Archives for: September 2005, 15


Permalink 12:05:32 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 1467 words   English (US)

near-death experience

I had a little accident while we were exploring the weekend before last. Obviously, I didn't die, but I came as close as I ever have before.

Willard, DeeDee, Anne, Underdog, Sertile, Hiccup and myself all met up at our usual spot that evening. I'd spent a little time the day before bending and welding some rebar into an awesome grappling hook, and I was really itching to try it out. For the moment, though, we headed over to an abandoned building nearby that they were in the process of tearing down. The construction crew had left their cutting torch and bottles just sitting there, so I took the opportunity to freak everyone out by briefly firing up the torch. It was funny to watch everyone spaz, considering I use a cutting torch all the time. I'd even used one to make the grappling hook.

After that, we all drove over to an abandoned mill that we knew about. There were two buildings to the mill, but I'd only been inside the larger one. Sertile was the only one of us who had ever been in the smaller one. Unfortunately, both of the buildings, as far as we knew, had been sealed up pretty tightly for some time. The only way it seemed we could get into them was through broken windows on the second floors.

We started with the smaller building and did a quick inspection to make sure there was really no way in. When we were sure, I broke out the rope and grappling hook and started chucking it up at the window. The grappling hook was just slighty smaller than the missing window panes, so it bounced off the wall and metal bars the first few times I tried.


Finally, the grappling hoook sailed through the window. I pulled the rope back toward me until it grabbed onto something inside, and Underdog and I hung on the rope together to make sure it was secure enough. Since it appeared to be, I grabbed on and climbed up the wall Batman-style until I reached the window and scrambled through. It wasn't graceful, but it had worked.

Inside, I turned on my flashlight and was a little horrified at what I saw. The grappling hook had caught on a piece of metal electrical conduit, about a dozen feet long, that was just laying loose on the ground. The pipe had just been long enough and bent right that each end had caught on the wall of the window.

The original plan had been for me to get inside, and then have the others attach my homemade cable ladder to the rope so I could haul it up. However, I wanted to see if I could open the door from the inside, so I went down the ladder to the ground floor. Sure enough, I found that with a little work, I could get the door to open. I figured that was a little safer than having everyone climb up the ladder through the window.

We wandered through the smaller building's basement first, then went on to the next few floors. There were no stairs in the building, just a ladder going up the six or seven stories. There was a manlift, but the belt had been removed and there was no power anyway. Except for some graffiti and few random pieces of junk, the place was mostly empty.

Willard and DeeDee decided to hang back while the rest of us went on to the roof. On the way up, we encountered a huge mess of pigeons on the top floor. One flew into the dark beside me, and I managed to catch it gently for a nice photo op. It's starting to become a recurring theme, my catching or finding some kind of bird on our trips.

The roof of the place was pretty neat. A staircase, the only one in the building, led up through a hole in the ceiling straight out onto the roof. We sat around for a while up there, watching a swarm of birds hunting bugs around nearby lights on the taller building above us.

Eventually, we left and headed over to the larger building. Although climbing the rope into the building had been fun, I was hoping that I wouldn't have to do it twice in one night. We were surprised to find that I wouldn't have to. Someone had apparently used a truck and chain (or something else really strong) to rip a welded metal covering off of a window. We just crawled in through the opening.

We went floor to floor after that, starting with the basement. Some of us had been inside the building before, but others hadn't. I noticed that there was a lot more trash, mainly beer cans, than there had been the last time I was there. It looked like some people had been using this as there little party place.

Around the tenth floor (give or take), I had my little accident. That floor happens to be much bigger than all the previous floors, because it stretches out over the top of the grain silos. The silos go from there straight down to the basement with nothing in between. In the floor there above every individual silo, there were square holes, about three foot by three foot, where chutes used to go down inside.

As I was walking forward while taking a picture, I stepped into one of those holes. I knew the holes were there and to watch for them, but I'd been paying too much attention to my camera. Worst of all, when I felt that sickening feeling of stepping into nothing, I knew exactly what I'd done.

I fell forward and my upper body slammed into the floor on the other side of the hole. I would've kept going right on down, but my right leg somehow managed to catch the lip of the hole behind me. If not for that, I would've gone ten stories straight down to the concrete bottom.

Everyone gasped as they heard me fall and saw me dangling over the hole with one leg inside. Someone rushed and reached out to haul me up, and I started to take their hand. But even though I was seriously about to freak out, I stopped and said, "Wait, take a picture first." Yeah, I'm that sick.

When they'd done that, I rolled off the hole and just laid there shaking. I was laughing and trying to make it out like it wasn't a big deal, but it had well and truly scared the shit out of me. I was shaking, and I told everyone I needed to just lay there for a minute and collect myself. It was seriously the closest I'd ever come to dying. Plus, Hiccup had been the only one to actually see me step into the hole, and that disturbing image had left her in tears. And to make matters worse, my camera had taken an extremely hard blow and had taken some damage.

After a bit, when I was a little more together, we headed on up to the roof and sat around for a while enjoying the view. We were all a little more serious after that. It wasn't every day one of us almost got killed doing this sort of thing.

Then yet another strange thing happened. As the seven of us were sitting there on the roof, a young guy suddenly popped up through the roof hatch and said hello. We were all taken aback, but greeted him. He came up, followed by a girl. It turned out he had seen the mill on our website and had just happened to check it out on the same night we were there. He also had a couple more friends somewhere down below that were coming up. They chatted with us a little bit, and I gave them an Underground Ozarks sticker as they headed back down.

We thought it was cool, but we figured both our groups being there might draw a little too much attention. We didn't need to get arrested on top of everything else, so we headed on down. We met them about halfway down and told them we were taking off since we'd been doing this for most of the night already.

Back on the ground, we watched the four new guys wander around the roof and top floor. They flashed their lights at us a few times to let us know where they were, and we waved back and watched them for a little while. We toyed with the idea of doing something else, but my almost dying had kind of killed the mood. So, we all packed up and headed on home.

Underground Ozarks Blog

Here you can read about White Rabbit's day-to-day explorations and adventures.

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