Archive for April, 2015

Things We Lost in the Fire

The Ruins of the Norton Paper Mill

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

   Fire has changed the course of mankind more than most forces of nature. It has given life. During the early days of our evolution, it was fire that kept people warm. Fire cooked food, and provided a strong sense of comfort to early man. But it has also taken life. Over the years, roaring and out of control fires have caused untold amounts of damage and suffering. As quoted in Gareth Edward’s Godzilla; “The arrogance of man is thinking that nature is within our control, and not the other way around.” Forests have fallen. Lives have been destroyed. Empires have crumbled, all at the mercy of the fire. When the fire strikes, some rise from the ashes. Others lie in ruin. We discovered one such place on a shining spring day. Sitting alongside part of what is considered the most dammed watershed in all of North America, this once mighty paper mill was decimated by a raging fire decades ago. She has yet to recover from her wounds, and still lies severely scarred and burned. Welcome to the Norton Paper Mill.

   Originally owned by the locally prominent Norton family, the mill is believed to have been established in the late 1800’s. Its founder, C.H. Norton, inherited the property from his family and built the mill along the Jeremy River in what is now the Westchester section of Colchester, Connecticut. It was originally commissioned as a saw and grist mill. For many years, the mill had a very successful run producing all kinds of paper products for customers all over the region. Paper produced at the mill went into everything from books, binders, and even shoes. Throughout its existence, the Norton Paper Mill survived one large fire. However, it could not survive a second one. During the 1960’s, a purging fire caused massive amounts of damage and destruction to the mill, forcing it to close down for good. Since that fateful day, the Mill has become an absolute wasteland. While the river still roars past it, the dam built for the mill slowly crumbles along with the structure. Over the years, chain link fences have been installed and windows have been boarded up to keep trespassers out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   But that never stops us. We visited the ruins of the Norton Paper Mill on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late April. It is a short drive past the on and off ramps of Route 2 on Old Hartford Road in Colchester, Connecticut. The local Airline trail is also in close proximity. The ruins sit directly alongside the rather busy Route 149 in the rural part of town. When driving by, you really cannot miss the ruins. They are massive, and frankly quite noticeable. The roof is completely caved in, and a chain link fence spans the entire perimeter of the property. Though there are a few neighboring houses, we simply drove up to and parked beside the abandoned ruins. There was nobody around, and things were very quiet. “NO TRESPASSING” and “KEEP OUT” signs are posted all over the abandoned mill. Unfortunately, there was no real way inside without climbing over and hopping the chain link fence, which is against our policy. The interiors of the mill are in absolutely deplorable conditions, but they are very clearly visible from the outside though.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are two crumbling buildings that comprise the mill. Both are in a very derelict state of decay. Old and rusted equipment of all kinds is still inside, simply left to rot from many years ago. Large metal radiators and gauges have turned to a sullen brown with years upon years of rust damage. Several shelves of old tools and materials still sit inside collecting dust and decay. An old and rusted water tower stands in the distance, casting a shadow over the old mill. The damage from the fire is extensive, and still very noticeable. Charred and blackened pieces of wood are scattered amongst the wreckage. All of the ground floor windows are boarded up with heavy plywood. The higher windows all have metal bars on them, or have chain link fences positioned strategically behind them. The town of Colchester clearly does not want any visitors at the old mill, and they have good reason. The place is a wasteland, and clearly still very dangerous. The waters of the roaring river pore out of the slowly crumbling basement of the mill. It is only a matter of time before it all collapses.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    There is currently a strong movement amongst the townspeople of Colchester and certain environmental groups to have the mill demolished and re-commissioned as a state park. Apparently, the local Salmon population is unable to migrate using the James River due to the dam installed by the mill many years ago. Since the mill has long been out of business, there is not much purpose any more. The future will tell whether or not this movement will ever be successful. Though it is pretty much impossible to get inside the ruins of the mill without breaking in, it is still very much worth a visit. Since the great fire that caused its untimely demise, the old mill sits pretty much untouched by the hands of man. It is grim reminder of the true fury of the flame, and just how uncontrollable the forces of nature can be. The very thing that gave us life ages ago, was the thing that put an end to this once prominent business. The Norton Paper Mill still sits in smoldering defeat, just one of many things we lost in the fire.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Torn to Pieces – Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium

