Posts Tagged ‘Graffiti’

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.

Exodus: Chapter 1

The Abandoned Sacred Heart Church

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

This is one of those rare pieces where I am not going to reveal the location of this place. If you know this place (and I’m sure a lot of you do), please don’t make a comment or anything. It will be deleted. We really want to provide some respect for this fallen place of worship. Ever since we got into this, and ever since our time in Alabama (where churches are EVERYWHERE), we have wanted to find and explore an abandoned church. There’s just something mystical about them. A few years ago, a reader tipped us off about one in the New Britain woods. But we were never able to find it. This one was sitting right in front us. We just needed a closer look.

It was an early Saturday morning, in the waning days of Summer 2018. We had just had breakfast down the street at a nice little diner. I had heard stories about this place, but we finally had a chance to go check it out. It is a place I had driven by for many years during my childhood. I was always captivated by its sheer size and elegance. And even today, in her derelict state, this once mighty church is still quite captivating. Moss and water damage eat away at her outer hull. Graffiti coats the outer walls, though someone is clearly trying to combat it. The once lively parking lot and front entrance are now empty and desolately silent.

We did not go inside this church out of respect. All the photos you see here are taken from a sadly gaping hole that vandals have caused on the back doors. Someone has literally busted through the plywood to get inside. And these are the people that give us all a bad name. This was once a place of light, community, and hope. But now, it has become a playground of destruction and despair. And regrettably, abandoned churches are becoming more and more common across the region. With higher repair costs and declining attendance, many churches are closing their doors. Will there be hope for this place someday? The world will decide. The world always decides.

“Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What God desires is here, and here, and what you decide to do everyday to be a good man – or not.” – Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Bizarro World

The Abandoned Mount Tom Ski Area

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Every abandoned place is a little bit bizarre. I think that kind of just comes with the territory. Some of them are just better at hiding it than others (if you got the reference, pat yourself on the back). Each one is so very similar, yet completely unique in their own special ways. Derelict liter coats the ground. Colorful graffiti is plastered all over the walls. Distant echoes of days long since passed still linger in the air. But this one was different. Very different. The only other place that I got a similar vibe from was the infamous Sunrise Resort many years ago. And that was the first abandoned place that we had ever explored. Walking through the grounds was just very, for lack of a better word, bizarre. It was surreal. We’re talking a whole new world living just outside the spectrum of our own. And so few of us even know of its existence. It honestly gave me a profound feeling of, “Holy shit. This place is real.” It is a rare feeling, but a cool one none the less.

This is the Mount Tom Ski Area in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Her story began 1962. Following a similar trend of many of the now abandoned ski areas we’ve covered in the past, it opened during the boom period of skiing. During this period, smaller ski slopes began to pop up all over the Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut areas. Their notable amenities included ski school, night skiing (who the Hell does that?), and a state of the art chair lift system. She thrived here for many years. But, regrettably, that trend of seasonal fun slowly began to wane in the New England area. Larger snow resort empires, particularly in Vermont, gradually began to consolidate their power over the industry. Her story ended in 1998 when she finally went out of business. Or was it just the next chapter? Though there have been several attempts at a revival, the Mount Tom Ski Area has sat here abandoned ever since. And over the years, she has become plagued with an ever increasing vandal and arson problem.

Our trip to the Mount Tom Ski Area was a weird one. We did extensive research on this place before making our visit in mid-summer of 2018. Full disclosure: we had done an interview with The Boston Globe a few weeks before. They had contacted us wanting to do a piece on urban exploration, and were going to come with us on our investigation. This, however, fell through due to legal issues. No hard feelings, though. Luckily, it was only a short drive for us. It was a brief, yet heavily sunbathed, hike to the old ski area. It lies deep in the heart of the Mount Tom reservation. Right off the bat, things got weird. As we approached the old facility, we heard music. Loud music. Followed by lots of voices. As we rounded the corner, we realized it was a party. About a dozen people, a long with a baby, were partying in the park’s old wave-pool. Unusual, but okay. We continued on. Usually we’re alone for our investigations. But there was actually a lot of people here.

