12 Urban Explorers Share The Most Eff-ed Up And Weird Things They’ve Seen In Abandoned Buildings

via Flickr - Costantino Beretta
via Flickr – Costantino Beretta

1. Footsteps From Above

It was about 16 years ago (I’m old now haha), when I lived in Topeka, Kansas. I was a keen urban explorer, there was just something thrilling about breaking into abandoned buildings and exploring them. I had always known about the Topeka State Hospital due to the numerous ‘haunted’ stories around it, but I had never really thought about exploring it. My friend of mine, Reece, was also an avid urban explorer, and one night he suggested to me that we go check it out at night. Not believing in ghosts or scary stories as such, I instantly agreed to go. We got our bags ready with torches, phones and a snack or two (you have to travel light) and waited for sunset.

On arriving it was already pitch black, there were no lights as the place had been closed since 1990, so we flipped on our torches and crunched our way up the gravel to the front entrance. It was locked, as we expected, so we made our way around the red bricked exterior, looking for a way in. About halfway around, we came across a boarded up window, I offered Reece a parting glance and a slight nod of his head indicated we were thinking along the same idea. I braced my shoulder and bashed into the window. The sound echoed around the empty halls and the surrounding forest for what seemed ages. A second bash proved successful as the wood splintered and fell to the ground in a large bang. Reece whispered in my ear ‘honestly if nobody comes after us after that then we’re safe’.

I climbed in through the small gap, before lending a hand to Reece to do the same. Once we were inside, we flipped on our torches and were met with a view of peeling wallpaper and a heavy, musty smell. We crunched our way through the first room, just enjoying the rush of adrenaline as we tiptoed our way through the halls before we heard footsteps running in the room above us. Immediately my heart skipped a beat and I glanced at Reece who put up his finger to his lips and indicated that we should turn our torches off. In the pitch black, I must admit I started getting scared, but I carried on and we made our way up to the second floor to see who was with us in the house. After three minutes of looking, we turned up empty and were about to leave when we heard more footsteps running, and this time we were sure that we weren’t just hearing things as a light rain of dust fell from the room. We immediately thought we were being pranked, so we ran up to the third floor in hope to catch this person. But once again, it turned up empty. We had had enough and just started going down when we heard a door creak from above. This was it, our chance; we sprinted up, barged though the door and we ended up on the roof of the Asylum. Empty. Just then we heard a door being slammed from the floor beneath us and some guttural whispering noise.

I can’t tell you how fast we got out of there, but I can tell you that we probably ran faster than the time we got chased by the police. To this day, I still have no idea what was running around with us in that asylum, I’d like to believe it was some bad prank, but I have this nagging feeling that it wasn’t.

2. A Message From The Future

Whenever I remember this I feel like it’s a false memory because it’s pretty weird, but this is how I remember it: we were walking through an old church that had taken on a lot of graffiti over the years. Most everything had been dated too – ranging from many years prior to just a few weeks.

While walking through a hallway someone noticed that the graffiti on one wall was dated for the next day. It freaked us out. In hindsight, someone probably just future-dated it and we coincidentally were there the day before. Maybe it was their intention to freak someone out. If it was, it definitely worked.

3. The Hanged Man

A few months ago I explored an abandoned sanatorium and I went down the hallways on each floor methodically opening every heavy steel door, peeking in and then proceeding. I opened one door and found a corpse in full clothing, face down on the floor with a noose around its neck. My heart skipped a beat and I froze for a moment. Finally gathered the courage to approach it and learned it was a CPR practice dummy that someone had made to look like a dead body.

4. Attacked At The Abandoned Mall

One time I was in Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio (five minutes from my house). I was just walking around getting photos of stuff and decided to walk around in the storage part of the mall; behind the movie theater. It was first a huge mistake for me to go alone, and I realize that now, but sometimes you just get the chance to go so you go. Anywho, I’m back there and make my way up to the security office. I’m looking through all of the files of incident reports and stuff and my back is turned to this super long hallway filled with offices. I hear this super loud shuffling noise and I turn around and see a (presumably) homeless man running towards me down this hallway. He was screaming and I don’t think I have ever moved so fast in my entire life.

