Within the passageways and careworn walls of structures long forgotten, lies history, imprinted memories of the past and the soft whispers of souls who once gave breath of life to these crumbling walls engulfed by time. We are Jennifer and Marcel of J&M Explorations, two best friends who found within each other love, inspiration, and a mutual passion for exploration and adventure.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Derailed by a VERY ANGRY Conductor While Exploring the Abandoned Bartlet...
Now this was a fun explore with a little twist at the end! #explore #abandoned trains #trains #BartlettTrains #NewHampshire #Whitemountains #funny
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Exploring Elan, the Remains of a Controversial School for Troubled Teens.
“After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom.” -Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
As are many roads off the beaten path, Number 5 Road, is all together unassuming and benign in its existence. Well-manicured lawns, flower laden porches and echoes of child’s play line the drive toward our destination and speak with such familiarity to the nature of upper middle- class life in the peaceful and welcoming state of Maine. Such beauty within the woodland, and a seemingly perfect place to call home. As we drove quietly down the road, my mind wandered, as it so often does, to the history behind the homes that lined the path to, what we were soon to discover, was one of the most horrifically abusive places that we have ever laid our eyes upon. Were the neighbors blind to the atrocities that occurred just beyond their white picket fences? Did they not hear the panicked footsteps in the cackling autumn leaves of a child attempting to break free from the clutches that held them with such evil purpose just at the end of the drive? Were their screams muffled by the sweet sound of songbirds and the rustling of the acorns as they blew in the breeze? A small farm lies nestled just left of the road…how many broken souls sought refuge within the stalls as they pleaded with a seemingly uncaring society to free them from the hell beyond the emerald green pastures?
We had learned of this place through friends that we had met through the sweet power of social media. A couple, much like ourselves, that delve into history and the mystique of crumbling walls, history laden cemeteries and tattered doorways. Scanning through their pictures, including their own amazing adventures, silly sayings and a true love for their family, we could tell that we would connect with them right away. We spoke of our love for Maine and how we would welcome any suggestions that they might have that could quench our collective thirst for exploration. Our conversations with them led to an exploration that we would not soon forget. A place that through our research, explore and the connection that we would then feel with the Survivors, would forever hold a staggering imprint on our souls.
The end of Number 5 Road was drawing near, and soon the buildings of the, now abandoned, Elan school began to slowly come into our view.
Opening its doors in 1970, it was billed as a therapeutic behavioral modification school, that was designed to take in troubled teenagers. In its genesis and throughout the years, it claimed to be a healing haven for adolescents who were suffering from addiction, mental health issues and a menagerie of other factors that left parents at their wits end. The peace and serenity of its location would assist in luring parents, and others with what one would assume would be the best interest of the child, into its lair of deceit. Those who claimed to be experts in the field of recovery and behavioral health would ultimately reap a financial windfall of staggering proportions. All at what cost? It would later come to light that the types of behavior modification used were highly abusive and, from what we have found, would leave everlasting psychological scars on many of those who endured the unconventional and highly toxic techniques that were imposed on individuals who were just trying to navigate their way, toward maturity.
The summer sun was strong as it reflected off the now vacant and silent basketball court. At first glance, it felt as though we were winding our way through a suburban neighborhood that had heartily been neglected by residential lawn mowers. Each building reflecting simplicity in its architecture but giving off an atmosphere of camp like sanctuary. Upon first impression, it would seem benign and peaceful, but the echoes of sadness, anger and desolation were heavy in the air. We made our way in through an open window. The soft breeze blowing outside followed us as we entered. A doorway just beyond swung slightly open as if to beckon our arrival, but our welcome was short lived. The door closed just as swiftly as it had open and we were left with the echoes of sorrow and pain. Anyone who knows us, or has watched our adventures on YouTube, knows that we are lighthearted and fun when we explore. It is our nature to joke around an act like two teenagers discovering everything and anything we see as if we are seeing it all for the first time. This explore felt different. Within our research, we had heard the words of the only people who really know what went on within these walls, and knew that we only wanted to honor them and to hold nothing but respect for what they had all gone through as a collective group of survivors. We kept their stories close to our hearts as we toured each room together. It is always in our nature to close our eyes and picture the rooms that we are exploring as they once were. It is an attempt to imagine what they were like when life filled the space around us. We often speculate about what we are seeing and in this explore, we did the same. The difference was, we knew that looks can be deceiving. We were humbled to have each room of our explore explained to us by the people who lived the horror within the walls. We could never pretend for even a second that we know exactly what they went through in the past. We can only offer our support and desire to advocate for them in the here and now.