We seemed to be the only one’s really interested in exploring the buildings, though. Which we did. All of them. This seems to happen a lot at abandoned places during the summer. People care less about the place, and more about having a good time. One building was completely gutted by a maliciously started fire a few years ago, and now remains fenced off. The rest of the buildings, including the main lodge, are now treasure troves of graffiti and destruction. Some old equipment was clearly left behind, but has since been destroyed. Everything here is in a serious state of decay. It was honestly some of the best examples of true urban exploration that we have ever found. Yet, strangely enough, we weren’t able to get as many good pictures as we wanted because of how many people were hanging out at the old facility. We were cautious of them at first, but eventually came to the realization that nobody really gave a shit. Its a problem we never really faced before. Still, though, I think the images we did get speak for themselves.

Mount Tom Ski Area is more than worth a look. I think the summer time setting definitely helped bring it more to life, too. The urban decay here is just really striking and raw. The color graffiti shines vibrantly in the summer sunshine. There is a lot left to see. But truly, this was a bizarre place indeed. Much like the old Sunrise Resort, I walked through this place with just an odd feeling. Everything was just so different and weird. We’re used to having to sneak around places were exploring. But not here. There was a group of young adults having a party in an empty wave pool. Some old guy was giving his family of five a guided tour of the grounds. Another young couple walked around in silence looking just as confused as us. A lone minstrel perused the abandoned buildings singing songs to himself. Yet none of these groups interacted with each other, almost like everyone was invisible to everyone else. It was all quite odd. But then again, much like abandoned places, each of one of us is just a little bit…bizarre.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be it would, you see?” –Alice in Wonderland

Off the Beaten Path

The Abandoned Rutland Prison Camp

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Greetings, everyone. We’re back at it. Did you miss us? Of course you did. Why wouldn’t you? After a very long and very shitty winter (it’s even snowing right now as I write this piece…in April), we finally got to do some exploring last weekend for the first time since mid November of last year. It was a bit of a hike, but it was quite an adventure. Western Massachusetts has kind of become the great untapped resource for us. I keep finding more and more places up here for us to explore, yet we never really found the time to check them out. When a clear weekend finally opened up, we couldn’t resist the chance to do some exploring. The choice was between this place or Hearthstone Castle for us. Though Hearthstone seems really cool, I feel like everyone covers it. This place does not quite get the attention it deserves. Plus, it is allegedly haunted. So we decided to pay it a visit. Buried deep in the woods, at the edge (hopefully) of winter, this is the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp.

I’m going to be honest. Finding any history on this place was difficult. All people could really give me on the history of this place was that it was a prison camp in the early twentieth century and that’s it’s been abandoned for a long time. Not even the official website helped. I tried all of my usual sources on this one: YouTube, Google, Reddit, etc. Nobody seemed to have much history on this strange place. Luckily, I was able to find one site with some info. So thank you, atlasobscura.com. They really helped out. Apparently the prison camp was built to house minor offenders during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. The guests of the prison were usually there for non-violent crimes such as public intoxication or taxation troubles. Inmates would do farm-work by day, and return to their minimum security lodgings by night. As the years went on, the camp slowly grew larger and larger. But it was abruptly abandoned in 1934 due to complications with the local water supply.

The abandoned prison camp is located in the heart of what is now Rutland State Park in Rutland, Massachusetts. It’s a nice little park, with some very picturesque views. During the off-season, the road to the prison camp is closed to traffic. But that didn’t matter to us, because we would’ve walked in anyway. If you follow anything we post here, you should know by now how much we love to hike. Also during the off-season, you don’t have to pay to park. Which was nice. I really hate having to pay to park. It was a nice day out, and there were only a couple other cars at the park when we pulled up. It was roughly two miles through the wondrous New England woods until we came upon the ruins of the abandoned camp. The farther we hiked, the more anxious I got that we weren’t going to find the ruins. But fear not. Follow the trail, and you’ll find them. Red squirrels scampered through the trees. Wild ducks quacked through the air. And we strangely didn’t encounter many other hikers.

The main trail of the park leads you right up the ruins of Rutland Prison Camp. There are three main structures still standing, all in relatively close proximity to each other. There is easy access to all three of them. Two are smaller/more compact buildings. While the main hall is much larger, and very dark inside. Much like many older cement building from the past, they show little signs of wear and tear. Besides the colorful plethora of graffiti of course. Each structure has its own unique feel to it. Darkness lurks inside, and the colorful murals of spray paint give this place a strange sense of urban beauty. There are underground tunnels that are easily accessible, but we regrettably were unable to enter them. With the snow storm the week prior, the tunnels were flooded with several feet of water. None the less, this place was very cool to explore. Clearly, though, the prison camp is a hot spot for partying and general shenanigans. There was a lot of litter inside the main hall. But this is nothing out of the ordinary for a place like this.

