Posts Tagged ‘Tunnels’

Fallen Attraction

The Abandoned Gillette Castle Railroad

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

In the absence of light, darkness prevails. When there is no heat, there is only cold. And without love, there is nothing left but despair. It’s funny because Gillette Castle, along with Hublien Tower, was one of my favorite places to visit when I was a kid. A short half-hour drive away, it was one of those magical places to visit and get ice cream at during the heydays of summertime. With its winding trails and classical feel, it truly is a sight to see. I honestly believed I had hiked every inch of this park. But I was wrong. Lost deep in the woods and along the rocky banks of the Connecticut River is the fallen attraction of this fabled place – The Gillette Castle Railroad.

Located in picturesque East Haddam, Connecticut, Gillette Castle was the luxurious and mystical castle of prolific actor William Gillette. With no children to leave his estate to, Gillette left the grounds to the state of Connecticut after his passing. Today it is enjoyed by many for its hiking and wonderful view of the Connecticut River. But unbeknownst to most, myself included for a time, is that there once stood a railroad around the estate. Though it was a small train, which can now be viewed at the Visitor’s Center, tracks once covered the entire grounds to carry visitors from place to place. When it was originally sold off, most of the tracks were ripped up and the old railroad disappeared…but not completely.

We made our trip to Gillette Castle on one of the final weekends of summertime 2017. The park was just as lively as I had remembered it. But far down one of the quieter sides of the grounds lie the remains of the railroad. An old bridge has been closed down for being unstable. Another has collapsed into the underbrush. Far down the cliffs by the roaring Connecticut River stand several old pieces of track and framework. Old rusty barrels rot into the fertile forest floor. But the star of the show is by far the old tunnel. Though it may not run as long as we had hoped, inside is pure unadulterated darkness. With its entrance nearly lost to the woods around it, its certainly a fun little walk through.

A special shout-out of this piece goes to our reader who called himself “Mike.” A few weeks ago, he contacted us with several suggestions of places to visit in his area including the Gillette Castle Railroad. And this place really didn’t disappoint. Truth be told, we really don’t get as much fan interaction as we would like. And we love it when people tell us their stories or suggest places for us to explore. It makes this hobby just a little bit more fun and meaningful. I wish that I had been able to see this railroad during its heyday, but alas, it is no more. Though this is more of a hiking piece, the old train tunnel really is pretty cool. And just as this place was highly recommended for us to visit, I encourage you to do the same.

Knightfall
The Haunting Legend of the Mansfield Training School

Written by: Sean L.

Photos by: Amanda H.

UConn, home of the Huskies. Their athletic program has won 21 NCAA championships, most notably for basketball. They have the largest public research collection in the state, housed in one of the largest libraries in New England. There are over twenty five thousand students enrolled in its programs, and close to ten thousand employees alongside them. It is UConn, home of Connecticut pride. But is the University of Connecticut haunted? A place such as this cannot become one of the oldest universities in the country without having a few secrets. In a forgotten corner of the darkest side of campus, there lies a quiet pocket where the shadows run wild. In its heyday, it was known as the Mansfield Training School and Hospital. Though it is officially listed in the National Register of Historic Place, this former institution is now nothing but a tomb. Concealed deep within its walls lurks the pain and suffering of its dark past. MTS1

The facility was created following the merger of the institutions in both Lakeville and Mansfield, Connecticut during 1917. It was christened the Mansfield Training School and Hospital, a facility for the care of the intellectually disabled. They started off with a relatively small number of patients. Major events in history such as the Great Depression and World War II caused the population of patients to grow and become overcrowded. But during the sixties and seventies, regulations began to change, resulting in more staff and caregivers being provided. Some years later, patients began to be moved from the hospital to on-site cottages and group homes. Regrettably, while there were many stories of good and fair treatment of the patients, there were also several tragic ones. Under a pile of lawsuits, the facility was forced to close its doors in 1993. The property was then split amongst the University of Connecticut and the neighboring Bergin Correctional Institute.

