Freaktography 2016 Year End Review
For me, 2016 was more productive than 2015 with more locations visited than any other year. No tickets, no arrests and no (serious) injuries.
I started my year as always by exploring a drain, I made my annual visit to Detroit in May, did a day in Buffalo NY and my annual visit to the Poorhouse, made a return visit to that place with that stained glass dome, hit some places that were fully intact and many that were not, I told a great story about how an explorer made an unexpected friend, I might have seen a ghost, I pretended to see a ghost and I made sure the selfie and crew shot game was strong – even getting my daughter involved.
In total I visited 101 abandoned/vacant places, I had a shit load of laughs with my partner RiddimRyder and I got out with a few other great people, meeting them for the first time, or bumping into others unexpectedly.
For this year’s end of year wrap up, instead of posting a bunch of photos I will share some of of my favourite explores, experiences, photos and projects, then followed by a gallery of shots take though the year.
The Abandoned Funeral home
The first one I’ll feature is the funeral home, I remember hearing that this place had closed and I knew it was only a matter of time before we could check it out. But then I had entirely forgotten about it when a friend messaged me telling me he had gotten inside. I wasted no time and that very day I drove to the location and spent a good amount of time inside until I ran out of light.
I ended up going back a second time, meeting my friend there who had messaged me about it, I had missed so many small details on my first visit that I had to get back this second time, and it’s always a pleasure to meet up with this other explorer.
The funeral home was very clean, and pretty much empty but the details inside were worth a couple of visits. It had the chapel, many visitation rooms, a beautiful wood staircase…that was all the nice stuff.
But then I found the prep and embalming room with the embalming machine, complete with trocars, one that seemed to still contain some dried fluids on the end. The prep table with the coloured lights for doing make up was another highlight of this place.
Then there was the attic with it’s many coffin storage shelves, and the basement with even more coffin storage and just an overall creepy and haunted vibe that one would expect to get from the basement of an old vacant funeral home.
This place would see it’s share of explorers over the coming weeks and months and then was eventually found out by whomever owns it and the sealed it up…but that didn’t stop others from still getting in after.
As far as I know, no one vandalized this location, no one spray-painted anything inside..again, as far as I know.
It was a pleasure to get this opportunity and while this vacant funeral home was much emptier than I would have liked it was still a very cool location with a few interesting things inside.
Below are some shots from the experience and here is a link to the whole story and gallery of the Abandoned Funeral Home
Sound of Silence
I have always loved the song “Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, it’s one of those songs that always takes me back to great childhood memories. It’s the kind of song that reminds me of what it actually felt like at a certain time and place in life, and it’s all because my parents happened to be listening to this tape a lot during this time of my life.
Late in 2015 when I first heard the cover version of this song by Disturbed I was instantly hooked and I couldn’t get enough of this new take on a classic song. Only this time, instead of reliving old memories from my childhood I was seeing my own photos accompanying the words.
This new version of Sound of Silence took on a whole new meaning and feeling to me with the haunting monotone of David Draiman’s voice, and the deep echo of the piano playing the tune and the slow gradual build of the song. I knew I had to do something with what song was doing to me!
In April of this year I finally took the time to grab all of those photos I had taken that would play in my mind when I heard the song, I listened very closely to the lyrics over and over to grab the perfect shots for every line of the song. When it was done, I got goosebumps watching the photos accompanying these words.
When I first shared the video here, you all had the same reaction as I did and I really enjoyed hearing what this version of the song made you all feel, and how the photos suited the lyrics so perfectly.
So, here for you to see (again, or for the first time) is my visual take on Sound of Silence as performed by Disturbed, originally performed by Simon & Garfunkel. Here is the original post for my Sound of Silence Video
The Dentists Chair
My yearly round up this year is not based solely on an entire location or an experience, I’ve also got a handful of individual shots that I’ve taken that stand out for various reasons. I imagine most explorers and photographers might have, for lack of better term, a “bucket list” of types of shots they would love to take or scenes to capture. I have many of them and finally this year I was able to get some of those checked off.
