Monday, August 26, 2013

Abandonment Issues: House on the Hill

IMG_3686

This is undoubtedly one of the saddest stories that I have ever told.

This isn't a story with a beginning and a middle. This is a story about an ending.

Not to say that there wasn't a beginning and a middle, because there certainly was. For all I know the beginning and middle may have been happy and joyous, filled with family, love and laughter. Or maybe it was heartache and loneliness all the way through the story. Perhaps, and most likely, it was a combination of the two.

But with the history, the beginning and the middle set aside and left unknown, we are left with a story about an ending.

House on the Hill

In the spring of 2009, a girl named Julie and her boyfriend, a pair of urban explorers, approached the old red brick farmhouse on the hill, which appeared to them to be abandoned. Uneasiness came over them, but after a long pause, they ventured forth. A strange sight stopped them in their tracks: a pile of cigarette butts sat directly adjacent to a pile of banana peels in varying states of decomposition, some of them fresh. This enhanced the uneasiness, Julie reported, adding that "...curiosity forced us to continue on."

She went on to describe the wide open door, the vines growing into the windows, the holes in the ceilings and walls, the layers of bugs and cob webs and a room full of either animal or human feces. They were drawn immediately upstairs, she continued...

"This is where it gets creepy. Despite the layers of grunge that you find in every abandonment, the bathroom looked in alright shape compared to the rest of the house. And a roll of toilet paper on the sink...in half decent condition. Open the door, and there it was. The only room in the house with furniture. Mind you, everything was coated in layers of dust, even the clothing and shoes laying beside the bed (which was made). We heard a cough. Froze. Waited. Nothing. Eventually, the footsteps began. It was like being in a horror movie. Somehow, our legs began to propel us towards the front door, down the steps, around the corner.....and there he was. Drooling and hunched over from the 60 or 70 years of life he's lived. Spewing nonsensical angry sounding words. I hid behind my boyfriend as he talked our way out of the situation...there are no real words to describe the way this old man was. It was like he was picked out of a horror film. Imagine a farmer from one of those movies, only we lived and managed to get out of the situation. Got in my car as fast as possible and took off."

IMG_3720

Flash forward two years to the spring of 2011 and I was sitting at my computer reading this story and realizing that this house was nearby. The online conversation that had ensued after she told her story was just as interesting. Fellow explorers were pondering who this man was and his possible residential and mental health status. Was he okay? Did he need help? My mind began to race. What would I encounter if I were to pay a visit, I couldn't help but ponder. He couldn't possibly still be residing in this filth and squalor, could he? And so I made my way over there, and against my gut feeling, began wandering up the driveway.

Much like was Julie's experience two years earlier, curiosity forced me to continue.

Against an outer wall, I was shocked to stumble upon a pile of cigarette butts next to a pile of banana peels in varying states of decomposition, again, some of them fresh.

And then it happened.

I never did make it inside. As I walked around to find the open door that Julie spoke of, a spectre like figure passed by the window inside the house. I stood frozen, not sure if I even believed my own eyes. Was that human? And then it happened again. It was unmistakable. An old man wearing what appeared to be a collared blue denim or plaid shirt passed by the window again in the opposite direction.

I ran as fast as I could down that hill.

In the words of Julie from two years prior, I...

"Got in my car as fast as possible and took off."

I never looked back. Never even considered a return visit.

Flash forward another two years to the summer of 2013 and an online post by another explorer, my friend MSG. From his pictures, I didn't connect the dots. It wasn't until he sent me the GPS co-ordinates that I put it together...

He explored the old man's house on the hill. Now it was time for a return visit of my own.

Photo by Ninja IX with iPhone

This is where the story goes from sad to devastating.

The door was still broken and wide open. The vines were even thicker, growing up the wall and in through the windows. Filth and grime and cob webs covered everything in sight. It appeared as though this home had not been inhabited in decades. Unfortunately, I was all too well aware that this was not the case.

A smoke detector was screaming a piercing cry of anguish.

Again, I followed in Julie's footsteps and something immediately drew me up the main staircase, all 21 steps, with Ninja IX in tow. The rooms throughout the house were absolutely massive, with very high ceilings and wide doorways. Most of the spacious second floor bedrooms were empty, but for a giant clothes horse standing in one room, and a mound of clothing piled in the corner of another, with a pair of antique skates hanging from the wall.

Upstairs, the smoke detector's cry got quieter but was still audible.

