A few weeks ago, Redox and I decided to take a roadtrip to the Joplin area to see if we could witness the famous Hornet Spook Light. For those of you who haven't heard of it, the Spook Light is a bright luminescent ball that appears almost nightly in a specific area in southwest Missouri. It is known to dance around all crazy-like, and is still unexplained.
To sum up that part of the trip: The Spook Light is an ass, and apparently doesn't like to appear when it's pouring down rain all night. Stupid Spook Light. But I'm not bitter. Luckily, earlier in the evening Redox and I explored an "abandoned" bible camp that we'd been tipped off to. It apparently even had a cave on site where we had heard that the KKK used to hold meetings (we later found out that this was a different cave, not the one at the bible camp). It alone turned out to be worth the trip, in my opinion.
Although we had a pretty good idea of where this bible camp was supposed to be, it still took Redox and I almost three hours to find it, mainly due to some confusion over the fact that there are 17 different Highway 71s in Joplin. I'm not kidding, either. We had no idea what this place looked like, so a few times we asked each other things like "Do you think that's it?" When we finally pulled up to it, though, we knew we were there. The place looks like a spectacular hunting lodge perched atop a cliff that rises above a spring-fed lake. I know that's a mouthful, but it really is beautiful.
As we wandered around the camp, I became fairly certain that it hadn't been used in a number of years. The site looked pretty run down, especially the pool and baseball field area. It didn't seem like the place was in any shape to have kids staying there and using the facilities.
I was especially amazed at one of the things that I found near the swimming pool. There was what appeared to be an old well, but upon furthur inspection turned out to be a water spigot made to look like a well. What surprised me, though, was the fact that the "well" was clearly labeled. It claimed that it was the "Purest Water Known." This piqued my interest, so I made sure to take a sample of this "Purest Water Known." I have since sent said sample to a lab, and the test results have proven without a doubt that this water is not, as stated on the well, the purest water known. That title is still awarded to Aquafina. This only proves my long-held theory: You can't trust Baptists when it comes to their claims about the purity of their water!!! They're full of crap!
After wandering the lower portions of the complex, Redox and I trekked up the hill to the main buildings. Redox found an open window almost immediately, allowing us to explore the basement of one of the buildings. It was apparently used to house campers, as it was crammed with more bunk beds than I would have ever thought would fit in such a space. After trying one of the light switches, I was given my first hint that this place was not really "abandoned." All the electricity and plumbing in the buildings was working perfectly. This turned out to be in my favor, as the long drive from St. Louis had left me with needing to make a massive boom-boom. There was even toilet paper!
After searching this basement, we realized that there was no connection to the floors above. This turned out to be a recurring theme at the camp: Redox and I would find another entrance only to learn that it didn't really go anywhere but into that room. Everything was either locked up tight or just didn't have any connection to the rest of the building it was in. We were able to get into the uppermost floor of the other main building, which turned out to be in an awful state of disrepair complete with mold and decay. Hopefully, no campers had used this area in some time. I fould a weight bench and took the oppertunity to get my swoll on, as they say.
We also were able to get into what looked to be the "great hall." It was a large octagonal room with windows on almost all sides and a beautiful fireplace. This too, though, was only connected to doors leading back outside, not the rest of the buildings. The only door leading furthur into the building was crammed with beds stacked six feet high. I do mean crammed, too. I was unable to open the door more than a few inches. It was in this building that I found a program from when the camp was active. It outlined the schedule of events for the summer of 2006! The fact that this place had been used the previous summer was amazing to me, considering the poor state of most of the facilities. It stands to reason that it will probably be used again this summer. I certainly hope that some work is put into before the campers arrive again.
The most exciting part of the trip was definately the cave at the bottom of the cliff. I really just don't know what to make of it. It is just a doorway into the hillside with a large metal bear head mounted above it. What the? The inside of the cave was even more interesting. Redox found a turned on a light switch, and the entire cave lit up! The cave didn't retain it's natural features, as stone walls and steps had be built in most of the areas. A large meeting-type room opened up at the end of the passage. Redox found a shaft leading up into the buildings above with a fan at the top. Apparently, this is one of the ways the buildings are cooled during the summer: Cool air is circulated up from the cave through the shaft and into the buildings.
Aside from the cooling system, I just don't understand what the cave was used for. It had obviously had a lot of work put into it, and I know for a fact that the camp is not currently using, as the rules in the program I found clearly state "No playing around on the cliff or in the cave!" But why was it hollowed out into a large room, and why was it wired for lights? I really don't think that the camp buildings were built with the idea of using them for a camp in mind. The stone work is too nice. Redox seemed to think that it was some sort of lodge or retreat for wealthy folks, and was subsequently sold to the Baptists who then turned it into a summer bible camp. I just can't say. I do have some advice for the campers who will arrive this summer, though: Don't listen to the rule about the cave...it's super cool and you have to check it out! While you're at it, go ahead and climb the cliffs too!
I visited this church quite awhile ago (late last summer, I think) but for whatever reason never posted an entry about it. And that's a shame, really, because it is definately one of the most remarkably photogenic places in St. Louis. Seldom do you find an abandoned church that has been pretty much ignored for over 20 years.
The Church of Little-Baby-Jesus-Town was built in 1895, but for whatever reason the congregation abandoned it in the 80s. They now hold services in a school building next door, and the church building itself sits ignored, boarded up, and lonely. Everyone knows how I hate for buildings to be lonely, so on this specific day my friend Giggles and I paid her a visit.
We wandered around the exterior for a few moments, but there seemed to be no easy way in. Luckily, Giggles was able to squeeze through a very small opening, and then help me squeeze through as well (no small task. It involved three pry bars and lots of butter). I made a mental note to loose some weight, as I often do.
Regarless of it's awful state of disrepair, the interior of the church was a surprisingly beautiful site. Much of the stained glass remains intact, as does the massive pipe organ behind the alter. There was something very emotionally affecting about this crumbling church's state. I couldn't imagine it being more beautiful, even when it was new and pristine.
Eventually, we found our way to the choir balcony, and then to the small wooden staircase that led to the top of the tower. I tested it to make sure it would hold us, and it appeared as solid as the day it was made. Giggles and I wound our way up the tower and came to a small room near the top. From here, I could look through the open gothic-style windows and see the Arch. There was a ladder leading to a trap door that seemed to lead up into the bell-portion of the tower. I braced myself on the ladder and opened the trap door, feeling the pieces of wood crumble above me. I realized that this trap door had probably not been opened in many years. As I looked up into the next section, I saw the ladder leading up higher had almost completely crumbled. Sadly, I climbed back down through the trap door, realizing that I could not go any higher on this particular day. On our way down, Giggles and I noticed a carving in the wooden stairway that seemed to have been made in 1914. It's these small pieces of history that always make the effort of exploring worthwhile for me.
The congregation that owns the church has plans to demolish the building sometime in the future. It all probably just comes down to having the money to do so, as most things do.
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