Archive for the ‘Abandoned Resort’ Category

Illumination

The Abandoned Columbia University Instrument House

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Wilk

“In Lumine Tuo Videbimis Lumen.” This is the official motto of New York’s Columbia University, one of the most prestigious educational institutes in all of the United States. And in true educational institute fashion, this phrase is Latin. The translation is “In thy light shall we see light.” Believe it or not, this comes from straight from the Bible. What this official university motto is supposed to inspire has often been debated. Most scholars agree that this is a calling to find God’s light and move forward in faith. Others have said that this pertains more to always seek knowledge and truth in whatever you pursue. As a non-religious person, I agree with the latter. Knowledge truly is power. Especially in 2022. In a world full of clickbait and misinformation, it is so important to always be smart and learn what you can when you can. There is so much out there to know and to learn. And sadly, most people just aren’t interested in it. They are content just believing what they are told to believe, think what they are told to think, and buy what they are told to buy. That’s probably why our world has become as tribal as it is. Think for yourself and always seek knowledge. I am no student of Columbia University. In fact, I attended a much lower tier Connecticut state university for my degree. But that is how I interpret the motto of this prestigious institute. Oh, and by the way, did you know that Columbia University once had a satellite campus here in Connecticut? Talk about a segue.

That’s right. A long time ago, in a town most people have never heard of, Columbia University once had a presence here in the Nutmeg State. Our story begins in the late 1800’s, in the town of Morris, Connecticut. Located in the beautiful hills of Litchfield, the town attracted the attention of Columbia University’s Engineering School. Slowly but surely, the school began to migrate it’s summer classes over to the small and affluent community. And in 1903, they finally purchased a plot of farmland with the intention of establishing a rural summer campus. Thus it was christened as Camp Columbia. Over the years, the small campus grew in size and shape. Every summer engineering and surveying students studied their chosen crafts amongst the quiet community. During the First World War, students intent on joining the Officer’s Corp got first hand military training. The now famous observation tower was constructed several years later as a gift from the Class of 1906. According to local legends, Dwight D. Eisenhower once used the campus as a hunting ground and the New York Giants held several practice sessions on the campus sporting fields. But prominence during the 1950’s eventually led to a massive decline during the next two decades. With a changing culture, interest in the campus’s structure and program decreased drastically. And in 1983, Columbia University was finally forced to close up shop and sell the land. What remains now resides in Camp Columbia State Park.

We weren’t entirely sure we were going to have an article ready for this quarter. I have been more busy with movies in the last few months than I ever have been in my entire life. And Lassie has been equally busy working as the best damn educator in the state. While we greatly enjoy our success, it hasn’t left much time for exploring. Plus, our host site (WordPress) keeps becoming increasingly uncooperative and difficult to use. It may be time to migrate to Squarespace…but that’s neither here nor there. Speaking of movies, I had a series of night shoots out in Fairfield County recently. Night shoots are just as much fun as they are grueling. But the funny thing about night shoots is the call times are always very late in the day. So I had some time to kill. That’s right. This was another solo piece, where I went exploring without my partner. I don’t like it any more than you may, but sometimes it’s good to go on an adventure by yourself. That’s how you learn who you really are. And guess what? The old Camp Columbia just happened to be right around the corner from where I was working. With good weather and high spirits, I decided to go take a look. I arrived at Camp Columbia State Park as one of only two other visitors. It is a very quiet and quaint park, that is maintained just enough to keep it walkable. And honestly, these are my favorite kinds of parks. It’s the kind of place that nobody knows about, except for the people that are really going to enjoy it.

When the state of Connecticut bought the former Camp Columbia, they demolished most of the campus buildings. But not all. The main attraction is known as The Instrument House. This beautiful stone building once housed all of the campus’s surveying instruments and equipment. And while she was clearly left standing for a reason, the years have not been kind to her. The stone exterior is very elegant, but the interior of the house is completely devoid. The wooden roof is slowly collapsing in on itself. Spray painted graffiti is everywhere. Old pieces of lab equipment and such have been scattered across the dusty floor. With that said, it’s still an absolutely captivating structure with a strong foundation. It provides a very nice look back on the bygone era of the former campus, casting a strong sense of prestige and academia. Just like the nearby observation tower. Though not abandoned, the Camp Columbia tower stands very close by to the Instrument House. I was expecting something more along the lines of Scott Tower, but was pleasantly surprised to find the tower in moderately good condition. It definitely has a vandal problem, much like the nearby Instrument House, but it is a nice site to see and provides a wonderful view of Litchfield County. Other relics of the past are scattered amongst the underbrush. An old basketball hoop rusts into oblivion. A team of derelict picnic tables rot into the fertile forest floor. Trails of lead piping pop up across the fallen leaves.

On my travels, I encountered a very nice elderly woman taking her chocolate lab named Libby for a walk. She was kind enough to warn me that there was a hunter in the area, at the corner of the red and orange trail. He was perched in a tree stand, like a coward, and had all of the permits to be there. She checked, and she’s a total badass for doing that. I greatly thanked my fellow hiker for her warning, especially since neither of us were wearing orange, and continued on my walk. I was sure to whistle old classic rock songs very loudly to clearly identify myself as a human being. No deer is going to do that…at least I hope. With the light fading and my time just about up, it was finally time to head back to the car and off to movieland. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to find at the abandoned Camp Columbia. But I’m very glad that I got to see it. There’s just a wonderful mix of history and intrigue here. There isn’t much to see in regards to real deal urban exploration, but it’s absolutely worth a look if you’re a history nut like myself. The Instrument House is a haunting relic and climbing the observation tower is a really fun experience. It just goes to show that you never know what’s out there until you go looking for yourself. Sometimes the best journey you can go on is with yourself. And sometimes the most interesting things to learn are in places that you never thought to look. Never stop seeking knowledge. Never stop seeking the truth. Never stop seeking the light.

