Posts Tagged ‘Walking Dead’

Wolves Not Far – The Abandoned Manchester Drive-In

Posted: May 1, 2017 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cinema, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Drive-In, Abandoned Fairgrounds, abandoned home, Abandoned House, abandoned new england, Abandoned Theaters, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Bolton, Broken, Cinema, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, Graveyard, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Manchester, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, Public Parks, research, Ruins, State Parks, Stories, Theater, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, writing
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Wolves Not Far

The Abandoned Manchester Drive-In

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

We’ve had several encounters with homeless people in the past. I think every experienced urban explorer can say the same. We’ve come across empty tent cities. We’ve heard whispers in dark tunnels. And there are some places where you simply cannot shake the feeling that you are being watched. But this place was different. We hadn’t been to the abandoned Manchester Drive-In since the main lot had been cleared of brush. On our last visit, we thought all there was left to see of this place was old screen still looming high in the sky, along with a few old signs and speakers. But we were wrong. We don’t know who cleared it, but the massive amounts of vegetation have been pealed back to reveal what was once thought to be gone. And apparently, it didn’t take long for the lost and weary to claim this new place as their own.

 Opened in the early 1950’s, the Manchester Drive-In was one of many drive-in theaters to pop up in Connecticut during this time period. As opposed to the drive-in theaters of today, Manchester had only one screen. It could hold over five hundred cars per showing. But over the years, the excitement and the wonder of drive-in movie theaters began to wane. Most of the theaters across the state began to steadily close their doors, including the Manchester Drive-In. Unfortunately, the theater went out of business in the early 1980’s where it sat empty and abandoned for almost twenty years. It was finally purchased locally in 2006 to become a park along the Hop River in Bolton, Connecticut. Today, the former drive-in theater that once held over five hundred eager movie goers is now nothing more than a ruin.

When the brush had been cleared, the old snack bar was exhumed from her resting place. We had long thought that it was gone forever, collapsing under the weight of time. It is beckoning to all in search of exploration. But adventurer’s beware. Inside this old snack bar resides people that do not wish to be disturbed. In the guest sign-in for the park, we found some rather menacing messages: “I will f**king kill anyone who goes to the snack bar,” “Beware the Hobo Camp,” and “Wolves Not Far.” This could all be for nothing. But on our approach toward the old snack bar, we heard music coming from the backroom. As we made our way inside, the music suddenly stopped. Something stirred in the shadows. Whispers emerged from the darkness. We clearly were not welcome here, and didn’t stick around to say hello.

When someone does not want to be disturbed, we have always found it best to not disturb them. Especially when we find some rather threatening messages. The abandoned Manchester Drive-In is well worth a visit, and totally legal to do so as part of the state park. It is a very nice hike, and the old screen is always something to marvel at. Just be careful around the snack bar. Someone is clearly living here, and all they want is to be left alone. It is best to oblige them. All I know is that this is a far different place than the one I remembered. The last time we were here, this giant building was so engulfed by plants that it was invisible to passer-byes.  We honestly thought that it had collapsed years ago. But now that the brush has been cleared, the snack bar is once again open, but not for business.

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.

The Devil’s Playground

Rhode Island’s Legendary Fort Wetherill

By Sean and Amanda

While our home state of Connecticut is known amongst the urban explorer community for its many abandoned hospitals and insane asylums, the neighboring state of Rhode Island is known for something different. Due to its coastal proximity and value, the Ocean State is home to several abandoned seaside fortresses. Most of these forts date back to the early colonial days of America, with British, French, and Colonial forces occupying them at one time or another throughout the pages of history. Sadly, over the years the uses for these coastal protectors has dwindled. Many of the former forts and artillery batteries are now abandoned. Now, with no watchmen watching over these former watchtowers, they have become plagued by vandals, graffiti artists, and delinquents. It is these lawless individuals have made these places into their very own playground for destruction.

