I was driving back to DC from the Delaware shore, finding myself completely unable to resist my secret fascination with abandoned buildings.
Burned out, hollowed out, run-down, forgotten and forsaken, dozens of these relics haunt the farmlands of the eastern seaboard. Some have been completely ransacked, stripped for their copper and timber. Others, as is the case with the beauty I discovered, have been left alone to sink back into the wilderness unmolested and undisturbed. Others still have been repurposed: Turned into meth houses, children’s play forts or a place to stash old car batteries.
Call me emo, but I can’t help wanting to explore each one of them, to do a post-mortem and to invent some story of death and mystery. So I turned down a road I’d never been down before and found a house, one of the most fascinating I’ve ever come across.
Here’s how the house looked from the road.
The front door also has a great sinister look to it.
If I made a horror movie about this house, I would definitely want to open with a shot pushing through the broken glass frame into the dark weirdness inside.
I’ve got nothing against the countryside. I’m not scared of wide open spaces or anything like that, and I certainly don’t find country people to be freaks and cannibals. But the back of the house is very Texas Chainsaw Massacre, no?
I tried to get in the back door, which was cracked open but blocked by scraggly overgrowth.
So I settled for this photo, through the back left window.
I really like this shot for how its framed. The accidental haziness of the lighting gives it nice depth. But there’s also some important information here that I didn’t notice until I was able to enhance it with Photoshop.
On the left, a calendar from November, 1999. The writing on the bottom, I believe, says Centreville National Bank, a Maryland bank that is now known only by its acronym, CNB. Now, naturally you always want to speculate on how long a house has been abandoned. Sometimes you can try to determine it by what style labels are on the beer cans tossed into the debris or by finding a scrap of newspaper; it’s not usually marked right on the wall for you. And clearly there’s no more appropriate or romantic symbol for the stoppage of time than the curling pages of an obsolete wall calendar, except maybe a shattered hourglass or a wilted rose or some other crap like that.
On the right — also creepy, also telling — a sign that says No Smoking, Oxygen in Use. Before I had even read this sign, I could sense from the photograph of that room, a little old lady smoking cigarettes, tinkering with the little yellow bottle of perfume on the desk, gossiping with her cousin on an outstretched twisting line of telephone chord. The washed-out nature of the shot lends itself to nostalgia. But that sign makes the scene much more real. Instead of laughter, sunshine and long-distance telephone calls, I see plastic tubes, a mask, the sad suffocation of a consuming disease and the humiliation of the treatment.
Finally, a shot through a side window.
The kitchen, with many of the items left right where they were, probably, when the occupant departed more than 11 years ago. I’m looking at a can of Progresso soup and a box of Stove Top in the cupboard. Its all in such amazing shape, almost as if its on display, like the preserved kitchen at the Frederick Douglass house.
The bleach bottles on the ground, and some of the other plastic apparati made the trouble-finder in me think maybe someone was using this as a drug lab, but it was probably just messed up a bit by squatters and thieves.
A wood sign on the left says “MEASURE”.
On the right-side wall, out of view, is a prayer, written on a skillet, hung over another prayer. Double Prayer.
It reads: “Lord, warm this kitchen with thy love and light it with thy peace. Amen”
In my movie, that skillet comes right down on a zombie’s head.