The Last Hummingbird – The Abandoned Highover Estate

Posted: September 19, 2022 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Castle, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Farm, abandoned home, Abandoned House, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Park, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned Statues, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Art, Birds, Boston, Closed, darkness, Death, Destruction, Exploration, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Haunting, Hiking, History, House, Information, left behind, lost, Massachusetts, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, photography, Preserved Ruin, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, time, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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The Last Hummingbird

The Abandoned Highover Estate

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Summer has come and passed. The innocence can never last. Wake me up when September ends. Well, that’s just about now. So wake up, everyone. We’re back. But the summer season has taken its final bow. And we are currently on the fast track toward the end of the year. It all just goes by so fast, doesn’t it? Time keeps on slipping into the future. I close my eyes only for a moment and the moment’s gone. Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. Alright. No more classic rock lyrics. Wait a minute. Is Green Day considered classic rock now? Damn I got old. Seriously, though. I always measure the days of summer by the hummingbirds. We have two feeders sitting outside on our back porch and we love to watch them. The little birds first start sparingly appearing in early June. By July, there are dozens of them waging nasty territorial battles for control of the skies. But by August, things begin to quiet down. The birds fly off one by one into the great unknown. The days fall off the calendar. The sunshine fades away. And the glorious season of summer fun disappears into our collective memories. Gone. But not forgotten. And as I currently write the words of this article, only one hummingbird sits outside.

As I mentioned to you earlier, we’re experimenting with quarterly articles this year as opposed to monthly ones. A: we were just getting too busy with school, work, movies, etc. And B: frankly, we’re just running out of abandoned places to cover that are nearby. For years now, it has become increasingly hard to find quality abandoned places that have a story to tell. But there is one that has been on my list for a couple years now. And interestingly enough, nobody that we follow has covered it yet. So allow me to introduce the subject of Quarter #3 of 2022’s article: The abandoned Highover Estate. Located in what is now Beverly, Massachusetts, this area was once well known as Moraine Farm. It was famously owned by the high-society elite family of Boston: The Phillips Family. For years they lived on and managed the farm, and in 1913 the family built their lavish estate known as “Highover.” But in 1968, tragedy struck and the family mansion was destroyed by a raging fire. The remains were subsequently abandoned and the land sat empty for several long years. It was saved, however, when the grounds officially changed hands to the town of Beverly in the early 1990’s, and the JC Phillips Nature Preserve was established.

We made our trek to the abandoned Highover Estate during the final days of summer 2022. It was a bit of a drive for us. So we decided to make an overnight trip of it. Most people don’t seem to realize it, but there’s actually quite a bit to do north of Boston. Gloucester. Salem. Danvers. All great towns. But maybe it’s better that they stay more low-key destinations. That’s the way we like it. Except for Salem in October. If you dig big crowds, long lines, tourist traps, costumed characters, overpriced beer, and religious zealots yelling at you from street corners, you’ll love it. If you’re an awkward introvert like myself, it will NOT be your cup of tea. Anyhow, this place had been on my list for a very long time. And we were finally on our way to see it. The sun was shining, there was a bit of traffic, and we arrived at the JC Phillips Nature Preserve ready for some adventure. It was a quiet place. A few dog walkers perused the area. But for the most part, we were alone. Just the way I like it. The abandoned Highover Estate is not marked on any map, so we did have to go in more or less blind. But lucky for us, the abandoned estate is rather easy to find. As we meandered down the main trail, we soon found exactly what we were looking for.

The main blue trail of the nature preserve passes straight through the abandoned estate. The old iron gate still stands, though now fully overtaken by wild vine and vegetation. A trail bulletin board with historical facts on it is now rotting into oblivion. But the main attraction of this place lies a short walk up the neighboring hill. The estate’s former fountain still resides amongst the fertile forest floor and watching over it is the final surviving piece of the Highover Mansion. It is quite odd looking, honestly. Almost like a white room standing all alone amongst the underbrush. Three walls and a floor, or what’s left of them. Though now coated with graffiti and full of trash, it still casts a strong sense of character. We honestly took a ton of pictures as its just a very photogenic piece. See for yourself above and below. A short walk down the trail lie a few more broken down foundations and structures. It honestly feels like at this point you’ve seen everything there is to see. But if you continue long enough, you will find a small copper statue perched upon a stone pedestal in the middle of the trail. This was honestly my favorite part of the abandoned grounds, as it still has so much character to it. Even being such a small piece.

To be perfectly honest, there isn’t too much to see here. If you’re a hardcore urban explorer, this place will disappoint you. But if you’re a hiker or a photographer, you will enjoy this one. The photos we got just have their own weird sense of charm and derelict dignity. Looking back though, the abandoned Highover Estate still truly puzzles me. For years, she has sat alone in the forest. Many have come and gone past its ruins. But most never seem to take notice. And those that do notice have not been very nice to it. Time and time again we have seen places like this get cleaned up, renovated, and reborn into places of public interest. But the abandoned estate has had no such luck so far. She just continues her steady decline into oblivion. I encourage anyone who is looking for a good hike and a bit of legal mischief to check this place out. It’s honestly perfect for people wanting to get into urban exploring, but don’t know how. There isn’t too much to see, but what is there is very cool and very photogenic. Because whether by the hands of a local cleanup crew or the slow decay of time, I don’t see this place lasting much longer. Not in the state that it’s in. So plan your trips now. For just like the days of summer, nothing last forever.

Feeding the Birds

The Abandoned Batterson Park

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Last September, we finally moved out of the city. It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Not just because of Covid, or the ever increasing crime rate. I just really missed the woods. I missed looking out my front door and seeing trees. I missed waking up to the sounds of birds singing. I missed looking up at the stars on dark nights. You get none of that in the city. One thing we started doing again was feeding the birds. In the city, you basically get the same batch of shrewd little birds day in and day out. But we thought, now that we’re out in the country, we might finally get some interesting avian visitors. But we were wrong. For the first few weeks, that is. We bought our bird seed. We set up our feeder. And we waited. But nobody came. The feeder stayed quiet for days on end. No birds would even come near it. Until one day a large redheaded woodpecker, whom I have come to call The Harbinger, showed up. He came from the woods in our backyard, as if driven by some otherworldly force. He ate from the feeder until he nearly burst. When he was finished, he perched himself up on the railing of our deck, and began to sing. His calls pierced through the trees and echoed through the forest. And before long, birds of all shapes and sizes began flocking to the feeder. All at once. They had heard the call, and they had come to feed.

