Friday, December 21, 2012
"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
If the lawn is overgrown, and the NO TRESPASSING signs are fading atop a crumbling wooden fence, you must approach cautiously for a closer look.
If the windows are broken or covered in wooden slats, and the paint is peeling, you must reach for the door handle.
If you find yourself photographing fake flower crosses, creepy cob-web covered doll heads, and old pill bottles, you must have found the former home of John Cochrane, along a winding back road in Marmora, Ontario.
From outside, you probably notice the contrast of what appears to be a rather new tin roof atop this crumbling old shack. Inside, the stripped bare walls likely give you the impression that this home was abandoned in the middle of a renovation. The bags of Stone Mix piled atop the coffee table affirm this hunch, surely.
Immediately after, Mr. Cochrane reveals himself. He shares his story with you, through the things and stuff that he could not take with him, proving the old proverb true. Your fingers rifle through his record collection, touching what he once heard. You're fiancee bends down and picks up a fake flower cross, a memorial to John, or one of his loved ones, presumably, and she hands it you. In turn, you reach up and hang it from a nail high on the wall above the table at which he once ate. You step back to photograph it, and step on a depleted and dirty old Toronto Blue Jays bean bag chair upon which he once sat, kicking up a mushroom cloud of dust.
Every few minutes, as you traverse piles of dirty old clothing, and magazines and newspapers dated between the 1960s and the 1980s, you encounter another cob-web covered doll or doll head. You and your fiancee discuss why this is such a creepy recurring discovery; the primary and solitary function of these dolls was to bring joy to little girls, but alas, here they sit, used up and forgotten. Dusty, dirty and dismembered. Naked. Cob webs now cling to fake eyelashes and the hair that a little girl once brushed with love and care.
1984, you concur. That is when this home was abandoned, judging by the dates on the calendars and newspapers that you both are excavating from the mountains and dremlins of stuff that make up the floor of this archaeological site.
You pick up bible after bible from the coffee table and flip through the pages that he once read. You are touching what he once saw, what he once may have believed with a sincerity that you can't begin to understand. As the pages flutter through your fingers, the clicking camera in her hands breaks the moment of silence.
There is something about holding a dead man's signature in your hand, that is hard to put into words. How it feels, I mean, not the texture of the bank receipt itself, which is course with dust and cob webs, but the feeling inside of one's self. He may have called it a soul, I don't know. Something spiritual, I guess. A connection, or a lack of connection, I'm not sure. But you feel it. Reviewing his old bills from Ontario Hydro, and passing his pill bottles back and forth, discussing the common uses of each medication that he had been prescribed by his local doctor, and filled by his local pharmacy. It all reveals more of the story. The plot thickens, but never comes to a boil.
The character development continues, much like it would unfold in a great novel, at times painting vivid pictures, other times, leaving massive voids of both information and chronology, and leaving plenty to the imagination. The difference between exploring abandoned houses such as this one, and reading a great novel, is that the ending of the story is open to interpretation.
Home is where the hurt is
The vase of our lives
Fake plastic flowers
Mister Cochrane's kitchen
People under the stairs
The Barber of Seville
The Story of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
You now have a credit of 90.73
Please sign in presence of teller
Tuesday, December 11, 1984
December 29, 1984
Brush it off
The words of God
No Room in the Inn
The hands of Godlessness
You depart from the home, closing the book on John Cochrane, unaware of how his story ended. You continue down the road ahead, starting a new chapter of your own.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Sometimes in life, an opportunity just falls into your lap. Such was the case with the O'Brien Cavanagh House in Indian River, Ontario. I was contacted by a gentleman that extended an invitation to me on behalf of the properties new owner: an opportunity to explore and document the abandoned farmhouse. This gentleman, hereby referred to only as "the neighbour", owns a neighbouring plot of land which has been in his family for many generations. In discussions with this new land owner, the neighbour shared with him what I do and the manner in which I do it. I was humbled and excited that this land owner would invite me onto his property to document the old log home, before it's fate is sealed. The neighbour informed me that if I was interested, he would meet me and act as a tour guide on the owner's behalf. “Sounds great, Saturday at noon?” It was settled.
Sure enough, at noon sharp, Ninja and I pulled up to the address marker at the end of a long driveway, where the neighbour stood beside his car, twiddling the long grass between his thumb and fingertips. A quick introduction ensued and an immediate level of comfort was established between us and the neighbour. “Follow me, drive up.” he said. And so we did.
Back outside of the cars, we were greeted by a street sign atop what was once a white picket fence before all of the paint had chipped and peeled off. The sign read 'DUBLIN ST.', and before it we stood and discussed the history of the home, as he knew it to be. I asked questions, and as he answered, my eyes darted to and fro about the farmland, scanning old overgrown machinery, as well as the exterior of the house. At one point, I stood up on the tire swing hanging from a branch on a hulk of a maple tree and swung back and forth, briefly pondering how long it had been since someone performed this act here.
The neighbour told us that the earliest information he could acquire from his own descendants, was that the home and land were owned by the O'Brien family in the 1930s, and sold to the Cavanagh family in the 1940s. The land had remained in the Cavanagh family until 2011, when it was purchased by this new owner. The new owner is considering demolishing the home, as he is bringing the land back to it's agricultural glory days, and resuming the farming that once took place here. According to the neighbour, when the elders of the Cavanagh family passed away in the 1970s, the younger generation left the farm. A nephew of those descendants inherited the land some time later, and would come to the home the odd weekend, he told us. In the early 2000s, the nephew Cavanagh passed away, and no one has been back since.
With the history lesson behind us, floating in the hot summer air, we walked around the house, and stood at the doorway. We hovered for a moment, standing over two wicker chairs on the veranda. Behind the chairs, keys hung from a thumb tac, beside a wooden sign that read 'THE CAVANAGHS, JIM & HELEN'. We entered together, all three of us, and then we seperated. Over the next two hours, not alot was said, all three of us poked around individually, staying out of each others way. We would intersect at times for brief discussions, such as sharing excitement over certain objects, or pondering aloud about the day to day family interactions that would have taken place in a given area of the home, and then we'd scatter yet again. I could go on and on about the religious and personal artifacts and the extreme mould and decay in certain areas, but I have said enough. It is time for the pictures to do the talking.
We exited the house as we had entered, together. All of us dripping in sweat, our clothing literally drenched from the hot muggy air inside on this sweltering summer afternoon in the middle of a heat wave. We conversed for a few minutes before saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways. Driving away, Ninja and I discussed how it was a unique experience to explore the farmhouse with permission and an escort. We agreed that it was a nice change from the norm, but left something to be desired. Something was missing. It was the rush. The excitement of discovery was there, but the fear and adrenaline that pulse and excite while trespassing into the unknown was noticeably missing. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience, and I'd gladly take another property owner up on a similar offer anytime. Special thanks to the property owner, and the neighbour.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES