St. Denis Catholic School in Yonkers, NY: Abandoned & Untouched for 15 Years
Entering an abandoned location is always speckled with the little bits of the time between then and now. Whether it's in the form of damage or graffiti, you always seem to see the reminders of past explorers. Fading Instagram handles on the walls, broken bottles, doors ripped off their hinges and thrown down a case of stairs. There's always something making it blatantly obvious that you weren't the only one who found your way in. There had been no exception to this rule for me. That was, until, this Sunday.
When my friend Garland told me the location for a music video he's shooting was incredible, I believed him. I don't usually plan my adventures according to someone's advice, but he could be trusted. Garland is one of my favorite people, and I'd dragged him along to many an adventure. He knew the standards. It was an abandoned school, which normally, wouldn't have been too crazy to me. I've been to a few abandoned schools (including one I used to attend), but this one was special. He said that nobody had entered since it's closure. He didn't have many more details, but after a few videos and exclamation points later, I was in.
Garland is one of the most successful people I know. His job title is called something like 'grip-and-electric' for the film industry. He works on everything from movies, commercials, to music videos, and he's talented. I mean, I always figured he was talented based off how often he was working, but I saw it with my own eyes when I saw the contraption he made for this video.
When I pulled up to the school, I realized why it was basically inaccessible to the average explorer.
A) It was surrounded by the highly trafficked roads of Yonkers. If I were to illustrate my ideal abandoned place, it's as far away from the real world as possible. Secluded in the woods, unable to be seen from any road. This place would be the opposite of that. Most places closer to the boundaries of New York City are.
B) It was a single building. The more buildings a location has, the higher the possibility that some of them didn't get sealed up properly. When it's a lone structure, chances are, every single way in is locked tightly.
It addition to all these red flags, there is also zero internet information about this building. I was lucky enough to find one page describing some random history. Which included a photo from it’s establishment.
All the information that did exist about the St. Denis School did not include anything about it being abandoned today. Meaning, without Garland’s inside scoop, I would have never known this place even existed.
It was a strange experience walking into this foreboding place, with absolutely none of the usual anxiety/adrenaline that comes with entering an abandoned place. For once, I was allowed to be there, but I was also walking into a whirlwind of stressed out film people. Everyone was running around like their life genuinely depended on getting these shots on time. Most people looking at me, confused, clearly recognizing I hadn’t been there the previous two days of production. All my focus was on the thought “where the hell is Garland!?”, rather than “oh my god, this place is amazing”
When I eventually found him, we wandered off to the floors of the building that weren’t currently home to hoards of stress. The uninhabited parts.
St. Denis School is truly an example of a building left to it's own devices. Is it in ideal condition? Anything but. Lead paint littered the floors, the walls looked like they were ingesting themselves. But, there was no signs of human contact. Most abandoned spots look post-apocalyptic. There would still be vandals running around during the apocalypse, leaving their socials medias in spray paint. This school, looked more like if every human just disappeared one day. Think more, something out of 'The Twilight Zone'. It's definitely something strange to be somewhere like that, even stranger to be let in.
It was nowhere near the most amazing place I've ever been. The structures were neat, but not incredible. The little easter eggs you find from the past (for example, like a death data sheet in an asylum) weren't that great. Although, that map was pretty damn cool.
But, it was different from any other place I'd ever been, and that's really all I can ask for.