Grygon (grygon) wrote in abandonedplaces,

New Mexico State Penitentiary trip

I understand that the primary goal of this community is just photos, but has anyone else, like me, really yearned to hear the story behind them? Not the history of the place, but what the photographer was feeling/doing/etc.

I hope this post is all right. It relates my story WITH the photos. Most of these photos I would consider "scrap" and so I've only thumb-nailed the 11 photos that I felt are main-gallery worthy, the other photos are linked. This is an edited version of what I posted to my own LJ, but I thought I should share here and maybe encourage others to also narrate their own experiences... if you like to do that.

We arrived at the prison around 8:40 and waited around for our guide to let us in. He let us in about 9am and spoke briefly about the basic ground rules:

1. NEVER close a door, because they will lock and then he'll have to go through his 180some keys to free you, or you also just might get locked in if you don't get discovered before hand (also good idea to have a team).

2. It's very dark in there, some places pitch dark, so to use common sense... like to walk down stairs, don't fall down them. Ha ha ha.

Other than that, and the section of the prison that was off-limits (they were setting up for another movie) we had free run of the place until 1pm.

Note: that for almost all of these shots, I had no idea where I was. You will see me say "somewhere" a lot. And I will relate the many times when I got LOST. Real scarey. I almost cried at one point. So unless I specify where it was... I have no idea. This place is not labeled at all. Even our guide, who was a former guard here, said he got lost when he was new on the job. That can't be SAFE to have an un-labeled prison.

Here's one of the first rooms I stopped in to photograph:

visiting room?

It had a new painting, and this weird drawing on the table there. Probably movie props as they didn't look 10 years old. The prison closed in 1999, and reopened right next door. I could look out the windows at the new prison and see inmates walking the yard.

A detail shot of one of the drawings from that table: here

Babette tagged along

... and I took a few interesting shots of her enjoying the sight seeing. This desk had some weird labels. Babette liked the "EWOK" one. here is the other one.

From that room I ventured on and ran into what I think was a control room. None of my pictures from there, especially the detail shots, really came out. But here's a small one.

We finally got to the cell blocks. 3, 4 and 5 were open to us. Though 5 was mostly closed due to some missing railing and the fact that the place was complete TRASHED... for some reason.

The mirrors in many of the cells made for interesting shots. Sadly, almost none of my shots of them came out very well. Here's my 2nd fave mirror, since my fave-fave didn't make it (blurred like whoa).

Many of the cell walls were covered with graffiti and art: some poetry, some bible passages, drawing of a lady's face, A big dragon and woman that covered all 3 walls of a cell... seems too new to be 20 years old.

I just liked this cell...

Tube with green screen and tube interior. I'm curious what movie they were used for...

Babette poses inside a cell.

Charred cell...

...was difficult to photograph, but the bars are lurking in the corner here.

Ax marks

... from where an inmate was beheaded in cell block 4 (2nd floor) during the 1980 riot. You can see where they tried to fill them with cement but they are still very obvious. I ran my finger over a few and the grooves/depressions are smooth but still prominent. I get chills just looking at this photo and remembering...

Torch marks

... in cell block 4, third level. One (at least) of the inmates was torched to death. I seem to recall reading about one being torched on a table. This one, clearly, was on the floor. The burn marks actually scorched the cement and have been there since 1980.

These two images give me very strong feelings that I can't really describe. I guess "haunted" might...

Shot of cell block 4, lower level.

Dead bird in block 5


Creepy clown references... somewhere... there was a big room, with part of an OLD movie set in the middle of it and along the walls were tiny rooms. This room was kinda weird. Probably part of a movie set too. This old water heater was also down there.

It was while here that my friend's son told us to go peek into this one room. I've been jumpy since we got there, so I should have expected something to scare the shit out of me, especially since my friend had a heart attack before I even looked.

In the room was hair. Think: The Ring or Grudge. Yes, Samara/Sadako (Ring) or Kayako (Grudge). It took me probably no less than a second to figure out it was a woman leaning over her camera peering into the lens, but all I saw at first was THAT HAIR. I am going to hurt that kid next time I see him. ;)

Gas chamber... I can't remember when we FIRST went down to see it, but this room never really emptied out. People set up shop for photos and NEVER LEFT. So I just got in one shot. The first time we went down both my friend and I had scares. Someone came out of a dark room right next to her. Me, I tried to peer INTO the dark room and didn't know there was a living human being lurking in there. DAMN. I didn't stop laughing/crying until we went to leave.

