(I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations on trespassing has gone by long ago.)
Ten years ago today, my buddy and fellow horror writer Matthew Warner and I decided to take a stroll around the abandoned children’s mental asylum in his town of Staunton, Virginia. I’d wanted to get some pictures of the exterior because it was a cool spooky place.
Then I happened to walk by a human-height broken window and thought, “Well, clearly I’m being invited inside.”
So I went in and Matt followed.
I had a great time. We touched nothing, harmed nothing, and we respected the property and the pain of the people who once lived there. I think Matt has gone in with permission since then, but what’s the fun in that?
I know there are people who go into abandoned places for the danger and the risk of it, but I’m more interested in the stories those structures seem to absorb. I don’t have a lot of supernatural beliefs (this and the efficacy of democracy are the only two), but I do think that emotion can linger in places. And even if it doesn’t, I think it’s important sometimes to extend our empathy enough to pretend it does, to remember other people in other times.
I am not in any way advocating that you should enter a building this weekend and try to imagine the lives and feelings of the people who lived there. I’m not advocating, say, finding a bent section of fence where the police rarely go and gently stepping over. And I’m definitely not advocating that you should walk carefully through a dangerous ruin, taking no souvenirs but your own thoughts and maybe some pictures.