Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Breaking and Entering
Posted by Sam at 10:50 PM

I decided early Monday morning (while at work) that I definitely was not going to work the following day. I knew that it was going to snow. And lately, I've been so unmotivated to do the work thing. So, I stayed up pretty late (for me) that night with my housemate, Sarah. We were just talking and laughing... and it didn't take much coercing to get her to take the next day off too. Nice. Little did I know however, that before she went to sleep, she put a note on my housemate Micah's door that read something like "You're not going to work tomorrow. It's a mandatory snow day!" (Ok... I made up the verbiage. That's not what it said, but thats the gist.)

I awoke yesterday morning to the sounds of my housemates gleefully talking about the mandatory snow day that we've declared for the household. I joined the ruckus and all seemed right with the world. The snow was falling calmly but steadily. It was beautiful outside and I wanted to be a part of it. Micah and I decided that an outdoor adventure was in order. Shortly there after, we left on an excursion... armed with little more than a thirst for exploration and one digital camera apiece.

Our adventure lead us to the Northampton State Hospital. Also know as the ABANDONED INSANE ASYLUM. Yep... you read that correctly. In Northampton, Massachusetts, there is an abandoned hospital for the mentally ill. It's one of the creepiest and most frightening places that I have ever been to. The hospital itself, appears as if it was plucked straight out of a horror movie. It stands atop a hill, tall and bold against the gray sky (imagine the hotel from the Shining... but much less ornate). Despite its decay, the external structure seems sound (the rotting interior is another story). Its perimeter winds and snakes across the premises, creating hidden alcoves and expansive courtyards.

Abandoned insane asylum? Come on... seems too good to be true, I know... but it is true.

The main building is surrounded by two layers of chain link fence (to keep punks like us out). Thanks to some earlier expeditions by other adventurous souls, there are holes in the fencing. You have to search for them... but they are there. Once you penetrate the outer defenses, you can actually get to the building (it's even creepier up close... when you can see its nuances and intricacies). Every single first and second floor window and door is either boarded or barred. We tried in many places to pull the boards off, but to no avail. They were firmly bolted into place. Despite the hulking masses of muscle that describe Micah and I, we just couldn't budge them. That is, until we found one that had been mostly removed.

The board mechanism was more of a plug than a simple covering. It fit entirely into the window cavity rather than just covering the hole. This one in particular was out of its home and on the ground. Unfortunately, it was frozen into the ground and still mostly covering the window. Try as we may, Micah and I could not get it out of the way. Micah however, was able to maneuver his body through the tiny and awkward space that was available. I watched him do this. Trust me, it defied all logic. I have no idea how he got himself through. But he did. And I couldn't. We decided that he'd do some spelunking, and I'd continue to look for another way in. Shortly after we parted ways... like 10 seconds later, Micah called to me from inside of the building. He had found a wide open window, a mere 15 feet behind where we were struggling to get in. I can't believe we hadn't seen it from the outside. We must have walked right passed it.

The window touched the ground... it was a basement window and it lead underneath the hospital. It was narrow, but big enough for a body to pass through. It even had stairs right to the side of the window. It was the ideal entrance. And I entered. And once inside, it felt as though I had been swallowed whole by the asylum itself. The utter blackness of the basement was overpowering. What little light the window let in was absorbed and thoroughly devoured by the darkness. And it was dark... pitch black.

I mentioned earlier that one of the only objects that we brought on our adventure, was a digital camera for each of us. It was great that we had those devices. The flash was our only means of seeing in the dark. Every ten seconds or so, one of us would take a random photo in the total darkness. The underground labyrinth would illuminate for a fraction of a second. Sometimes there would be a wall in front of us. Sometimes a door. Sometimes there would be a corridor. We needed to find stairs. We had to get out of the basement. And we were going pretty deep too. I was starting to wonder if we would be able to find our way back. But lo and behold, after many turns, a few dead ends, and the most frightening corridor, we found stairs. They were ice covered from a leaking hole in the ceiling. And they were treacherous. But they were stairs. And they went up... ascending us out of darkness.

I think it's best to tell the rest of the story with the photos Micah and I took along the way. Enjoy...

A few things to note: These photos have not been photoshopped or cropped in any way. They have been resized. They are in no particular order. This is not all of them. Clicking on any of the photos will launch the bigger versions. Click here to see all of the photos that I took. Click here to see all of the photos that Micah took. (These are fairly large files) And finally, I just want to stress that all of the basement shots that you see were taken in TOTAL darkness. Which is why some of the photos are tilted and positioned poorly. Every photo in the basement was taken just so the flash would go off and we could see. Getting actual usable photos was a bonus! And, as it turns out, some of the blind basement photos are my favorites...

going out... chair at the bottom of the stairs.

going in... using the camera as our flash light. this was pitch black.

3rd floor. creepy curtains.

searching for a way out of the basement. pitch black.

searching for a way out of the basement. pitch black.

searching for a way out of the basement. pitch black.

searching for a way out of the basement. pitch black.

3rd floor. this haze seemed to follow us around. however, it only showed up on film.

searching for a way out of the basement. pitch black.

3rd floor.

first floor.

on the way out (i think). again, this was pitch black.

3rd floor. the haze follows.

3rd floor. gaping hole.

this is the window i came through.

hospital. first view.

on the way out.

following micah. searching for stairs.

incriminating shot of micah.

searching for stairs. following micah. there's that haze again.

i love this shot. this was in the pitch black. i had no idea that micah was standing there when i took the shot. very blair witch...

micah. clearly going insane.

no trespassing?

a noose?

on the way out. that's my arm.

an exterior shot.

see those towers? micah was in one of them taking this photo.

me. pondering the meaning of that sign.

outside toilet?