Each room, each item found brought back memories for those who spent time here. Many of the survivors that we heard from were thankful to see this place in its state of early decay. Signs of peeling paint and dust covered relics are indicators that no other child will be subjected to the anger and abuse from within. Having only closed its doors since 2011, there are still reflections of its past that are not quite left to the complete corrosion that we sometimes see on our explores. What looks now like a well-run school, was once a dormitory filled with kids who were just trying to move forward and do what they had to do just to get out. The haunting echoes of encounter groups, dealing crews and general meetings filled the air. The image of a young teenage girl in a dunce cap being ripped to shreds and shedding tears of sadness filled our minds. The stories of boxing rings, brainwashing, forced hierarchy that led to a Lord of the Flies type of atmosphere, 12 plus steps of bullshit just to use the bathroom, conformity, rage and an overall nightmarish feel broke our hearts and, quite frankly, made us mad as hell.
The voices of the survivors of Elan have been heard. There have been bills passed to protect children and adolescents from ever having to suffer through what the survivors of Elan had to deal with. There are advocates and people who truly have the best interest of the child in their hearts and minds. Those who created Elan have since passed away, and by all accounts that we have heard, are not at all missed in the world of sane and empathetic human beings. A resounding agreement of “may they rot in hell” proclaimed. Their greed leaving a legacy of emotional scarring and post traumatic stress. As for the survivors, well, the stories of this tight knit group continue to give rise to child advocacy and the support they have for one another is unwavering. Through the voices that we heard, we know that many have come to terms with the time spent in the woods of Maine, but there are many who still live with their ghosts. We do not wish to be the catalyst for bringing up nightmarish memories, only to respect each and every person who stepped foot upon its wicked grounds. And to offer our heartfelt support for their wellbeing and for their futures as they navigate farther away from their past. We entered this explore as we always do, in search of adventure and imprints of the past, but left humbled and as advocates for the survivors who, in some cases, lost their youth and innocence within these walls.
Our explore and this blog are dedicated to each and every survivor of Elan. A very special thank you to all of you who reached out to us. We know that we struck a few chords of angst as we wandered through each room and we thank you for letting us know just how this explore made you feel. We want to let you know that we are thinking about you and will hold your stories close to our hearts forever.
Another big thank you to Todd Nilssen, survivor of Elan and the director of The Last Stop, a moving and emotional documentary featuring the stories of those who knew Elan and its controversial techniques the best…those who actually lived through the nightmare, the survivors.
Please take the time to watch this amazing film.
For more information on the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens act of 2017 please visit…
Thank you for taking the time to read this! We truly appreciate your support and hope that you will come back and visit this blog and our YouTube channel for more explores and adventures in the future. And… as always,
Do whatever makes you feel alive!
Jennifer and Marcel
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may seem an eyesore to one person, just might be a beautiful masterpiece to another. There are places beloved by communities and protected in the hearts of those that hold their memories of its tattered hallways and decayed rooms dear. This is the way that we feel when we explore places that have been forgotten by time. Left to rot and decay and only holding the silent whispers of what once was.
We know that there are people out there with malicious intent toward these places that we venture into. It saddens us when we see the filth and destruction they leave behind, but we want to make something very clear… We are explorers and lovers of history. We in no way, shape or form condone the criminal activities that take place in the historical decaying places that we document. Social media has brought many of these places to the limelight, but the intention is to show the beauty and mystery of abandonment. Not to invite trouble. Trouble will find its way on its own and to say that the peaceful documentation of these places leads to criminal activity, is mind blowing.
We have met so many amazing fellow explorers in our travels and are so thankful and humbled by the positive responses we have received. We know that this type of exploration is not for everyone…many people don’t understand why we find such beauty in decay, we can only explain it as a beautiful journey into the past. We invite you to watch our explores and come along as we visit these amazing places. As for the criminal activity that occurs, those individuals are responsible for their own actions. It is a terrible part of our society, but reality, nonetheless.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for loving this location just as much as we do. We too, were sad to see it go and hope that through this video, the memories held within will remain.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Uploads and Streaming and Death Threats, Oh My!!
