Sunday, December 2, 2018

Beauty in decay...things are not always what they seem!

Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links, behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks, under the look of fatigue, the attack of a migraine and the sigh…there is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.  -W.H. Auden  

The dawn of winter has arrived and the chill of its grand entrance has followed us to the familiar village nestled just west of the beautiful Hudson River.  The first Nor’easter of the year has decided to rear its ugly head and attempts to deter us from our prize.   There are those who quell their curiosity when the weather is less than cooperative and then there is J & M.  It is not within our nature to let a little detour from mother nature get in our way. 

It has been a over a year since the vine covered fieldstone in its somewhat uniform architecture captured our attention and drew us into a love affair beyond  imagination.  The haunting remnants of child's play and mysterious structures surround the buildings that were once over 130 in number.   Amazing and beautiful in its decay, it has become the place we long to return to again and again. Diligent research into intriguing locations led to the allure of this spectacular place.   Others had gone before us, including a trio of celebrity ghost hunters, taggers, squatters, explorers and other curious adventurers bewitched by the charms within the darkened hallways and decrepit structures.  As for us, we were captivated immediately by its tragic past and haunted reputation.  You see, not everything is as it seems, and these buildings hold a menagerie of memories.  From the caring and loving hands of those dedicated to the care of those less fortunate, to the dark and sinister acts of betrayal, incompetent care, under-staffing and neglect.   In its creation, it was a philanthropic and noble vision.   Imagine a place where mentally and physically challenged citizens could live together in a caring environment where they would be taught to provide for themselves, farming the land, tending to livestock and caring for one another.  A place that would provide employment to many people in New York and would carry on the legacy of the man who made it all possible.  Over the span of many years, the concept of this utopia grew and the population which should have been held at 3000, exploded well past that margin.  Overworked and understaffed, it was the residents who began to suffer.     Its story brought to the forefront of national headlines would be the catalyst for change in the horribly flawed mental health system.  It would be a beacon of hope for the future of those with mental and physical disabilities.   Through its darkness, the light prevails, and it is through that illumination that our infatuation has blossomed and led us through journeys that most dare not to embark upon.

The defiant wind howls just beyond the corridor, as the stinging rain scolds us for our audacity to explore in such inclement conditions.  It’s of no significance to us, for our hunger for its intrigue holds immunity against any obstacles in our way.   M leads the way toward the closest entranceway.  As a team, we, for the most part, will stick together in the name of safety and my abundant adoration for the partner who has brought to me such joy in our mutual love of exploring.  The disintegrating staircase strains as we make our way into a large awaiting room.  The familiar smell of decay fills the air as we immediately begin our tour within the halls that we have grown to love so much.   I run my fingers along the weathered casing of a long-lost employee instructional book.  It’s pages now tattered, torn and singed with evidence of fire damage, no longer to be read by any sane soul.   Although its relevant existence is over, to us it is a remnant of the once bustling halls of an overcrowded hospital.  A clue to the past.   I look to the ceiling…it too is crumbling, allowing the icy rain to beat down, unwelcomed, upon our heads.  I can only hope that the flooring that we tread so carefully on has not yet succumbed to such deterioration.   With each step, each discovery of forgotten everyday items, unique architecture and mysterious fixtures, my trepidation fades. 

With swift and careful placement of my face mask, we traverse on.   As always, the camera is on and we set on to document our explore through these familiar hallways.  The storm has chased away all rays of light and has set the stage for dramatic views through the peering lens.  Darkness falls swift as we move forward.  Its of no consequence to us.  We love the darkness and have little to no fear of what we will discover.   They say that evil dwells within these walls and perhaps a little discretion might be in order, but our minds are at ease.  I can close my eyes and sense that we are safe.  We may or may not be alone, but evil has yet to make its grand entrance.   Respect for the past, acknowledgment of experiences that others have had here and a general love for the pitch-black pathways, lead the way.  

With youthful excitement, we travel on.  Things are not always as they seem, right?   As we have mentioned in our other writings, we know that we are no longer green and budding.  Our hues are ever changing and although mature in stature, our child-like curiosity for lost places continues to blossom.    It is rejuvenating to seek knowledge and solace amongst peeling paint and somewhat hazardous dust particles.  Although we are no longer young sprouts, our roots have been planted and our desire to bring others along on our adventures continues to grow.  A seed has been planted and we have this wonderful opportunity to bring others along as we discover places long forgotten.   

As we move along the somewhat ominous corridors, I catch site of his sparkling eyes. He has seen many places in his own adventures.   He has been to many places that others only dream of and has brought knowledge and joy to others in his travels to well known ethereal locations.  His love for adventure, exploring and seeking knowledge of the unknown has evolved into an additional passion for documenting and sharing his experiences with others who have interest in all things amazing.  My mind wanders for only a moment...I feel blessed to be here in the shadows with my best friend.   Our mutual passion for exploration has so wonderfully collided and with every step, I know the best is yet to come.   He points the camera into the abyss…”Guess what time it is…” he says with an impish grin.  My own eyes light up, for I know exactly where we are going next!    A small light is lit to guide our way as we round the corner.  There is not a trace of illumination, save for a couple of breaks in the infrastructure, where we are going.  He pauses for a slight dramatic edge as we take the view in.    It might as well be a grand staircase with jewel lined risers and railways.  It evokes excitement and a mysterious calling to descend into the depths of darkness. With childlike exuberance, I skip happily into the void beyond.   A giggle in the gloom, for I am entering my playground.  

We have been scolded in the past for our humorous antics and jovial demeanors when we are in the midst of places known for their tragic occurrences and historical atrocities.   It is true that we often bring our lighthearted personalities into desolation, but it is our honor to bring light into the darkness of such places.   These dwellings have sorrowful history, but are not so consumed by the past that they cannot allow for joy to seep in.   Happiness comes in many forms and can be described in infinite ways.  If not for our delight in decay, the spirit of adventure would be lost in regret.  The spirits that dwell within the hallways have had enough sadness and suffering.    And so, as I lie down upon the cold and clammy slab that once held the bodies of so many lost souls, I close my eyes and pay tribute.  It’s true that it is somewhat of a novelty for me to prove my courage and “hey!  I’m not afraid of nothin” (except bridges and lightning strikes) attitude, but I (and I know that M feels the same way) hold nothing but respect and love for the souls who perished within these walls.   Things are not always what they seem…

Our adventures within these walls are far from over.  We have heard others say how there is just something about this place that draws you in….a certain obsession and longing to return.  Within the structures, grounds and last but certainly not least, amazing tunnel system, lies a magical mystique.  As always, we wish to encourage you to get out and explore on your own.  We know that traveling to certain locations that may be deemed less than prudent to explore might be beyond one’s own desire, so we will happily bring you along with us.   Through our eyes, we hope to bring you joy for the forgotten and a shared love for all things tattered and decayed.   

Close your eyes as we speak to you from the darkness which is our light….”Do whatever makes you feel alive!”    Share your own inspirations with us by leaving a comment and thank you so much for taking the time to read about our adventures! 

-Jennifer and Marcel

J&M Explorations