Posted: April 22, 2015 by Abandoned Wonders and Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Hospital, abandoned new england, Abandoned Sanatorium, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Children, Children's Hospital, Closed, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Merden, Meriden CT, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Seaside Sanatorium, State Parks, Stories, time, Uncategorized, Undercliff Sanatorium, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Torn to Pieces

Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium

By: Sean and Amanda

The state of Connecticut is home to many well-known abandoned mental hospitals. In the shadow of the rolling hills of Southern Connecticut once stood one of our most feared and legendary facilities: Undercliff Sanatorium. Located in Meriden, CT, the grounds stood just a short walk off the beaten path of Hubbard State Park. Though several buildings on the grounds are still active state facilities, the main hospital had been abandoned since the seventies. Since its creation, it served several different purposes including a mental hospital and a storage facility. For many years after its demise, the facility sat empty and decaying. It was not until the spring of 2014 that the old hospital was finally demolished, torn to pieces over a few weeks. We were lucky enough to visit the abandoned Undercliff Sanatorium while it still stood in the early months of 2013.

hartford First opening in 1910, Undercliff Sanatorium is still an active state facility. It has recently been renamed by the state as Undercliff State Hospital, since it is no longer used for its original purpose. Covering over forty acres in the town of Meriden, the facility was originally built to treat children with tuberculosis and other diseases. As modern medicine developed and these diseases became less common, the facility slowly evolved into a treatment center for adults. In the 1950’s, all adolescent patients were transferred to Seaside Sanatorium. (see our write-up here) In the 1960’s, Undercliff evolved once again into a state mental health facility. The main hospital officially closed in 1976, and has essentially remained unused. Much like all abandoned hospitals in Connecticut, there were rumors of patient abuse and there have been many alleged hauntings on the property.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reaching Undercliff Sanatorium was no easy task. Due to large amounts of vandalism and trespassing, the official road signs for the facility had been removed to discourage visitors. We had read reports about some people being able to simply drive down the road and up to the facility itself. We found these hard to believe, especially considering a Connecticut State Trooper is housed on the grounds. Since it is still an active state facility, Undercliff was said to have a heavy police presence. We decided to park at the nearby Hubbard State Park. We made the climb up the mountain to Castle Craig, which gave us an excellent aerial view of the entire Undercliff campus and the surrounding towns. We then moved down the mountain to find a better way to get to the abandoned facility.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After climbing down the mountain, we came upon a road leading off into the distance. Across the road from us, we found an old path into the woods and decided to follow it. It led us deep into the forest, and eventually we came upon an open field leading up to Undercliff Sanatorium. It was massive, looming ominously in the distance as we slowly got closer. Despite all the rumors, we did not encounter a single trespassing warning. There were no fences, no signs, and we didn’t see a single police officer or security guard. The entire grounds seemed empty. It was weird. We cautiously moved closer and closer to the facility, unsure if it was illegal or not. But oddly enough, the closer we moved onto the grounds, the quieter things became. There was not a single sign of life. We continued moving up cautiously and quietly until we finally reached the hospital.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