And then I entered that bathroom that was "in alright shape" during Julie's visit four years earlier. It was absolutely disgusting, covered in grime and filth. Sadness had been present here for a very long time before me feeling it so strongly in that moment. We then ventured forth into that bedroom full of furniture and personal belongings. It was all still in tact. We spent hours in this bedroom and the one across the hall. We poked around and documented our findings. Amongst many interesting personal items, I uncovered countless old receipts, bills and letters dating as far back as the 1930s. It appeared the family lineage dated back many years at this farmhouse, only to end so very tragically.

I descended the skinny secondary staircase between these bedrooms and the scream of the smoke detector began to pierce my eardrums. As I reached up with a Swiffer mop to try and knock the smoke detector down so I could catch it and turn it off, I heard Ninja yell something from the next room that startled me.

She yelled "This calendar says January 2013, and this electric space heater is giving off heat." My eyes widened and a sense of panic struck me for a brief moment, and of course the smoke detector fell and crashed at my feet, smashing into pieces and sending the batteries racing down the hall.

New appliances had been set up down here. A brand new washer and dryer sat beside a new fridge. A magnet on the fridge caught my eye, it was that of a local community health care provider. Around the corner, the mark of this community health care provider became more obvious, a step in shower and a toilet had been installed in what used to be a dining room.

And then in the kitchen, inside a drawer, I found the answer to all of the questions that I'd been pondering...

Who was this old man? What was wrong with him? Why was he drooling and yelling incoherently at Julie and her boyfriend four years ago? What sort of illnesses did he have? Why would he be living in this filth and squalor? Why would his surviving family members leave him here to live like this? Or to die like this?

The answers that I found in that kitchen drawer were in the form of his meds. Several drawers were fully stocked with boxes, bottles and blister packs full of medications. A plethora of medications filled the drawers, many of them for heart and cholesterol health. But the answer came in the sad discovery of a particular drug: Aricept. Aricept packages, both recent and dating back many years were found throughout the drawers and cabinets. Aricept, also known as Donepezil is used therapeutically in the palliative treatment of Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia.

Sadly, research revealed that after suffering from dementia and existing in this filth, squalor and loneliness for many many years, the resident passed away in local hospital on February 1st, 2013, at the age of 87. He had no surviving relatives and his obituary read "he will be missed by his friends and neighbours", but when asked, his closest neighbours revealed that they didn't even know him.

Sadness overwhelms the author.

IMG_3551


IMG_3394

IMG_3547

IMG_3657

IMG_3541

IMG_3526

IMG_3397

IMG_3444

IMG_3704

IMG_3438

IMG_3510

IMG_3440

IMG_3677

IMG_3683

IMG_3431

IMG_3699

IMG_3413

IMG_3427

IMG_3535

IMG_3412

IMG_3485

IMG_3480

IMG_3417

IMG_3689

IMG_3447

IMG_3450

IMG_3504

IMG_3696

IMG_3529

IMG_3656

IMG_3559

IMG_3643

IMG_3622

IMG_3615

IMG_3616

IMG_3592

IMG_3598

IMG_3613

IMG_3631

IMG_3609

IMG_3602

IMG_3602 - Copy

IMG_3605

IMG_3605 - Copy

IMG_3571

IMG_3581

IMG_3634

This is a sad story, no question about it. A sad ending at least.

Lets just hope the beginning and middle were a different story.

May the old man rest in peace.

Now having told you one of the saddest stories I've ever told, it is time to tell you one of the scariest: The Yugoslavian Hunting House.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES

16 comments:

Quetzletted said...

Thank you for posting this Jerm.
This story is incredibly tragic, and leaves me heartbroken.

Quetzletted said...

This is such a tragic story, but an incredible one. Thank you for showing us a side of stories we would otherwise probably never hear.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jerm. Indeed, a very sad story.

Mick

Squeegor said...

A truly wonderful story.. quite sad too.

It's stories like these that ensure people, times and places that would normally have been forgotten live on forever.

Thank you very much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Could not stop reading. Amazing story with amazing photos. Thanks for sharing your work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. I knew of this man and I can say that there were neighbours who assisted him and helped him attend appointments. Unfortunately the main neighbour became ill and no one really stepped in. Some local health care providers did what they could. This man was still caring for his cows very late into his dementia. It is terribly sad, but before his dementia he chose to live this way. It is difficult, but competent individuals have the right to live at risk. Heart rending images.

Chef Harvey said...

Fantastic blog

PISSOFFGOOGLE said...

unreal...so incredibly sad...

@oakleyinc

Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable, we used to drive past this house daily, on our school bus or with our parents on our way into Peterborough. Every time we passed it my sister and I would make stories up, we're always so curious of who lived inside. At night you could always see what seemed like a candle light in only one window of the house. Reading this actually kinda hits home and made me feel so sad! We used to make up stories about who he might have been and what he did for a living. Although this is so sad to hear, thanks so much for posting this!