The abandoned Rutland Prison Camp is completely legal to visit. So if hiking and urban exploring is your thing, I would highly recommend it. We had heard plenty of rumors of this place being haunted. Speaking for myself, I felt no such ominous presence here. It is a bit isolated from the rest of the world, but I wouldn’t call it creepy or anything like that. Of course there was plenty of liter and vandalism around, but that just comes with the territory. It is kind of a hidden gem, and the hike in is very much worth it. Being able to explore this place after a two mile walk is a nice treat. Especially after a very long winter of being stuck inside all the time. It just goes to show you that you never know what lies off the beaten path. The woods keep many secrets from us. And it’s good to see that old places like the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp still survive. People may have suffered there a hundred years ago, but we are all able to enjoy it today. Happy Hunting.

Out of the Fire

The Rebirth of the Montgomery Mill

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

There were once many successful mills across all of New England. Dozens thrived in Connecticut alone. But as the world turns, times change. Over the years, countless of these once thriving industrial titans succumbed to darkness. But out of this darkness, light rises to meet it. For new life is now being breathed into these old mills. All across the region, abandoned mills are being redeveloped into apartment complexes. From the nearby Talcottville Mill, to several others across Massachusetts, this has become recent trend for construction firms. And each has found insurmountable success. But a new member is about to join their ranks – the once infamous Montgomery Mill.

First built in the early 1800’s, the Montgomery Mill was once the jewel in the crown of the thriving town of Windsor Locks. It gave the people of the town jobs, and became the heart of downtown. Businesses and shops opened up all around the mill. In the mid 1900’s though, things began to change. The Montgomery Company struggled on for several more years, before finally closing its doors in 1989. Since that day, the factory has been a constant topic of debate amongst the townspeople and a playground for destruction. The property has changed hands several times between land developers and entrepreneurs over the years, but nothing has come of it…until now.

With an expected date of completion being the summer of 2019, construction will soon commence on the formerly abandoned mill shortly. With its nesting bald eagles having moved out, the Montgomery Mill is now once again open for business. Naturally, we had to pay her one last visit before her dramatic reconstruction. Since the eagles moved on, the Connecticut River Canal trail was once again open, and it passes right alongside the old mill. One thing we found very interesting was the new program inviting passerby’s to hang hubcaps on the walls of the mill, to cover nasty graffiti on the walls. But the old mill is definitely ready to move on, and we couldn’t be happier to hear of her redevelopment.

It wasn’t so much saying goodbye. It was more like… see you later.

For more information, please see the Hartford Courant:

http://www.courant.com/real-estate/property-line/hc-biz-windsor-locks-montgomery-mills-redevelopment-20180103-story.html

Winter is Coming

The Abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

Winter is coming. The leaves have fallen from the trees. The temperature has dropped. It started snowing on my ride into the studio this morning, which I was totally not expecting. If you’re not familiar with it, New England’s winter can be unpredictable and unforgiving. One day it will be beautiful, the next it will be brutal. Plus with the chaos of the holiday season fast approaching, things usually slow down for us a bit here at Abandoned Wonders. Winter is just not a great time for exploring. So we decided to get one last big adventure in before the outdoor season comes to an end. And what better place than the abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry?

Located in the nearby Rocky Hill, Connecticut, Quarry Park was a place I had never heard of. Credit to this find actually goes to onlyinyourstate.com, which is an excellent place to find fun hikes and places to visit. They recently included this park in one of their articles,  and being so close to us, we naturally had to go check it out. For years, Rocky Hill Quarry was a large and profitable business. But times change. Following the closure of the quarry in the 1950’s, the land was eventually rechristened as Quarry Park. With an excellent view of the town and a nice two-mile hike, it is well worth a visit. But it is what’s left of the old quarry that make this place interesting.

