening risks. Even the most innocent of sites can offer life threatening risks. Knowing these pitfalls or similar hazards exist allows for better situational awareness and protects the explorer(s) from serious injury, arrest or both.

For example, mining related ghost towns in the American West frequently were surrounded by and/or included vertical shaft mines within the town borders. Shafts could drop 30 to 70+ feet (10 to 24+ meters) before offering a ledge or bottom. Lacking modern safety regulations, when mining ended (usually) these shafts would merely be covered with timber and left for nature to fill in. In the past four years, two deaths and several other significant injuries have been associated with shafts like these in relatively outlying areas of the Antelope Valley (north of Los Angeles) where I live.

Likewise, buildings in modern urban areas can be risky due to water seepage weakening the structure, potential for (hostile) squatters and increasingly, criminal activities. There's no better way to receieve a Darwin Award then to be on the fifth floor of a structure and have the floor give way and discover just how fall you can fall and maintain consciousness before or after you've hit bottom. The authorities aren't the only problem. If the potential of trespassing on a location isn’t criminal enough; gang and drug activities in some urban locations make exploring them more dangerous and require a very thorough recon on the site for potential use by others. The higher the induced risk, the more I have to recommend exploring partners or teams. There’s both safety in numbers and hopefully someone who can pull you out of a dangerous spot.

How much is too much?
I know that over the past few years, I’ve harped on three (3) basic points of exploring. Publishing locations, gaining entry and solo exploration have been areas that I’ve genuinely been adamant about in different respects. Why..? Ethics! We all hopefully adhere to the basic code of “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” For those of us who actively seek these places, photograph them and share the results, there has to be a certain measure of ethics in our activities or it hurts any others who follow in our path.

I don’t advocate publishing a site’s given location, even if it’s accessible on other search or interest sites. Why? Unless the site is administered and under guard, when you post the information abandoned place at “x” location, you have just published an open invitation to every local tagger or vandal with a computer to go there and make their mark on a pristine canvas. Make them work for it folks. Sadly there are people in this world who are more interested in destroying these interesting places then in the thrill of seeing something from another era.

To trespass or not to trespass, that is the question. We’ve all come to sites with a “No Trespass” sign on the fence or side of the building, which we’ve ignored and bypassed for a hole in a fence, an open gate or a door long gone. I fully understand some people explore abandoned places for the thrill of getting into someplace without getting caught. Ask yourself why? I will never advocate entry nor would I attempt to enter a site, if the fence was kept up, the building padlocked and the windows intact. If someone has been maintaining a place, entering would be no different than someone breaking into your home or apt. If the site is decayed, if the property not maintained, if there’s obvious open points of access (even with signage), most authorities are hard pressed to press charges in most localities in the United States. In the several run in’s I’ve had with authorities, I was polite in explaining that there was no (visible) signage and that I was merely photographing the site for art or historical documentation. In each case, I’ve walked away without any trouble. Break into a site and get caught with the tools of the task, and you only have yourself to blame for the trouble that will follow.

Solo exploration is the most exciting and without doubt the most dangerous way to experience a location. That being said, I’ve done it multiple times and come away with some of the most incredible stories and images of my photo career. I’ve also been stuck in the sand in the middle of the desert in mid-August, nearly had a building collapse on me, and have had to keep my tetanus shot very up to date. In every case, I’ve left maps, itineraries, instructions and time tables of where and when I’m be places. I’ve always had a cell phone, water, lights, and tools to get myself out of trouble. Why is it ok for some and not for others? I’m 42, stand 6’2” (1.86m), weigh around 230 lbs (104 kg) am in pretty decent shape and tend to make people have second thoughts about starting trouble. I will never, ever suggest to a late teen-early twenty something (female) to go soloing into an abandoned site – period. It’s not sexist, it’s stupid. You never know what or who you’ll find or who’ll find you. Until you become very experienced, male or female, in studying and exploring sites, know what to listen for, and know to heed the warning signs, you can become a permanent resident of some places either due to accident or incident.