Anonymous said...

You and many others must have terrified the old guy by trespassing in his house and running away. Only to then come back and document his poor living conditions removing any shred of dignity that he had managed to grasp onto during his illness.
I love urban exploring but I hate how some photographers think they have a right to investigate anywhere just because they're holding a camera.

Anonymous said...

You have only told a part of the story, and your part was based on assumptions and so in fact is untrue. Maybe if you had of attended his funeral and talked to all the people who attened, you would of learned more about Gordon. He was a hard working farmer, almost up until the very end. He had a companion, Jean, they would go places together. Gordon occuplied only 1/4 of the house, the rest as in your photos was not being used. Gordon spent many Christmas dinners and Thanksgiving and Easter with our family. He was a kind man, he was a good man, and he worked hard not at all the image you painted.

Anonymous said...

I THINK WHAT IS TRAGIC ABOUT THIS STORY IS THAT NOT ALL THE FACTS HAVE BEEN REPORTED ACCURATELY. GORDON DID NOT HAVE ALZHEIMERS NOR DEMENTIA TO THE DEGREE THAT HE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING. I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT PEOPLE DID STEP UP AND HELP HIM.HE HAD LOTS OF FOOD, HEAT AND A PHONE.THAT WAS HIS HOME AND PEOPLE SHOULD NOT HAVE TRESPASSED ON THE PROPERTY. ITS NOT AS SAD A STORY AS BETRAYED BY THIS ARTICLE. HE WAS HAPPY WERE HE WAS. I KNOW, I WAS ONE OF THE NEIGBOURS WHO HELPED HIM OUT. BROUGHT FOOD, MEDICATIONS, PAID HIS BILLS, TOOK HIM TO APPOINTMENTS. THERE WERE ALSO OTHER PEOPLE WHO CHECKED ON HIM AND BROUGHT FOOD AND TOOK HIM TO APOINTMENTS. OUR FAMILY HAS KNOWN GORDON FOR OVER 50 YEARS.THIS IS NOT A SAD STORY. GORDON WAS HAPPY WERE HE WAS, TENDING TO HIS CATTLE AND HIS CATS.

Judy A said...

You owe Gordon, and the people who loved him and cared about him an apology. You were tresspassing on his property. You committed an unlawful act by breaking and entering. You posted his personal pictures, and pictures of his medication on line. Your amature attempt at being a writer, and an adventurer are disgusting. You violate someones home, and than run away not because you are afraid of what you have seen, because you know what you are doing is wrong, and you are afraid of being caught. If you had any type of morals you would have taken the time to speak to Gordon, and ask his permission to see his home. That wouldn't have made for a very interesting read for your subscribers though. If you are proud of what you've done, and you know that you haven't done anything wrong, than you should have no problem posting any of the comments you receive about this house.

Judy A said...

The title of your article is abandonment issues. Gordon was not abandonded, nor was the house. For that sake alone you should remove this fairy tale. The second mistake in this article is that you spoke to Gordon's close neighbors, and even they didn't know him. I have not lived on that road for almost 25 yearts and I still know 9 out of 11 of Gordon's neighbors. I know for a fact you did not speak to his next door neighbor. That would be my brother. Gordon has been a part of our family longer than either he and I have been alive. Gordon did not have alzhiemers. He had sliglht dementia, and the drug you found helped with this. Gordon chose to live this way, for what reason non of us know. It was his choice, and he lived like this for more than 40 years. He was happy, healthy, and he was not alone. You chose not to find any of this out because it wouldn't make for a very interesting story would it? It would have been a story about an old man, living in an old house. Typical of many people in the county. I have advice for you. In Ontario there are places called Land Registry offices. You should go there, find out who owns the land you want to trespass on. Contact them and actually get there permission first. That would be proper journalism. This is what I wish for you, and the other people you mentioned in this fabrication. When you are old, I hope that some stranger breaks into your home. (A place where you think you are safe.) This intruder than rifles through your personal belongings. Takes pictures of them, and than makes up a fantastical tale and posts it on the internet. I would like to ask you a question. If you were so concerned about Gordon's welfare, and his state of well being than why didn't you ask him if he needed help, or at least contact the authorities? You and your friends are cowards, and deserve to have the same thing done to you that you have done to Gordon.

Laura R said...

I think that is dispicable to admit you stood by and watched as a man lived in these conditions. The author should not be ashamed, you should!! To claim he was family?? That you would allow family to live in such conditions is disgusting... You should be ashamed of yourself Judy A !!!!

Anonymous said...

That read like a scene out of Scooby Doo when you sighted the old man. Yep Shaggy and Scoob would have done the same thing. Just get the hell out of there!