 The abandoned hospital was huge. After successfully crossing the open field, we entered the parking lot of the main hospital. There were two buildings adjacent to each other.  One was a simple rectangular building while the main hospital was blockier with each floor going up a little smaller than the one below it. Both were made entirely of brick. Every single window on the ground floor had been smashed and sub sequentially boarded up. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much graffiti on the hospitals exterior. A rickety chain link fence surrounded the main hospital, but there were so many holes cut into it that it was pretty much useless. The doors were all heavily boarded up, except the main door ironically, which had been busted open at the bottom. People were able to crawl inside easily through this hole, which looked relatively new. But there were asbestos warning signs posted everywhere.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We encountered several other explorers, who helped us get inside via the opening at the main door. Inside, Undercliff Sanatorium was a maze of darkness. There are almost no pictures of the interior because we foolishly forgot our flashlights. The main hospital was at least seven floors, including a basement which was mysteriously flooded when the facility was abandoned. Rumor has it that the facility’s crematorium and morgue were located down there, and it was flooded to keep people away from them. Each hallway was a little creepier than the last. Each staircase was in ruin. Around each corner lay more shadows and more destruction. Vandalism was rampant everywhere. Oddly a lot of supplies seemed to have been left behind, and summarily destroyed by vandals. The main attraction of the abandoned facility was the theater. On the north side of the main hospital, which could be seen from the outside, was a large and ghostly theater featuring hundreds of empty chairs staring at a rotting stage. There was definitely a dark vibe about this place. It could be felt throughout the entire facility.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Though it has since been demolished, the darkness of Undercliff Sanatorium can still be felt. When you visit a place like this, it never really leaves you. Just looking at the facility from the outside, we could feel presence that lay within its walls. It is unclear at this time what the state plans to do with the now demolished site. Since the grounds are still an active facility, it will more than likely continue to serve that purpose. One fun rumor we heard about this place is that the Travel Channel show “Ghost Adventures” wanted to do a paranormal investigation here and even offered the State of Connecticut a good sum of money to allow them to do so. But all offers were mysteriously turned down. Unfortunately, whatever dark secrets and evil deeds this facility once held are no more. But the ghost of Undercliff will always be there.

Where the Tracks End

The Abandoned Willimantic River Railway

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs By: Amanda H.

     Along the banks of a lively river in a bustling town, there lies a world hidden in plain sight. Much like another former rail yard that we investigated long ago, Cedar Hill, this is a place outside the bonds of society. It is a place that has become its own little world, where the unexplained and the unexpected walk hand in hand. This is all that remains of the once prominent Willimantic River Railway. Though it may not be as dark and depressing as the abandoned Cedar Hill rail depot in New Haven, it is just as wild and dangerous. This is a world that nature has reclaimed, and the wilderness has claimed dominion over the land. The last remnants of mankind’s kingdom slowly crumble against the weight of time. Tracks have been ripped up. Train cars have been left to rot. An old bridge still runs across the river, decaying in the sun. Although the world left this place behind a long time ago, many different forms of life have come to call it home. On our investigation, we encountered signs of birds, beasts, and even humans living amongst the underbrush.

   The official entrance to the Willimantic River can be found on Columbia Avenue. Sitting right before the Columbia/Windham town line, the area is technically a part of the Hop River State Park Trail. Commonly used for biking and hiking, the trail begins here and extends all the way to the Vernon town line. It is describes as a perfect two mile ride or walk for your average outdoorsmen, but it wasn’t always this way. In the mid 1990’s, the town of Willimantic was a hotspot for railways and train yards. One of the older and more prominent lines ran across the picturesque Willimantic River. However, a fierce rainy season during the summer of 1955 caused major flooding in the area. The flooding permanently crippled some of the bridges on the Willimantic River line, causing it to be decommissioned shortly after. Following its closure, the land was converted into a recreational area. The former railway bed was removed and covered with gravel, making the paths perfect for bikers. It is now managed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Energy and Protection, and maintained by local volunteers and organizations. However, not everything was removed from this former railway line.