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Comments {22}

Evan

(no subject)

from: einsideout
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
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another guide: http://www.wikihow.com/Explore-Abandoned-Structures

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Hollow

(no subject)

from: hollow_01
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
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I agree with the "research before going in" statement 100%.

Years back, I was following the NJ/PA/DE/NY version of the "Gates to Hell" legend, and ended up driving along an access road that went on for miles through heavy brush at sundown.

By the time I reached the end of the dirt trail (driving slowly to keep from bottoming out), I was inside the first security perimeter of the prison two towns over. Research revealed that the maintenance staff used the road in the 60's to bring in their heavy equipment before the county fenced in the ring.

Granted, there are usually three or four perimeter rings, and that first one just had a rusty fence with no top-wire at my entry point, so I wasn't playing jailbreak by any means. However, I could of gotten into deep shit for being trespassing into a prison.

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Brad

(no subject)

from: braddotcom
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
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Well said!

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(Deleted comment)

JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
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Thank you lass. Do understand that the last thing I ever want to have to read about or have to attend is the funneral for one of our folks especially if it could be avoided. Have you tried hooking up with other folks in your area?

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a nickname or handle

(no subject)

from: wackodood
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)
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I wish there was stuff to explore in the Twin Cities.

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loli_cat

(no subject)

from: loli_cat
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC)
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Out in the outer burbs there's plenty of stuff...

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)
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I think that the three of you may want to chat. Given the sites in the area, perhaps a group exploration might be a good thing?

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 11th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
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Oh and btw, it's good to hear from you again.

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C.

(no subject)

from: terry_terrible
date: Apr. 11th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
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There's plenty of things in the cities to explore.

Look this up:

http://www.actionsquad.org/

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PXL

(no subject)

from: pxlboy
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
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i was only kidding about the "goob" thing. i'm still sort of a noob with this stuff. i have explored about 10 houses in all; photographed most of them.

thanks for the advice and info.

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 10th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)
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No worries. I'm still giggling over the comment.

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Miss Doe

(no subject)

from: catharsis_o_s
date: Apr. 11th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
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twenty something (female)

HEY!

It’s not sexist

Oh.
but it is a bit :D

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 12th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
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Lass, sadly there are some very dangerous places here. I'm a parent and have a daughter. Call it a little sexist, maybe... I merely call it being protective. I could quote all manner of statistics and crime data, but the point is, I'm a bit of an old fashioned gentleman that way.

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Miss Doe

(no subject)

from: catharsis_o_s
date: Apr. 12th, 2007 11:36 am (UTC)
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Yeah, there but not here. European here *wave*
But i know what you mean. Safety first.

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Apr. 12th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
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oh trust me, I do understand that it's less threatening there. In fact people have a far more mellow attitude in Europe which I appreciate :D.

That being said the comments in both posts were done for the worldwide readership. We have over 8000 active accounts signed up to watch the community. Tracking runs tell me that we have between 14 to 20,000 actual readers monthly (people who bookmark the community but don't join, people who find it through Google / Yahoo searches seeking individual sites, media, researchers and such). Given that readership and the level of activity by contributors, disclaimers and safety reminders are a sad necessity.

No worries lass. Safe journeys and good hunting!

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Miss Doe

(no subject)

from: catharsis_o_s
date: Apr. 12th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
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I bet we also have some unsafe places too. But i don't think i have any worries being shot if i'm trespassing.

I think it's a good thing that you take pat to this community and care about other people. There's also some abandoned comms in here.