The first item to greet you on the walk are the ruins of what is identified on the map as a 1936 Buick, which is now only a rusted hunk of metal. Much further down the line, off a side trail, is what we believe is called The Cave. A short, but rather steep, climb up the rock face will bring you to the first real signs of the abandoned quarry. A few pieces of old machinery rot into the earth, but an old tunnel runs into the side of the cliff. Inside is just one large empty room. Though it is clearly frequented by someone given the contents we found inside. And, much like most stops on this trip, everything was coated in colorful graffiti.

A bit farther down the trail are what remains of the old compressor house and machinery. At quick glance, this place looked very much like some old ancient ruins. With its large stone pillars and intricate design, it makes for a very interesting sight. The layers of vibrant graffiti almost breathe new life into these old structures. The compressor house itself is large and open inside, with a big window in the middle of the ceiling. Many of its old items (including a door, mattress, tools, and a lawnmower) lie strewn about outside it. All kinds of old metal and rocks coat the ground, so always watch your step.

If this is the last place we get to visit this season, I will not be disappointed. The abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry is more than worth a look. Despite the cold, it was a really nice hike and we were able to get some excellent photographs. It is a very unique place, reminding me very much of Fort Wetherill in Rhode Island. Here massive stone structures are a relic from another era, that show no signs of breaking down. And the colorful coat of graffiti makes what should be a dreary place into a far more fascinating one. So if you have time, definitely consider visiting this one sometime soon. After all, winter is coming.

Welcome Home

The Abandoned Marlborough Commons

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Marlborough, Connecticut, is and always will be my home at heart. I grew up here. I spent my entire childhood and young adult life here. I know this town like no other, especially growing up in the time where kids used their bikes to get everywhere. But as much as I love this little town, so many things have changed about it. Many of the smaller local businesses are no more. Construction is underway on a large supermarket. And many of the people I once knew have moved on. It is simply the way of life. We have covered the abandoned Marlborough Commons shopping center in the past. But several years later, it has taken a grim turn for the worse.

 A mere stone’s throw from the now hustling and bustling center of town lies the now abandoned Marlborough Commons. I can’t tell you exactly what year it officially went under, but I do know that this place never quite picked up traction as a local business. Maybe it was their location, sitting pretty right off the entrance/exit ramp from Route 2. From what I remember, it was always a two-floor business complex with the restaurant a bit further down the lot. Many different establishments came and went from here, none sticking around for too long. The complex limped on as long as it could, and has now sat empty and deserted for almost ten long years.

On a beautiful summer day in 2017, we decided to pay the Marlborough Commons a visit. Though it is still listed as FOR SALE, we did not encounter a single NO TRESPASSING, KEEP OUT, or PRIVATE PROPERTY sign anywhere on the property. Since the almost three years since our last visit, the Commons has certainly entered a downward spiral. The once minimal vandalism has run rampant at this former shopping center. Windows have been smashed. Doors have been boarded up. Graffiti stains the old brick walls. Farther down the lot, the old cafe is slowly being engulfed by the wild and hungry vegetation.  Nature, much like the vandals, has struck back in a big way.

They say the older we get, the more things we have to leave behind. That’s life. And as my old hometown grows and grows, places like the Marlborough Commons seemingly get left behind. Most of the old businesses I grew up with are now gone. It is sad to see what was once a cornerstone of our local community now sitting in a state of such disrepair. But like I said, a big FOR SALE sign sits out front. The Marlborough Commons is not beyond salvageable yet. I hope to see her rise again someday, stranger things have happened. And if I’ve learned anything growing up in this lovable little community, it’s that you can never count the town of Marlborough out.

Alone, Not Lonely

The Abandoned Pawtucket/Central Falls Train Station

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Sean L.

What does it mean to be lonely? It is a feeling we have all felt at least once in our lives. To some of us, it is feeling we know all to well. But there is a big difference between being alone, and being lonely. Some find solace in it. Others find only fear and despair. Have you ever looked around in a crowd and saw that one person sitting by themselves? They usually pull their phone out of their pocket and mindlessly pretend to be texting someone or calling someone, making sure everyone around them can see. It is like being alone scares them. It is like doing this makes them feel better. For the first time ever, I did this investigation all on my own. I had an audition in Rhode Island, and Amanda was working. It was quite different flying solo, and it really wasn’t the same. I made the hour and a half journey all by myself, not knowing full well what lay ahead of me. In order to make the trip feel more worth while, I stopped by a place I had always had my eye on: The Pawtucket/Central Falls Train Station.

