Next stop on what accidentally turned into my abandoned school tour of the South: Alderson Academy.
Originally, plans included asylums and abandoned amusement parks, but as I’ve come to find out, time is never on my side. Asylums have been converted into cheesy haunted houses for the Halloween season, and amusement parks have been taken over by crazy gun-wielding fanatics. Here today, shot tomorrow. The safer bet? An abandoned Baptist academy whose only guardian are two adorable trailer park dogs, one who is now my best friend. And for once, this place isn’t even rumored to be haunted (I checked!).
After gallivanting around the country for the last 6 months, I have a gigantic backlog of photos that need some sorting and a blog that needs updating. I recently performed in a burlesque show where the MC mentioned this site and my adventures during my intro. If that’s not a kick in the pants to update this thing, then I don’t know what is.
A couple of weekends ago I took another road trip down south to see what abandoned treasures awaited me. Two years ago I visited Thurmond, WV, which is one of the many New River Gorge ghost towns that surround the area. After researching the town and reading up on the history, I found out about the hilarious rivalry between Captain William Thurmond and Thomas Mckell, the founder of Glen Jean and the infamous Dun Glen Hotel. Even though Glen Jean is not really a ghost town, I really wanted to re-visit the town to see what this infamous den of vice had left. (If you missed it the first time around, you can read the Thurmond vs. Glen Jean rivalry here).
Salton Sea has been on my list for a while, thanks to an OKCupid wannabe suitor. When I found out that it was a short drive from my sister’s house in California, I immediately recruited her for a post-Christmas visit. After all, we had to work off all the Christmas junk food somehow.
We were supposed to go last year, but that trip was put on hold when my sister went into labor 3 months prematurely; a month before my trip out there. And looking back, it probably wouldn’t have been the wisest decision for a lady who was 8 months pregnant to be traipsing around a toxic sea. So, it was probably for the better that I went this year with a much-less-pregnant companion.
So nice I had to go twice…and will probably go again.
Like several of the mental facilities I have visited, Kings Park Psychiatric Center is a gigantic sprawling campus (521 acres!). I barely scratched the surface on my first visit, and maybe am now half-way through seeing everything after my second. Once the snow thaws, I’ll most likely be back for my third.
Come on in!
When one thinks of Cape Cod, beaches, sail boats and quaint cottages usually come to mind…unless you grew up there like me, then you think of catnip smoking, Robitussin-chugging derelicts who steal used cars as a method to curb boredom. In either case, Cold War spy barracks usually doesn’t come to mind.
Radar station (aka spy tower) still in use by the FAA today. Wave to Big Brother everyone!
The North Truro Air Force Station was one of the first of twenty-four stations of the Air Defense Command radar network – which was a network essentially created to spy on the Soviet Union immediately after they tested their first atomic bomb. In 1948, the Air Force began construction on these sites around the periphery of the United States, with North Truro AFS being completed in 1951.
Dundas Castle has been on my list of places to visit for a while, but I had been holding it off until the warmer months, as I could imagine nothing more magical than a fairy tale-looking castle surrounded by lush green foliage…and I certainly wasn’t wrong.
Case and point.
The Boyce Thompson Institute is one of less menacing places I’ve visited. Located in an barren industrial park in Yonkers, with an Applebee’s directly across the way, this abandoned botany institute has been left alone for years, with the city hoping that some derelict will burn it down so they do not have to pay money to either raze or develop it (or so I’ve been told). The institute was initially founded by copper magnate William Boyce Thompson. The land was purchased in the early 1900s with the intent of building a summer home upon it (His Alder Manor still sits across the street from the institute. This, however, was purchased and renovated, now a prominent wedding venue). In 1917, Thomspson went to Russia with the Red Cross – a mission sent by President Woodrow Wilson to keep Russia in World War I and to encourage the formation of democratic governments (all under the guise of a relief mission, of course). With the Tsarist Monarchy recently overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the city lay in a state of poverty. Citizens were deprived of the basic human necessities, living in the streets, and slowly starving to death as a revolution tore cities apart around them. Deeply moved by what he saw, Thompson returned with a new mission: to help the needy in his own home by finding a sustainable food supply – and thus set out to build a horticulture institute on his remaining land.
The first thing you notice as you enter the winding back roads to the Land of Oz theme park is the loss of cell phone service. This ceases to be a concern once you notice the second thing, which are patches of yellow brick road letting you know that you’re headed in the right direction. Tucked away in the ski resort town of Beech Mountain, NC, the area is dotted by rental homes and the aforementioned signature bricks. We made the trip during the off season, so these houses, as far as we could tell, were empty. It was also extremely foggy, with maybe ten feet of driving visibility. The mood was appropriately set when we rounded a corner and were greeted by this:
Welcome to Oz, only one town away from Silent Hill
Sometime last year, around late summer or early fall the abandoned Shawnee Lake Amusement Park was getting a lot of play on various social media outlets, and probably Buzzfeed, because those two seem to go hand-in-hand these days. I saw a lot of posts from people saying, “Aw man! I wish I could go to that!” or tagging friends saying, “Let’s go!” I had been dating my not-yet-boyfriend for almost two months, and had already dragged him to two abandoned sites, so I figured it was time to take the next step in our relationship: a four day roadtrip to see dirt and debris of forgotten lands. So, rather than posting on Facebook, we hopped in a rental car and hit the road.
Lake Shawnee, located in Princeton, West Virginia, and has been abandoned since 1966 and has quite the torrid past. Originally, it was the location for an Native American burial ground. In 1783, the site was desecrated by the Mitchell Clay settlers, when they decided that the burial ground was the perfect location for their farm, also making them the first white settlement in the county. Shortly after the family settled, a band of 11 Shawnee Indians attacked two of the sons while they were working outside. One of the sons, Bartley, was shot and killed. Tabitha, one of the daughters, ran to see what was happening, and also was stabbed and killed when she tried to attack one of the Shawnees (bad move, kid). After the two children were scalped and left for their mother to find their lifeless bodies, the other son, Ezekiel, was taken hostage by the group, where they tortured him and eventually burned him at the stake.
Originally, on this outing, I had planned to go to the Bennet School for Girls in Millbrook, NY, a stunning old wooden structure built in the Victorian Era. Much to my displeasure, a brand new chain link fence with barbed wire had recently been erected around it, with signs threatening arrest. The most off-putting of all was that this was located in the middle of a housing tract where all of the residents appeared to keep a very close eye on the property. Every time we drove through someone was always watching. We parked the car to have a closer look, and people from a near by building stuck their heads out, and made sure we noticed that we were being watched. Sadly, it looks like the Bennet School is being chalked up as a loss for all future urban explorers.
No Bennet School for us. *tears*
Not wanting to waste this trip, I checked in with my Google Doc (I keep a document with all of the abandoned places I want to visit, categorized by the area they are located. Hi – I’m a nerd), and saw that the Hudson River State Hospital was just a quick drive down the road. Trip saved!