Allow me to introduce the subject of our June article: the abandoned Batterson Park. This is another one that I have had my eye on for a long time and one that no other major explorers have covered. I have always been a sucker for abandoned parks. There’s just something really special about them and the stories of how they got this way. It’s just fascinating how a place like this eventually fades away from thought and time. Even after being enjoyed by so many for so long. First established in the early twentieth century, Batterson Park was created from land once designated as a reservoir. It is unique in that it covers three different towns. Though the park is officially under the Hartford system, it actually exists outside of the city limits. The landmass of the park stretches across parts of Farmington and New Britain. It is all centered around the large and aptly named Batterson Park Pond. But this uniqueness would eventually lead to the park’s downfall. For many years, the towns that Batterson Park belonged to were never able to reach a deal on who would be paying to maintain the park and its amenities. In the fall of 2015, the park was forced to close its doors for good due to budget cuts. It has remained shuttered and forgotten ever since. Many deals and sales have been proposed over the years, but nothing has yet to come to fruition.

As I mentioned to you earlier, this place had been on my radar for awhile. We just never quite had the time to check it out. But, since it’s just about summertime, we were in the market for some new shoes. And let me tell you, there is no better place for explorer shoes than REI in West Hartford. No, we aren’t getting paid to say that. They’re just that good. Check them out if your outdoorsy. Since it was a nice day, after shoe shopping, we decided to take a stop at the nearby abandoned Batterson Park. It is a quiet section of town. And arriving at the deserted park is a little perplexing. The gate is down. But there are several heavily trafficked paths around it. There are signs up saying that the park has been closed. But then there are other signs welcoming you to the park and listing its hours. Mixed messages. No matter. Sitting right alongside the beautiful Batterson Pond, the park is easily accessible. We weren’t too sure about being there at first, but after running into a few other young adults with their dogs, our worries were laid to rest. The abandoned park may be on the small side, but there is also quite a lot to see. Walking through the old gates, you are immediately greeted by a rotting sign. It lists the admission prices to the park from days long since past. My how times have changed. And as we continued down the road, things just got more interesting.

Things are quiet. Very quiet. There has clearly been some fire damage here, as one building near the entrance has been completely burned out. Most of the other buildings have been boarded up, but a few can still be accessed. Inside you will find nothing but old equipment and lots of chairs. The beach’s dock is still floating in the waters of the pond. Several old lifeguard chairs rot off to the side. A maintenance shed sits wide open, and it is full of old disused equipment. A basketball court and pavilion are slowly being overgrown. Forgotten grills and fire pits still stand amongst the brush. The main boathouse curiously still has a few boats under its roof, but they appear to be in good condition. Let’s keep it that way. Perhaps they are just being stored there. But the main star attraction, and the whole reason I am writing this article, is the sea of picnic tables. A little way’s down the main path, there are dozens of derelict picnic tables standing in formation. Their green paint is slowly peeling. Bushes and vegetation is engulfing them. And combined with the dead silence of the old park, they provide a very eerie spectacle to behold. They truly encapsulated the sad story of the abandoned park. A place that was once designed for recreation and fun, now lies empty and cold. The memories stacked up and locked away like these ghostly old picnic tables.

The abandoned Batterson Park was certainly a unique visit. Though there was not too much to see here, the silent army of forgotten picnic tables really provided a haunting window into this place’s long lost past. Plus the park appears to be relatively untouched by the outside world. For now, that is. Who knows what the future holds. It reminded me very much of our bird feeder when we first moved in. You see, we urban explorers are like the wild birds. When one of us finds something good, they usually let out a song of their own to beckon others to come get a taste. And though I do not consider myself The Harbinger, I know that by posting this article, many other explorers will soon be coming to take a look at Batterson Park. And one of the most interesting things I have noticed from feeding the birds is that there are two types of visitors. First, there is the Chickadee. They are beautiful yet simple birds. They come to the feeder, eat their share of food, and then sing a small song before flying off. But then, there is the Grackle. They are obnoxious and disruptive. They scare away the other birds, eat more than their share, and usually knock over our whole feeder. Ruining things for everyone. Most of you reading this, I know, will be quiet and respectful. Like the Chickadees. Some, however, will be loud and destructive. Like the Grackles. Which will you be?

Melting Snowmen – The Abandoned Bells Mansion

Posted: March 24, 2021 by kingleser in Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Boston, Abandoned Castle, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Forts, abandoned home, Abandoned Hotel, Abandoned House, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Park, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned Tower, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Beaches, Broken, Closed, commercial, darkness, Death, Destruction, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Fort Wetherill, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, Information, left behind, lost, Love, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, Ocean, Ocean View, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Rhode Island, Ruins, State Parks, Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Melting Snowmen

The Abandoned Bells Mansion

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

The neighbors across the street built a snowman. They had their grandchildren over a few weeks ago, after one of our many snowstorms, and built a big snowman. It took them a few hours. But, oh, the fun they had. He was like any of those classic Hallmark songs about winter time. Three large balls stacked on top of each other. Little rocks were used for the eyes, nose, and mouth. He had a great big grin on his face, happy to entertain. Bottle caps were used for the buttons on his chest. The grandfather even broke out one of his old hats and scarves to make him feel a little bit more personable. When they were finished, he was perfect. But once he was finished, everyone went back inside. The sun set behind the evergreen treeline. The children eventually went home. The grandparents returned to their television shows and their cigarettes. The snowman, who once brought so much mometary joy, was left alone. Whenever I was able to take my dog for a walk, his personality shown a little less bright. The hat and scarf eventually blew away in the cold winter wind. The great balls of snow began to droop with age. And slowly but surely, the poor snowman’s very frame itself began to melt. No one came to tend to him. No one came to keep him alive. Days eventually turned into weeks. Snow eventually turned into rain. And by the time March had rolled around, all that was once left of this once happy snowman was nothing more than a pile of whiteness. The time of winter was now over. Spring had finally come.