Back in January my exploring partner RiddimRyder and I took a trip to New York State for the day, we had a solid list of locations lined up, one of those locations was an old abandoned nursing home, and inside that nursing home there is an old dentists office, with the creepy as shit dentist chair still there. This is one of my bucket list shots – a creepy as hell dentists chair in room full of decay and dust. The nursing home was huge and we had a lot to cover before we would find the dentist chair, we knew where it was but we decided to save it for last. It was a bitter cold January morning but we didn’t care, the adrenaline and the rush of exploring was enough to distract us from the numbness in our fingers!
After spending a good 2 or 3 hours exploring and shooting from the roof down to the basement we finally came to the pitch black main level, with its thick stale air and blacked out windows, we knew the dentists office was down here somewhere. I knew we had found it when I heard Riddim yell “FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK”. Since he found it first, he shot it first and I didn’t even bother going to see it yet, I loved the anticipation.
Finally he was done and I went for my turn, the room was literally pitch black, good thing I came prepared with a few flashlights. I tried many different angles and ways of directing the light I probably took about 15 shots of the room in total but at the end of the day I think I like this one below the most, a low angle shot I had to get right down in the dirt and tick myself way back into a corner as tightly as I could to get the whole chair, the tray and the X-Ray machine in the frame.
You can read about the whole experience and see the rest of the shots on this page of the Abandoned Nursing Home
Leslie and Lawrence
The next highlight of 2016 has nothing to do with me at all, it actually has to do with an explorer I have never even met and a story I just had to tell! There is no shortage of explorers on Instagram, people of all ages who drive around take photos of abandoned places, sometimes they stay on the sidewalk and shoot from the curb, some of them get out and go inside, some do it for the hell of it and some take it very seriously. Last year I noticed someone whose photos were popping up of some places that very few people knew about and I also liked what this person was posting so I decided to follow her, known as “The Tourist”.
Then in June of 2015 I was shocked to see what she had posted and what had happened to her. Now we all know the dangers and risks associated with exploring abandoned houses and I almost always call out when I walk into one just to make sure I am alone, or that someone isn’t squatting, or even worse – its actually not an abandoned house. This explorer had faced a fear that many of us have – the house was actually NOT abandoned and she posted a photo of who she found in the house…an old man named Lawrence.
This is Lawrence. He lives in a house I had believed to be abandoned. The driveway is overgrown, the roof is caving in and the interior would lead anyone to believe this land had been deserted. I found him in the living room. He has a hard time getting around so he spends most of his time in there. Alone. He is missing his right eye and has cataracts infecting the left. Even after noticing a stranger essentially helping themselves to his life he was nothing but sweet and kind to me. He was even nice enough to let me take his picture which I will always treasure. He is a beautiful soul and I plan on visiting him a lot. I’m posting this picture in hopes that it will inspire at least one person to reach out to someone they may have lost contact with or perhaps just forgot about. These old souls are still full of life and I feel blessed to have met this one. #abandoned #thetourist #lost_souls #new_friends
Many, including me were shocked to read this and even more shocked as we followed along with what would happen next. This girl and this old man would strike up a friendship, she would visit and bring pizza and drinks, she sent out a plea for help to anyone who could help clean up his old dilapidated house – and many people seemed to have answered that call. The whole relationship unfolded on Instagram for those who were lucky enough to be following at the time to see.
Having never talked to this explorer (other than commenting on IG posts), I sent a quick message and asked if I can tell this story – I felt that it had to be told and I felt I had a pretty engaged audience of people who would like to read about it and follow along. Using only what I knew from the Instagram posts I let the story be told through her words by linking the posts directly and showing them all in sequence.