   The crown jewel of the abandoned Willimantic River Railway is the bridge. This ancient trestle runs across the Willimantic River, and can be seen from the road. At first glance, it is hard to tell whether or not the bridge is still in use. Once you get up close, it become abundantly clear. The bridge is very rusted, and the wooden support beams have become old and frail. It is about two hundred feet across the bridge, which stands over fifty feet above the running waters of the Willimantic River. Wild vines and vegetation grow all around it. The bridge is quite unsafe and very unstable. We crossed it by going one step at a time, though the entire structure seemed to creek and sway with each and every step. It is not recommended to cross this bridge. It has been nicknamed “The Bridge of Death,” after Monty Python and the Holy Grail. However, it’s much more reminiscent of the railway bridge from Stand by Me. Halfway across it, I almost expected to hear Wil Wheaton yell, “Train!” Sadly though, it has been many years since any locomotive passed across this old structure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    On the other side of the river, the old tracks continue for a ways. Sitting on them, is what appears to be a long abandoned set of train cars. The train cars are huge, each one standing very tall and very wide. They have all become overgrown and all but forgotten. Their wheels have become rusty and decrepit, even to the point where it is doubtful whether or not they can even move anymore. We were only able to walk along the left side of the train cars, as the right was completely overgrown with vines and thorn bushes. The old set of train cars sits right beside what must be either a dumping site a Mackey’s supply store. While scoping out the train cars, we encountered what must’ve been either a large dog or coyote which quickly took off into the woods. Though the train cars had some graffiti and there was plenty of liter around, there was no way anyone could break into these. All of the doors and hatchways were padlocked shut. It remains unclear to us whether these cars have been abandoned, or if they have merely been forgotten here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

     Though the ancient bridge and the old train cars were very cool, the thing that stood out about this place the most were the tent cities. Throughout our walk, we came across three different abandoned encampments along the banks of the river. Each one appeared to have once held a small group of people. There were tents, cooking supplies, clothing, fire pits; everything that was essential to survival. But each encampment had been totally ransacked. Tents were torn apart. Chairs were flipped over. Clothing and sleeping bags lie strewn across the forest floor. It looked like these encampments had been cleared out overnight, like something out of The Walking Dead. We have heard rumors that the local homeless population had been granted legal permission to camp out here, but they have clearly been gone a long time. But for some reason, all of their belongings had been left behind.  There were also dozens of old car tires thrown about all over the place. Some were clustered together, others were in small stacks. It was very strange. But then, we’ve seen it before many times in the past. Places like the Willimantic River railway get left behind, and a whole new world takes over.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is what becomes of a place when it finally hits the end of the line. This is where the tracks end.

The Shores of Despair

New England’s Abandoned Coastal Buildings

Written by: Sean L

Photos by: Amanda H

Few natural forces of this planet have been as influential on mankind’s history as the sea. It is a place where many have gone in search of life, but some found only death. It is home to many different types of life. Mammals, birds, fish, reptiles all thrive off of the nourishment that the sea provides. Mankind is no exception. Throughout our existence, we have built our homes and constructed our civilizations around the life force of the ocean. From its waters, we have found food, water, recreation, inspiration, and even love. The hearts of empires, such as New York City, London, Tokyo, Rio de Janiero, have all thrived over centuries along the shores of the ocean. It provides us with life, but also fascination. But sadly, nothing lasts forever. Over the years, many of these empires have fallen to the sands of time. We have explored many abandoned coastal buildings over the years. Some were used for war, others were used for vacationing. Though these places have long since been left behind, they remain as haunting and as enchanting as the sea itself. Here are our favorite abandoned buildings along the New England coastline.

#1: Seaside Sanatorium, Waterford, Connecticut

While the state of Connecticut is home to several notorious abandoned medical facilities, Seaside Sanatorium is one of the more picturesque locations. The building itself was designed by the famous architect Cass Gilbert, the same man responsible for the famous US Supreme Court building in Washington DC and New Haven’s Union Station. The facility was opened during the early 1930’s, seeing a long and colorful history that lasted until 1996. Over the years it has served as a children’s hospital, a treatment center for the elderly, and a facility for the mentally handicapped. Sadly, the facility was home to several incidents of violent treatment of patients in the early 1990’s which would ultimately cause its demise. The grounds now sit abandoned, though they can be legally walked as a recreation area. The grounds come to life during the summer, as dozens of beachgoers flock to the shores. During the winter, it remains cold and lonely. Though the building is rather easy to get into, it is very unsafe and unstable inside. The grounds are also patrolled by a private security company around the clock. Note that you don’t have to get inside to truly appreciate the wonders of this forgotten place.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#2: Fort Mansfield, Westerly, Rhode Island

