Archive for December, 2014

Far from Home

Exploring the Abandoned Skinner House

By Sean and Amanda

There’s a knock at the door, but nobody answers. The sounds echo through the house’s empty rooms. There’s a hole in the roof that will never be fixed. Birds and wildlife come and go through it as they please. The old shed collapsed years ago. It lies in ruin beside the decaying barn. An old car sits in the driveway. The tires have been flattened over time. Wild vines have started to take it over. Blocked in behind it sits an old truck. Its original color and model name have become unrecognizable. If these old walls could talk, I don’t think they would talk at all. I think they would scream. They would scream because they have seen too much, and they’ve had to go through it all alone. They would cry out in pain and anguish, because whoever once called this place home clearly left a long time ago. This is the Skinner House.

Down a back country road in a forgotten part of a little town lies an old house. Who lived there? How long has it been abandoned? Why was this house left to rot? We don’t know. And in fact, nobody around here seems to. The neighbors of this place were either no help or could not be reached for comment. What we can tell you about the Skinner House is that it has clearly been empty for many years. To be perfectly clear, we can neither confirm nor deny that it is in fact called the Skinner House. It has earned this nickname due to the fact that it sits right on the corner of Shoddy Mill Road and the windy Skinner Road in Bolton, Connecticut. It is barely a mile from the border of rural Andover, Connecticut and a stone’s throw from the heavily trafficked Route 6A.

I drive past the Skinner House almost every day on my way to and from work. It took me awhile to even notice that it was in fact abandoned. No offense to the people that live in these rural towns, but most seem to have at least one house that is not very taken care of. But after weeks of driving past this old house in the early mornings and late afternoons, I began to notice things. I never saw a single person come or go from it. There was never a light on inside of it. The two broken down cars in the driveway never moved. Every single day passing by it, the house seemed to be sitting there frozen in time. Nothing ever seemed to change. Using our standard methods of preparing for an investigation, (see The 5 Rules), I found absolutely no information on the house. It had simply been forgotten.

So during a chilly winter day in December, we decided to go have a look around. The Skinner House isn’t too difficult to find. It is nestled at the crossroads of a nice little neighborhood and a backcountry road. As stated earlier, it is almost right on top of the border between the towns of Bolton and Andover. It stands right next to a small bridge covering an even smaller stream. Just in case there actually was someone living there, we didn’t just pull up the driveway. There is a little spot beside the bridge that we could easily pull up to. The Skinner House is actually a good sized building, with at least two floors. There is also a large barn standing beside the street. The remnants of what looked like a shed or even a smaller barn lay next to that. Behind the house is just wild trees and wilderness.

Not only did we find not a single sign of life, but we also didn’t find a single NO TRESPASSING sign. There was nothing here. In the woods behind the house, there were plenty of signs warning off any potential hunters or fishermen. But no such signs were posted on the property itself. After a quick look around and a knock on the old door, it became perfectly clear to us that this wasteland was indeed abandoned. Inside of the house, there was nothing but trash left behind. And in fact, the caved in roof and the old floor boards are so unstable that we did not even go inside. To do so would be incredibly dangerous. We also found evidence of some sort of large animal, or animals, taking up residence inside the old house. Even though there are no KEEP OUT signs, it is best to do so.

What we found most interesting about the abandoned Skinner House were the cars that had been left behind. They sit alone in the driveway, with brush and foliage all over them. In the front is an old red Mercury sedan. Its tires are flat, but it could still be in salvageable shape. Blocked in behind it is an old truck. This thing was so old and beat up, we couldn’t even tell what Make or Model it was. It is now just a rusty hunk of metal. Remarkably, we didn’t find much of any vandalism on the property. None of the windows on the house have been smashed, there was no liter on the grounds, and we didn’t find any graffiti. Inside the house may be a different story though. The barn is in just as poor shape as the house. Paint is slowly chipping and the wood frame is rapidly decaying. On a lighter note, we did find a family of rabbits now occupies the old barn.

The Skinner House is by far one of our more unique investigations. Not only did we not find any information at all about this place, but it seems like it has been relatively left alone in its state of decay. Not a single FOR SALE, NO TRESPASSING, or KEEP OUT sign can be found on the property. With the cars still in the driveway, it seems like people just got up and left one day. Nature now rules this place. The wild now lives where humans once did. Though the house still stands, it is far from a home. We are still left to wonder why the Skinner House was abandoned. And what happened to the people that lived there.

