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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

School 02, December 2012


The Trip

Most of the morning was wasted on yet another aborted trip to Hospital 02. The hole in the fence had been patched up, and the only other obvious access point was blocked by a suspicious array of dry branches and fluorescent light bulbs. We could easily have moved them, but it smelled like a trap, so we skedaddled.

We ended up at a place that I didn’t know existed, parked near a graveyard and an ominous “RESEARCH” building, climbed over crumbling stone walls, hiked through foggy fields and past a rusting car slowly being consumed by the forest. Part of this campus is still active, and we took our usual precautions, but nobody seemed to care, which is always a relief (and a slight disappointment).

Explorer Ethics

Robin recently picked up an urban-exploring-themed novel at a thrift store and gave it to me as a gift/joke. I suppose if I had ended up liking the book, it would have been a “gift,” but it was awful – a failure both as a novel and as a source of any kind of accurate depiction of the urban exploring “community” (I’m cringing even as I type that word). According to this book, explorers (who call themselves “creepers,” hence the title) have a strict code of ethics, which prevents them from ever urinating in an abandoned building – not even in a toilet. That’s right – the place may have been abandoned for decades, fire-scarred, graffiti-befouled, trees growing through the rotting floorboards, rooms littered with bird skeletons and raccoon feces… but God Forbid you should urinate in a broken toilet. So the characters all pee into water bottles and then carry around those pee-bottles for the rest of the book, which leads to a hilarious scene later on – but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Also, there was a bunch of huffing and puffing about how they couldn’t possibly take anything that they found on-site (except for the gold coins left in a secret vault by a pedophile gangster/real estate broker, who… oh, never mind). Now, I’m sure there are some explorers who refrain from taking anything, and God bless them for their righteousness. But as these buildings get older, and more decrepit, and closer to demolition, and after seeing the contents of other sites plowed under to make way for condominiums, those “take nothing” rules have become more… flexible. Like most of my exploring friends, I usually limit myself to a couple of particularly interesting patient files, or a ceramic plate bearing the name of the state mental health agency, or a complete set of “Bowel and Bladder Training” LPs (with corresponding filmstrips).

This was leading to a point of some kind… Oh yeah: I broke my own rules, and (ahem) “rescued” an old light. If it helps at all, I do feel slightly guilty about it.

Sixteen Musical Favorites

We also found a box of still-sealed custom-pressed LPs, featuring the band and (blind) chorus of School 02. A blurb on the cover tells us that “this album of music and song… is thrilling proof of the mentally retarded’s potential.”

To download any of the songs individually, just right-click on the desired track in the playlist above and select “Save link as…”

To download the entire set in a .zip file, click here.

Update, December 2013-January 2014

Two return trips one year later included the following:

  • A scary moment when a state police car pulled up in front of a building we had just entered. John Law got out of his car with a sense of purpose, walked around, looked in the windows suspiciously, then took a brief stroll behind an adjacent garage, where I suspect he urinated. Then he got back in his car and drove away. Yikes.
  • Some kind of poultry research laboratory, featuring a display case (credenza? chifferobe?) stuffed with commemorative programs from Soviet poultry conferences of the 1930s.
  • A building that (I’m guessing) serves as storage for a natural history museum. (Or something.) One room full of mounted stuffed birds and fish; another packed with countless boxes of carefully hand-labeled rocks and meteorites and fossils and arrowheads and petrified what-have-you; another containing more seashells than I have ever seen in one place; and – most intriguing to me – a complete natural history library with tens of thousands of books in excellent condition, all sorted by subject and title, some over a hundred years old.
  • An unusually strenuous trip through a cramped, partially-flooded, and completely lightless underground utility tunnel. The moment when my flashlight beam fell upon a gigantic stuffed marlin lying in the asbestos-and-rainwater muck will remain forever seared in my memory. I’m getting creeped out right now, just thinking about it.
  • …and the next time we went, the muck in the tunnel was (mostly) frozen. The ice-fall coming down the underground steps was pretty impressive and spooky.
  • A cracked-open, child-sized cast iron casket.

The first 35 pictures in the gallery below are from the December 2013/January 2014 visits.


I also took some photos, if you’re not asleep yet.

Viewing the Gallery

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  1. Another great collection of photos. Kind of surprised the statuary is still there and seemingly in good condition and haven’t been stolen. Still, hard to walk away with a “King” under your arm…

  2. Note to Self: If Mat offers to share his Cheetos – SAY NO.

  3. I had a experience with my “pee-bottle” although I don’t think I would call it hilarious. First mine overfilled right away, how does more come out than went in? I kicked some plaster/asbestos dust over the spillage on the floor to hide the stain. Next the bottle leaked while in my backpack, I probable shouldn’t have put it next to my lunch. Luckily my sandwich appeared to be OK and tasted fine but worried about possible contamination of my Freetos I passed them out among my exploring buddies. The next problem came on a later trip when I somehow mixed up the water and pee bottles. Now I clearly label my bottles!

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