Urban Explorers are sociable souls, generally found in pairs or small groups, but occasionally, you come across the odd one or two who go it alone. Two nights ago, I was one of those.
Close to me, in my home city, is a derelict wing of a former general hospital. The rest of the hospital has been re-developed into premium housing that go for a tidy price, but this one wing is still in the process of alteration. From the outside, it's a decaying monument of the past with board windows and broken windows, surrounded by a 10 foot high wooden fence. And that's the pull for the Urban Explorer. What lies behind the boarded windows? What remains within the decaying walls.
I watched this site for three months, evaluating the security, looking for the access points, trying to judge entrance points into the building from pictures taken whilst just passing by.
Then the time came. Opportunity presented itself and it was taken.
The target location is on a busy main road, within a heavily populated residential area, therefore itwas never going to be easy. I made my way to the derelict wing and walked the perimeter, waiting for the moment that would be my window of opportunity to cross into the unknown beyond the wooden fence. Midnight was too early, too many people still walking about, too much trafiic on the roads that could see the light of my torch, too many lights on in the flats and houses that surround the building that I planned to explore. There was nothing for it, I had to wait. And that wait took me until 2am when finally the coast was clear and infiltration was the first priority, the first task, the beginning of my first solo explore.
Quickly and quietly, I traversed the fence and carefully made my way across the work site to the back of the building. I paused in a darkened corner away from streetlights with the light rain my only real companion, this time needed to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness that was surrounding me. Five minutes later, I made my way along the derelict exterior of the old hospital wing, the rear of which had had several rooms demolished. This gave me the perfect access into the building itself, no need for any kind of forced entry as would befit a vandal. The Urban Explorer does not engage in forced entry, that one act crosses the boundary into criminal activity.
I made my way into the basement and found what was once the doctor's bar, all that remained was the security grill pulled down over the counter at the end of each evening, and a few artifacts such as miniature bottles and drip tray from a beer pump. Further on were teaching rooms and the staircase to the ground floor.
I found a hallway that led to more teaching rooms and a lecture room given the title of "Thurne". "Thurne" was a large corner room, complete with blackboard. The emptiness of this room was further enhanced by the orange glow from the streetlights outside, creeping throught the cracks in the wooden boards that kept the world outside at bay.
The darkness was all consuming, but my years as a paranormal researcher and ghost-hunter had prepared me well for the situation I was in now - no light in an old derelict building with just the slivers of streetlight cutting through the black.
I wandered through the darkness into a room beyond description, it's past was as a reception, but it's present had given it new and totally enigmatic feel through dereliction and destruction - it's outer wall had been cast off, revealing it to the elements. It's once carpeted floor now a softened sludge of moss, decay and rain water from years of abandonment.
I found a hole in the wall - quite literally - and my inquisitive nature made me go through it. I found myself in a decayed toilet block, and when I walked out from it I found a series of rooms that were used for training. Decay, mould and dereliction surrounded me - fallen strip lights, collapsed ceilings and rotted flooring.
Ther were still two floors above me, but the developers had been clever and wise. A pair of double doors that led to the main entrance and the principle staircase had been securely chained and as I searched for another access point, I discovered that all doors to this area had been sealed, the remaining staircases had been capped at their apex. I felt a slight measure of frustration, this derelict hospital wing had not beaten me because I was in there, but I didn't win because I found my explore had come to an end. After a fruitless search for access to the upper floors, I had to end this night of solo exploration and discovery as the first tendrils of morning light began to appear over the buildings and I knew that beyond the wooden fence, a city was coming back to life. It was time to go.