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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.
Mission: Cereal Processing Mill
Status:  Abandoned (35 years)

Debrief:
We met up at 11pm (more or less) last night in a nearby parking lot and made sure we had our gear. For me, my gear consisted of a flashlight and my cellphone/camera. To avoid attracting undue attention, we all piled into one car and made the mile and a half drive to the mill.

There's a small parking lot by the mill. Small as in less than 10 spaces. There was also an empty car in the lot. It wasn't necessarily a cause for concern, but it was noteworthy. I wondered briefly if someone else was around.

We grabbed our stuff, and there was enough moonlight (and light from the bridge) for us to see by. We casually walked down the road to the entrance to the mill, instead of cutting down the side of the hill. No need attracting any attention. Once we got to the entrance road, we cut over to the railroad tracks and walked along those until we got well into the shadows.

Waiting a moment and looking around, we cut across to the other tracks and started walking back towards the mill. As we got closer, we veered off to the right and cut through the weeds, only occasionally using flashlights (hooded by our palms to only give off a fraction of the usual light.) One of us was a nervous talker, though he quickly clamped down after a stern word from another member of the group.

We cut around the backside of the mill and looked around. The first objective, just getting there, had been reached. One of us, who had been here before, did a quick recon walk around the mill while the rest of us stayed put. He knew where the entrances were, so we waited.

Not more than a couple minutes later, he came around the corner, informing that a new lock had been added to the way he usually gained entrance. Fortunately there was another way in.

Following quietly, we found the other entrance and climbed in, one by one. It was completely dark inside, so all the flashlights came out.

The first thing I noticed about this room was the smell. It stank really really bad. It smelled like rot and decay and maybe even death. The second thing I noticed was the overall condition of the place. There was the expected graffiti, although nothing remarkable at this point. The floor was riddled with holes, some fairly large, and some covered by thin sheets of plywood.

We made our way around the room, looking at this hole and that hole, the graffiti on the walls and support beams. The abandoned pieces of equipment and machinery were everywhere, the purpose of some instantly recognizable while others were a mystery to us. Eventually we found a set of stairs leading down, into what I could only describe as my idea of hell. The entire lower level was at least waist deep in sludge and dark dark water containing things we could only speculate.  Even if we were to wear waders, it wouldn't be safe. No telling what was under the water, or how sure the footing was.  Our guide offered some additional food for thought that previous explorers had in fact gone down there and felt "something" under the water. Perhaps a body or bodies. They weren't sure. It really would be the perfect place to stow one. I certainly would never want to look there.

I can't begin to emphasize how strong the stench was in this room. Eventually, we moved to the stairs leading up and climbed as quietly as possible on metal steps, guided by our muted flashlights. The next floor didn't smell nearly as bad, but was otherwise a lot like the first, with graffiti on the walls, holes in the floor and trash everywhere. We walked around, looking at whatever the room had to offer before proceeding again up the stairs to the next floor. One thing I noticed, the graffiti got a little better the higher we climbed. It was almost like a point of pride for the taggers. The more risk, the better the art, it seemed.

Eventually, after exploring 4 or 5 floors, I honestly can't recall since they were very similar, we found a door leading outside. Actually, I should qualify that. Along the way, we found several doors to the outside. This was the first one that offered us somewhere to step on the other side. That somewhere happened to be a roof.

Turning off our flashlights, we stepped out on to the roof, and crossed to the other, connected building. This is the building we wanted to get into originally, but couldn't. Crossing the roof was one of the first genuinely scary experiences for me. I've never had a fear of heights, surprisingly, but squishy roofs are another story. Perhaps squishy isn't the right word, but the roof had a fair amount of "give" to it. Every step I took was the most careful step I had ever taken, until the next one, and the next one. I made it across, but it was then I realized how potentially dangerous our little trip could be.

Another thing I noticed was the large amount of plant life, including some small trees (TREES?!?!) growing on the roof of the mill.  That was completely unexpected. I guess if enough stuff dies and decays up there, and seeds fall, then rain falls and things begin to grow and take root. Pretty cool actually.

