Archive for the ‘Bannerman Castle’ Category

As Above, So Below

The Abandoned Clausland Mountain Tunnels

Part I

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Why do we seek the dark? Is it the mystery? Is it the unknown? Some find comfort in the darkness. Others find only fear. Myself, personally, the exhilaration makes me feel more alive than anything else. Not knowing what’s around the corner, or the thinking what would happen if your flashlight dies, makes exploring the underground some of our coolest work. Believe it or not, most of the inquiries and search terms we get on this site are seeking abandoned tunnels. So again, I ask, why do we seek the dark? Why is it the abandoned tunnels that people find most tempting and fascinating? It can be quite frightening, and yet also very enlightening. We have explored the underground on a number of occasions, and each time has been a little different from the last. We’ve covered the tunnels of abandoned mental hospitals, to the underground bunkers of old military bases. What would surprise people isn’t the quiet beneath the Earth, it is the noise. Every little movement, shudder, or disturbance ripples through the blackness like the shattering of a window. But then, all returns to silence. Sometimes sharply. Sometimes slowly. As if nothing had every happened. It’s an eerie feeling, almost as if you’re expecting something to happen. But nothing ever does.

Our final investigation for 2019 took us once again to the great state of New York. We’ve covered a few things here, mostly in the Hudson River Valley, and they never disappoint. And today’s subject is no exception. What we have here today are known as the abandoned Clausland Mountain Tunnels in Nyack, New York. First built in 1910, this area was once known as Camp Bluefield. Here, National Guard troops trained and were stationed year round. The tunnels were apart of their training rifle range, used for traveling up and down the range without danger. They caused untold stress and disruptions with the locals, and were forced to close down only a few years later. Since then, the area served many different purposes. But none of them ever really stuck. Eventually, the former military base was completely abandoned. And, as we all know, this is when the vandals and vagrants began to encroach. Fortunately, the grounds of the old camp were eventually added onto one of the more secluded state parks in the community. It is here that the old tunnels have remained dormant ever since. And so, on our ninth anniversary trip, we decided to go hunting for this long lost military fortress.

It was a long hike in, and the tunnels blend in quite well with their surroundings. But we found them. My advice to any potential visitors: follow The Long Path. You will have to cross between two state parks and through a very wealthy neighborhood to get there. It can get really winding and difficult, and there were several massive fallen trees blocking our path on the way in. We lost the trail a couple of times due to some missing markers, but if you stay on it you will find the tunnels. I honestly missed them on our walk in. It was Lassie who had to call me back, because I had literally walked right passed them without noticing. It sounds silly, but you will understand if you ever visit this place. The tunnels run for miles, and they blend in with the surrounding forest quite well. They all run in a straight line. There are no twists or turns, since they were used to travel up and down the shooting range. There is actually a ton of graffiti coating the outer walls. And yet, there are certain sections that remain mysteriously untouched by the local painters. This artwork ranges from the offensive, the comical, and the outright beautiful. One of my personal favorite pieces we discovered has been included below, for obvious reasons…

Obviously, the main thing we were after on our visit here was getting inside the abandoned tunnel system. And I encourage all visitors to at least peak their heads in. Be very cautious, though. The tunnels are absolutely infested. Not with bats. Not with mice. Not with vagrants. But with crickets. Yes, you read that right. Crickets. They are called spider crickets. They look like crickets, but they jump like spiders. They congregate on the ceiling and upper walls of the tunnels in large hives. Walking by won’t disturb them. But if you just happen to shine your light on them, the entire colony will spring into action to defend itself. We were about half-way through our first tunnel when it all of a sudden started raining crickets on us. It was bloody shocking. We honestly had to run back a few steps just to assess the situation. But, if you keep your lights low they will mostly leave you alone. Stress the word “mostly.” After exiting the tunnels on our first trek in, a massive raven flew right over our heads. He cawed in a very slow and methodical way, as if laughing at us for getting spooked by the bug swarm. It was one of the few sounds we heard while visiting this place that were not caused by us.

One of the most interesting characteristics of this place is just how inventive some of it’s visitors can be. We found several ladders propped up inside some of the tunnels, so that they can be accessed easier from the outside. Getting to the top of the cement structures can be challenging, since they are rather tall and all of the inner staircases have been removed. So large tree branches have been braced along the sides with screws drilled into the wood two by two. These screws are in a carefully measured pattern, so they can be used as footholds whilst scaling the fallen tree limb. It’s actually quite ingenious, if you think about it.  We also found all sorts of painting equipment stored in little caches all across the base. It goes to show that whomever is frequenting the abandoned tunnels is more organized than most that we’ve seen…I honestly had to break this piece up into two parts. That’s how much there is to see here. With the chaos of the holiday’s and the unforgiving New England weather upon us, the second half of this piece will be coming in January 2020. But until then, Happy Hunting.

