Posts Tagged ‘Summer 2020’

Before the Fall – The Abandoned Willimantic Thread Mill

Posted: September 30, 2020 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Massachusetts, abandoned mill, abandoned new england, Abandoned New Hampshire, Abandoned New York, Abandoned Pennsylvania, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Railway, Abandoned Rhode Island, Abandoned train station, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Vermont, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, paper mill, photography, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Stories, Trains, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Williamtic, writing
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Before the Fall

The Abandoned Willimantic Thread Mill

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It has begun. The leaves are starting to turn orange and yellow. The skies grow grey. The days are turning darker. The hour is growing very late, indeed. Summer has come and passed. Fall is here. Scary movies are popping up on television. Pumpkins are appearing on everyone’s front porch. The morning dew is now a ghostly frost. It is the changing of the seasons. This article is a little later than we usually post. And for that I apologize. This has been one of the busiest months we’ve had in a very long time. But that is a story for another time. And due to a recent job change for Lassie, we won’t be leaving our home state for the rest of the season. So upstage, Connecticut. It is your time shine once again. We’ve been playing it safe for the last few months due to global pandemic. We’ve mostly covered old relics of the past that have been lost in the woods. But with the turning of the tide, we decided that now was the time to do some real urban exploring. This was no ordinary hike. This was us putting ourselves right back into the thick of it. Into some real danger. And little did we know, but we were in for a bit of an adventure.

This is another one of those places that I have yet to find an actual name for. I’ve done a lot of research, but it has been inconclusive. If anyone reading this has any information, please do share it with us. So, for now, we shall be calling this place the Willimantic Thread Mill. You see, the town of Willimantic used to be known as “Thread City.” It was one of the mill capitals of New England. There were over half a dozen prosperous mills operating in the town at the turn of the century, all working on textiles. They provided jobs and sustenance for the entire local community. But this time of great success was not meant to last. It never is. As time marched on, the American economy began to shift from a manufacturing one to a service one. One by one, the great mills of Thread City shuttered their doors. Many rose again as apartment buildings or municipal offices. One was tragically lost to a great fire long ago. But another was lost to the woods. Cut off from the rest of the community by trees and train tracks, this old industrial titan has now become a black hole. This is our story of visiting the lost thread mill of Willimantic.

If you are a follower of our blog, you should know that we have covered many places here in Willimantic before. From the railway, to the theater, to the Bridge of Death, we have come to know this town quite well. You see, this place has been on our radar for a while now. It was first described to me by an old friend as a train station for the old railway. Considering its proximity to the train tracks, this always made sense to me. But a little more digging showed this to not be the case. Since we were now confined to finishing off our year here in the Nutmeg State, we decided it was finally the time to search out this old monster. Though we were now in the first official week of Fall, it was still bloody humid out. The sweetness of summer hadn’t quite given up yet. It was a Sunday, after a long typical week here in the Hellscape of 2020. We mapped out our location. We found a place to park. We trekked alone down the train tracks, like wandering vagabonds. Not really knowing what we were going to find out here in the woods. Until we took a heavily used trail, and wound up somewhere we clearly weren’t supposed to be.

It was a tent city for the local homeless population. They are living in the ruins of an old mill that burned to the ground long ago. We should’ve known, seeing there were several old mountain bikes and bags of trash strung up in the trees. Like warning signs. We quickly took what pictures we could and got the Hell out of there. These communities usually don’t like visitors. We continued on none the less. And it was here that things really fell silent. Continuing along the train tracks, we eventually crossed through the old gates and onto the grounds of the old mill. It’s hard to tell how big this place was, given how overgrown the underbrush is. It is held together by an amalgamation of brick, wood, and metal. We slipped inside via the old loading dock. Graffiti is everywhere. Trash coats the ground. Archaic machinery rots into oblivion. There are several large gaping rooms, but they are filled only with debris. The once ornate roof has even caved in in a few spots. But the main attraction of the old mill is the elevator shaft, which really didn’t disappoint. You can look straight up through the old machinery and into the grim grey sky. We then began to hear a dog barking very close by, followed by some footsteps. It was time to leave once again.

We both got really bad vibes from this place. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the tent city. Maybe we were just having an off day. Maybe we were feeling a tad rusty. But the abandoned Willimantic Thread Mill is certainly creepy. Funny enough, it’s always the mills that give us the creeps. Perhaps that’s because it’s always the mills that have squatters. Union Pond. Talcotville. Montgomery. We are no strangers to this sort of thing. We’ve been doing this a long time. But like I said earlier, this was our first taste of real urban exploration in awhile. Most of the places we’ve been covering lacked the old school danger feeling. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good hike and a little history. But few things get your heart pumping as much as slipping into a place like this one. Just in time for Fall, too. It was chilling at first, then it reminded me of how much fun this urban exploring stuff can be. It was pulse-pounding, but also felt good to be back at it. Much like the fall season can feel chilling, yet exhilarating. There may be some scares here and there. Things will start to get colder. But if you keep your wits about you, it’s all in good fun.

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.