3rd floor. creepy door.

me. in attic. looking surprisingly chipper.

me. 1st floor. with the haze.

me. 3rd floor. the haze.

finding our way out.

and finally.. the big scary door.

Before I let you flee in horror, I'd like to comment on the haze. I've read that ghost hunters go to supposedly haunted places and take a bunch of random photos. Apparently, these ghostly hazes only show up on film. You can't see them until you look at the photos. Micah and I both did not see the haze during the journey. Only when we opened our photos later did we notice it. The haze showed up on both of our cameras. The haze showed up in well lit shots as well as the pitch black ones. There are more shots of the haze here and here.

Ok. Thinking back, the most amazing thing about this adventure is the fact that neither one of us bled, walked away limping, or was arrested. Possessed by the souls of the insane... maybe. But at least we didn't spend the night in jail.

(Instead, we spent the day in an insane asylum. Yea!)

Comments: 11 | Post a Comment | Permalink

So, I first read this post at 6am. My dorm was completely quiet and I had to go take a shower in the big scary dorm bathroom. The whole "haze" thing totally FREAKED me out! All I could think of was that I should go get my digital camera, take pictures of the bathroom and then go see if I was really showering alone. **shivers**

Comment By Anonymous Anonymous on March 03, 2005 7:11 AM

Damn you Sam!
I am currently working on a big Urban Exploring psot for my blog and you didn't call me to tell me that you went into the asylum. I have been trying to get someone to go in there with me for years...well I guess that this means that I am going to draft you to be my guide.

Consider yourself drafted Chump!

Comment By Blogger TheDarkLordDerfla on March 03, 2005 9:11 AM

Dang it, man! Next time you call me to go on an adventure, make sure I'm not at the doctor's, first! Arrgh!

That adventure looked sweet. That haze is freaky...I wonder if it is truly the ghosts of the insane or just that one of y'all had some nasty gas. I vote for option #2.

Can you really imagine why they would build a mental hospital to be as freaky as possible? I mean...really? Wouldn't you want it to be friendly seeming? I guess then people may get well and go home, instead of staying insane and paying their money.

Also, next time, remember to use your flashlight before all the climbing. LOL.

Comment By Blogger Blackwatch on March 03, 2005 10:02 AM

The energy following you guys is very dense. I wonder how it felt. Looking at the photos, I felt very claustophobic and confined. I would be interested in going myself, during the day of course, and with someone else (as an anti-freak factor).


Comment By Anonymous Anonymous on March 04, 2005 9:42 AM

Wow. I've always wanted to do something like that, but I think I would have been frightened away by the state property signs. x.x Not to mention all the other creepy stuff.

Comment By Blogger grimsb on March 09, 2005 10:09 AM

thats freaky to know because i was in there myself a couple of times and i never seen any hazy spots or anything so just knowing that they showed up on film and i was around them is a pretty overwhelming feeling lol

Comment By Anonymous Anonymous on July 25, 2005 8:46 AM

Thanks for fulfilling a longtime fantasy of mine -- creeping around inside Northampton State Hospital. Never got to do it before I moved away. You got the shots too! Fantastic! Consider yourself bookmarked.

Comment By Anonymous call me Snerdly on January 12, 2006 12:24 AM

Just read this post on your blog and I must that I'm very freaked out. The haze really made my hair stand up.. I don't reccommend listening to "Of Montreal" while looking at those pics. Some of those hallways I thought I saw a figure.. I will finish up with the rest when there is decent light outside.

Comment By Blogger Corbob on February 03, 2006 12:42 AM

Cool, I visited the abandoned asylum twice in 1990 but I never had any pictures. Just Googled it and came up with your post. One thing you don't get a sense of here is the immensity of this place. I've explored for hours and only covered a fraction of the building. I remember a cafeteria, a chapel/theater, a room with a dentist chair, catwalks, storage rooms full of slot machines(?) and a large incinerator.

At one point my 2 companions and I were in the basement (it must not have been quite as dark as the section you were in). We were all wandering off investigation various things when someone started whistling. For a moment we each assumed it was just one of us but then we all turned, looked at each other and realized that none of us were whistling. We panicked and ran like hell, upstairs and out of the building.

Comment By Anonymous Anonymous on December 18, 2006 12:35 PM

That's a great story. Co-incidentally, over here in the UK, my daughters made a film at an abandoned mental hospital which won a prize!

You guys gotta go back. We need to see pics of the cafeteria, the chapel/theater, the room with the dentists chair and all the stuff your other commenters saw! :-)

Comment By Blogger Stephen on December 21, 2006 3:51 PM

I know this seems like I'm just getting too into this photos (which I am), but in this one photo (, is it just me, or does anyone else see a young man with his arms crossed? Creepy much?

But question. Just in case, did you ever wonder if it was your breath? I mean, some of them are just too creepy and boldly outlined, but have you wondered?

Comment By Anonymous Rachel on October 17, 2008 9:17 PM

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Sam is an amazing and humble guy. Once, he rushed into a burning building, up six flights of stairs to save a kitten from certain death. He speaks eight languages, has mastered three varieties of martial arts, is a wine expert, and is a pulitzer prize winning author. Sam is an international heart-throb who prefers a quiet evening at home knitting afghans for the homeless, to the go-go, glitz and glamor of the party scene. I think the day he won the silver medal for ballroom dancing at the 98 olympics was the happiest of his life. Pretty impressive for a guy who never finished the 8th grade. - Carrie, 04
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