So, hello again. Winter is over. And we are officially back in business. You may have noticed some things have changed around here. We’ve recently added a treasure map of our locations to our site. It allows our visitors to look at a list of all our locations by the state in which they reside. If you haven’t already, check it out sometime at the top of the page. While making this new feature, I realized that we are a little heavy on the Connecticut locations. Given that it’s our home, this is acceptable. But the other surrounding states looked a little bit left out. So for this year, we are going to be visiting Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the rest of New England as much as possible. Maybe a return to New York is even in order once things finally settle down. If there’s any specific locations you’d like to see us cover, please do drop us a line. On our first stop of the year, we decided to check out a place that many before us have covered. It’s one that’s alluded us over the years. Not on any moral grounds or anything. We just never quite found the time to check this place out. This is the abandoned Bells Mansion, or what’s left of it anyway. First built in the late 1800’s, this place once stood grandly amongst the other mansions of Newport, Rhode Island. A series of unfortunate events and a constant change in ownership led the property to a state of disrepair. There was even a fire and a bit of demolition. And now belonging to the state, all that remains of this former palace is the broken down carriage house. Never the less, her spirit still remains.

We made the trek up to Rhode Island on a grey March Sunday. I know Newport well. I once worked on Woody Allen’s movie for a whole summer up there back in 2014. I never ended up seeing the movie, though. But frankly, nobody should be watching his work anymore. Summer in Newport is no picnic. Late winter, however, is great. You can really appreciate the town before it is flooded with festivals and tourists. The drive up and through Rhode Island was rather pleasant. Covid-19 may be wounded and nearing defeat, but it’s still quite dangerous. So we didn’t end up getting to check out many of our old haunts around town. But that’s okay. Also, the Newport Bridge now has automated tolls on one side. But not the other side. Peculiar. I know that they are much more unsafe, but I always kind of enjoyed interacting with the tollbooth operators. It was usually early in the morning driving to set, and it was more often than not an older lady. But they always greeted you with a smile. Some days, that really helps. So let’s all try to be a little nicer to each other. The remains of the Bells Mansion are located in what is now Brenton Point State Park on the far side of town. And though it was grey and chilly, the ocean-side park was still very much alive and active with people. I thought this would be an issue for our exploration, but it wasn’t. Most people were too busy gazing at the ocean, searching for the bathroom, or playing with their dogs to notice the old ruins of the carriage house. It is mostly quiet around this side of the park.

As you arrive at the park, you can straight-up see the abandoned mansion from the visitors lot. The ruins of the mansion very much look like 2020 incarnate. The building looks tired, battered, and broken. Dueling graffiti of “Black Lives Matter” and “Make America Great Again” coat the walls. There is a strong sense of loneliness and hopelessness. Like our snowman left out in the cold as his hat blows away. Everything appears to be grey or brown. Wild vegetation and thick vines protect the ruins from the outside world. Yet there are quite a few curious tunnels and pathways through the underbrush. Some will lead you inside of the abandoned building. Some will lead you nowhere. A failing chain-link fence stands in some places. But like a toothless guard dog, it doesn’t do much good. Inside the cement floors are cracking and crumbling. There is so much water buildup from the upstairs that the ceilings literally feel like they are raining on the inside. It is like something out of a bad dream. There is an observation tower nearby that provides an excellent view of the entire estate. But it, too, has become a victim of graffiti and vandalism. Jagged pieces of metal from the old framework are the only things keeping the structure alive. One of the most interesting things I found was that a tree outside has grown so much that people are now clearly using it to climb inside the abandoned mansion. Creative. I thought of trying it myself, as I used to love climbing trees, but I was advised against it by my more grounded partner.

After getting all the pictures we could, we bid farewell to The Bells and spent some time around the ocean. We gathered some shells. Found some sea glass. And generally just enjoyed the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. Though the abandoned Bells Mansion may not have been much to look at, one of my favorite things about it are the sounds. Inside sounds like a pouring monsoon as water pours from the ceiling. Outside, you cannot escape the sounds of the waves crashing into the rocks a mere stones through away. It wasn’t quite as exciting as I had hoped it would be, but there is quite a bit of history here. A lot of our fellow explorers have covered this one, and we had to see it for ourselves. If you go, just be wary of people. There is a lot of them snooping around the park. And though winter may have come to end, make sure you get good weather. Just being around the roaring ocean makes this one worth the trip. We’ve had a little bit of snow here and there over the last week. But it’s never more than just a dusting. Three inches maximum. It’s usually all melted by the time midday rolls around. The icy fingers of winter have been broken. Its time is now over. Just as the time of the grand bygone era of the Bells Mansion have passed. They are now nothing more than memories. For much like our neighbor’s snowman, now matter how much joy and love went into building a place like this, we all have a debt to pay. Time stands still for nothing. And all things that come from the Earth must eventually be returned to it.