5. First There Was A Rotting Odor

I grew up in Indiana, and when I was 17 I got my first car and started exploring. I lived somewhere pretty suburban, but if you drive an hour south, you are in the middle of nowhere. Tons of corn fields and abandoned houses. My friend and I started driving out there a lot, and started going to these abandoned houses and exploring them. My dad bought a camera for the family a bit earlier, so I would take that and shoot some photos of the houses.

We got really good at finding them too. We looked out for the normal signs, broken mailboxes, long grass, heavy wear on the house, etc. But sometimes we were still worried about whether or not some of the places we went to were completely abandoned. The best houses don’t look as obvious from the outside. Like if a house looks like its in decent condition, its more likely to have stuff inside it. If its super obvious (like all broken windows, missing a door etc), kids probably already found it, and spray painted it and broke shit. We were really respectful about it, and wanted to explore places other people didn’t, so we looked for more subtle places.

I remember my friend and I were coming back from a concert in Indianapolis in the summer. We spent the night at my cousins place in the city, since the drive back is really long. We left during the day, and started taking alternate routes back to try and find any cool places to explore. We were driving down this long dirt road. One of those that doesn’t even have a name, and is called like “Country Road 3282” or whatever. After a while we see a long dirt driveway come out to the left, and in the distance we see this really broken house. We pulled into the driveway, and drove down. It was probably a quarter mile long. There was a big “no trespassing” sign, which usually means the place is definitely abandoned (I know that sounds stupid, but it was something that made us way more confident in a house). We park and walk up to it.

The door was falling off, and the windows were cracked. Inside the house, everything was thrown around. It had that normal musty abandoned house smell, but it smelled stronger. Like more rotten kind of? And just really heavy. I don’t know how to describe it, it was really weird. I figured since most of the shit in the house was thrown around and moldy and rotten, it was probably just that. There was this tiny room to the side but it was completely dark, so we walked past it.

We walk towards the stairs and start stepping over broken glass. Like, a lot of it. Its common to see broken glass on the ground, but a huge area was completely covered in it. It made loud cracks as we walked. I started feeling worried. We walked up the stairs (which were also covered in the glass). At the top there was a long hallway. Two rooms were opened on the side, and at the end, was a closed door. The two rooms were mostly empty. I saw a bunch of garbage in one room. Black hoses, mason jars, coke bottles with tubing. We kept walking, and went up to the door and opened it. Suddenly the smell hit us hard. It was this super strong chemical/rotting odor. And then we spot him. There’s was a guy in the room. He was really frail, super gaunt. He has really baggy clothes, and sores all on his face. He was holding a rifle, and staring right at us.

I couldn’t speak, I see some beakers, bottles, and tubing on this table that looked like a really shitty science fair project. He lifts the gun up, and we sprint out. We got out of the house, started the car an drove off. We call the police, and it turns out he and a friend were squatting the place and running a meth lab. The police found the one guy upstairs, and the other guy was in that really dark room downstairs. He heard our car come, and was hiding in there and watched us. I have no clue why he didn’t try to stop us, he was probably just tweaking out really hard. The broken glass was there to make a noise to alert them when some one else was inside. I feel so lucky to be alive and safe, because they could have easily killed us, and nobody would know where we were, and they would have been safe. I haven’t gone exploring abandoned houses since that.


At an abandoned house a few miles away from my home we found negatives of what seemed to be a woman lying at the base of the stairs in a night gown. Several months later upon returning with a friend he spotted a pet prescription bottle. He’s got friends at the local animal hospital so he took it and asked about the dog. The vet said he indeed remembered the dog and the older lady who owned the property. He informed us that she took a tumble down the stairs and was left there for two days before someone finally found her, dead.

My friend still has the negatives.

7. Movement In The Darkness

We were exploring an abandoned hospital complex with several buildings connected via underground tunnels.

We were coming up from one of the tunnels into one building and paused for a minute. We heard footsteps from around the corner heading towards us. Someone toward the front of the group saw movement and we all took off running back into the tunnels.

We never found out exactly what that was. We never saw evidence that anyone else was there.

