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Exploring an abandoned house…

March 20, 2016, 7:21 PM

This past Thursday, Elyse and I explored an abandoned house in the Elkridge area of Howard County.  This was my first “real” venture into urban exploration, and also the first “operational” photo shoot with the new Nikon SLR.  I have had at least a casual interest in urban exploration for a long time, but never did a full-on exploration before.  The closest things to urban exploration that I had done prior to this were visiting the buildings on Afton Mountain on several different occasions (but not penetrating them very much, if at all, on any of these occasions), and also that relatively brief visit to Lorton Reformatory last year.  Elyse, on the other hand, has a good bit of experience over a number of years with urban exploration.  So I was in good hands here.  After all, Elyse clearly looked and acted like she knew what she was doing in Lorton, while I was more the clueless sidekick, as I didn’t know what I was doing, and was more or less unprepared for that one.

This time, I was ready.  I had a headlamp like Elyse had at Lorton along with a few other flashlights, plus, remembering the strong smell of mold at Afton Mountain, I brought a respirator that I used to carry in my backpack to protests back in my activism days, but never used in that context.  I also brought some rubber gloves so that I wouldn’t have to actually touch anything with my bare hands.  I didn’t know what had been growing on anything at that house, so the gloves gave me more freedom to actually touch things that I wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do.

We had to do a short, but mostly uphill, hike to get to the house, and here it is:

The house.

It kind of looks like something that you might see in a movie, don’t you think?

Once we got there, we photographed some of the items that we found in the yard:

Elyse photographs a Sears Craftsman ride on lawnmower in the front yard.
Elyse photographs a Sears Craftsman ride on lawnmower in the front yard.

Elyse pretends to ride the lawnmower. I caption this as, "Why... won't... you... start?"
Elyse pretends to ride the lawnmower.  I caption this as, “Why… won’t… you… start?”

Vintage typewriter in the front yard.
Vintage typewriter in the front yard.

The presence of this unit puzzled me. It looks like a refrigerated display case like you would find in a grocery or convenience store, but why is it here?
The presence of this unit puzzled me.  It looks like a refrigerated display case like you would find in a grocery or convenience store, but why is it here?

Then we suited up in preparation for going in, and got a selfie:

We look pretty badass in our masks, don't we? Note the matching shirts, by the way. We didn't plan that. We swore that we would never do that again after last time, but apparently, sometimes things just happen.
We look pretty badass in our masks, don’t we?  Note the matching shirts, by the way.  We didn’t plan that.  We swore that we would never do that again after last time, but apparently, sometimes things just happen.

Going in, we were most certainly not the first people to have visited this house since it was abandoned.  Almost every room had graffiti, going back several years.  The furniture and many personal effects were still in the house, leading me to think that the owner just up and left the house, possibly in a hurry.  The latest dates that I found on things in the house were from 2002, so I’m guessing that the house has been abandoned for about 14 years at this point.

This is the first room that you encounter coming in through the front door, which I'll call the living room. The main features here are a weightlifting bench and a Kodiak stove.
This is the first room that you encounter coming in through the front door, which I’ll call the living room.  The main features here are a weightlifting bench and a Kodiak stove.

Elyse photographs in the living room.
Elyse photographs in the living room.

The family room, with wood paneling, a bunch of couches, and a broken-out television.
The family room, with wood paneling, a bunch of couches, and a broken-out television.

We found the most information upstairs.  One of the bedrooms contained a desk with a lot of stuff on it:

The desk.

On this desk, we found videocassettes, lists of phone numbers, as well as a photo album and various paperwork, including MVA notices, court documents, and other various things.  The blue thing on the desk, in the middle right of the photo, was a cover for a porn video from 1988.

We also learned that the person who last lived here was named Scott Alan Bauer.  We found no documents later than 2002, confirming the departure year, but we found no clues as to why he left the house, why he left all of his belongings, and where he went.

Then this was above our heads:

That is insulation coming out of a ceiling panel, and something possibly growing on it. Stuff like this is why we wore the respirators inside the house.
That is insulation coming out of a ceiling panel, and something possibly growing on it.  Stuff like this is why we wore the respirators inside the house.

Most poignant was a photo album that we found at the edge of the desk, containing family photos:

It was quite clear from details in the photos that these were taken in the house that we were now exploring – specifically, the family room.  These were a reminder that this house, now in great disarray, was once home to a family, and that between then and now, something happened to cause this family to depart, and leave everything behind.

The last room that we explored was the kitchen, which was downstairs, off of the living room:

A can of beans in the cabinet. Considering how long canned goods last, there's a distinct chance that those beans are still edible.
A can of beans in the cabinet.  Considering how long canned goods last, there’s a distinct chance that those beans are still edible.

Vintage Frigidaire electric range.
Vintage Frigidaire electric range.

Dishwasher.
Dishwasher.

And then when I emerged, Elyse was already outside waiting for me, having exited a few minutes prior:

Elyse as I came out of the house, having finished up a few minutes before me.

And that was the house.  After this, we went back down to the car, and headed out to do some other things, mostly involving trainspotting at Halethorpe station.  All in all, I was pleased with my first real foray into urban exploration.  I had a good time, and clearly got involved in it, as we spent two hours in and around the house.  Definitely time well spent.

The new camera, meanwhile, did fairly well on its first “operational” photo shoot.  It appears at this point that the limiting factor will be the battery.  I did about 300 photos starting from a full charge before the battery conked out.  Once that happened, I finished the shoot with my phone, which did the job well enough.  When I was using the Nikon, I had the camera’s built-in GPS receiver on the whole time (this was probably unnecessary), and I also saved the RAW images.  This camera does not take AA batteries, unlike the Kodak and the Canon, but rather takes the EN-EL14a, which is a Nikon battery.  The last time I had a camera that took a special battery was Big Mavica, but I can’t remember how long one of those batteries did in order to compare.  I remember back during the January 27, 2007 protest, Big Mavica ran out, but those batteries were almost five years old at that point, and had seen heavy use.  In any case, it seems like I need to invest in additional batteries, and possibly a battery grip as well.  I also need to be more conscientious about turning off the power switch.  Unlike every other camera I’ve had, the power switch on this camera is a toggle rather than a button, and turning it off when I’m done will help save power.  Lately, I’ve gotten into this bad habit of retracting the lens and putting the camera away without turning it off, and that has to be a bit of a power drain.  If it tells you anything, I found the camera switch still in the “on” position when I prepared for this outing.  Definitely not a battery-friendly thing to do.

In any case, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to make a set for Photography out of the day’s shooting, so stay tuned on that front.  And hopefully, you’ll get to see more urban exploration out of Elyse and me in the future as well.