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The historic cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, Rhode Island, share a border. Both sit just outside of the capital, Providence, and are in close proximity to the Massachusetts state line. Things like this, or even fate perhaps, made them a crossroads for trade. In the early days, both cities had their own personal train stations. But in 1916, this was consolidated to one station which would share the name and interests of both cities. For years she saw hundreds of trains and passengers pass through her doors. But it was not long before she, much like several railroads we’ve covered in the past, began to fall into despair. By 1960, the station had been closed for good after being in such bad shape. Today, she still barely stands. There are currently plans to revive the station and/or rebuild it. The local government is currently planning on using grant money, and hopefully federal funding to bring the old station back to life. But until that days comes, this sad former crossroads now sits abandoned.

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My trip to the former train station was a sad one. It was a bright sunny day, but things just didn’t feel right around here. She sits all alone in the middle of a busy intersection, and looks to still be barely standing anymore. The years have clearly not been too kind to her. All around, the hustle and bustle of the local community continues about its comings and goings. Most don’t pay it any attention at all. I saw a few homeless people snooping around, and a few other characters sitting on the guardrails for their smoke breaks. The place is huge, and well fortified. Or so it would seem. Fences cover the main gate, which is still in pretty good shape. But across the bridge to the other side, the fences have been completely torn down. And a few doors now stand completely wide open to the world. Inside, she seems very structurally unsound and unsafe. Graffiti coats the outside and inside walls. All sorts of junk lies littered about the grounds. And this former train station evokes nothing but a strong feeling of dread.

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Like I said before, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. To be lonely is to be sad because you’re alone, and to long for companionship. I didn’t see that here. The Pawtucket/Central Falls train station may look grim now, but there may yet be hope for it. Things could turn around if the money is found. But we’ll see. There is a strong feeling amongst the grounds that this old workhorse doesn’t want any visitors, that she just wants to be left in her solitude. Maybe she wants to simply continue her slow descent into destruction. Maybe this is all the future holds for her. She’s seen too much; from her glorious heyday to her dark current state. And the towns around her don’t seem to want much to do with her either. They all seem to have forgotten about this former station. She was once a cornerstone of the New England railroad system. Travelers from all over the country and local community passed through her ornate gates. She now sits all alone, but not lonely.

Finish Your Popcorn – The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

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Finish Your Popcorn

The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Cinema should make you forget that you are sitting in a theater.” -Roman Polanski

We have known the bustling town of Willimantic for many years now. When we were both in college, the town was like a second home to us. We did four years of university here; going to classes by day and enjoying the festivities of the town by night. Willimantic has always been a place full of life and light. It features an old school main street, many thriving businesses, and a rich local culture. Notable landmarks such as the Frog Bridge, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the Willimantic Brewing Company make it a surefire place to visit. But there is one place here that sticks out from the vibrant town around it. And that is the now defunct Willimantic Movieplex. Though it was once a staple of the local community, it is now an eyesore and a shadow of its former self. Today, it is simply used as a municipal parking lot for the local businesses. Sitting on a prime piece of real estate, the abandoned Willimantic Movieplex has had quite a history. But regrettably, its past is much more rich than its future.

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The Willimantic Movieplex was first opened during the heyday of the local community. Located right at the cross roads of both the historic Main Street and the nearby Route 66, the theater was in a prime position in downtown Willimantic. With no other movie theaters in the general area, it was very successful during its initial run. But as we all know, times change. And the movie industry is about as predictable as the weather. During the late 90’s/early 2000’s, attendance began to wane. Competition also sprouted up a few miles away with the new Mansfield Movieplex. Over the next few years, the ownership of the theater bounced back and forth like a game of hot potato. It closed and re-opened several times during this period, as multiple different owners tried to save the failing theater. Its final owners made a few minor renovations during 2004 in an attempt to recapture business. But it was never enough. The Willimantic Movieplex closed its doors for good in 2006. It has remained abandoned ever since.