8. A Sound Like Somebody Trying To Escape Their Restraints

I was raised in the city of Atlanta, which is awesome. There is lots to explore and we find more places every day. Much of what we find is outside of the Metro area. We use Google earth looking for abandoned shacks/buildings/stuff. Then we go explore! So yesterday we found a little home that looked completely torn down and wanted to check it out. So we walk through some woods during the mid day and arrive. As usual we knock and yell, announcing that we are here and aren’t robbers/cops. (We have stumbled upon people robbing copper from abandoned houses multiple times, and it is better to let them know you are there than to run into them.) Nobody answered so in we went. We weren’t scared, we have done this type of stuff a lot and barely ever come across unusual things. So as we start searching we notice the floor feels hollow. When walking on the rotted wood floor it didn’t feel hollow. We peeled back a smelly rug and found a little hatch. No way. No way in hell is this happening.

My brain is freaking out. Part of me has seen enough horror movies to know not to go in. The other half knew this is what any Urban Explorer would dream of. So I open it. Theres a small staircase. It was foldup, kind of like the fold up ladder people use to get into their attics. The 3 of us climb down in.

First there is an old rotton bag of Lays. There were bugs inside, and no chips. Using rubber gloves I pick them up. Expiration: January 27, 2014. Somebody was here. It ad obviously been a while though. (There are a lot of people who do what we do in Atlanta, finding new unexplored places is rare). We kept walking around and didn’t find much except for a ratty old computer monitor.

Then we heard footsteps upstairs. We had no idea what to do. There was frantic kicking on the floor above us, as if somebody was being restrained. We scrambled for the window. The room was a basement, but the top of the basement was above ground and had these little mini windows letting light in. I tried to open the first one, but it was jammed. There was dirt outside blocking it. My friend managed to get the second one opened. We all ditched our bags and crawled through. We ran like hell, got in the pickup truck we came in, and drove.

9. “I’m Addicted To Following The Sound Of Women’s Voices”

It started several years ago–my and my friend’s interest in Urban exploration. I was a junior in high school at the time, which was when everyone started to earn a lot more freedom, so we took the chance to be out late whenever we could.

Now, keep in mind that I live in a major city in central Colorado, so the nightlife is never lacking. We could always find something to do, and were especially drawn if there was an element of danger. We wouldn’t always plan these trips, but we made sure as hell that if we were going into any old building in the dark, we would have a knife and a flashlight for safety. We never really had to defend ourselves, but we came very close one evening.

It must have been around November, because there wasn’t yet snow on the ground, but it was a chilly evening. Directly across the street from the abandoned hospital, which we have hypothesized is still around from the TB era, is a hospital that is newer and in use. The two are connected by an underground tunnel, which I can only assume was a way to move bodies without alerting the patients (this is a common feature among old hospitals). We had been inside the hospital a few times, but never found anything strange. Only the occasional sign of others having been or lived there. What was piquing our interest that night was the abandoned library next door to that hospital. It was connected, but only by exterior walls. To get inside, you could not cut through the hospital, but instead had to hop over a tall wall and climb a very high fence.

A few of us had backpacks, containing the aforementioned safety precautions and a couple bottles of water (so, nothing too heavy or valuable that would get damaged when tossed over the obstacles before us). A little ways off the road, it was dark if you clung to the buildings. We did for a while before stepping behind a small patch of shrubbery, which we determined was an easy way over the first wall since the only other way to gain access was by a chained, unclimbable gate at the bottom of a set of stairs facing away from the lege. Both were parallel with the library, so when tucked back in that corner behind the bushes, no one could see us from the street.

I don’t believe I went first, but I did not remain behind to be last over that wall. It was too high up for me to jump and haul myself over, so I resorted to stepping on a pipe jutting out somewhere lower along the wall. It gave me a bit of a needed boost, and soon I was up and over, moving into the library’s courtyard. Another girl and I waited for our two other girl friends to join us.

Upon an initial glance over of the courtyard, there was no obvious way in. To our right was a dilapidated fountain, which I took joy in imagining spring forward a spray of water from its detailed stonework in the brighter summer months–people laughing and talking with the surrounding trees bringing them shade. Now, however, it had been in long disuse, and the earth at our feet was cold and hard. There were no signs of another soul for years, save the 15 foot chain link fence directly in front of us separating the courtyard in half. I could tell it hadn’t seen the same weather as the rest of the courtyard, because the metal showed no signs of rust.