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the gothic gunslinger

(no subject)

from: heatherizcool
date: Apr. 14th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
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Very well-said, JJ. :)

and some of my own thoughts:

I don’t advocate publishing a site’s given location, even if it’s accessible on other search or interest sites. Why? Unless the site is administered and under guard, when you post the information abandoned place at “x” location, you have just published an open invitation to every local tagger or vandal with a computer to go there and make their mark on a pristine canvas. Make them work for it folks.

this is a sad but true logic, but at the same time it sometimes promotes an attitude that frustrates me to no end. that is, the withholding of information about certain places when I would really love to check them out. there have been several times when I've gotten the feeling some explorer circles are like secret clubs and if I don't join and play along I'm never going to be enlightened about certain places. Has this happened to anyone else? I don't really have time to socialize much other explorers because I'm usually terribly busy with other things and can only go exploring every couple of months when home from college and have access to a car, and then I feel much more comfortable having adventures with old, trusted friends than with a bunch of strangers, especially when illegal activities are involved...

I am by no means trying to point fingers at anyone. In fact, I've scoured other abandoned places sites and this comm is the only place I feel comfortable participating in, where I can go my own (slow, paranoid) pace and feel supported by the other members. I do still consider myself a n00b, despite doing this kind of exploration for over a year now, and it's nice not to feel pressured. But given my busy everyday life, there's a lot of community-based aspects of this hobby I just can't participate in, but it makes me sad because I just know there's a lot of places in my area (greater Boston while at college and CT while at home), that I'm probably missing out on. Is there anyone willing to talk to me about exploring via email or AIM? I've gotten a couple inquiries about the locations in my photos via myspace messages (oy, so that pit of evil is actually useful for something), and I've been happy to chat about them. so yeah. sorry if this seems like a plea or venting session, it's just something that's been bothering me for awhile.

I will never advocate entry nor would I attempt to enter a site, if the fence was kept up, the building padlocked and the windows intact.

I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, JJ. Maybe it makes me seem less "adventurous," but I am way too paranoid to attempt entry otherwise. My policy is I try every door, and if the door is locked, I move on. There have been plenty that weren't, and I've been to places that have no fences at all or (even better) a few that are public property. Respect for the property aside, as far as I understand it, going in an opening is just trespass, but having to break your way in graduates to breaking and entering and suddenly all the risks go up. (I probably am in the wrong hobby, I hate risks!)

I will never, ever suggest to a late teen-early twenty something (female) to go soloing into an abandoned site – period. It’s not sexist, it’s stupid. You never know what or who you’ll find or who’ll find you.

I agree with this 100% as well, and I didn't find the statement sexist in the least. i would never go any abandoned site alone, even if I wasn't female. It's just asking for trouble.

Once again, just wanted to say what a good series of posts this has been. Moderators starting conversations like this is quite wonderful and rare, from what I've seen of other comms (not just on this topic either, in general mods often seem to be the most absent members). Thanks for letting me get a lot of stuff off my chest, too!

Cheers and happy exploring,
Heather



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Brad

(no subject)

from: braddotcom
date: Apr. 15th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
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I realize this is off topic, but I saw these photos and thought you might be interested:

http://englishrussia.com/?p=814#more-814

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dogsofeternity

(no subject)

from: dogsofeternity
date: Jan. 7th, 2009 07:02 am (UTC)
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hmmm.....not sure that i agree on every point, but you've certainly given me a good deal to think about. you're just a bit older, and obviously, more experienced, so i think i'll just act like an adult and try to learn something here.

thanks for sharing your advice / tips / opinions.

cheers and happy shooting :)

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(Deleted comment)

JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 8th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
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Good on you! Usually a wise choice to go with friends. Small parties though are best (3 to 5 people). The larger the group the greater the chance of being noticed or for the noise of group to overwhelm warning signs.

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i found your life in grey and white

(no subject)

from: breathe_in_you
date: Mar. 6th, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
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Hey.. just wanted to say I read these posts because I'm going on my first abandoned places shoot on Sunday. I knew I could find some tips here and I especially appreciate the bit about the fence being kept up and the windows intact. These are things I'll keep an eye out for :)
Thanks!!

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Mar. 6th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
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Thank you for looking into the advice posts. I really want folks to enjoy exploring but to come back in one piece. Good luck, be safe and have fun. I look forward to seeing your photos :)

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