Archive for the ‘Camp Connecticut’ Category

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.

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    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.

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     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.

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

Out of Business

The Abandoned Buildings of Route 85

 By: Sean and Amanda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camp of Shadows – The Mystery of Camp Connecticut

Posted: November 4, 2014 by Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, abandoned new england, Abandoned Resort, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Birds, Broken, Camp Connecticut, Children, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, dreams, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Haunting, Hebron, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Marlborough, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, research, route 85, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Stories, time, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex
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Camp of Shadows

The Mystery of Camp Connecticut

Written by: Sean L.
Photographs by: Amanda H.

Nestled deep in the woods bordering Colchester and Hebron, Connecticut, lies a place of mystery. Though allegedly not completely abandoned, it is a shadow of its former self. Countless rumors have emerged throughout the years as to why it closed, but nobody seems to know for sure. I’m talking, of course, about Camp Connecticut. Having lived in the area my whole life, I had visited the empty camp several times in my youth. It has been a staple in the community for as long as I can remember. It was seen as a “rite of passage” to sneak into the camp when I was young. Though little of the actual structures of the camp remain, the ghosts of the past still hold a strong presence over this former summer hotspot. Growing up around Camp Connecticut, every kid I knew seemed to have a different story about why this place was abandoned. One of the most popular rumors was that one of the camp counselors went crazy and killed several campers. Another popular one was that the daughter of the camp’s owner was drowned in the lake.

No such evidence to support these claims has ever been found.

The rumors of satanic activities and Devil worship were also very prevalent. Stories of hauntings and paranormal activity were strong as well. As part of my high school news team, we were planning on spending the night at the abandoned camp in an attempt to gather evidence of the hauntings. Our investigation was shut down though by the local authorities.When researching this site for our current investigation, we found little to nothing online about the camp. There was no information on this mysterious place anywhere. Even the website of the alleged owners of the site, the local Shriners, was mysteriously taken down. There were a few photos on some very old blogs, but mostly Camp Connecticut seemed to be a place forgotten by the public.There is a main entrance on Old Hebron Road, but it is now heavily watched by multiple security cameras. Through the use of Google Maps, see Rule #4, we were able to find a way into the camp via the local Airline Trail.

Camp Connecticut is deep in the heart of darkness. It is protected from the outside world by a forest of dense foliage and thick woodlands. The main entrance is now blocked by a sturdy metal gate that is locked at all times. There is, however, one old trail into this lost world. It has been nicknamed “Hell’s Trail.” It is lies off the Airline Trail just over the Hebron border along the banks of the winding Judd Brook. Parking at the Old Hartford Road entrance of the Airline, it was a little over a mile walk to the mouth of the Hell’s Trail. This is not an easy path. Being an unofficial trail, it is not maintained like the rest of the Airline. The only users of this trail are the local wildlife and people like us looking to get a glimpse into Camp Connecticut. The trail follows Judd Brook as it winds through the woods.

The deeper you go, the quieter things become, until you are left in complete silence. About a mile down the winding trail, you will find the remains of Camp Connecticut. The trail leads directly into the camp, only the path is blocked once you cross into the property by a very large fallen tree. The fallen tree has clearly been placed here for a reason. A crude sign is stapled to the fallen log with a clear warning from the “Camp Connecticut Board of Directors.” The sign states “No Trespassing” and that “We are watching you.” They aren’t joking either. Multiple security cameras can be seen from the trail guarding the property. Beyond the fallen log lies a large clearing with small piles of junk scattered around. There are several roads visible leading off further into the camp. It is quiet as a tomb. It is the middle of summer. Yet there are no sounds of birds, or bugs, or anything. Just silence.

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We explore what we can for the next few hours. Climbing up the nearby cliffs, we were able to get a better view of the camp. A single lean-two is still standing deeper into the camp. There is also an abandoned truck and several more piles of junk. We also found a very well hidden and well maintained tree stand, meaning someone is still using this property for something. Coming off of the river there is also a small pond. This pond is allegedly where most of the devil worship is supposed to take place. We saw no such devil worship. But that is all that is left of this former summer camp. There is, however, some sort of presence here. There is an ominous feeling in the air. It is hard to explain.

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Our investigation of Camp Connecticut left more questions than answers. The alleged owners of the site remain elusive. The local Shriners are said to own the camp. But their website cannot be found. At the gates of the camp, we even found an old sign for the Shriners. Lately we have even heard rumors that camping is allowed on site with permission from the owners. But much like everywhere else surrounding this strange place, these are only rumors. On our journey we found no ghosts. No devil worship. No Shriners. Just a sad, empty, and foreboding former summer camp heavily guarded by a silent army of security cameras. But the mystery continues. Who are the mysterious Camp of Connecticut Board of Directors? Who, if anyone, is watching these security cameras? But even more importantly, what are they hiding?

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