That must be our way in, we agreed, because with a fence like that someone obviously wanted to keep us out. We hurled our bags over the fence, hearing them clank on the ground rather silently due to their lightness. I was the third over, because I have a slight fear of climbing and it took me a bit to mentally prepare myself. I made it to the top of the fence in short time, then sat at top straddling it with a leg on either side. I had two girls on the other side in front of me, and one behind me who was telling me to hurry up. I spent a good couple minutes up there doing another mental preparation and some deep breathing, then climbed down to wait for the last girl. At the time, I was thinking that had been one of the scariest things I’ve done in a while, because I tend to avoid climbing at all costs. Of course this is an irrational fear, as I have never fallen, but that phobic fear didn’t even compare to what happened next.

The last girl’s feet hit the ground and all four of us split up in the smaller half of the courtyard, looking for any kind of entrance. We decided that breaking a window would be too loud and draw unwanted attention, not to mention we could get really cut up. So, that wasn’t an option. Searching for a little longer, we didn’t find anything that looked remotely plausible, until we found a grate near the base of where two walls met. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t noticed it before, and upon closer inspection the grate was already moved slightly from its resting place, so it would be easy to lift the rest of the way.

The smallest and least fearful of our group went first. After moving the grate there was a small drop down. It was no more than three feet down and two feet wide, but inside there was another drop down where we could see into the library basement. She hopped down into the small, square landing, only to almost immediately freeze. We looked amongst ourselves wondering what was wrong.

“There’s a guy down there,” she said.

“What? Where?”

“I can see his outline,” she said.

I leaned forward and tried to make out a shape, but it was further down than my line of sight permitted and too dark.

“Hello?” she called out.

He responded the same, asking who we were.

“Just a couple of chicks,” she spat out bluntly.

What he said next sent chills down my spine, and it was as if I could feel the darkness radiating out of that hole in the ground. All of a sudden it was very still and quiet, like that darkness had spilled out and weighed all of us down in that gloomy courtyard.

He said in what I can only describe as a lustful tone dripping with ill intent, “I’m addicted to following the sound of women’s voices.”

My friend looked over at us blankly, but there was nervousness underneath. Unease. Something in his voice sounded like it wasn’t an empty threat, like he wasn’t just saying something creepy to get us to leave. She looked back to where he was, and said lowly, “that’s not cool…”

The man under that dark earth began laughing maniacally, and not in the kind of way a really good actor does. In the way that we could feel his utter insanity hit us like stale air. We looked at each other for what felt like hours in that gloomy courtyard, but I knew it was only a couple of seconds, because we all exchanged without even speaking that we had to get out of there. And NOW. I was not about to risk some nutcase coming after us, even if we did outnumber him. The friend scrambled up out of the landing, and I was never over a fence faster in my life. Fifteen foot potential fall, and I didn’t even have time to think about it. We didn’t stop running until we were on the street and halfway down the block out of breath.

I can still hear that laugh…

10. Thirteen Steps To Hell

When I was in high school living in Seattle, ghost hunting (visiting abandoned places) was a frequent activity for us.

There is a place north of Seattle called 13 Steps to Hell. The story is that a satanic family once lived in a house where they had a cemetery deep in their backyard. These stones date back at least 100 years. The family built thirteen steps into the cemetery with two giant pointed pillars at the top. Supposedly – each step down would give you hallucinations, you would hear things, feel things, and on the final step you would see fire (hell).

The steps continue to be bulldozed because the current residents surrounding the area probably do not appreciate late night visitors. But the steps always seem to reappear – I’ve seen them.

Our first journey – it took us nearly four hours of driving and walking to find it. There are no clear directions anywhere online (at least at that time). We accidentally stumbled upon a path just as we were about to give up. It is about a mile hike deep into the woods. Along the overgrown trail you have a lot of barriers to duck under and over and there are random things everywhere; such as crashed cars in the middle of the woods, abandoned items as well.

After 30 minutes of hiking in the creepy darkness of this overgrown forest, we were going to head back when my friend pointed to me and said “SHIT, look where you are standing.” I looked down and I was unknowingly standing between the pillars and on the first step down to the cemetery.

At that point I was not going to walk down the steps – but I did explore the cemetery. My friends explored further down and started yelling and screaming – they told us stop scaring them – even though we were at least 200 feet away from them. We left promptly after they ran up and insisted we leave. Never talked about it again.

