I’ve always wondered what I’d say to someone who asked me, “What is it that drives you toward urban exploration?” Of course, no one has yet to ask me this question.
I’ve been asked questions but they’re more along the lines of
Q:”Wait, isn’t that illegal?”
A:”It’s more of a grey area and if we were asked to leave obviously we would…”
Q:”Well, aren’t you worried about getting hurt?”
A:”Yes, in fact, we’re pretty careful about looking at where we’re going and my friend here is a structural engineer…”
Q:”Did you find any dead bodies?!”
A:”Not human ones!”
The simple answer is I like exploring new places, especially places most people don’t see or maybe even think about. There’s something fascinating about being in a place that a few decades ago was a major industry and now is just sitting there rotting away. You occassionally find artifacts from people who were part of that world such as people who signed their names in hidden places and date them in the 30s or 40s. Sometimes you find a room full of Emergency Water Rations stacked ceiling high or a green-screened Wang terminal (or computer as the kids today say.)
Aesthetically I enjoy looking at ruins. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some high school nihilist that takes pictures of rusty things and equates that to instant art. I just like the feeling of history and isolation you get walking through these places. I would be just as happy walking around the city of Istanbul (once Constantinople) I think, I just can’t do that as easily. Also, the French catacombs. Maybe Petra. Also years of playing Silent Hill games has made me think one needs to walk through burned out buildings solving puzzles to develop as a person.
You also get to see what people, who aren’t urban explorers, use these places for. The grain elevators by Route 5 are large paintball arenas which are tagged, retagged, and covered in paint splats. They’re also a good place to illegally park your burned out stolen car. One of the places we went to in Lockport was being used by homeless person who we didn’t get to talk to. I’ve been told if you talk to the homeless who live in the Rochester Subway they’ll tell you the way to El Dorado.
The best part is finding things you never expect to see. I was once on a trip to take pictures at a certain beach with a certain break wall and stumbled onto a water intake facility. I mean it wasn’t quite that simple but it may as well have had a big sign on it that said Abandoned Building: Our Doors Aren’t Locked. I had no idea that that was what it was of course and I figured that out by exploring it and finding a huge central control terminal.
The most impressive thing I’ve found I, sadly, cannot ever show anyone. It just didnt photograph or show up on video well. There was an orphanage in Buffalo that had been abandoned for awhile and we were exploring one the complex’s buildings. Down in the basement the floor was a big solid block of ice tall enough to make us crouch in places. After establishing that ice wouldn’t break on us we took to the rooms down there and tried to figure out what in the world this building was for. Well I happened to be shining my light at the floor and noticed a weird shape. Then a couple. Then a room full. It turned out we were standing above a frozen classroom with all the desks arranged in rows complete with chairs for each one.
The rest of the orphanage was full of surprises as well and you can watch some of our runs through here.
I keep saying we, and I’ll get to that another time. I’ll also talk about confined spaces,
urbex safety, and the “dont. fucking. touch. that.” rule.