Spider Weeds – The Abandoned Helen Lohman House

Posted: October 21, 2020 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Farm, abandoned home, Abandoned House, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Park, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned Road, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Automobiles, Birds, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, dreams, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fantasy, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, House, Information, left behind, lost, Love, Magic, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, New York, photography, Preserved Ruin, Public Parks, research, Ruins, State Parks, Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Spider Weeds

The Abandoned Helen Lohman House

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Show of hands here, please. Anyone reading this a gardener? I usually don’t like to reveal too much about our personal lives, given the nature of what we do here. But we at Abandoned Wonders absolutely love to garden. It’s a really special thing. Every year from Spring through Fall, we grow all of our own vegetables. Tomatoes. Lettuce. Peppers. Green beans. Some things we can’t get to grow, but we try anyway. Just for the fun of it. Every year here in New England is a little bit different from the last. And each one teaches you a different lesson on how to be a good gardener. Being able to grow something yourself and then enjoy your harvest is quite rewarding. But every year, eventually the season ends. The frost and the cold slowly kill off the plants. And one by one, you have to say goodbye to the little lifeforms that you yourself created. You water them. You feed them. You make sure they get enough sun. They depend on you for just about everything. But when the season changes, there is no stopping the suns from setting. There is always a time when we have to say goodbye to what we created.

Might I introduce October 2020’s subject: The Abandoned Helen Lohman House. The owner and proprietor of this house, Ms. Lohman, was a New Yorker who spent her summers here in the seclusion of the Connecticut woodlands. She was a successful artist, simply seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of the great city from time to time. Though the house was first built in the 1700’s, she was the last official owner. Her property served as both her summer vacation home and farmstead. It was a simple property, with a small country house, running water, and a cozy fireplace to curl up next to on those cold nights. But in the late 1960’s, she decided to move on from the property. The house was forgotten about, and Ms. Lohman donated the land to the town of Middletown with the idea of making it a wildlife preserve. She named the preserve after the way she found her garden after every winter. The spider weeds would take over the garden, and leave it in a ghastly state of decay. Over the years, the house fell into complete disrepair. She now sits all alone and abandoned.

All of the credit for this one goes to my partner Lassie. A few weeks ago, we were looking into doing our first virtual 5K. For charity, of course. While looking into good three-mile walks in our area, we just happened to come upon a little place that we had never heard of: Spiderweed Preserve. While reading about this place, we soon discovered the rich history of the Helen Lohman House. Nobody around here had ever covered it before. So naturally, we had to go take a look. We didn’t end up doing our 5K here, simply because that would’ve been timed. And so, on a clear Fall day, we made the trek into Middletown. Looking for Spiderweed Preserve. The weather had called for grey skies and clouds. Which is what I thought would’ve been the perfect backdrop for this hallowed ground. But, naturally, we got blue skies and sunshine. No matter. It was a beautiful ride through the Haddam area. But eventually the road turned East, and deep into the woods. There is no parking lot. Just a long, dead end, dirt road that was once a driveway. It was here that we hiked to the abandoned property.

It is a short uphill hike to the old house. It looms up on the hill as you approach, making it unmistakable. But sadly, it is mostly gutted. The roof is no more, and one side of wall has totally collapsed. But in its heyday, the house was clearly one story. It has a surprisingly rustic design, as if it was just crudely put together by any large stones they could find in the area. That is one of the most unique parts about this place: the rocks. Shining mica and rose quartz can be found all over the walls and floor. You can still walk up the front steps. The fireplace still stands. And seated on its hearth is the star of the show around here: the old tea kettle. Though it is slowly being rusted to death, this old dispenser still stubbornly sits here. Waiting for her master to return. It is quite a haunting site. Watch your step, as there is broken glass bloody everywhere. One window still holds onto its frame. Another still has its distinct green shudders to protect it. But sadly, this place is more of a skeleton of what it was once was. Like an autumn leaf, haven fallen from her tree and slowly eroding into nothingness.

Fall was, in fact, the perfect time to visit the abandoned Helen Lohman House. I don’t know if I’d recommend visiting it during any other season. The chilly air, colorful leaves, and fading sunlight just make this old structure feel a bit more special. There is just a certain amount of mystique to it that makes you wonder what these old ruins once looked like way back when. And even though the house is slowly collapsing, this place can still hold a feel secrets. It absolutely boggles my mind that the old tea kettle is still there and nobody has taken it. Let’s keep it that way. And if you by chance come upon the secret Orange rock, congratulations. Now please put it back so someone else can have the joy of finding it. If you are interested, please do go check this place out before it’s too late. Just as the time of 2020 is drawing to a close, as does the time of this rustic homestead. But then again, let’s always remember why Helen Lohman named this place after those pesky spider weeds that took over her garden every year. Because no matter how tough winter can get, some plants always grow back.

Once Upon a Time

The Abandoned Madame Sherri’s Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Once Upon a Time, there were two explorers named Wilk and Lassie. They lived in a small house with their dog, guinea pig, and hedgehog. Oh, how Wilk and Lassie loved to explore. They had been North. They had been South. They had been East. And they had been West. They had seen just about everything there was to see. They watched with glee as their little blog grew from a few followers to over a thousand. Exploring was their favorite thing to do. And they were good at it. Until the dark times. Until the world as we all knew it came to an abrupt end. And poor Lassie and Wilk were stuck inside. Their pets enjoyed their company very much, but they longed to explore the great outdoors. So they found time here and there, when they couldn’t bear it anymore, to get outside and have some fun. But it was never quite the same. Still, they carried on. And explored whatever places they could during these times of great sorrow. Following the rules of this new world they found themselves in, they stayed close to home. Most of the time. Until one fateful day, they found a place they just couldn’t resist.

Our story begins a long time ago in a mythical place called New York City. An eccentric woman and her husband become famous in the City of Lights through show business. Oh yes. Antoinette Bramare and Andre Riela became quite the talk of the town wherever they went after striking it rich. One was an affluent costume designer. The other was a glamorous actress. And to embrace their new found fame, they change their last name to Sherri. But when Mister Sherri passed away, Madame Sherri took her fortune and fame to the wooded realm of New Hampshire. Here, she built a lavish castle to host parties and enjoy the Roaring Twenties in the middle of the woods. Everyone in the local community had heard of her and her socialite lifestyle. But eventually, her money ran out. The parties all drew to a close. The limelight faded. The curtain was called. And poor Madame Sherri died poor and alone shortly afterward. Her castle fell into disrepair, and eventually a fire caused by local miscreants in 1962 consumed the lavish palace. Now, all that remains are the ghosts of so very long ago and the legend of Madame Sherri.