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

 

Flight of Dragons

The Ruins of Bannerman Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

We have been doing this urban exploration thing for over five years now. We have explored places all over New England. We’ve seen the abandoned hospitals of Connecticut, the derelict fortresses of Rhode Island, the lost ski resorts of Vermont, and the forgotten landmarks of Massachusetts. New England has always been our base of operation. But this past autumn, we finally headed west to the Empire State. New York is a place that we have visited a few times lately on movie business, mostly in the city. But we had never done any exploring there. Technically, it’s almost closer to us than a lot of the places we’ve already visited. For some reason, it was just a place that seemed to have evaded us over the years. And so, for our eight year anniversary we finally decided that it was time to see what the great state of New York had to offer. Our first destination? Bannerman Castle.

Of all the places in New York, it was the Hudson River Valley that caught our attention the most. Bannerman Castle is kind of a local legend in these parts. Oddly enough, the local inn we stayed at on our trip had dozens of paintings of the castle all throughout their foyer. Located on Pollepel Island, smack dab in the middle of the roaring Hudson River, the castle was first built in 1901 by industrialist Francis Bannerman IV. Making his fortune in the scrap business, Bannerman is unofficially known as “The Father of Gun Collecting.” When he was prohibited from housing his large stockpile of ammunition in New York City, Bannerman moved his base of operation upriver to the nearby island.Though the main castle was built as a housing facility for his vast arms and munitions arsenal, the island was also the vacation home of the Bannerman family. Following Francis’s death in 1918, the castle went through a series of unfortunate events including fires, accidents, and architectural collapses. The island was named off-limits in 1969.

Since its closure, Bannerman Castle has slowly deteriorated. It’s once grand presence now haunts the Hudson River Valley. But in recent years, the local community has come together to bring it back to life. Through the Bannerman Castle Trust, certain buildings have been restored and the castle itself stands in a state of arrested decay. Much like Chester-Hudson Quarry in Massachusetts, the castle is maintained just enough to keep it from collapsing. This allows people from all over the world to experience its sheer beauty. The castle was even featured in the most recent Transformers movie. The trust offers tours of the island in the summer and fall via ferry or by kayak (for the summer only). We were lucky enough to catch one of the final ferry tours of the season. Taking a small boat through the roaring Hudson River, the castle looms like a mythical giant in the distance. It beckons all weary travels towards its once rich gateways.

Honestly, the castle is damn near awe-inspiring. Against the gorgeous backdrop of the Hudson River Valley around it, the faded red palace looks like something out of a fairy tale. It almost looks as if it were hewn from the very mountains by great giants of old. While the front of the castle still looks amazing, the back is in much worse shape. It looks like it could collapse at any moment. To create a barrier for his island, Francis Bannerman sunk several large barges around it topped with small stone towers. A few of these still peak out from the river’s roaring current. Unfortunately, seeing this place is much more tourism that it is exploration. We were on the island for a grand total of about an hour, and did not get to see the castle as up close as I would have liked. Guides ferry visitors to and fro across the island like sheep. Nothing against them or the Bannerman Castle Trust, I just would’ve preferred seeing the place on our own as opposed to in a group. This was definitely a very different experience than we are used to.

I almost didn’t write about this place for our site. I don’t really know why. It just didn’t really fit in with what we usually cover. Like I said before, this place is much more in line with Dark Tourism than it is urban exploration. But Bannerman Castle truly is amazing to see. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a little adventure. Plus you get to go on a boat ride through the Hudson River. Even if you don’t take the island tour, seeing it from the banks of the river or the top of nearby Mount Beacon is bloody breathtaking. Much like Hearthstone Castle, it feels like something from a dream. Yet as awesome as Bannerman Castle is, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must’ve been like during its heyday. Walking across the island was just as cool as it was somber. The dragons that once ruled this magical place have long since flown off. And yet, somehow, the castle has captured the hearts and minds of the local community. She may never again rise to her former glory. Yet with a little help, she still stands tall.

If you are interested in visiting the castle, please check out the Bannerman Castle Trust’s website here – https://www.bannermancastle.org