I had never really had any exposure to YouTube, other than the occasional funny viral video that just had to be viewed. I knew of its existence and had even heard that it could turn regular people, people just like us, into well-known personalities. I never really gave it much thought and would have never imagined that someday we would end up creating videos of our amazing adventures. It was slow go at the beginning. We had one “subscriber”, aka supporter….Wade, Marcel’s son-in-law, who believed in us and hit that button despite the fact that the two of us are die hard Patriots fans. Our supporter base began to grow slowly but surely. We had our first taste of thumbs downs and the occasional “You guys are idiots”, but that didn’t stop us! We have said it a million times…” We definitely aren’t for everybody! If you want to watch great! Come along for the ride, if not…no big deal!” That is the beauty of YouTube, there is something out there for everyone!
|Not for everyone and PROUD of it!!|
As we began to spread our YouTube wings (sorry Twitter, we think you are for the birds), we began to find others that we enjoyed watching and interacting with. Peaceful walks through the woods with Marlo C, inspiring “get off that couch” moments with Muscle the Russell, amazing explores with Burning Sands Exploration, the Lost Turtle, RNS, Hobie Katt, Rich Discoveries and the Vega Zone. Funny and extremely entertaining moments with Mr. Fables. We have been taken to far off lands with Urbexy, Explore 101 Urbex, Kelita K, Exploring with Carl, OneOld Key and Awesome Epic Adventures….just to name a few. It has been an opportunity to travel the world and gain inspiration from others who share our passion.
A few months ago, we added another layer to our YouTube experience when we found a few live streams that we swiftly began to enjoy and become a part of. We began to look forward to Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights! Live streams are a wonderful time to meet up with others with whom you share common interests. They have come a long way since the dial up days of “You’ve got mail” and archaic chat rooms. Your host appears live on the screen and is the conductor of a symphony of stories to be told, advice to be given and, in most cases, laughter to be had. A deep and sincere respect began to grow for one of our most favorite conductors. Exploring with CF…it was, at first, a mystery as to what the CF meant. Was it the name of the two gentleman that explored many amazing places deep in the heart of our country? Was it a first and last initial? We soon learned what the CF meant and, without making the conductor blush, it took our breath away. You see, the CF stands for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that can affect many organs in the body but tends to affect the lungs the most. It can cause many debilitating symptoms such as a persistent cough and difficulty breathing. He does not dwell on the fact that he has this disorder and instead has become an inspiration for many young people who also have been diagnosed with this disease. As for the two of us, we learned early on not to feel sorry for our friend, only to join him in his quest to inspire others. We swiftly looked beyond the title and began to learn from this veteran explorer. Our very own Obi Wan Kenobi. Now, as for the two of us…exploring is not M’s first rodeo. As mentioned before, he has been exploring the wonderful world of decay and abandonment for many, many years. The J (that’s me…duh) is a relative newbie. Within the streams, we have, even with one of us being extremely experienced, learned many new things and for that we are forever grateful. Along the way, we just so happened to make many new friendships and, as it so happens…a few enemies as well.
It all started with laughter amongst friends, telling stories and getting to know others, who, as it just so happens, are real life people behind the swift fingers of a computer keyboard. Behind the veil of anonymity within the world of social media, lies the entanglement of blessed humanity intertwined so meticulously around a web of malevolent chaos. We had encountered a fellow explorer with whom we began to form a bond with. He was funny and engaging and we truly enjoyed visiting his streams. On Mondays, we talked all things exploring…from cameras to drones to places we have been and dangers we have encountered. On Fridays, it was a free for all! Time to laugh and let loose! We had some really great times!! And then came an unraveling, a downward fall that became extremely difficult to watch…even as I write this, I hesitate, because….You know when you do something and then you regret it and just wish you never said anything in the first place? The old saying, “Sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.” Well, we saw our friend spiraling out of control and, due to the fact that we are both a bit outspoken, did not leave well enough alone. Although our intentions were, in our minds, for the good. They were misinterpreted and set off an explosion of hatred, hostility and anger. Unspeakable threats of violence ensued and although some loyalties were broken, we received a wave of support and caring that we will not soon forget. It was deflating, but we have rebounded and do not intend for this incident to intrude on our explorations. We have no ill will and no desire to reopen old wounds, just closing the chapter in this part of our story for good.
Our participation on streams is still something that we enjoy and look forward to! There are so many amazing people out there and we are very thankful to have found a way to share our adventures while, through the magic of YouTube, we get to travel the world to come along with others as they explore this wide world of awe-inspiring locations! Adventure is truly out there!
There are many more explores to be had….more stories to be told! If you are taking the time to read this…we thank you and hope that we have had some part in inspiring you to get out there and enjoy our world. Make sure that you pass it along and motivate those around you to get out there and….
As always, “Do whatever makes you feel alive!!”
Jennifer and Marcel
For more information on Cystic Fibrosis and how you can help please visit…www.cff.org
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