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Out of Business

The Abandoned Buildings of Route 85

 By: Sean and Amanda

Growing up in the Hebron area, I had driven down and along Route 85 for as long as I can remember. It is a stretch of road that we would always take to get from Hebron to Colchester or vice versa. It could be busy, at times. But other times it felt like any other road, running between a few sleepy little Connecticut towns a lot of people have never heard of. But this road is more than meets the eye. Much like most towns in the world, the communities along Route 85 have not gone unscathed from economic downturn. Over the years, we have seen several well-known and beloved businesses fall under hard times. Owners of these establishments closed up shop, and the buildings themselves were left at the mercy of the elements. On a cold November day, we decided to pay a visit to a few of these forgotten places.

Commonly used as a route for commuters and travelers between the cities of Hartford and New London, Route 85 is a state highway. Though we have often traveled it on our adventures to get to and from Hebron or Colchester, it actually runs from the northern town of Bolton all the way south to the city of New London. Originally established during the nineteenth century, Route 85 has been a commonly used highway in the state of Connecticut. It has had an assortment of different names over the last hundred or so years, but was officially christened Route 85 during 1932. Though it is kind of a small town road, Route 85 has junctions to major highways including I-95, I-384, and US-44. We were on our way to visit three abandoned buildings located along the more rural part of the route between Hebron and Colchester.

On our trip to Route 85, we parked at the local lot for the Airline Trail State Park. Arguably the biggest and most popular walking site in Connecticut, the trail runs all over the state. We have used it several times during our investigations. Ironically, it was a formerly abandoned railway track that was acquired by the state and turned into hiking trails. The three buildings that we were investigating that day were all within a short walk from each other. They included a former mechanic’s garage, an abandoned antique warehouse, and the beloved Route 85 Lumber yard. Believe it or not, the fabled and familiar site of Camp Connecticut was merely a few miles from us. See our write up on the legendary site here. Since it was a weekend, there was heavy traffic both on the trail and Route 85 itself.

The first place that we visited was the abandoned garage. Directly across from the Airline Trail State Park parking lot, this building was the oldest of the three and in the greatest state of disrepair. The roof had completely caved in over half of the building, and the entire back wall had been demolished on the other half. Most of the windows had been smashed and there was quite a bit of liter. It was only one floor. There was a section that appeared to be the office and then three garage bays. Though there was no recognizable sign left to distinguish the name of this former business, we did find a few old racing team signs on the ground. Lots of old tires, broken glass, and even an old sink were strewn about outside of the garage. Inside, we found quite a bit of evidence that some sort of large animal, more than likely a pack of stray dogs, has been living inside.

The second place that we visited was a quick walk down the road. It was formerly used as a warehouse antique business. A place that my parents used to shop at, it had only been abandoned for the last fifteen years or so. Since the building was made of brick, it was in relatively good shape aside from the forest of vines and vegetation growing around its sides. Though the one of the side doors was completely missing, most of the windows were still intact. Inside, the warehouse was in remarkably good shape. It was four floors and a basement, each floor has a solid metal staircase leading up to the next. A fire escape was also on the fourth floor. We also found what appeared to be evidence of people still living inside. Even though Hebron is not known for its homeless population, we found a few makeshift beds and a still functioning sink. This was not surprising due to the good condition of the inside, but it was only the second time we have ever found people to still be living in an abandoned place. For this reason, we did not stay very long

Our third and final stop for our investigation was Route 85 Lumber. One of the longest running and most memorable small businesses in the town of Hebron, Route 85 Lumber were known to employ a lot of students from the nearby high school and donate materials for local Eagle Scout projects. It sadly went out of business in 2009. Though it is heavily protected, it now sits empty along Route 85. The office is guarded by security cameras and the doors are all heavily locked up. The lumber yard itself is surrounded by a very tall chain link fence with barbed wire around the top, keeping out any unwanted visitors. Though there was not much to see here, we did see a “For Sale” sign out front with a “Sold” sign placed below it. This was potentially good news for this former small business, as it may become the first abandoned place we have visited to come back.

It is good to see that there is hope for one of these sites. We would like to see it make a comeback. The other two, however, may simply be too far gone. They now serve a different purpose; homes to strays and squatters. Though they were once flourishing businesses, many see them now as nothing more than big eyesores. These three sites now sit alone, silently watching the busy traffic of Route 85 pass them by.

Out of Business

The Abandoned Buildings of Route 85

By Sean and Amanda

Growing up in the Hebron area, I had driven down and along Route 85 for as long as I can remember. It is a stretch of road that we would always take to get from Hebron to Colchester or vice versa. It could be busy, at times. But other times it felt like any other road, running between a few sleepy little Connecticut towns a lot of people have never heard of. But this road is more than meets the eye. Much like most towns in the world, the communities along Route 85 have not gone unscathed from economic downturn. Over the years, we have seen several well-known and beloved businesses fall under hard times. Owners of these establishments closed up shop, and the buildings themselves were left at the mercy of the elements. On a cold November day, we decided to pay a visit to a few of these forgotten places.