What remains of the Mansfield Training School and Hospital can be found on UConn’s lesser known Depot Campus, at the crossroads of CT Route 32 and US Route 44 in Storrs, Connecticut. Compared to the main campus, it is strangely quiet on this side of town. The neighboring Bergin Correctional Institute has lain dormant since its closing several years ago. There are multiple buildings still standing on the old grounds. A few were demolished after the sale, but most still stand. There is an old tunnel system that runs between the buildings that were used to shuttle patients around during inclement weather. However most of these tunnels have been filled in or blocked off. Almost all of the buildings have had their doors and windows welded shut. Others even have their roofs completely caved in. And from the looks of things, this place has had a pretty serious vandal problem for some time.

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Standing as the face of Mansfield Training School is the Knight Hospital. With its classical Greek and Victorian architecture, it is undoubtedly the most picturesque building on site. But it is sadly a shadow of its former self. While it served as the main building when the grounds were in operation, it is now in deplorable shape. The engraved name above the doorway and the tall stone pillars supporting it have all but succumbed to the wild vegetation growing around them. Windows on all floors have been smashed. Trash and graffiti lie strewn about the floor. And even a family of squirrels appears to have made their home inside this abandoned facility. However, it is absolutely remarkable how much stuff seemed to have been left behind when the facility closed twenty years ago. Old patient files, hospital equipment, and other office supplies can still be found littered across the halls. We even found a ghostly old statue staring back at us in the basement of one of the buildings.

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There were allegedly several deaths at the facility while it was in operation; however we have been unable to find any evidence to support or disprove this claim. Stories such as this have given Mansfield Training School a reputation of being haunted. The show Paranormal Witness did an investigation on the grounds back in 2011, bringing about mixed results. It has since become a major hotspot for amateur ghost hunters and thrill seekers. Haunted or not, the facility is most definitely haunting. The echoes of the past still linger amongst the now abandoned halls. There is definitely a presence to be felt here. Though its patients are long gone, something still lurks within these walls. Something just doesn’t feel right when walking along the old grounds. It is near deathly silent, which is hard to believe on a campus of thousands. So, is the University of Connecticut haunted? We don’t know. I guess the better question you should be asking yourself is…do you believe in ghosts?

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The Other Side of the Tracks — The Abandoned Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Posted: January 12, 2015 by Abandoned Wonders and Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, abandoned new england, Abandoned Railway, Abandoned Stores, Abandoned train station, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Birds, Broken, Cedar Hill, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, House, Information, left behind, lost, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, New Haven, nightmares, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, State Parks, Stories, The Walking Dead, time, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Walking Dead, writing, WWII
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The Other Side of the Tracks

The Abandoned Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

A lot of strange things can happen to a place when it is abandoned. Where man once dwelled, nature begins to take back. Structures slowly crumble under the weight of time. But worst of all, the deserted manner of these places tends to attract a lot of lawlessness and delinquency. No such place we have ever visited exemplified these characteristics more so than Cedar Hill. This forgotten rail yard has become its own little world, a place where nightmares come to life. There are things here and a presence in the air that Amanda’s pictures can show a Hell of a lot better than my words ever could. You must see Cedar Hill in order to believe it. Though it is not too far from civilization, you will find anything but in this place that the world forgot about a long time ago.

Located in the busy town of North Haven, Connecticut, Cedar Hill was once one of the largest and most active rail depots in all of New England. Not too far from the coast of Long Island Sound, Cedar Hill was once a part of the flourishing network of railways that run all along the east coast. The yard was built along the Quinnipiac River and surrounding marshlands. It was originally built in the early 1920’s to help support the New Haven area’s quickly flourishing railway industry. As transportation methods began to advance and World War II came to close, the Cedar Hill rail yard began to grow quiet. Within a few years, the facility was all but abandoned. We could not find an exact year of closure or exact reason. A newer and much more modern rail yard now stands right beside the old grounds.