The ruins of Fort Mansfield are located at the very edge of Napatree Point in village of Watch Hill. The United States military first purchased the property in 1898, as part of a new program to install artillery batteries all along the coast of New England. The fort was officially commissioned in 1902. However, during the war games of the early 1900’s, a fatal flaw was discovered in the fort’s design. The guns of the fort would be unable to repel a head-on assault from the sea, and it would be an easy target for an amphibious assault. Thus, the fort was decommissioned from active status in 1909. Over the years, the garrison of the fortress slowly dwindled as the military lost all interest and faith in it. The land was finally sold back to the town of Westerly in 1928. The fortress has remained abandoned ever since. The few buildings that once housed soldiers and equipment were demolished years ago. But the concrete structure of the fort still stands, lost amongst the vegetation of Napatree Point. During the summer, this area is a bird sanctuary. It is relatively quiet throughout the other seasons. The fortress is completely legal to visit, if you can find it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#3: Bates Motel, Truro, Massachusetts

Between the luxurious hotels and extravagant summer homes of Cape Cod lies a place that would make even Psycho creator and horror master Alfred Hitchcock himself uneasy. To this day, we have found very little information at all on the Bates Motel. We cannot even be positive if that is its real name. It does in fact bear a striking resemblance to the fabled motel of the film Psycho and its contemporary series Bates Motel. From what we have gathered, the motel has been abandoned for at least twenty years after an alleged family legal dispute. It has been the sight of many alleged hauntings, and it is smack dab in the middle of a very rich neighborhood. What we can tell you is that Bates Motel is located in the small town of Truro, Massachusetts. It is the second to last town on the furthest corner of Cape Cod, just slightly south of the beloved and lively Provincetown. The motel is privately owned, and NO TRESPASSING signs are clearly visible. All of the rooms are padlocked. Visit at your own risk. It may not have any connection with the movie legend, but the real Bates Motel is definitely just as creepy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#4: Fort Wetherill, Jamestown, Rhode Island

Located in the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island, Fort Wetherill is a mere stone’s throw away from the neighboring town of Newport. The history of the site dates back to the early 18th century. To protect the Narragansett Bay area, Fort Dumpling was built by British forces. After the expulsion, Fort Wetherill was constructed in its place by the American military a mere hundred years later in 1899. As a protector for the wealthy city of the New England mainland, Fort Wetherill proved to be very active during both World Wars as an artillery placement and troop station. Another primary task of the fort was to oversee the minefields erected during World War II. When the conflict ended, Fort Wetherill was decommissioned in 1946. It was then left abandoned for many years. Fortunately, the grounds were reacquired by the State of Rhode Island in the year of 1972. Due to its large granite cliffs and excellent view of the ocean, the grounds were commissioned as a state park. It is currently enjoyed today by many for sailing, fishing, and other water sports. The fortress, however, still stands, and is completely legal to visit. Sadly, it is also heavily enjoyed by the local teenagers for partying, vandalism, and destruction.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Cabin in the Woods

Exploring the Abandoned Case Cabin

Written By: Sean L.

Photographs By: Amanda H.

    Off the beaten path, where the land meets the water, there is a place that time has forgotten. It was once the place where families grew and where childhoods were enjoyed. Deep in the heart of Manchester, Connecticut, it is the home of memory and the sanctuary of the lost. This former kingdom of joy sits at its final resting place along the banks of Case pond, nearly lost amongst the thick forests surrounding it. People walk by this place every day like clockwork, but only a few take notice of it and even fewer can really appreciate it. This is Case Cabin, the former summer home of the wealthy and renowned Case family.  Though it has remained abandoned for many years, the cabin still stands, a shell still clinging to the memories of the past. The sounds of life have long since been silenced, but somehow, this place still speaks from beyond the grave. There is a presence here, the lost memories of the past still haunting the long empty halls of this former summer home.