And so, on a quiet summer day, Lassie and Wilk made their long trek up to the magical land of New Hampshire. They were sure to be prepared for this long journey. They passed many unique things along the way. The dark times had really changed the world around them. They listened to no music on the way up. They just talked and enjoyed each other’s company. Eventually, they came upon a long, narrow, dirt road. This was the way the directions told them to go, but it looked rather treacherous. They followed this road all by themselves for several miles, wondering if they were still going in the right direction. The houses along the road began to disappear, they soon found themselves deep in the forest. But it was here that the road came to an end at the head of the Wantastiquet Trail. This was the final stop that would lead them to their next path: the hike to the enchanted castle. Fortunately, this trek was not far at all. As the ruins of the castle were a mere short walk from the trail lot. A few minutes later, Lassie and Wilk found themselves gazing on a very unique site: the abandoned ruins of Madame Sherri’s Castle.

Though most of the castle now lies in ruin, what struck Lassie and Wilk the most was the so called “Stairway to Heaven.” This winding stone staircase is the only truly defining feature left of this former relic. When people think of Madame Sherri’s Castle, they think of this old abandoned wonder. It truly looks otherworldly, almost from a bygone era. Wilk loves to climb, and he wanted to climb the staircase really badly. But, Lassie advised him against it. Though the staircase is hauntingly beautiful, it is also very structurally unsafe. A crude sign even sits nearby reading, “Please do not climb the staircase.” Wilk found this unfortunate, but acceptable. He was in luck, though. Beneath the ruins of the castle is the old stone basement. It can be accessed through the air duct or from the outside. There is not much to see down here besides rubble, but it did provide our heroes with a welcome break from the heat. Up above, the old fireplace slowly crumbles into despair, while the stone pillars all stand firm and proud against the march of time. It was truly a mix of ruins and wonder. Some parts of the castle remain strong. Others are eroding away.

Wilk and Lassie don’t really like people. They prefer solitude on their adventures. And while Madame Sherri’s Castle is a true wonder to see, you will rarely be alone in these mighty woods. But, our explorers were able to get all the great photographs they needed and got a nice walk in. Satisfied with their prospects, they bid farewell to the fabled abandoned castle. Though parts of it are weathering away, the great soul and wonder of this place stands strong. Wilk and Lassie headed back to the car with smiles on their faces and excitement in their hearts. It was another long car ride home, though this one was filled with songs and tales of adventures long since passed. When they arrived home, their animals were quite happy to see them. And the feeling was mutual. As nightfall commenced, they each cracked open a beer and sat on their couch. Lassie began to look through her wonderful pictures. Wilk began writing his crazy article. And they both reminisced about how much they loved going on adventures together.

The End.

The Abstruse

The Abandoned Westledge Ski Slope

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It’s an unusual word, isn’t it? Abstruse. I had never even heard of it before. I asked Lassie if she had either, but she had the same answer. “Is that even a real word?” Yes. Yes it is. You can look it up. Originally I had titled this article “The Obscure.” With the global pandemic still ravaging our homeland, we’ve had to get a little bit creative with the places that we visit. We don’t like to go too far, since we can’t really stop anywhere to grab a bite to eat or anything. We don’t like to leave the state, as we both still have jobs to do. And we both still believe in following the physical distancing guidelines. Plus we have covered pretty much every major abandoned place here in Connecticut. So…that kind of narrows down where we can and cannot visit right now. So as you can see if you’ve been following our blog for the last few months, our investigations have been kind of unconventional. A lot of them have been in the middle of the woods. They’ve also been ones that nobody in our community really pays attention to.

Allow me to introduce our latest subject: The abandoned Westledge Ski Slope. It all began in summer of 1969. If that song is now stuck in your head, you have my sympathies. Anyhow, the ski slope was built along the edges of Westledge Mountain to service the aptly named Westledge School. You see, skiing was becoming kind of the fad up here in New England during this time period. We have covered several other ski slopes in the past that followed very similar paths and suffered the same fates as Westledge. It was a big hit at first, servicing as a simple single-towing ski system used mostly by the students of the Westledge School. Their system was unique, as it was one of the first electrically operated towing lines. This had it’s advantages and disadvantages, for being efficient/quiet but also very slow. Unfortunately, Westledge School came under new ownership in 1978. The land that the ski slope operated on was divided up between the new school and the local land trust. And thus, the Westledge Ski Slope was no more.

Like I said earlier, we were a bit vexed on what to cover for our July piece. Due to the ever growing heat, we also wanted a place that didn’t involve too much hiking. I had stumbled on Westledge Ski Slope during the early days of the outbreak, and had kept it aside on my list of potential places. Since it was kind of obscure and fit all of our criteria, we decided to pay a visit. In the middle of July, we made our trek out to the area. Not wanting a repeat of our earlier adventure in Rhode Island, we were sure to bring lots of water and map out our route exactly. It had been a long time since I had been out to North Western Connecticut. And I had honestly forgotten how beautiful it was. We arrived at our destination, only to find that the parking area had been mysteriously closed. Luckily, we had mapped out our route better this time. We found a different one a short drive away. It made our hike a bit longer, but the forest out here truly is captivating. It was about a mile in before we came upon the abandoned ski slope.

The first thing to greet you here is the main attraction: the abandoned rope tow shed. It is a small but sturdy building, and honestly is quite funny looking in it’s own way. With a triangular roof and decorated with some bizarre oddities, the building is rather interesting. Inside is plenty of old machinery, but be wary as the floor is quite unstable. There are still several old utility poles standing around the shed, but they blend in quite well with the trees surrounding them. A few of these trees have random articles of clothing tied around them, such as ties, jackets, and shirts. I found that to be kind of strange. The slope itself is steep as bloody Hell. But we had to walk all the way down it. Along the way, the old post used as part of the rope tow system still stand. Unlike all of the other slopes we’ve seen in the past, they aren’t traditional posts per se. The wheel system was actually attached to the trees themselves. Over the years, the old metal wheels are slowly being devoured by the trees growing around them.