Our trip to Cedar Hill was on a humid summer day and took us down the infamously busy I-91. From the highway, you can still see several parts of the rail yard. Most notably visible are the old towers, though they are now wrapped in thick vines and vegetation. Cedar Hill is hard to find, and for good reason. It can only be accessed through the back parking lot of one of the neighboring department stores. Curiously, there was a large sign out front saying that the property was for sale. We eventually found the trail that took us along the banks of the Quinnipiac River, until we reached the old tracks. They are heavily rusted and overgrown, but these tracks are the lifeline of the facility. We followed them further into the yard, and used them as a focus point in case we got lost.

Our first stop off the tracks led us into a clearing. More tracks led us farther into the yard, where we found a tipped over and dirtied baby carriage along with lots of other litter. Along the fences of the neighboring active rail yard are the abandoned terminals/storage facilities. Though the windows had all been smashed, the door leading into one of the buildings was still in one piece. Inside, these buildings are completely shot out. There were still a few protective fences. The walls and floors were cement. The roof had even caved in big time in one section. Strange little bunkers had been set up all over the floor. Apparently, local kids have been using the inside of this building as a paintball course. Pink paintball splatters were scattered across the walls and floor. Several other buildings were just like this.

Farther down the tracks, we found just a large clearing covered in debris. All kinds of trash littered the ground in this one spot. We also found a few smaller buildings directly beside the tracks. They seemed to be power sheds of some kind, as they were all connected with the old power lines. We also found an old warehouse towards the back of the facility. There was yet another makeshift paintball course outside of the building. In close proximity to the warehouse is the old power station, with a lot of rusting equipment and barely legible warning signs still standing. Throughout the facility, there are multiple towers overlooking the surrounding areas. The ladders leading the top of these towers have all been cut short so nobody can safely climb them. There is also a lot of wild vegetation growing all over the towers.

The most unsettling thing about Cedar Hill was the evidence we found of people still living here. Scattered amongst different spots in the facility, we found large animal skeletons and skulls. We even found a deer’s freshly severed leg at one point. Due to its proximity to the nearby marshes, this could simply be a large predator. However, we also found several fire pits nearby with old cooking equipment, pots, and pans. The creepiest part of our investigation was what we found in the tunnels. Right beside the banks of the river in a large open tunnel, leading deep underground with no end in sight. Not only did we hear voices coming from inside the tunnel, we even captured on camera what appear to be the figures of two people deep in the tunnels. We had heard rumors of homeless people living back here, clearly they were true. We chose to stay out of the tunnels.

We went into this investigation expecting to find an abandoned rail yard. What we found was much more than that. We found a world all on its own. In the absence of civilization, nature rules. The strongest survive. The weak get taken. There are no rules in places like Cedar Hill. We left this place with a very uneasy feeling, and for the first time ever, we would not recommend anyone reading this to ever visit this place. It is very dangerous, with darkness lurking around every corner. It is a place out of a nightmare, as if an episode of The Walking Dead had come to life. Trash and broken hunks of metal are scattered about. It is almost completely silent at all times. Human beings live in deplorable conditions. Innocence has been lost. And you can never quite shake the feeling that you’re being watched when you cross over, to the other side of the tracks.

Sound the Bugle – The Lost Nike Missile Bases of Connecticut

Posted: November 11, 2014 by Abandoned Wonders and Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Forts, abandoned military bases, abandoned new england, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Closed, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, East Haddam Connecticut, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, fire, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Fortress, Forts, Ghosts, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, House, Information, lost, Military, Military Forts, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, Nike Missile Base, overgrown, photography, Portland, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, State Parks, Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing, WWII
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Sound the Bugle

The Lost Nike Missile Bases of Connecticut

By: Sean and Amanda

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When I was a kid, we would spend hours upon hours building our own army bases deep in the woods. Little did we know, there are some still out there. Waiting to be found. Though they have been long abandoned, there is still a strong presence to be felt. There are concrete staircases leading to nowhere, old guard shacks slowly being crushed by the weight of time, and miles of underground tunnels hidden from the world of above. These are the former Nike Missile Bases of Connecticut. In the early days of the Cold War, they were built as an aerial defense system for the United States. But as time crept on and technology developed, these missile bases were left behind, fair game for nature to reclaim.