In 1862, two brothers of the well-known Case family purchased two acres around the beautiful Case Reservoir in Manchester, Connecticut, and this is where they built their summer home. The Case family were successful industrialists from the area who owned and operated multiple factories and processing plants. The exquisite log cabin was first built in 1917 using sturdy chestnut wood from the neighboring forests. Throughout the early twentieth century, this place was the vacation paradise of the wealthy Case family. Many parties were celebrated here during the roaring twenties, and the family commonly lived here during the summertime. But much like the summer beauty, the prestige of this wondrous place eventually waned. The prestige of the family slowly came to end, and the summer home was eventually left behind. The Case family remained a powerful and successful family until the 1960’s, when their company was bought out. Over the last few years, their former land has been steadily acquired by the town of Manchester as part of an initiative to create more open and recreational space for town residents.

Case Mountain Recreation Area is a large town park located in Manchester, CT, just over the border of Bolton/Glastonbury. It is commonly used today by locals and visitors from all over the state for walking, hiking, and kayaking. The focal point of this park is Case Pond. It is a small body of water with several little streams flowing into it. Along one side of the pond are a series of large houses. Most of them have little boat houses or docks along the banks of the pond. On the other side, is Case Mountain Recreation Area. This area was made possible due to land donations and conservation from the town of Manchester and from several families in the area. The town of Manchester purchased several acres for the recreation area a few years ago. Included in that purchase, was the former Case family summer home. Most recently, the cabin was the setting of an independent horror film entitled Animal. The film starred Joey Lauren Adams (Mallrats) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee).

We visited the park on a beautiful fall day in 2014. A short drive from our home, we parked at the Birch Mountain entrance to the Case Pond Recreation Area. Though it is located right next to the busy Route 384, the park is relatively quiet and peaceful. On either sides of the trail, there are wealthy neighborhoods. The park is also rather heavily frequented. We ran into quite a few fellow hikers and a few mountain bikers. Case Cabin is across a stone bridge on the quieter side of the park, sitting silently along the bountiful banks of the pond. The house has a very rustic feel to it. It is like a very large old log cabin. All of the windows have either been boarded up, or strangely covered with cardboard. All of the doors into the house have been heavily padlocked. What made the house so curious to us is that while the house is slowly decaying, it appears to have been virtually untouched by the outside world. It is the first abandoned place that we have visited to have no litter on the ground or graffiti on the walls.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The windows have been boarded up, but it looks like they have been there for years. The house has been left to rot, but people seem to have left it alone. It was puzzling, to say the least. Though a chain link fence protects the house, there are several weak spots which make it look easy to get around. We do not condone or recommend this though. The deck in the back is incredibly unstable. It is in a very bad state of disrepair, with loose or even missing floorboards. It also has a strong tilt to it. Next to the cabin, lies a strange green house. The windows have all been boarded up quite sturdily. Broken glass is all around it, which means that it has been a victim of vandalism in the past. We are not sure what this house is. It is considerably smaller than the cabin, and looks to be much newer. It is also in a very bad state of disrepair. However, much like the cabin, there are several openings that are used by birds and squirrels to nest inside.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The cabin also appears to be very protected, outfitted with a very up to date and top of the line security system. Motion sensors and anti-burglary alarm systems are positioned all along the outer walls of the cabin. These sensors send signals to their base of operations, most likely the local police station, and then the alarm systems are triggered. Clearly, someone does not want this place to be disturbed. It has been deemed a landmark, and though the town continues to put up measures to protect it, they clearly have no plans to restore this former summer home. Over the years, windows have been boarded up, doors have been locked, and fences have been put up rather than restoring or demolishing the old building. Instead, it simply sits in silence, waiting for its final judgement day to come. Though it was once a place of light and joy, it is now nothing more than a cabin in the woods.