Eventually we made it to the bottom of the slope. Here, we found the wrecks of several old cars. But they were so overgrown, we couldn’t get the best pictures of them. Then came the hard part; getting back up the slope. I see now why this hill was used as a ski slope. But using the old wheel systems as breakpoints, we eventually made it to the top and began our hike back to the car. So is the abandoned Westledge Ski Slope worth a visit? Depends on your taste. You see, the word “abstruse” means obscure or mysterious. And that’s what places like this are. And usually for good reason. Aside from the rope tow shed, which is really cool, there isn’t much to see here. But if you’re looking for a good hike and something different, check it out. Places like this one usually don’t get enough attention these days. They end up getting lost to the pages of history. They are, as you would say, obscure. But like the word “abstruse,” just because you’d never heard of it before doesn’t make it any less interesting.

Frozen Hearts

The Abandoned Eyrie House

Written by: Wilk

Photographs: Lassie

Damn, these times are hard. We can’t go to places we want to go. We can’t get the things that we need. We can’t do the things that we want to do. I am stuck inside day in and day out doing voice-overs. Lassie does what she can around the house. But our dog sure does love the company. Some birds just aren’t meant to be caged. See, we have a system when we go exploring. Since it’s usually a long drive, we always go out for a drink and a hot meal afterwards. If there’s a used bookstore or a vintage toy store in the vicinity, we’ll check that out as well. But we can’t do any of that right now. And that sucks. I made a list at the beginning of the year of places I wanted to explore all over New England. We’ve sadly had to postpone most of that. Stress the word most. It’s hard to stay positive in this situation, but we’re going to do our best. There’s always a couple of local places I keep on the back burner just in case. And while today’s subject may not be much to look at, but she is a legend in these parts.

This is the abandoned Eyrie House. We have covered a lot of places in the Mount Tom area of Western Massachusetts in the past, but this one has always evaded us. First opening in 1861, this place has seen a lot of history. She started life as a hotel overlooking the absolutely picturesque valleys of the Holyoke area. But the hotel faced a lot of competition, and business began to decline over the years. Much like the nearby ruins of the Apsinwall Hotel in Lenox, the Eyrie House met an unfortunate end due to vicious fires. Legend has it that the owner of the Eyrie House was alone at the hotel, and attempted to cremate one of his fallen horses in 1901. The fire got out of control, and with help so very far away, the Eyrie House never had a chance. The hotel burned to the ground in a fiery inferno, leaving behind only her sturdy stone frame. The grounds were eventually sold off to the local government and added onto the Mount Tom State Park area.

I first went looking for the Eyrie House way back in the summer of 2017. I had a rehearsal/table read up in Amherst early one Saturday morning, and decided to stop for a hike on my way back. But when confronted with the in-season $10 parking fee, I decided to save it for another time. Flash forward to 2020. Given its proximity, long/lonely hike in, and the current situation of social distancing, we decided that the Eyrie House would be a perfect trip for our March article. An unexpected snow had fallen the day before, and we were both getting a serious case of Cabin Fever. So we hopped in the car and went for a drive. The Mount Tom park can be tricky. Like I said earlier, we had covered other abandoned attractions in the area before. And each one had it’s own way in. Today was no exception. Our directions took us down a quiet country road to a road-side dirt parking lot. From there, it was a two mile hike in to the abandoned Eyrie House.

It was a long and icy climb to the ruins. But we were mostly alone. We slipped and slid all the way up. But we made it. There may not be too much to see here, but the ruins of this place certainly are special. The great stone frame looms over the Connecticut River valley. The old archways still project a strong sense of grandeur. And the area has clearly been protected and cherished for a long time. But the one thing I took away and will always remember about the abandoned Eyrie House was the frozen heart. While walking along the outer frame of the house, I found a patch of ice. It was frozen into the almost perfect shape of a heart. Though the sun was setting, and the breeze was chilling, I couldn’t help but take it as a sign of hope. Most may not believe such things, but I do. Hopefully, someday soon, this time of great sorrow shall lift. But until that day comes, let’s all stay strong. Be thankful for what you have. And watch out for each other.

EY5

“Don’t allow our doubts of today limit our tomorrow.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

As Our Campfire Fades Away

The Abandoned Camp Mooween

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

“Softly falls the light of day, as our campfire fades away.” These were the first lines of the last song we always sung around the campfire on our final night of summer camp. It was an annual tradition. Somehow, it almost always brought a tear to my eye. It was sung softly, after a night of s’mores and jolly tunes. When it was over, we all somberly went back to our tents for the night. We all knew full well that the next day, we’d all be going home. And a few weeks later, we’d all be returning to school. So I guess you could say, these lines always signaled the beginning of the end. Summer camp was always very important to me. I was in the Scouts from First Grade all the way through my Senior Year of high school. It truly made me the person I am today. And every year, summer camp was always the best part.  But no matter how hard you tried, it was always over way too soon. And sadly enough, many summer camps do not last forever either.

This place was once known as Camp Mooween, located in Lebanon, Connecticut. Fun fact: the peculiar name is actually the Mohegan word for “Bear.” Which is cool. First opening in the early 1920’s, Camp Mooween was a summer camp for boys from all around New England. Nestled right on the banks of the gorgeous Red Cedar Lake, the camp featured all of the classic summer camp activities any young youth could ever ask for: boating, camping, ball fields, rope swings, and bug juice. For decades, it was a staple of the local community and a place of great joy. Sadly, the camp was abruptly closed in the 1960’s. I have scoured the internet for a reason why, but have yet to find one. Though there were efforts to revive it, the camp remained abandoned for many years. It wasn’t until decades later that the area would re-open as a state park. Luckily, it was through the efforts of former campers to preserve their old stomping grounds and christen it as “Mooween State Park.”