I went back 5 times after with friends who had heard and I was the only one who knew how to get there, so I gladly took them. Nothing creepy happened on those trips.

One year later, some friends asked me to take them. We went at midnight one evening and went there, looked around the cemetery – nothing out of the ordinary. I went down to the cemetery and rubbed one gravestone so I could read it. Some satanic symbol. We were standing in a circle debating how much longer we would stay when all of the sudden a 3 foot log comes flying at us and lands in the middle of the circle. We all look around and notice that no one from the group is missing – so it wasn’t any of our friends. Thirty seconds later all of this shit is flying at us. I look at them and just say “run!” We started running back through the overgrown trail with logs, branches, rocks, etc being thrown at us. I’ve never ran so fast in my life. At one point my friend looks back and sees two giant yellow eyes after us and all we heard were growling noises running after us. Ducking under fallen trees, running through sticker bushes and falling several times we run to the car get in and drive away as fast as possible.

None of us said a word to each other for at least an hour. And I have never been back since.

11. “I Could Hear Them Breathing”

I remember this shit like it was yesterday. Me and my cousin were about 10 years old when we discovered this derelict mill/factory on the other side of some woods not far from my house. It was sometime in November and by around 6pm the sun had already begun to duck below the trees. We’d been out with some friends most the day and wanted to get home before it was pitch black and before my parents got too worried. From the main road there was two ways back to my house. One sent us on a route along a road that meant we’d have to descend into a valley only to climb back up it again, possibly taking us the best part of an hour. The other was a dirt path through a small forest that would pretty much lead us to my back garden. We’d walked through the woods a few times in the day, but individually we’d never have the courage to venture into it at night. However, as there was two of us and as we had been having fun with our friends all day, we were in high spirits. Walking through the woodland at night was a challenge that we approached with apprehensive excitement, it was scary but we could handle it.

So we’d been walking through the woods for about 10 minutes and by that time the sun had pretty much set. All the while we were trying to frighten each other by claiming we’d heard noises or saying we’d seen shapes. At the time neither of us had seen a thing really and we were both still undeterred by our surroundings. Then all of a sudden my cousin looks up and asks “what’s that?”. We both halt and I look up above the tree line to see the ominous grey shape of a chimney protruding above the branches. We were both confused as to what this chimney was as we’d walked through the woods before in the day and never seen (or noticed) the chimney before. It occured to me that we might have taken a wrong turn somehow and that we should probably retrace our steps. However my cousin was seized by intrigue and refused to turn back until we had investigated. I reluctantly agreed and followed my cousin into the clearing to see this factory complex made up of several buildings. The ones that we could make out through the darkness all looked dilapidated and long abandoned. The ones we couldn’t really see were just these sinister grey shapes that i didn’t want to approach at all. The chimney belonged to one of these buildings in the background. We decided to walk up to the closest building just to gaze up into the many windows that covered one side of it. Most were broken and whatever was inside remained a shadow from our point of view. As my eyes traced a route to the top of the building i saw the shape of what looked like a man move within a window on the 3rd floor. Needless to say i pretty much lost my shit and was pleading to my cousin to get out of there. My cousin had been looking elsewhere at the time and hadn’t seen a thing. He just thought my mind was playing tricks on me and was telling me to calm down. Then this loud metallic bang, that sounded like a tool being dropped, echoed through the complex and it seemed like it reverberated forever. After that we both bolted. We sprinted back into the woods and managed to find our way back to the main road. We then decided to take the long route back to mine and avoid the woods at all costs.