Perhaps the most well-known of these former coastal protectors is Fort Wetherill. Located in the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island, Fort Wetherill is a mere stone’s throw away from the neighboring town of Newport. The history of the site dates back to the early 18th century. To protect the Narragansett Bay area, Fort Dumpling was built by British forces. After the expulsion, Fort Wetherill was constructed in its place by the American military a mere hundred years later in 1899. As a protector for the wealthy city of Newport and the New England mainland, Fort Wetherill proved to be very active during both World Wars as an artillery placement and troop station. Another primary task of the fort was to oversee the minefields erected during World War II. But following the “War to end all Wars,” Fort Wetherill was decommissioned in 1946. It was then left abandoned for many years.

Fortunately, the grounds were reacquired by the State of Rhode Island in the year of 1972. Due to its large granite cliffs and excellent view of the ocean, the grounds were commissioned as a state park. It is currently enjoyed today by many for sailing, fishing, and other water sports. The fortress, however, still stands. The state did just enough to make the grounds not dangerous, by removing all hazardous materials and sealing off the upper and lower tunnel networks. By not demolishing the fort, the state left it at the mercy of the elements and the more destructive visitors the park. The tunnels are now filled with trash. The walls are coated with graffiti. And instead of soldiers, the fortress is garrisoned only by drunken teenagers. We decided to visit this former fort on a gloomy fall day.

Finding Fort Wetherill is easy. Due to its status as a national park, all you have to do is google it. There is a nice little parking lot at the front of the park. They even have onsite bathrooms. Apparently the park is also very popular for dog walkers, as we saw plenty. The fort is a short walk from the parking lot. Through the thick vegetation blocks it from view at some points, its large multicolored hull eventually looms out through the trees. It is truly a site to see. There are hardly any spots left on the fort that have not been covered with some sort of graffiti. Coming down the path initially, you are launched right into the main courtyard.  There is a small staircase leading off toward the ocean, and on either side are the old watchtowers and tunnel networks.

There are old fences scattered all over the fort, not that they can do much good. They are quite easy to hop right over. Following the old fence from the courtyard, we traveled along the fort’s outer wall. Though it may look small from the initial approach, Fort Wetherill is anything but. Most it, however, is hidden from sight by the wild trees and vegetation. At the farthest point, we found a small watchtower with an excellent view of the Narragansett Bay. Each section of the fort has their own tunnels. None of them are connected. When walking down them into the darkness, each one will have a large open room and then exit out a different way. Some even have little barred windows overlooking the outside. The inside of each tunnel is coated wall to wall with graffiti, and trash is everywhere.

Past the first courtyard, there are a few more towards the western side of the fort. Each one is just as graffiti covered as the first. This colorful art ranges from jokes, hate speech, drawings, and the occasional philosophical saying. For all you “Walking Dead” fans out there, we even found a few signs pointing to “Terminus.” Just like the show, they read “Sanctuary for all.” Fortunately, we didn’t find any cannibalistic community led by a former “Greek” star. While some of the graffiti is really offensive and at times dumb, it does give the former fortress an almost look of urban beauty. All of the wild colors and mismatched drawings give the fort a very unique aura. Unfortunately, any sense of beauty that may be found on the outside is ruined by the darkness of the inside.

The tunnels of Fort Wetherill are the Wild West. As made evident, there are no rules here. We found a small room deep in one of the tunnels that was completely full of bottles and beer cans. We also encountered a lot of unsavory characters down there. A few teens were smoking pot. There were others that were having sex. And even more were smashing the walls with sledge hammers. All just for fun. While we were all kids once, it is a shame to see this incredible site systematically destroyed by these people. And unfortunately, nothing can be done about it. Fort Wetherill has been left behind, and while its walls are sturdy, who knows how long this place has left. Since it is legal to visit, we encourage you to check out Fort Wetherill. However, we do urge you to be respectful. It really is a place of urban beauty, and we hope that you get to experience it. For it will not be long before Fort Wetherill becomes more than just The Devil’s Playground, and descends deeper into darkness.