In front of you is this early 20th century brick hospital complex. You don’t see anyone around but there’s a problem. The entire property is surrounded by a fence. You walk around and don’t see any holes in the fence. What do you do?
Ideally, you’d leave and go find somewhere else to explore. If you decided “Well I’d climb over/cut a hole in the fence” you have chosen poorly. This is the article about not getting caught.
See, generally I’m on the side of the urban explorer. There’s an open site with no “No Trespassing” signs around and you’re just there to take pictures. From what I’ve encountered and have heard you’re usually good if you aren’t stealing and have a camera with you.
Some people, copper thieves for example, ruin sites. I had the opportunity to talk to the justifiably miffed Friends of JN Adams group recently. I wanted to interview some of their members but I get the feeling they don’t want to be in the spotlight. (I mean, the spotlight of my tiny blog. It’s small but intense. Like a laser really.) I spoke to a woman who described to me a team of thieves who came storming in with trucks and managed to strip out not only some copper pipes, but all of the gutters as well. No gutters means no drainage, which means the place starts to rot and, boy, has it rotted. The state has told them that it’s in such bad shape they aren’t even interested in selling it.
The men were caught and charged but the damage was done. Since then many people have been arrested by the local police for going there. Most recently fourteen teenagers (not the honor society I’d guess) were arrested for going there all at once.
There’s two points to that tale and one is don’t look like a copper thief. Don’t take things from these places. The second is that someone is always watching these places even if you don’t see them. Do a google search and see if a site is associated with news articles about people getting charged for going there.
If it is, and you really want to go there, call up the state or organization that manages the site and ask them. They might still say no but at least you didn’t have to appear in court. It’s actually a good idea to get permission whenever you can. You can be assured that you won’t be chased out and they might know some things about the place.
However, if you run into someone who tries to lord their access (or job position) over you, drop them like a ton of bricks. Go somewhere else. That sort of person is trouble and you don’t want to be involved with them. You’ll know one when you’ve got off the phone with that slimy feeling lingering.
As I’ve (hopefully) mentioned before going anywhere near these sites with a large group of people is a bad idea. For one thing, it draws too much attention to you. For another, it seems to everyone that either you’re there to have some sort of party (woo!) or to steal stuff. I don’t generally recommend going in groups larger than three.
It’s also a good idea to always be aware of your surroundings and to keep an eye out for other people. I have a feeling copper thieves aren’t exactly easy-going people so you don’t want to tangle with them. Sometimes it’s also a matter of courtesy; don’t get in the middle of someone’s paintball game, come back another day.
Obviously there’s other things you should avoid, like being too easy to see in a busy area, but that’s what that Infiltration book I linked in the very first post is for.
If any of this rubs you the wrong way and you’re saying “I do what I want” then that’s fine, just make sure you get pictures of the holding center for us.
Totally agree about the copper thieves, and they sometimes uses techniques to enter a building that are incredible. For example, there’s an abandoned powerplant in the area where I live, I wanted to go there and take pictures, but couldn’t find any entrance to it. When I talked about it to another explorer, he told me everything had been sealed (read iron plate soldered on the doors and windows), because a few months ago the copper thieves destroyed the fence with a truck and managed to enter in the powerplant using a blowtorch to cut an entry inside the building. I don’t think you really want to mess with so determined people.
Otherwise, when I enter a building, I usually make a quick tour of the building without taking picture to be sure that I’m alone, because I don’t want to be taken by surprise. Remember that those abandoned places are areas of lawlessness, and you’re never sure about who you’ll meet there.
Galleria Mall. What do I win?