I had honestly never heard of this place. In all of my research throughout the years across the area, nobody had ever covered Camp Mooween. One summer day, we were heading to a family dinner in Lebanon. Since it was later in the afternoon, we decided to try squeezing in a quick hike before our cookout. After a quick search of parks in the area, this one caught my eye. And it was honestly a nice surprise. What many people do not know is that the town of Lebanon is bloody huge. It is honestly one of the biggest towns in Connecticut. And getting to the abandoned Camp Mooween ended up being quite a journey. But when we finally did reach our destination, it was well worth the trip. After a short walk in along the banks of the Red Cedar Lake, you are greeted right off the bat by an old abandoned car. It is a bit hidden, but still very much alive. Do not ask me the make or model. I have no idea because this thing is bloody rusted to Hell, and damn near buried in the foliage.

To the untrained eye, this park is just another nice wooded area for a quiet hike. You honestly have to do a little digging to find the abandoned remains of Camp Mooween. There are many rogue fireplaces with chimneys left standing in random corners of the woods. There are overgrown ball fields and vacant lots scattered across the park. Junk of all sorts rots into the fertile forest floor. But the star attraction of the abandoned camp is undoubtedly the remains of the great hall. If you’ve ever been to summer camp, you know this is where bloody everything happens. Meals. Announcements. Skits. Everything important happens at the great hall. Lying off the beaten path, you are suddenly greeted by this former installation. The concrete framework still stands. The stone hearth is crumbling. An old staircase leads you into what was once the kitchen, where plenty of old equipment has been left behind. As someone who spent many hours working in a summer camp kitchen once, it was pretty cool to see the old stoves were still here.

But sadly, aside from the great hall, there really isn’t too much to see here. Old reminders of what once was still haunt this quiet forest. And it honestly feels like a treasure hunt sometimes. You never know what you’re going to find off any of Camp Mooween’s winding trails. It could be some random piece of camp equipment, or another foundation of a building. I wanted to write about this place because I can really relate to those that have tried to preserve it. Though she now lies in ruin and despair, this place clearly once meant a lot to these people. You can still feel the love as you walk through these now empty woods. And I can honestly really empathize with that. Summer camp was always a place of magic for me. It was a time and place where you could escape from your parents and home life for a brief time. Whether it be for just a week or the entire summer, the memories and friendships made here last a lifetime. But it always ended with those fateful lines of that somber campfire tune: “Softly falls the light of day, as our campfire fades away.”

Tears of a Mountain

The Abandoned Mount Beacon Railway

Written by: Wilk

Photographs: Lassie

Most people like to go the beach on their vacations. Somewhere hot, where there’s a soft ocean breeze and they put little umbrellas in the drinks. I am not one of those people. I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating. And it gets everywhere. (References, we’ve got them.) Personally, I prefer the mountains. Always have. Always will. Whether it be winter or summer, they are my favorite places to visit. There is just something so breathtaking and awe-inspiring about them. I’ve been climbing them my whole life. From my time in the Scouts, up until now. There is just no better feeling than reaching a beautiful mountain top after a long hike. By the way, this will be our 100th post here at Abandoned Wonders, so be warned. There will be a lot of reminiscing moving forward. While vacationing in New York, we decided to climb one of the local mountains – Mount Beacon. Little did we know at the time, this place holds a story and a secret that sets her apart from most mountaintops.

It was once known officially as the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, located in the absolutely beautiful town of Beacon, New York. First established in 1902, the railway was a very popular tourist attraction for much of its heyday. If you have ever rode Mount Washington’s Cog Railway in New Hampshire, this establishment was very similar….just on a much smaller scale. A trolley system ferried guests up the picturesque mountaintop to an old fashioned casino, luxurious hotel, and a gorgeous view of the Hudson River Valley. For decades, this place was a staple of the local community. But as we all know, time stands still for no one. Eventually, financial issues caused the downfall of the railway. And while she went out of business in the 1970’s, she was also added to the list of National Historical landmarks. Unfortunately, not much still stands of the attraction after a vicious case of alleged arson destroyed most of the buildings atop of the mountain. Now, all that remains of this former hotspot are the memories of what once was.

While on our trip to the Hudson River Valley, we decided to take a stop at the nearby Mount Beacon. Having just toured Bannerman Castle the day before, we thought it would be an appropriate follow-up. At first glances, this place appears to be like any other mountain hike. But if you take a closer look, there is so much more than meets the eye. The old train tracks still run down the side of the mountain, like a trail of tears from the former summit. About half-way up, a few old train trolleys rust into oblivion. Honestly, the train tracks are hard to photograph, due to the large amount of vegetation growing around them. A trail of rotting utility polls lead upward like a twisted trail of breadcrumbs. Atop of the mountain, the old wheelhouse lies in ruin. The brick hull of the building crumbles, whilst the heavy machinery inside is actually in pretty decent shape. Minus the myriad of graffiti, of course. But the hotel and casino are long gone, unfortunate victims of the fire that once consumed this lonely mountain. Funny enough, you can even get a great glimpse of Bannerman Castle itself from up here.

I wish I could say that there was more to see here. But this is definitely a piece for all the hikers. And trust me when I say, this was one Hell of a hike. But it also had one Hell of a payoff. It seems the old railway has finally met her doom at the top of Mount Beacon. While there are movements to restore it to its former glory, there is regrettably not much left to save here. The old train tracks are slowly being eaten alive by the forest around them. Where the hotel and casino once stood are now nothing more than ruins. The wheelhouse has become a target for the local vandals. And yet, the view from the top of the pinnacle’s highest peak is still bloody breathtaking. That, my friends, is one thing that will always set this place apart. The Hudson River Valley is truly one the most amazing places I have ever seen. And there is no better place to see it than atop this amazing mountain. Though time seems to march on without the Mount Beacon Railway, nobody will ever be able to take that away.

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” –Greg Child