The 2nd time I went down, I stayed around in the dark to get some shots of the pitch dark boiler room (?) using my camera's focus-light to see my way around. I half expected some freaky Resident Evil bad ass to spring some serious mauling on me down here. I was so scared. LOL. Some shots... keep in mind, I had no idea WHAT I was taking photos of, I would just point, half-click for focus, and then click: of pipes, and boxes, and knobs, and this beauty.

Also, I found this
just waiting for me somewhere. was shortly after the gas chamber that my friend went outside and left me to fend for myself. It was FREEZING. But I didn't really start to feel it in my exteremities until later. It also began to effect me in other ways that I didn't realize until I had time to reflect on them. Next time I will be better prepared!

So after leaving the area where the gas chamber and weird... boiler room? were, I headed down a very very dark hallway. On the way I ran into some guy who we had a chat in cell block 4. I pointed out where the guy was beheaded and we talked a bit and stuff. So now, he tries to tell me that there isn't much of interest down this dark hallway. I am glad I didn't listen to him.

So I found an even darker room. Again I had to rely on the focus-light from my camera every few seconds to even see where the heck I was.

In the middle of this slight scare that I actually used a minute on my phone to call my friend and tell her what I had found: hospital beds. Yeah, that gave me another little Resident Evil scare, even bigger than the damn boiler room. She didn't take the hint. She was too cold to come back inside from the warmth and check out the cool hospital setting.

So, I made my way past the creepy rows of hospital beds and around a corner, inside a nook, was this dentist chair: here... and here.

Around another corner, there was light! It's amazing how swift the drop-off for light and dark can be in this place. And another Resident Evil scare. Snack bar table thing bent to all heck.

And here was a weird tub of chemicals... I'd like to know used for what. Inside it was still about half full of a white powdery substance. As the laundry was coming up next, I can only imagine it was used for that.

Now, some laundry press equipment. And these big ass scarey machines, with equally big ass scarey driers.

Now, mind you, as I'm walking around down here I am very jumpy. As you can see in the big ass machine photo, all the windows near the cieling are wide open. And it's breezy. And there's one window with a loose board that every now and then BANGS! the wall. BUT, there are also foot steps around there. I hear other people down there with me, but I KNOW there are none. Cause I don't hear anything else- no camera shutters, no voices, no breathing, etc. Just those foot steps.

The foot steps were enough to make me look around now and then, especially when they were loud or close by, but I didn't feel threatened. Just... creeped out.

This photo of Babette on the kiln (yeah, they had a kiln in the laundry room) I had to take three times. The first time was real blurry cause I almost fell over backwards from kneeling (dumb footsteps, real sudden, and real loud, right as I went to snap the photo). And the second time I was shaking real bad. Heh.

There was an office and bathroom type of set up down there. I felt... trapped everytime I tried to even venture into any of them. Even though they were both real roomy compared to other offices. So I didn't. Heck, the one with the stairs I remember actually high tailing it out of there. Just felt weird!

Glass from the office... or was it TWO bathrooms? I can't remember. Anyway, glass from ONE of them. There was glass ALL OVER the inside of one of them from a busted window. Kind of creepy considering it was the only shattered, totally obliterated window I saw this entire time from all over the place. Even broken mirrors in the cells didn't have the glass left on the floor.

Here is a view of the upstairs bathroom/office. The one that I ran from like a little girl. To the left, out of frame, would be the other bathroom area with broken glass.

Another shot of those big blue machines... I guess washers? Or were the big white ones the washers, and these blue ones the driers? I dunno.

Big... ironing?

Also down here were BOXES and boxes of evaluation forms. I took two pics, and 1 is barely readable. I should get more next time. They are fascinating, what I can read. The one I can read is from 1984. O.O

Here's another shot of the press machines and I think some regular ironing boards. You can see papers on the ground, those are some the MANY MANY evals laying around.