The story was very popular and gained The Tourist a great deal of new followers, all eager to see more about this story and more posts about Lawrence. I learned that the story was eventually discovered by a web series called “Great Big Story” and they came to Canada to interview Leslie and Lawrence. Their story continues and if you follow The Tourist on Instagram you will see every so often she will post an update on how Lawrence is doing.
I feel lucky to have a large enough following that I could share this story and even luckier that so many were touched by it! Thanks to “The Tourist” for letting me tell the story.
Published in Print
The Medical Building
It’s not always easy to find a really good new abandoned location, with so many people out looking and exploring every weekend, it still surprises me that there are so many great places undiscovered. I have been lucky to have discovered my share of fresh finds, including this rare location. In an area I have known of for a long time I had a suspicion that I might just find something back there if I go and take a look…I was right. My initial discovery was just that, a discovery but there was no access…or I just didn’t try hard enough, I would have to come back some time.
And that I did, back in April I spent a day exploring with my friend “Bruce” and we checked on this building, about to give up I tried one more door…we were in! This was no small building, it was a rather large building, multiple floors and wings…it is always fun to be the first inside a location, to be the first to take the shots, to make the discoveries. In this building the discoveries just kept on coming in the form of an entire medical wing with a first aid training room, a surgery room, a “hazardous materials” room full of…..hazardous materials! We found a resusci anne and a resusci baby, needles, xrays, medical books, medication, records and more. I found a dog mascot costume, a machine shop, tunnels in the basement, a science lab – it really didn’t stop.
I believe I made 3 or 4 visits to the building and a number of others had the opportunity to explore this gem before something happened and the way in was sealed up and people stopped going. I suppose a short successful stint as a hot location is better than a long drawn out tenure that ends in arson, vandalism and graffiti right? The great thing about this location – it’s still there and with time, it will probably open up and be enjoyed again until it’s closed again and it’s not!
The whole gallery can be seen here in the page I call Abandoned Building with Hazardous Materials
The Abandoned Schoolhouse
This one is quite simply one photo, taken on a freezing cold day in March 2016, I had set out on a day of shooting and exploring, some locations planned but also freestyling to see what I can find. I don’t even remember where this place was, I remember it was in a corn field and it was somewhere between London, Ontario and Goderich, Ontario.. I would end up visiting 9 abandoned buildings on this day and this one was somewhere in the middle.
I had to walk through knee high snow to get close to the school house, the inside was boring, the roof had pretty much fully collapsed and there was no reason to go inside.
I decided to try for a nice low angle landscape shot, the sky was cooperating with some good clouds and just enough sky peeking through, when I came home to edit the photos from the day I realized this photo needs a black & white treatment, the colour is nice – but the monochrome was much more dramatic. This photo is one of my personal favourites from the year and I included it in my 2017 Calendar and also put this photo on the cover.
One of my favorite photo sets from the year and one of my most fun experiences was taking my daughter with me on an explore and bring along my gas mask and buying a childs gas mask for her. There is an abandoned building in New York State that I have the contact info for the owners, they will allow anyone to explore and photograph the building as long as you sign their safety waiver form. I make a point to visit this location every year in the summer or fall. I took my daughter there a few years ago and did a themed photoshoot with her when she was 7 and she was a bit more afraid that time, this time she was a trooper!
I barely had to direct her, once I explained what we were going to do she got it right away, it was fun watching her pose and get into character, even coming up with ideas for some of the shots. It’s a blast when you can share your passion with your kids and have them be enthusiastic about it and interested.
Here are some of the shots from that day, and here you can view the whole series with commentary on the blog post titled “After The Fallout”
Toronto Urban Photography Festival 2016
In June of 2016 I had the opportunity for a second time to feature my work at a photography show, in 2014 I had placed in the Toronto Urban Photography Festival and showed my photos in a gallery for the first time, I entered and placed again in 2016 with the photos I mentioned previously of my daughter when she was 7 years old in an abandoned building. I brought my daughter to the show with me and you could just tell she felt like the star of the show. Everyone recognized her from the photos on the wall and she soaked it all up and enjoyed every second of the show!!!!