We got back to mine and my cousin slept over. That night we discussed what we had seen/heard and resolved not to tell our parents and to return the next day. When we got there the next day the eeriness seemed to have worn off. Though within one of the windows on the same building i thought i saw a person residing in there was an ancient doll. It was pretty creepy but nothing to deter us from exploring. After a while we found a way into one of the buildings (a different one from the one i thought i saw a guy in). There wasn’t really much to see as the building had mostly been gutted. The only stuff left was the things people couldn’t use or sell; Old printers, rusty cabinets, broken chairs, etc. We carried on exploring and found a staircase and decided to ascend it. After going up two flights we then went down a corridor with a single window behind us at the end of it. As we walked down, the light diminished and all we could see was door ways to rooms shrouded in darkness. We didn’t dare enter any as stupidly, neither of us had brought a torch. We cautiously carried on creeping down this hallway when we heard the unmistakeable sound of 2 footsteps. The steps sounded like they came from the way we came so we just remained still not knowing where to go next. We stood still for a good 30 seconds without hearing anymore indication that someone was there. With no where else to go we walked back to the staircase. Each time we walked past a doorway I swear I could hear people breathing within the rooms. We carried on walking and managed to get out of there without hearing or seeing anything else. When we got out i mentioned the breathing and my cousin said he heard it too. Even from being young neither of us has ever really been superstitious and always believed that there was a reasonable explanation for the breathing and the other noises we heard. A year or two later they ripped down most the mill and turned the rest into luxury houses. Maybe my memory has distorted what actually happened, but in my mind it seems just as fresh and creepy as it did 10 years ago.

12. “I Felt Dirty Just Looking At Him”

So, years ago (1998, to be exact before cell phones were a big thing) when I was young and stupid, my best friend Jackie and I used to cut school every day around lunch time. We’d hop in my car, drive somewhere for lunch and entertain ourselves until it was time for last period.

On this particular day, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was Tarheel blue… Going back to school seemed impossibly boring. As we drove down an old farm country road, we saw this old, dilapidated house with what looked like a pentagram above its top round window, in the center of what looked liked an attic. The house had old peeling paint and a sagging porch. Seriously, imagine any haunted house you’ve ever seen in any movie… This was it. I don’t know much about architecture, but I can tell you it looked like a New England coastal house, possibly once beautiful, but now just old, sad, and care worn.

Jackie, being the more adventurous of the two of us, begged me to pull over and explore the house with her. She knew it was abandoned because her mother was always trying to buy fixer uppers and had considered purchasing this one. For reasons she refused to explain to Jackie, she had decided against it.

Anyway, I finally gave in and we pulled onto the “driveway”, which consisted of nothing more than rocks and grass and weeds. As we got out of the car, a man walked around the side of the house and greeted us. He was very old, so old I can’t even begin to guess. I remember he wore greasy stained overalls, and had a a rag in his pocket. Missing teeth, lots of wrinkles… I felt dirty just looking at him.

He told us he was the maintenance man and asked what we were doing there. Let me stop here to say that Jackie is one of the most accomplished liars I’ve ever met. It’s almost beautiful how fast she can craft a story at the drop of a hat. She immediately launched into a story about how we had a friend who had run away from home, and we thought she might be squatting in the house. Maintenance man asked what our friend looked like. Jackie told him that “Angie” had long red hair and was very skinny. He seemed to accept her story and told us we could look around if we wanted to.

At this point, I just wanted to leave. The whole vibe felt like I had wandered onto the set of a bad horror movie. And that house scared the shit out of me. Why, I wondered, was there a maintenance man there, when the house was clearly not being kept up? Jackie, on the other hand, was excited that he’d bought the lie, and eager to explore. I flatly refused while she tiptoed inside. I walked around the side of the house to wait.

Five minutes of waiting later, and Mr. Maintenance Man returns. At this very minute, Jackie walks out the side entrance of the house. Maintenance Man tells us that HE SAW OUR MADE UP FRIEND in the house and we should all go inside to get her. That’s when I noticed a fucking GUN in his hand. Jackie, still clueless, didn’t notice the gun yet and was like “Yeah Jenna, lets go!” I shook my head numbly and said I didn’t want to. The man grabbed my fucking arm and said something, I don’t even remember what it was. I was shaking my head wildly at Jackie, trying to get her to notice the gun and wrenched my arm away. It wasn’t that difficult, he was very old and not particularly strong. He repeated that we should go inside and somehow I knew what to say. I still can’t believe it worked. I agreed with him but asked him to go first for safety sake. We’d follow. He nodded and stepped onto the porch, and that’s when Jackie and I took off running for the car, which I thankfully had left running. We raced out of there as fast as my 3 cylinder Geo would go. He yelled after us “Why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me?!?!?!”

I still don’t know what the old dude’s motive was but since he claimed to have seen our fictional friend, I can only assume it was not good. I feel like if we had gone into that house, we’d both have been shot, and who knows what else. And no one would have ever known what happened to us. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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