Outside shot of that office/restroom where a large, unopened, suran wrapped frieght package sits... I was SO CURIOUS what could be inside that thing! But I wasn't exactly equiped with a crow-bar. ;)

Stacks of stools and... finally, some laundry. Actually, I passed all the laundry and these stools on my way in. They were some of the first things "in the light" (actually these were, but the pile of laundry coming next wasn't).

Detail shot of some of the guard laundry. There was biege too, I assume that the convicts wore those and the guards wore blue. This was where I began to use my focus-light every few seconds to see where I was.

Shot of some random stuff in the dark... see that tiny card holder up top the door frames? See one sticking out? Remember earlier, I mentioned the cold effecting me in ways that I wasn't full aware of until later? Well...

I reached up, using my focus-light to see, and plucked that card. Using SEVERAL nano-second focus-flashes to see I was finally able to determine that the cards were who-got-what-clothes-and-when type of cards for inventory and assignments... if that makes sense? Well, during this trying time of trying to read the card during split-second focus-lights the card kept... feeling weird. Moving. And slipping. Downwards and sideways, and one time even UP a little. I started freaking at one point and used my focus-light to look around the area.

Was someone or something PULLING it from my hand? Remember, I was in the pitch dark. Alone. After a scarey laundry room of being chased by foot steps (which had now, I might add, stopped!). I looked at my hand as the card moved again and realized something... I COULDN'T FEEL THE CARD. That's right, my hand was totally numb. My thumb actually hurt along it's back.

Putting the card back, I glanced at the cabinets nearby, wondering if I could open them, and saw writing... "need" to know? Yes, I do! But I couldn't SEE anyone to ask thanks very much!

Oh! *facepalm* I forgot I got this shot... didn't need to explain those cards, coulda just shown ya.

DUDE! and 1978! I was so spazzed when I found this. I didn't have any light to go through it, but just finding it in itself was so rad. A long time ago dad suggested I get one of these for storing my art. Cool idea, but my artwork is so small that this wouldn't be worth it... still, how I would have loved to wheel that thing out of there.

So I left this dark dark dark area to find my way back to the rows of hospital beds again. I took a... right, I think, and wound my way into more dark and eventually to an area of tools and workshop.

This room was so much more quieter and ... well, compared to the laundry room it was downright friendly, I'd say. No scares. No weird footsteps following me around. Just bright light from the windows and random objects laying around. :)

Cabinet, naughty graffiti, more desks and cabinets, I hope only the low-security convicts were allowed in here..., random itty bitty sink, and feathers.

It was now that I ventured back into the dark hallway, using my focus-light to find my way when I see flashlights! Yes, back past the hospital beds and into that main hall that would take me to the gas chamber. Yaay, other living breathing people... finally!? I can hear them commenting on my focus-light and so I call out "I see flashlights! Yaay..." and they laugh when I tell them I was very very scared in my stupid giddy schoolgirl voice (HEY! I WAS scared and was HAPPY to see other people after all that darkness).

But, out in the dark hallway I can go left back past the gas chamber to get out. Or right... into an even DARKER hallway. I decide to see if I can. But it's hopeless... long hallway of pitch blackness is long and darkety dark dark! BUT I THINK I saw a wall. Or just a wall-of-darkness. O,o

On my way out, back past the creepy laundry room two guys stop me and ask me what's in there. I tell them it's worth it and there is a lot of cool stuff. Doesn't hurt to be honest! (refering to that guy who told me there was nothing down here)

Next time I will go forth, with flashlight, and see what is at the end of that hallway.

Oh, and those people I met on my way out? I didn't hear a single foot step. Not like the ones I heard in the laundry room.

I made my way out of that dark dark scarey place and began to rub life back into my hands when I found this: pipe and wire. Just caught my eye...

Thinking I was ready to head on out I somehow found my way into another room that lead to another and another and another and before I knew it I found a set of stairs that had a set of bars proped open by a gym-type bench. Opening the bars I made sure that the bench kept them open as I did NOT want to be locked in here after experiencing that laundry room.

These rooms were... different.

Here are some paintings, on what I think was a doctor type section as it had a lot of beds, paintings, and gadgets for medical stuff.