The Hidden Mansion
This location quickly became THE hotspot for about 2-3 months in the Fall of this year, luckily I was one of the first ones to be given the details of the location by the guy who discovered it, he was kind enough to pass the information on to me on the condition that I only share it with one or two people. This was a promise that I would keep, regardless of the dozens upon dozens of requests that I got for it from others.
It was a massive building on an active property, but the property had no use for the building so it sits in a state of decay and overgrowth, a shocking disregard for such an amazing house. Over the coming weeks word started to spread and next thing you know, it’s showing up everywhere on facebook and instagram, then some jackass posted a video of it, giving out a bit too much information and it was sealed up shortly after. Loose Lips Sink Ships and I did whatever I could to avoid this from happening but that’s what happens when good things get in the hands of the wrong people.
Regardless, it was a very impressive location and while it was mostly empty inside it is always a treat to have a home this large to explore and photograph.
I received a message on Christmas Eve by the manager of the facility that owns the property advising me that the location has seen a significant increase in disturbances as a result of photographers trespassing on the property and that they are contacting as many people as possible to try and put a stop to the trespassers and unwanted people wandering on the property.
Here are a few shots below and here is a link to the complete gallery for the Hidden Mansion in the Forest.
My Partner in Crime – RiddimRyder
How can I write a year in review without talking about the guy who accompanies me on almost every explore and road trip I take? RiddimRyder and I follow eachother into the most disgusting places, we drive for hours in search of the next location, we bust balls and we take awesome and ridiculous selfies. And we’ve been doing it since 2013
In 2o16, I have no idea how many places we’ve explored together, in November we took a road trip across Ontario and managed to hit over 15 locations, a few were awesome, most were okay and some weren’t even worth taking pictures of. We started the year off by spending a day in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, then many random Saturdays and Sundays just hitting up whatever spots were available at the time.
In the summer we made our second visit to an amazing tuberculosis hospital in New York State where we both had planned to up the portrait, or “Crew Shot” game to a whole new level. I will admit that we are known for our selfies and crew shots and I always look forward to seeing just how stupid and childish two grown man can get when given the opportunity!
Every year I make a point to get a trip to Detroit in, there us never a shortage of abandoned locations to visit in Detroit. This year I brought along two friends for the trip 416Citizen and Nick Wons. We met good and early with a solid list of locations lined up so that any locations that were a flop we always had a good backup to ensure a good day.
The day started on a very positive note as we approached our first location, the (what we thought was abandoned) Farwell Building in downtown Detroit, when we pulled up it was a full on construction site. Thinking quick, Nick Wons jumped out and talked to someone to get the phone number of the site manager. Laying on the charm real thick like only he could my new friend sweet talked us into a permission explore of the building from rooftop to basement and everything in between.
The day would turn out a huge success with Farwell, a hospital, a house, a high school a recreation centre and another permission explore of a beautiful old church that used to be abandoned but its now undergoing renovations. Again, Nick charming the site manager to get us permission to come inside and shoot.
At the end of the day we had a ton of laughs, hit some very cool locations and came home with a bunch of great shots, good stories and good times!
The Loss of the Cat Lady House
While 2016 had many high points and great memories and experiences, we also suffered a sad loss in the arson of the Cat Lady House on February 7th, 2016 in Burlington, Ontario.
I found this location by total fluke in the summer of 2012 and it was my first find of it’s kind when I started this hobby. The Cat Lady House would go down as one of the premier abandoned buildings in the area and was highly sought after by pretty much every single person in the hobby, from the seasoned and experienced to the stupid and inexperienced.
It would appear on dozens upon dozens of websites, blogs and YouTube videos and with every person who went and every person who told another friend about it another nail would be hammered into the coffin of this house. People posted the name of the woman who lived here, they published the name of the Farm, they published the street it was on and even the god damn address. If there was one single location that soured my desire to share locations outside of my trusted circle, it was this one…and every one just like it that would follow.