** Come back next week for the entire article and many more pictures!! **

When the Lights Go Out

~Experiencing the Abandoned Showcase Cinema~

By: Sean and Amanda

Movie theaters, we’ve all seen them. We’ve all driven to the crowded theater on a Friday night. We’ve all stood in line for overpriced popcorn. We’ve all felt the anticipation of the next big flick when the lights of the theater go out. But few of us have seen what becomes of these places when we’ve gone. There are no more crowds. There are no more lines. And the flick never comes on. There is only darkness. We have explored many different types of abandoned places, but few have been as haunting and as mesmerizing as an abandoned movie theater. Unlike the many abandoned hospitals and businesses we’ve explored, movie theaters were once a place of joy. They are not victims of dark pasts or controversy. They are merely sad places that couldn’t keep up with the ever changing movie market, and for that they were left behind. Forgotten. We were able to visit one such place.

Based in New England, the Showcase Cinemas franchise is owned by the larger parent company of National Amusements which owns thousands of movie theaters all over the world. The Showcase Cinemas branch is mostly exclusive to the New England area, with a few theaters in the United Kingdom and other countries. Currently, there are about thirty Showcase Cinema theaters in the US, including those in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Around the time of 2008, theaters began to close across the state of Connecticut. Due to reasons such as close proximity to other theaters, higher ticket prices, and the continuing development of movie technology, these theaters were deemed no longer “financially viable.” About half dozen Showcase Cinema theaters in Connecticut were closed over the next few years. They now sit empty.

Having seen several of these abandoned theaters in our travels, we decided to pay a visit to the nearest one. Since they were once active, finding these abandoned theaters is not too difficult. A Google search and MapQuest were all we needed to find all of the information we needed for our investigation. Interestingly enough, these theaters are not commonly explored by other urban explorers. So we did not have much of any information on what we could expect to find at the theater. We were flying in blind. We did not know what kind of security was in place, what kind of shape the building was in, or what the legal status was of being there. It certainly promised to be one of our more unique investigations to date.

We made a trek to the abandoned Showcase Cinema theater on a beautiful October afternoon. It wasn’t too much of a drive, and the theater stood right beside the highway. Facing this highway stood the old marquee, though now all it says is “CLOSED.” It was indeed a haunting site, especially with the golden afternoon sunlight baring against the theater’s decaying walls. The theater unfortunately shared a parking lot with a grocery store, so we were forced to be discrete in our investigation. We chose to scout out the property in our car first. No security forces were spotted, though several security cameras were in operation along the building’s main entrance. Other than on the building itself, there were not any “No Trespassing” signs visible on the property. The lot appeared to be taken care of though, as there were no signs of litter or graffiti anywhere.

When we first drove in, we got an excellent view of the theater. The “Showcase Cinemas” sign still greets visitors, though now it is slowly graying. The parking lot is in poor shape. Nature has begun to reclaim it, as much of the pavement is cracked by furiously growing weeds and vines. The lines for parking spots are slowly fading away. We even found an old stop sign still standing. The building itself is in relatively good shape for an abandoned site. Plants and vines grow heavily along the steps and handicapped ramps of the theater. The red paint of the handrails is slowly chipping away. Big grey splotches of mold coat the cement walls and steps. Even the old front sign is in poor shape. What once welcomed theater goers and listed show times is now a brown illegible marker.

The windows of the front main entrance are completely sealed from the floor to the ceiling, making the theater a near impenetrable fortress. There are also two security cameras guarding this entrance, protecting it from any potential vandals. Though the front entrance is completely sealed off and well-guarded, there are several other entrances to the theater in the form of back and side doors. These were once used as the emergency exits from each individual theater. Inside, the building is completely dark. With the front windows sealed off, not a shred of light makes it inside. Everything from the front ticket windows to the concession stand is cast in complete darkness. While there is no graffiti or liter on the outside of the building, it is prevalent inside. Glass display cases are smashed. There are holes in the walls. Carpets have been shredded. Even a few of the movie screens have been ripped up. Each theater is as quiet and somber as a tomb.

Several of the abandoned theaters in Connecticut have been demolished and their lots are being used for new and better purposes. But a good majority of these abandoned theaters still stand, scattered across the state. Much like most abandoned places, there are always talks of what to do with these sad places. But few things ever come to fruition. Though certainly not haunted, visiting this theater was haunting. Every little emotion that audiences once felt still echoes through the empty halls. Whether it was the laughs of a comedy, the tears of a drama, or the cries of a horror movie, these feelings still haunt each theater. Hundreds of empty seats sit staring at an empty and destroyed screen. But sadly, the lights went out in this theater a long time ago. The Showcase Cinema sits quietly in the dark, still waiting for the next movie to start.

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