Stylized painting, goats painting and the emergency room door, free/escaped horse painting (for a prison, this painting sure is spot on!), Raccoons painting... I kind of want to know who did all these paintings. I only took these shots, but there were lots more.

Hospital bed, x-ray bed and viewing machine, two different types of weird urinals side by side... looking at that first one now I am so wondering why I didn't push the lever with my foot to see inside it. I'm curious now!

Looking down one set of stairs I saw this bird and snapped some shots: full body, different angle, little closer.

my favorite shot

Another set of stairs... as I remember coming up out of the stairs and being blinded by all the gold lettering right in front of me... or maybe it was just a door that I went through and was blinded. I have no idea, I was so lost as it was:

Prisoner magazine, and editor's office. They had a whole line of offices here for various clubs. Even a runner's club! And, of course, AA. The room for AA was HUGE and REEKED of urine. Weird. O.O The wild cats must love that place I guess.

While all these clubs were on one side, there was the barely-hidden

criminally insane area just inside a little door.

All those clubs and free areas were seperated by the insane by just one thick white wall... the door way inside this hall is at the end there, to the right, you can't see it but it was the only way in or out and I vaguely recall having to squeeze my way in so I guess that made it hard for them to bolt since even I had to *maneuver* my way in.

Then I ran into a whole row of rooms (literally, just room after room after room) stacked full of records: one box and

Those records, some of them, especially the "incident reports" have to be fascinating.

My only question is... if this place closed in 1999 then why does that one corner of boxes all have dates after that? Hmmm... movie prop? Guess I'll definetly be finding out next time, now I am curious!

Oh, and this upstairs floor was noisy as all heck- it was windy and so every window that had blinds was rattling and every. friggin'. door was slammin and openin itself. One door pissed me off so bad that I went over and, after looking into the room, I tried to force it so stay closed. It wouldn't even click firmly. I THOUGHT the latch had caught and so it would stay shut but nooo, I released the door knob and there it went again.

Despite all the noise I am POSITIVE that I heard voices once in a while. As in, coming up the stairs. So I figure "huh, guess I won't be alone up here, I wonder who that is..." but no one ever came upstairs. And no one was near that gate that was propped open by the gym bench- that was the only way up or down as all the other doors were locked...

... every set of stairs that I try, the door is locked ON THE BOTTOM LEVEL, so it's back up the stairs to try another. I eventually find the door that I propped open with a yellow chair and find my way back down stairs and past the gym bench.

Then I find this wide open room with a row of sinks and mirrors to set Babette in front of: detail, wider shot.

Found one of the churches and a pile of feathers. I can only assume some human vulture took the bones: pigeon wings with some goopy dried blood nearby. I found another picture online from just a few months ago of these wings when they were whole... they were glued to one of the church colored windows. No one seems to know what artist did that, but I bet we'd get along! Hmmm, dead things are fun. :)

And last, I stumbled around inside the huge kitchen: pot, Babette finds a nifty shelf, really big... thing, oven...

the potty made me laugh. Of ALL the places to graffiti "Brown Pride" why did they do it right by the toilet? Just... really?

Last photo of the serving area.

After that I was ready to leave the kitchen area... believe me, it was a huge area with lots of rooms running from one to the other and some right smack in the middle of others. I got lost. Really. I was running from one to the other. Running my hand through my hair, twisting/rolling strands of it as I sometimes do when bored or frustrated or sometimes just thinking, I started talking to myself ("I was JUST here..." and "where is that hallway?" and "FUCK! not again"), sometimes I would think I found the way out "AH HA!!" and dash through the door only to... still be in the kitchen. It was so scarey.

I was near the crying point when I finally stumbled into a hallway and see our guide and some dude walking my way. Guide shows me his watch and I go off about how I was LOST IN THE DAMN KITCHEN. Guide repeats that I have 35 minutes, then sympathizes with me. I say okay, I just want to run outside and get some shots out there and I start heading out.

Except I'm not. Guide calls me back and asks "you're going outside?" I say yeah and start to go again. Uhm, my bad. He says no and points the ACTUAL way out. *sigh* I was just so dazed and tired...
Tags: death, new mexico, prison, prisons
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