There were at one time hundreds of Nike Missile sites all over the country. Some bases were even established in Europe. There were at least twelve known in the state of Connecticut. Most of these sites were coastal or along the Connecticut River. Others were in place as a defense for the city of Hartford. First established in 1945 as a project for the Army, the Nike Missile sites were created as a new form of defense against aerial attacks on the United States homeland. By the mid-1950’s, there were sites in almost every state in the union. But also around this time, technology began to develop. The Army was moving forward with more advanced forms of missile defense, and Nike slowly became obsolete. It wasn’t long until the project came to end.

With most sites being a part of active military bases, their shutdown was not a big deal. Some shutdown sites were demolished. Others were donated. But a few were simply left to rot. We visited one such site. Most of the bases in Connecticut have been demolished completely, refurnished for new purposes, or used as recreation areas. But there is one that still stands. Hidden away deep in the Meshomasic State Forest, this site featured two compounds: B and C. They are both within a mile or so of each other. Where to find these sites can be found online with a little digging. We strongly advise you use Google Maps if you ever plan on visiting this site. It is not an easy trip in at all.

As soon as you cross over into the Meshomasic State Forest, the road becomes very treacherous. It is all unpaved, rocky, dirt roads going forward. Do not take a car that is low to the ground, or any vehicle that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. If you’ve got a truck or an SUV, take it. Aside from the poor road conditions, the state forest is a true sight to see. Since it is rather difficult to get to, it is not heavily frequented by hikers or bikers. We found relative solitude for most of our trip in. There is no exact street address for either missile site. But we used Google Maps to chart a relative location for both of them so we knew exactly what to look for.

We arrived at Site C first. It is the easier of the two to find, mainly because most of what remains of the site is above ground. It is marked by an old guard gate, with a slowly decaying road leading upward. This proved to be a nice place to park our car. After a short walk up the old road, we found what remains of the base. It was marked by a concrete staircase to nowhere, leading onwards. We walked up the staircase and continued down the path. Several odd looking buildings still remain, though a few of them are full of beer cans and trash. Also, always watch where you step. There are partially filled in manholes all over the site. Only once were we able to find one that you can climb down, but it did not go far. It was also full of snakes. There are also multiple collapsed buildings on this site. Whether they were torn down by man or by nature remains to be seen.

Site D was our second visit. It is a good stretch further down the labyrinth of dirt roads, marked by a similar entry way as Site C. This site has a paved road leading into it. The road is in surprisingly good shape, though it is covered in graffiti and old fire pits. Both sites have a lot of evidence for partying, which was discouraging. A short walk down the road, we found several former foundations of buildings. We also found an old trail of old power lines which lead further into the base. Following this trail, we found multiple mounds of wood chips. This usually indicates something was there, but has now been destroyed. Continuing down the road, we came across a big empty field. Though it may not look like much, it was what dwells beneath your feet that makes this site special.

Much like Site C, there are many filled in manholes all across the base. There are also several just plain cement lots. But do not be deceived. Beneath the cement, lie the underground bunkers of the Nike Missile Site. There are very few ways down into the tunnels. But we found one. By gaining access through an old ventilation hatch, we were able to get into the underground tunnels. We do not condone or recommend this. It may not be illegal, but the tunnels are extremely dangerous. They are heavily flooded in some parts. The air is not very good. And it is completely dark down there. Do not even think about going down without all of the proper safety equipment. Getting in involves a lot of crawling on your belly, covering your face, and hoping to God the batteries of your flashlight hold out.

Once a thriving part of the United States military, the Nike Missile sites are now nothing more than the ghosts of the Cold War. Though many of the former sites have been destroyed or are on private property, this site strangely is neither. It was simply left behind. Of all the places we have explored, few have shown just how fast and furiously nature can reclaim the land. The sites lay in ruin. But if you look closely, you can still see the shadows of what this place once was before the final bugle sounded.