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I honestly wish I could tell you there was more to see here. But sadly, there isn’t. Due to increasingly bad vandal activity and a large local homeless population, the doors to this place were completely sealed off. A large barrier blocks the front, which once featured two doorways and a small ticket window. Around the sides of the theater, all six of the emergency exit doors have been bolted shut. The paint on the walls is pealing off in droves. Vicious and nasty graffiti coats the exteriors. Discarded clothing, shopping carts, and other various pieces of trash are strewn about the ground. The once well groomed weeds and grass now grow wild and restless. But the theater itself sits quietly, waiting for the next entrepreneur to open her doors again and try to bring it back it life. But sadly, as each days passes, that seems to be less and less likely of ever happening. For the Willimantic Movieplex, it seems that the show is over. The tickets were purchased. The crowds filed in. The previews have played. And the movie has now ended. Roll credits. Finish your popcorn.

Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.” – Jean-Luc Godard

Into the Cages

The Abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

I have always hated seeing animals in cages, for as long as I can remember. Few things in life make me sadder than that. As a kid, I never liked going to the zoo or even the aquarium. Whereas most children found seeing the animals to be quite a fun and exciting experience, I felt only despair. Seeing what was once a wild animal trapped inside a cage always brought about feelings of sadness and anger. I can’t really explain it. I mean, not all cages are bad. Zoos aren’t the only ones to keep animals in cages. Animal shelters and rescue facilities keep their residents in cages, but for better reasons. Healing of injured animals or protecting endangered ones are a noble task indeed. But still, the thought of freedom being taken away is a dark one. And the image of cage can be a frightening one, especially when its been abandoned for many years.

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Our subject of this piece is a peculiar one: the abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter in Farmington, Connecticut. It is a far cry from most of the pieces we have done on here. First established in the early 1930’s, the purpose of the shelter has varied over the years. The rustic log shelter that has since become its signature was originally designed and built by the historic Civilian Conservation Corps. It has ranged from being a roadside attraction to being a wildlife sanctuary. One of its nobler pursuits was being home for wildlife rehabilitation. The sanctuary was based in the Shade Swamp, and featured a variety of enclosures for injured wildlife. It sadly went under during the 1960’s, and has been more or less abandoned ever since. A stroke of luck, however, came in 1986 when the shelter was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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We made the trek to the abandoned shelter in the waning days of summer 2016. The heat was beginning to die down, and the first glimpses of the fall season were just sprouting up. Sitting alongside the heavily trafficked US 6 North, the Shade Swamp Shelter is not difficult to find. It is almost hard to believe what is hidden back there when you first see it. The area surrounding it is teaming with traffic, busy intersections, and office buildings. But here in the swamp, everything is quiet. Upon arrival, there is a small pull-up spot where a few cars can be parked. Luckily, we were the only visitors there that day. You are then greeted with the old structure of the shelter itself. Though it has clearly been taken care of, there is also sadly evidence of vandalism and a recent fire inside of it. Given its age though, I’d say she looks pretty good. But it is further down the trail that the true hidden gems of this place lie.

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A short walk down the winding and nearly overgrown nature trail, we found the cages. Rusted to all Hell and in varying ranges of decay, there are nearly two dozen large pen cages lining either side of the trail. The ones on the right side are smaller, and feature stone dens at the back. The ones on the left side are much larger and have blue painted exteriors. Off the beaten path there is one bigger enclosure that is far different from the others, and was in the worst shape. The rusty fence is still up in a few places, and a few gagged pieces of metal are still nailed to a few of the trees. Be careful where you step. The trail will lead you further into the swamp, but circles back in one big loop. After the cages, you will find a few old relic from the sanctuary’s heyday, but nothing truly of note. The strange aura and mystique of these large abandoned enclosures are enough of a sight to see. You can even set foot inside a few of them, if you are brave enough.

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What is it about cages that make them so unsettling? Is it the thought of being trapped with nowhere to hide? Or is it something more? Perhaps the very notion of that precious freedom that we all seem to take for granted being taken away is what makes them so unsettling. Anyhow, the abandoned Shade Swamp Shelter is a great visit for anyone looking for a good hike and adventure seekers. There are no abandoned buildings or asylums here: just the remnants of a place long forgotten. It literally sits a few meager yards from a hustling and bustling community. But everything is silenced by the aura of the swamp. Chipmunks and birds roam freely here, making their homes into these old enclosures. Their world is seemingly untouched by ours out here. And though these cages now sit empty, they stand as a grim reminder of what was and what could have been.