It's a crisp fall, 2012 day in Upstate New York and two teenagers are aimlessly driving around on a Saturday. An empty day filled with possibility, yet, clouded by the ever-present boredom that is being a teenager trapped in your hometown. Along the road of driving to nowhere, the conversation stumbles onto an abandoned mental hospital a short drive away that was notoriously broken into by the kids of neighboring cities.
That was all it took for me and my friend Isaiah to decide it was a brilliant idea for us to do it ourselves. We drove the thirty minutes to Poughkeepsie, New York. The entire drive giddy with anticipation of our monotony breaking adventure. Hudson River State Hospital loomed behind a series of open-for-business stores. A dark castle providing an almost comical backdrop of horror. We inconspicuously parked in the functioning lot, while proceeding to very conspicuously, walk through the front gate onto private property.
Almost as soon as we walked onto the premise, we found that getting inside the structures was no easy task. Though there was a labyrinth of buildings that spanned literal miles, the regular doors weren't an option anymore. After helplessly searching the grounds for an unlocked door, we stumbled across a frame without a door. The only problem? It was at the bottom of a staircase leading into a blackened basement with no windows, littered with debris.
We had no flashlights, had taken no precautions, had no protection, and weren't even equipped with the proper clothes for this kind of excursion. This is the part where we turn around, right? I'm afraid not. With iPhone lights in shaky hands, the two of us began trekking through the unknown basement of an abandoned insane asylums, with only the mere hope that we could find out way upstairs. I remember that walk, which realistically was ten minutes, feeling like it might never stop. My heart was screaming against my chest, pumping my body through with levels of adrenaline I wasn't expecting to feel that day. Swallowed up by the darkness, we finally came across the muted light of a distant room.
We were successful. We'd made it inside. Being inside an abandoned building, especially one with a story, is stepping into another world. Everything before or after drifts away and you're forced to be simply there, in that moment. Energy feels different. Just like the way your mother's kitchen makes you feel comfortably satisfied, and an airplane seat gives you nervous anticipation. A decaying building holds the energy within them as well. It's more than just knowing the history, it's walking through the innards of a place's history.
That first time was all it really took for me to start making a mental and literal list of all the abandoned places I wanted to go. Though, I now view it very differently than the bored sixteen year old I once was. I've experienced many asylums, four schools, two zoos, one army base, a waterpark and more. I've explored destinations in four countries, and more cities than I can remember. I've learned how to traverse my version of the ultimate adventure in the safest way possible.
And, it all started with a fleeting idea to escape constraints of adolescent boredom.