Once we made it to the door to the other building, things really started getting interesting. we were 5 or 6 stories up from the ground, and the upper levels of this building were waiting to be explored. There was a lot more equipment and just "stuff" in these rooms. I call them rooms, but mostly each floor was a completely open area. The graffiti was even more colorful and elaborate than what we saw in the previous building. Some of the artwork had a degree of risk beyond just entering an abandoned building and climbing a few stairs.

One piece in particular really stood out. Aside from the size and detail of the work, which was comparable to others in the room, was the fact that there was a huge hole right in front of the wall, with little more than a 10-12 inch ledge for the tagger to stand. The hole was to big to reach across, and the likelihood of bringing a ladder (especially one big enough to be useful) in this place seemed pretty doubtful.

After admiring some of the artwork, we continued up to the next floor. Our "guide" took a brief detour outside onto a rather doubtful looking scaffold and spent a little time (and took a few pics) out there. He probably could have gone higher, but there's no way it would have supported the rest of us, so he came back down, and back inside.

After a few more flights of stairs, and a few more rooms, we had gone as high as we were able. This floor was practically wallpapered with graffiti. Some of it was recent, having been tagged with 2008. We took a lot of pics and looked at everything. This is where I got my second real scare of the night. Something swooped past my head, flapping about. At first we all thought it was a bat, but it was just a small bird. It was the first living thing I had seen the entire night, other than the occasional bug. (It's funny, but I assumed there would be lots of spiders. I never saw a single one...)

At this point, it was getting late and we still had a decent climb back down to the roof, and then back down the other building, so we decided to head back. The trip down to the roof was pretty uneventful and it was as I was crossing the roof that I got my third scare of the night.

We were moving a lot faster on the way down than on the way up. Partly because we didn't want to push our luck by staying too long, and partly because we were feeling pretty comfortable having seen everything on the way up. Maybe this is why I wasn't as careful crossing the roof the second time. The path I took the first time, although it gave a little, was pretty stable as I stayed near the reinforced parts. On the way down, I cut through the middle without really thinking about it. That was dumb and it could have gotten me into a lot of trouble.  Aside from being much more visible to anyone on the road or on the ground, it was also the weakest part of the roof. About the time I hit the middle, I could feel a LOT of "give" under each step.

At this point, going slow didn't really seem like a smart option. The best thing to do way to get away from the center as fast as possible. So without taking hard or heavy steps, I moved forwards and towards the edge as quickly as I could manage. I think I was pretty lucky, all things considered.

Apparently while on the roof, someone had ridden across the bridge on a bicycle. We were pretty visible, and didn't know if we were spotted or not. We made our way into the first building again, and climbed down the metal stairs, not pausing at each floor anymore. It was time to go.

We got to our egress point on the ground floor and checked to see if anyone was around. Not spotting anyone, we each climbed out and moved to a dumpster for cover. A quick jog back around the side of the building to the railroad tracks and back up to the car, and we were done.

I've never really considered myself an adrenaline junkie, but that was the biggest rush I've ever had. Yes, I got the crap scared out of me a few times, but that only added to the excitement.  Whenever the next mission comes up, I'll be ready to do it again.

Unless there's spiders. Then we'll have to see. Posted on Monday, July 14, 2008 3:59 PM General Interest , Urban Exploration | Back to top


Comments on this post: Sunday Night Fun

# re: Sunday Night Fun
Requesting Gravatar...
How about posting those picture?
Left by Scott Kuhl on Jul 14, 2008 4:22 PM

# re: Sunday Night Fun
Requesting Gravatar...
I'll update the post with some pics once they're downloaded.
Left by Blogus Maximus on Jul 14, 2008 4:26 PM

# re: Sunday Night Fun
Requesting Gravatar...
I'll hafta tell you about the time I violated several FAA and Federal laws. We'll just say, it involved a runway and the Philadelphia International Airport. Thinking back, yikes that was about 17 years ago.

Since it's post 9/11 I would have probably been sent to Guantanamo as a terrorist.
Left by Randy Walker on Jul 14, 2008 4:42 PM

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