After my initial discovery and two further visits in 2012 I didn’t go back to that house again until March of 2015 and what I saw sickened me, I returned again the day of the fire and took some last shots of the hole in the ground where the house used to be.
To this day, the page on my website for the Cat Lady House continues to be one of my most popular are frequently visited pages.
Friends and Inspiration
I can’t write a year in review without talking about the many awesome explorers and photographers across Canada, the USA and around the world whom I get to interact with on a regular basis and some that I can call friends.
In addition to daily interaction through photo sharing, commenting and critiquing, I also gain inspiration and ideas from them.
When I picked up this hobby in March of 2012 it was just because I was bored and I needed something to do, I had a DSLR camera and I was eager to learn and explore. I never imagined it would end up taking me to the places it has or introduced me to the people I’ve met, in person or online.
Here is a list of links to many, but not all of the people whom I enjoy following from day to day. I know I will miss some and they are in no particular order. I highly suggest you click the links and hit that “like” button on their pages to follow along with their work every day.
Haunted Attraction Online
The Tourist Photography
Danielle Tunstall Photography
Chris Luckhardt Photography
M.A. Poirier Photographe
Memento Mori Photo
A window to yesterday
Fortress Of Solitude Photography
Tom Ryaboi Photo
Korinne Robertson – Surreal
James Kerwin Photographic
Monique Duncan Photography
Sarah Chisholm Photography
Rebecca Bathory Photography
Urbexery Abandoned Places
Michael Pietrocarlo Photography
Jamie Betts Photo
Paul Hillier Photography
Carmine Groe photography
Lady Schnaps Photography ©
Niki Feijen Photography
Prairie Sky Images
Jon DeBoer Photography
David Barnas – Dark Spot Photography
Stolen Innocence Photography
There are way too many to list, but these are some of my favourites and these are just the Facebook pages. There are also dozens of Instagram accounts I follow every day but that would make this post even longer.
In March of 2016 I was off on a road trip and one of my stops was a place I had been to a few years before, this was an old stone farmhouse with a gorgeous staircase that greets you as soon as you walk inside.
I pulled up for my second visit and nothing was at all odd or strange to me, the house was in much worse shape than it had been in 2012 but other than that, all was fine. I unpacked my gear and decided to do a video walk-through, I’ve been doing lots of those this year. I started outside and worked my way inside to the back of the house, returned to the front and headed up the stairs. I realized the stairs were going to crumble at any moment so I turned around near the top of the stairs and continued down to the main level, then I stopped filming.
I then did my usual photography, found some different angles, shot many of the same as my first visit then I packed it in and left. I stopped at a local Tim Hortons for a break a coffee and a bite to eat and while I was there I watched the video and realized that something that happened at around the 1:21 mark at the top of the stairs, I hadn’t noticed this when I filmed it and I had no explanation as to what it could have been. I uploaded the video to my Facebook page and it would ended up being seen by over 201,000 people, shared over 500 times and liked by over 500 people. Later on in the year it got picked up and an on all kinds of those silly viral video websites and the video on YouTube has been viewed almost 120,000 times as of today.
Now, I don’t know what to make of it, I have been in houses where a suicide happened, in the actual room, I have been in rooms where people died, been in morgues, even a building that burned down, killing dozens of people. In all of those places I have never felt or experienced anything strange or unexplained.
Having watched this video, it could be that the wood cracked on the railing sending saw dust towards my camera but many people sem to think it was some kind of a spirit or ghost in this old house, you be the judge!
Here is my original blog post with photos and videos from the day, Ghost Caught on Camera in Abandoned House
It has been an exceptionally awesome year for not only exploring but for personal growth and leaning, there are so many more stories I could tell and photos to post, but that would just take too long
Thanks to all who have followed along here on my website, Facebook page, Instagram and any of the other places where people follow my stuff. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again in 2017 and beyond!